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Securing the state in post transition Tunisia: Reconfiguring regime legitimacy in an age of authoritarian neoliberalism

Maryon, Rosa


Rosa Maryon


In this thesis I aim to answer the question as to how, following the fall of the Ben Ali regime, in January 2011, successive post-transition governments have sought to reconfigure their claims to legitimacy and the role security politics has played in this process. Through exploring articulations of regime legitimacy, with reference to the interlinkages between neoliberal deregulation and security politics in the post-transition context, I argue increasingly authoritarian neoliberalism, sustains and reinforces widespread socioeconomic insecurities in Tunisia. It is these everyday insecurities, inherently linked to hierarchical, racialised and authoritarian models of capitalist accumulation, which have overarchingly prevented, and continue to prevent, successive post-transition governments from the legitimation they seek. And thus, unable to provide for security of their populations, successive post-transition governments, and now the increasingly authoritarian regime of Kais Saied, have sought to construct their claims to legitimacy upon the notion of ‘securing the state’ from certain securitised supposedly ‘existential’ threats including, but not limited to, terrorism, Islamism, instability, migration and corruption. This has led to the roll out of the coercive apparatuses of the state, to both respond to the aforementioned ‘threats’, and increasingly, to repress contestation and resistance of neoliberalism and the authoritarian neoliberal state. Fundamentally, I assert that because of widespread insecurities and spiralling economic crisis, caused by the failure of neoliberal deregulation and austerity in Tunisia, as well as anger at excesses of coercive state power, these articulations of ‘securing the state’, in its traditional ‘Weberian’ sense, as a source of legitimation for the political regime, have failed. The Tunisian case is significant and worthy of study its own right, but the crisis of legitimacy seen in Tunisia is inherent to contemporary authoritarian neoliberalism. Thus, through the case of post-2011 Tunisia, where the transitional political context acts as a microcosm in which to explore the significance of such discussions, I argue that neoliberalism will continue to enrich a very select and ever smaller handful of individuals
while reinforcing everyday insecurities for an ever-growing majority. This will, of course, continue to delegitimise political regimes globally.
Thus, by exploring the case of Tunisia between January 2011 and July 2023, I aim to make both an empirical and theoretical contribution to International Relations scholarship. Firstly, I aim to push the boundaries of the research agenda on authoritarian neoliberalism by exploring its manifestations in a post-transition political environment where security and economic policy are negotiated between domestic political elites and the interests of international capital. Secondly, I intend to make a theoretical contribution to the research agenda on authoritarian neoliberalism by exploring the additional conceptual tools, namely decolonial approaches, studies of racial capitalism, performativity and populism, with which it can be deployed particularly in research that brings together the academic disciplines of IPE and security studies to understand (in)security.


Maryon, R. Securing the state in post transition Tunisia: Reconfiguring regime legitimacy in an age of authoritarian neoliberalism. (Thesis). Cardiff University. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 27, 2024
Keywords Security, post-colonialism, authoritarian neoliberalism, Tunisia, North Africa
Public URL
Publisher URL
Award Date Nov 21, 2023