South Africa Book

Until We Have Won Our Liberty

South Africa After Apartheid


Publication date: June 28, 2022 

Available from: Princeton University PressAmazon, and various independent and online booksellers.



At a time when many democracies are under strain around the world, Until We Have Won Our Liberty shines new light on the signal achievements of one of the contemporary era’s most closely watched transitions away from minority rule. South Africa’s democratic development has been messy, fiercely contested, and sometimes violent. But as Evan Lieberman argues, it has also offered a voice to the voiceless, unprecedented levels of government accountability, and tangible improvements in quality of life.

Lieberman opens with a first-hand account of the hard-fought 2019 national election, and how it played out in Mogale City, a post-Apartheid municipality created from Black African townships and White Afrikaner suburbs. From this launching point, he examines the complexities of South Africa’s multiracial society and the unprecedented democratic experiment that began with the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. While acknowledging the enormous challenges many South Africans continue to face—including unemployment, inequality, and discrimination—Lieberman draws on the country’s history and the experience of comparable countries to demonstrate that elected Black-led governments have, without resorting to political extremism, improved the lives of millions. In the context of open and competitive politics, citizens have gained access to housing, basic services, and dignified treatment to a greater extent than during any prior period.

Countering much of the conventional wisdom about contemporary South Africa, Until We Have Won Our Liberty offers hope for the enduring impact of democratic ideals.

Related media / Speaking engagements

  • April 10, 2023: Temple University, Comparative Politics Seminar
  • March 7, 2023: University of Michigan, African Studies
  • February 1, 2023: University of Cambridge, African Studies (Cancelled due to strike!)
  • January 27, 2023: Mogale City Local Government, Centennial Hall
  • January 26, 2023: University of Johannesburg, Department of Anthropology
  • January 25, 2023: Umnotho for Empowerment
  • January 23, 2023: Cape Town Library, American Corner / Consulate of the United States
  • Jan 18, 2023: University of Cape Town, Center for Social Science Research
  • Oct. 20, 2022: Council on Foreign Relations (by invitation)
  • Sept. 22, 2022: Interview with Aubrey Masango, on South African Radio 702
  • Sept 20, 2022: NYU Wagner School of Public Policy, Conflict Series
  • Sept 14, 2022: MIT Center for International Studies Starr Forum, on the Free Press and Democracy in conversation with Eve Fairbanks and the editors of the Daily Maverick.
  • July 28, 2022Institute of Current World Affairs discussion — Has South African Democracy Failed?
  • July 21, 2022SF World Affairs CouncilInterview with Hayde Adams
  • July 10, 2022: Interview with David Goodman on the Vermont Conversation (VTDigger/NPR)
  • June 7, 2022: Interview on Democracy Paradox podcast
  • June 1, 2022Ideas Podcast on the New Books Network
  • May 19, 2022: Profile in MIT News
  • May 6, 2022: The Promise of South Africa’s Democracy in Project Syndicate
  • April 2022: South Africa’s Successful Democracy (with Rorisang Lekalake) in the Journal of Democracy 18


Until We Have Won Our Liberty brings meaning and context to the notion that democracy has intrinsic value, encapsulating this virtue in the concept of dignified development. This book is a must-read for those interested in democracy and development, and a satisfying read for those interested in the travails and triumphs of post-Apartheid South Africa.

— John Gerring, University of Texas at Austin

Through admirable research and discussion, Until We Have Won Our Liberty shows that the legacy of Apartheid has not disabled South Africans from embracing democracy and valuing universal franchise. I warmly recommend this book to anyone interested in South Africa and the role of democracy after freedom from oppression.

— Richard J. Goldstone, former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

With the mind and heart of a loving critic, Evan Lieberman confronts whether democracy has delivered in South Africa. From moving vignettes of Mogale City to an analysis of global trends, Lieberman brilliantly focuses on what is really happening on the ground and reminds us that the momentum of hope remains. Until We Have Won Our Liberty offers sorely needed wisdom for us all, in these times of democratic cynicism.

— Anthony Marx, president and CEO of the New York Public Library

Until We Have Won Our Liberty asks a crucial question: Can a divided society succeed in establishing a multiracial, democratic government? Evan Lieberman shows how South Africa’s remarkable gains in dignified development and social justice are an outcome of extraordinary significance. This excellent book tells us how the country built a new system out of new principles and inspires hope of a more just future.

— Rachel Beatty Riedl, Cornell University

If you want to know why democracy deserves to be defended, read this book. Evan Lieberman elegantly weaves together evocative personal narrative and judicious empirical analysis. We come away not only with a new appreciation for the momentous accomplishments of post-Apartheid South Africa, but also with a moving and powerful defense of democracy’s enduring value—an account that should be read by all.

— Daniel Ziblatt, coauthor of How Democracies Die