Political Science Paper on Social Structure

Political Science

Definition of a Social Structure

A social structure refers to a distinctive, constant arrangement of institutions whereby human beings in a society interrelate and live together. In most cases, a social structure is often considered a notion of social change that entails the forces that transform the social structure and organization of a society. Despite the fact that a social structure generally refers to consistencies in social life, its application is unpredictable, thus having no form of correct social structure. For instance, the term is occasionally erroneously applied when other models like custom, tradition or role, are more accurate. Many studies that deal with social structure explain concepts, such as incorporation and inclinations of inequality. In the examination of these concepts, sociologists analyze nations and social categories, such as women, youth, or rates including crime. In other instances, a social structure is sometimes defined as patterned social relations, which are regular and repetitive among the members of a given social entity. Nonetheless, even at this level, the concept is highly abstract since it only deals with certain elements from continuing social activities.

Tunisia Before the Revolution

Tunisia’s economic, political and social structures before the revolution marked the onset of the Arab Spring and afterwards, it disembarked on a democratic transition. Although issues such as governance, inclusive growth, inequality, and women empowerment among other structural economic challenges were the main cause of the revolution, they continue to be exceptional key challenges for the nation’s future governments. Even though instantaneous actions are needed to accomplish the political transition besides macroeconomic and social stability, these challenges cannot be under looked (Achy, 2011). Before the revolution, Tunisia’s aggregate growth per capita and social pointers camouflaged the growing antipathy against injustice and falling governance. The existing character of the previous administration permitted the prearranged capture of fees by the presiding elite. This tendency enlarged during the past decade that was characterized by the economic liberalization of the nation. Subsequent to the revolution, the so-called Economic Miracle of Tunisia seemed to be good according to the external observer, but disparity and dissatisfaction were rapidly growing for several years. Before the Tunisian revolution, the nation once bragged of an average of 5 percent GDP progress, entailing an industrialized economy and an overriding service sector.

Nonetheless, not reflected in these figures, unemployment was never below 14 percent from 1981 to 2014 (Achy, 2011). Additionally, the nation was characterized by export leaning industries and private investments producing high-skilled jobs, which were mainly focused in the coastal regions and enhanced regional variation. From around 2005 to 2009, inequality, as scaled by the Gini coefficient, increased from 38 to 41 where 100 signifies all possessions held by one person or total inequality (Achy, 2011). Despite the fact that the Tunisian economy was principally developed and continuously increasing, regional inequalities and displeasure were on the rise. Furthermore, the structure of the Tunisian economy signified a productive ground for increasing rates of inequality and high rates of unemployment. As Nobel laureate Michal Spence elucidates, the spectacle of increasing inequality takes place when employment growth is present mostly in the nontradable parts of the economy that are occasioned by low skilled and low wage employment opportunities (Spence, 2011). A reduction in public sector occupations and dawdling private sector progress occasioned the formation of low-skilled professions and higher unemployment rates. Additionally, Tunisia was also hit by high rates of inequality in terms of women segregation, restricted freedom of speech particularly the media, Human rights abuse, weak labor unions and the need for a well stipulated constitution. Many of the social structures in Tunisia represented limited choices and opportunities available for the Tunisian citizens. For instance, poverty and regional disparities that were triggered by concentration of the economic activities in coastal regions denied other citizens opportunities that were enjoyed in these parts. Furthermore, these unequal social constructs also enhanced high levels of unemployment in the poorest regions of the nation, like Kasserine, Gafsa, and Kebili among others (Srebernik, 2014). Additionally, unequal opportunities, particularly unemployment for women, were also witnessed as a limiting factor to the women in their right to access equal opportunities and choices. There was also a mismatch in terms of labor supply and demand that necessitated the need for effective labor unions to ensure that the new labor force, particularly graduates, are absorbed in their correct professions.

The beginning of The Tunisian Revolution

The Tunisian Revolution that is commonly referred to as the Jasmine Revolution took the center stage as a result of a rigorous campaign of civil resistance, encompassing a sequence of street protests that occurred in the nation. This led to the overthrowing of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in early 2011 (Tucker, 2011). This ultimately resulted in a comprehensive democratization of the nation and free and autonomous elections. In the elections, the coalition of the Islamist Ennahda Movement emerged victorious that saw the Congress for the Republic become the ruling party and the left-leaning Ettakatol the minority partners.

