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Bourguibism is defined by a strong commitment to national independence and a specifically Tunisian nationalism (as opposed to pan-Maghrebi or pan-Arabic ideas, given that Tunisia would only have played a minor role in a potential pan-Arabic project which would likely have been dominated by Egypt), a state capitalist approach on economic development,welfare state, a statist and corporatist interpretation of populism, strict secularism, and cultural modernity, advocating Tunisia's place as a bridge between Arab-Islamic and Western civilisation. Bourguibism is responsible for Tunisia's modern marriage laws with equal rights for women (unlike Islamic law), as well as women's relatively strong role in economy, society and labour. While Bourguibists condemned Tunisians who had collaborated with the French colonial rulers, they did not repress the strong European cultural influence on Tunisia and French continued to be the language of higher education and elite culture. Bourguibism is sometimes described as a variety of Kemalism but with focus on the Tunisian identity.
As a political style or strategy, Bourguibism is characterised by intransigence in pursuing certain goals and non-negotiable principles combined with flexibility in negotiations and readiness to compromise considering the means to effectuate them. It is therefore described as pragmatic, non-ideologic, moderate, proceeding step-by-step rather than revolutionary, but determined and relentless at the same time. For example, despite being decidedly secularist, Bourguiba made sure to curtail the public role of Islam only carefully and gradually, in order not to arouse opposition from conservative Muslims.
^Alexander, Christopher (2010). Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb. Routledge. pp. 100–101.
^Hudson, Michael C. (1977). Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy. Yale University Press. p. 385.
^Alexander, Christopher (2010). Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb. Routledge. pp. 7, 112.
^Ayubi, Nazih N. (2009). Over-stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East. I.B. Tauris. p. 212.
^Cassarino, Jean-Pierre (2004). Participatory Development and Liberal Reforms in Tunisia: The Gradual Incorporation of Some Economic Networks. Networks of Privilege in the Middle East. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 229.
^Podeh, Elie; Winckler, Onn. Introduction: Nasserism as a Form of Populism. Rethinking Nasserism: Revolution and Historical Memory in Modern Egypt. p. 27.
^Hudson, Michael C. (1977). Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy. Yale University Press. pp. 380–381.
^Voll, John Obert (1994). Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World (Second ed.). Syracuse University Press. p. 331.
^Sorenson, David S. (2014). An Introduction to the Modern Middle East: History, Religion, Political Economy, Politics (Second ed.). Westview Press. p. 383.
^Browers, Michaelle L. (2006). Democracy and Civil Society in Arab Political Thought: Transcultural Possibilities. Syracuse University Press. p. 173.
^Angrist, Michele Penner (2006). Party Building in the Modern Middle East. University of Washington Press. p. 112.
^ abEsposito, John L.; Voll, John O. (2001). Makers of Contemporary Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 92.