Islamic Social Democracy? Ennahda's Approach to Economic Development in Tunisia

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Political Science



Publication Title

Religious Activism in the Global Economy: Promoting, Reforming, or Resisting Neoliberal Globalization


The constructivist approach to religion developed in the introduction to this volume points out that each faith tradition contains various groups struggling over the definition and interpretation of the belief and practices associated with the tradition. This struggle has been highly politicized in many Muslim-majority societies, particularly those of the postcolonial Arab world, including Tunisia. Both the French colonial state and its postindependence, secular successor -- Tunisia became independent in 1956 -- engaged in struggles with various actors in society, organized or not, over the proper nature and role of religion -- principally Islam -- in public life and politics.

This chapter discusses Tunisia's democratic Islamist Renaissance Party -- Ennahda -- which moved from a suppressed opposition movement of the late twentieth century to one of the prime movers participating in and helping to oversee the democratic transition after the uprising of late 2010 and early 2011. Tunisia is where the so-called "Arab Spring" began, and where demonstrations led to the flight of President Ben Ali and a transitional government overseeing elections for a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution. Ennahda had the largest representation in that Assembly and in the three-party government that governed for the next two years, until political violence led to their agreeing to hand over the reins to a technocratic government for the last few months of the constitution-drafting process and the free and fair elections that followed.


For more information on the published version, visit Rowman and Littlefield's Website.

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