The Tunisian revolution and later demonstrations were triggered by high rates of unemployment, food price rises, corruption, injustices, women segregation, lack of political freedoms like freedom of speech, and deprived living conditions (Spencer, 2011). The dissents created the most intense upsurge of social and political discontent in the nation for three decades, which also resulted in several deaths and injuries as a result of brutal action by the police and other members of the security forces against demonstrators (Borger, 2010).

The demonstrators were ignited by the self-declaration of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010 who led to the overthrowing of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 28 days later on 14 January 2011 (Worth, 2011). The incumbent legitimately resigned after fleeing to Saudi Arabia, thereby bringing to an end his rule of 23 years in power (Chomiak, 2011). Labor unions played a significant role in the demonstrations. Additionally, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was among the organizations that were conferred in the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its critical involvement in the construction of a homogenous democracy in Tunisia during the Tunisian Revolution of 2011. The demonstrations in Tunisia revolution stimulated parallel actions all through the Arab world. After Ben Ali’s exit from Tunisia, a state of emergency was avowed. The Constitutional Court declared Fouad Mebazaa as the acting president in accordance to the Article 57 of the Constitution. Additionally, a custodian coalition government was also formed, comprising members of Ben Ali’s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (CDR), in crucial ministries. Other opposition figures were also given other ministries to head with elections stipulated to take place in three months’ time. Nevertheless, five newly appointed non-CDR ministers resigned from office immediately after their appointment. As this took place, regular street demonstrations in Tunis among other towns in the nation continued with many protestors demanding that the new government should not incorporate CDR members besides its disbandment. After these demand, the Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi reorganized the government on 27 January by sacking all former CDR members apart from himself. After a week, the new interior minister adjourned CDR party activities as a result of security concerns. Thereafter, the party was disbanded as demonstrators had demanded on 9 March 2011. As a result of additional public protests, Ghannouchi stepped down on 27 February as a Prime Minister and was replaced by Béji Caïd Essebsi. Two other members of the Provisional Government resigned the following day. After the elections on 23 October 2011, the Islamist Ennahda Party won the majority of seats. The Tunisian Revolution created a domino effect throughout the Arab world (Arab Spring). If the Tunisian (Jasmine) Revolution could have involved less violence, they might have witnessed a more peaceful Arab Spring and Tunisia would have had its social change made with fewer losses (population, political stability, and safety).

Problems with the Social & Political Structure of Tunisia During the Revolution

The Tunisian Revolution encompassed a series of street protests in the whole nation that began in December 2010. Mainly, the demonstrations and riots were reported to have started as a result of unemployment, food inflation, corruption, labor unions, women empowerment, freedom of speech and poor living conditions among other reasons. Additionally, these protests stimulated related actions in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan.

Women Empowerment

Generally, women in Tunisia are unique as compared to their colleagues in the Arab world for having almost similar rights as men. They took part in the demonstrations by matching down the streets and challenging that the dictating regime must leave office. Initially, the nation had been strongly secular since it won its independence from France in 1956. Both the Presidents of that time, Habib Bourguiba and Zine al Abeddin Ben Ali, repressed the Islamic curtain on women as well as beards on men. Furthermore, the Tunisia’s legal system was grounded on both French civil and Islamic codes. The Sharia courts were eradicated in 1956, but the constitution affirms Islam the national religion and specifies that the President of the Republic must be a Muslim. The 1956 Personal Status Code empowered the Tunisian women a key role in the Tunisian society thus abolishing Polygamy besides allowing women the right to divorce and gain access to contraception and abortion. The initial position of women in Tunisia was in the kitchen and households that were maintained throughout the revolution by reaching out to the whole neighborhoods. Women were also sidelined in the employment sectors.

Freedom of Speech

Before and during the revolution, media and the Internet censorship, besides harassing, jailing, and brutalizing anyone who used to challenge and speak against the government was the order of the day in Tunisia under the rule of Ben Ali regime. In most cases, the Tunisian journalists, were victims of administration muzzle. This was the same case with journalist Fahem Boukaddous who was convicted to four years in prison in 2008 for covering the actions of the mining basin in Gafsa. Furthermore, under the cover of anti-terrorism law, many political antagonists in the nation were condemned to long prison terms as a result of indiscriminate and prejudiced trials.

