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
Ideas Podcast on the New Books Network
Interview on Democracy Paradox podcast
Related article (with Rorisang Lekalake) in the Journal of Democracy
Summary in Project Syndicate.
- SF World Affairs Council: July 21 (12pm PDT/ 3pm EDT) talk moderated by Hayde Adams. Register for a zoom link here.
- MIT Center for International Studies, September 21 (4:30pm EDT).
- My picks for the best five books on democracy and state-building in Africa.
- Washington Post/Monkey Cage African Politics Summer Reading, August 26