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Brenner, Kira Diana Olsheska (2022) Class Composition in Late Development: Tunisia from Colonisation to the 'Arab Spring'. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines Tunisia’s working class composition during three different historical eras in the country’s political and economic history. There has been an increased focus on the Tunisian working class since the 2010/11 Arab Spring. However, very little work examines how the Tunisian working class emerged, developed and changed over time and became, at specific moments, a powerful political force, both before and after the Arab Spring. This thesis aims to fill that gap by providing a historical analysis of the composition of the working class in Tunisia, between the introduction of capitalism through European competition over the country and Tunisia’s decade-old democracy. This thesis argues that the Tunisian state has been the main driver of changes to the technical composition of the working class, due to the persistent weaknesses in Tunisian capital. This, in turn, makes the state the target of the working class’s demands and actions. The role of the state in class composition is undertheorised, and this thesis makes a contribution to this area of research. This thesis draws on both original and archival material, including development plans, newspaper articles, and interviews with activist. This data is interpreted through the lens of class composition. This thesis finds that the state was very willing to create the type of working class demanded by the dominant actor in the economy, either private-sector capital or the public enterprise sector. This affected the technical composition of the working class – who works, where they work – which in turn affected the political composition of the class, or their ability to unite as a single political actor. This thesis also finds that Tunisia’s working class is currently in a state of decomposition, despite vibrant, but siloed, pockets of organisation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Alfredo Saad Filho
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2022 16:08

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