Additionally, before the revolution and during the revolt, several NGOs like Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were on the forefront reproving the freedom of speech restriction by the Tunisian administration by convicting practices and informing the international community about the countless human rights defilements that were committed by the Tunisian regime. Therefore, it is apparent that the battle for freedom of speech was one of the sociological concerns that led to the uprising, which knocked down the Dictatorial Tunisian regime. Consequently, the rediscovered freedom of speech is one of the biggest achievements of the Tunisian revolution. However, the heavy toll of more than 300 deaths and several hundreds injured who are still paying the price for their bravery did not prevent a reoccurrence of practices, such as violations of freedom of speech.

Human Rights

The concept of Human rights in Tunisia is among the complex, contradictory, and confusing aspects before the revolution, which commenced in January 2011 and overthrew the long serving and dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Despite the fact that the initial months after the revolution were featured by noteworthy developments in human rights status, the situation had been different earlier on.

According to the assessments by Freedom House on Freedom in the World ratings, Tunisia has always been ranked among the poorest and bottom placed nations, frequently garnering “Not Free” levels in human rights observance. The assessments only improved after the revolution (Tunisia, 2013). Since the ratings are now better, it is apparent that the nation had a big problem in observing human rights.

Additionally, according to a report by the U.S. State Department issued in April 2011, there were some serious concerns of human rights abuse in the nation before the revolution, for instance, restriction on freedom of speech, press and association. Others included journalists’ intimidations, revenges against critics of the government, doubtful election processes and several cases of subjective arrest, prevalent exploitation, abuse and torture of captives among other social injustices. Furthermore, other human rights defilement involved lack of respondents’ right to a speedy trial, and restricted access to evidence and application of sharia law in family and civil cases (2010 Human Rights Report: Tunisia”, 2013). Additionally, despite the fact that the main cause of the revolution was a result of the nation’s economic frustration, a good number of the revolution leaders were longtime human-rights activists, thus implying that human rights were a major issue in the nation.

Labor Unions

Before the onset of the Tunisian Revolution, particularly in the late 2010 and early 2011, virtually the whole body of literature on civil society in the Middle East and Northern Africa arrived at a similar conclusion (Ly, 2016). They all agreed that nothing was referred to as an independent civil society in the region, with the existing dictatorial nature of the governments. For instance, Holger Albrecht and Oliver Schlumberger affirmed in their controversial article on the determination of authoritarianism in the region that apart from Islamists, there were categorically no social forces with important organizational capabilities that could be considered autonomous from their particular governments (Albrecht & Schlumberger, 2004). This reflection was the same for the labor unions as stated by Eva Bellin in her research on the heftiness of authoritarianism (Bellin, 2004). This was a similar case with Tunisia despite few exceptions. For instance, in her significant assessment of the tools of repression under the autocracy of Zine El-‘Abidine Ben ‘Ali (1987–2011), Beatrice Hibou labelled Tunisia’s civil society as co-opted and the Tunisian General Labor Union (al-Ittihad al-‘Amm al-Tunisi li-l-Shughl, known as UGTT as an abbreviation for the French Union générale tunisienne du travail) as an arbitrator and simple attachment of the dictatorship power. This triggered the labor union to play a significant role in the revolution in the nation.

Constitution

Tunisia’s need for a constitution is one of the reasons that made it to go through a revolution. The importance of the democratic renovation process in the nation was as a result of the secularists and Islamists differences in interpreting and applying the law in the nation. This triggered reciprocal contests that never seemed to end. Additionally, Tunisia, without a well-recognized constitution, caused its politics to be grounded on no legal or contractual foundation thus enhancing cases of dictatorship and inequality besides human rights abuses by the ruling administration. The creation of the constitution in Tunisia has also made it to surpass its Islamists counterparts across the Arab region that are not driven by seeking power monopoly. Therefore, the Tunisian constitution was a necessity that would enhance democratic engagement, for instance, being doctrinaire about the majority rule.

Changes that Occurred in Tunisia after the Revolution

Several changes took place after the revolution in Tunisia. Through the demonstrations, the Tunisia women inspired other women across the Arab spring, mainly in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Despite enjoying some equal rights as men, Women in Tunisia were determined to maintain their status in the revolution. They matched on t streets to protest against the dictatorial regime. Their status was also enhanced through transformation of their household position and they were given recognition in the employment sector.

