African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 389

Full Length Research Paper

“Locking-in” Liberal democracy in South Africa, explaining democratization through an alternative perspective

Nicholas Knowlton    
University of Utah, Department of Political Science, Salt Lake City, Utah. 
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 23 June 2009
  •  Published: 31 July 2009


As the state of South Africa transitioned from Apartheid and into democracy in 1994, many speculated whether South Africa’s democratic experiment would last beyond the initial presidency of then-President Nelson Mandela; fortunately democracy has appeared to have taken rather resilient roots since its inception. However such a development begs the question as to how can South African democratic successes is explained. In this analysis the theory of republican liberalism is introduced, with its propositions regarding the balancing of foreign and domestic interests, as well as the “locking-in” of democratic regimes via international institutions. This paper will explain South African democratization within the purview of republican liberalism, and illustrate not only the explanatory ability of republican liberalism towards the transitioning state of South Africa in 1994, but also exhibit the ability of republican liberalism to be applied in future democratic-theory research.


Key words: South Africa, democratization, apartheid, republican liberalism, institutionalism.