Additionally, the post-revolutionary press laws have been transformed and become more liberal as compared to the legislations they replaced. For instance, despite the fact that defamation remains an offense, it is not punishable through imprisonment, particularly to government officials. Additionally, Tunisia, through the passage of the democratic constitution, has been able to address the issue of universality and specificity. This has also provided the aspect of equality between men and women besides it incorporating different religious roots and identities. Additionally, the constitution has equally protected civil, legal and rational politics. It has also ensured illustrious freedom and dignity and met the needs of the youth in the Arab Spring. In acknowledging the needs of the youth and disadvantaged regions, the new constitution offers a breeding ground for steamrolling the playing field under the construction of social and transitional justice. Regarding the labor union, it is significant to note that the union activism was a significant and pivotal component in the Tunisian revolution. The impulsive revolutions that exploded following the self-immolation of fruit seller Muhammad Bouazizi were offered qualified organization and support by union members cross the nation. UGTT offices operated as the meeting points and shelters for the demonstrators. In these locations, posters could be created and protest plans spontaneously deliberated.  Furthermore, after the fall of Ben ‘Ali, the UGTT played an important role in forcing the resignation of the remaining part of Ben ‘Ali’s government and the commencement of a statutory process. This has seen an effective and new democratic constitution that was passed by an overwhelming majority in the National Constituent Assembly on 26 January 2014. The UGTT has also been acknowledged as one of the civil societies awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2015 (Ly, 2016).

Nations Status Quo

The revolution and the democratization process in Tunisia symbolizes an exclusive opportunity for both the government and the civil society to free the nation from the past blockages that were working against its development. Since the civil society instigated this political change, it still has a role of ensuring that the nation attains its development agenda. Additionally, the private sector also needs to ensure that the nation’s competitiveness and growth is attained. Additionally, since the government serves in the same line as national governments, it needs to ensure that the needs that triggered the revolution in the nation are met to enhance the healing process. Generally, revolutions, through definition, entail interrupting roles, which brings in a new dispensation. Therefore, the government and the ruling administration need to learn from the past mistakes to ensure that the country moves ahead in national building.

In conclusion, it was not necessary to have the Jasmine Revolution as an avenue for creating social and political change in Tunisia. Since the nation’s revolution was enhanced and steered by a strong civil service, it would have applied its numbers in mediating for their rights and not through demonstrations and toppling a regime (Meltz, 2016). Despite several factors that initiated the revolution, the strength of the civil society in Tunisia was enough to organize citizens and fight for their needs and wants. The civil groups needed to gather people and guide them in peaceful revolutions that would have reduced the revolutionary violence.

 

References

2010 Human Rights Report: Tunisia”. (2013). US Department of State. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/nea/154474.htm

Achy, L. (2011). Tunisia’s Economic Challenges (Vol. 2011, pp. 1-28). Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Achy, L. (2011). Tunisia’s Economic Challenges (Vol. 2011, pp. 1-28). Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Albrecht, H., & Schlumberger, O. (2004). “Waiting for Godot”: Regime change without democratization in the Middle East. International political science review25(4), 371-392.

Bellin, E. (2004). The robustness of authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in comparative perspective. Comparative politics, 139-157.

Borger, J. (29 December 2010). “Tunisian president vows to punish rioters after worst unrest in a decade”. The Guardian. UK. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/29/tunisian-president-vows-punish-rioters

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Meltz, D. (2016). Civil Society in the Arab Spring: Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

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Spence, M. (2011). The impact of globalization on income and employment: The downside of integrating markets. Foreign Affairs, 28-41.

Spencer, R.  (13 January 2011). “Tunisia riots: Reform or be overthrown, US tells Arab states amid fresh riots”. The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/tunisia/8258077/Tunisia-riots-US-warns-Middle-East-to-reform-or-be-overthrown.html

Srebernik, D. (2014). Inequality and Corruption: Drivers of Tunisia’s Revolution. Student Pulse6(10).

Tucker,  J.  (2011)“Initial Thoughts on Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution – The Monkey Cage”. Themonkeycage.org. Retreived From http://themonkeycage.org/2011/01/initial_thoughts_on_tunisias_j/

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Worth, F. (21 January 2011). “How a Single Match Can Ignite a Revolution”. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/weekinreview/23worth.html?src=twrhp