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.
"With a mixture of sober social science analysis and engaging personal travelogue, Lieberman defends the country’s record, particularly its ability to sustain for several decades a dynamic democracy with free and fair elections, a vibrant press, and an independent judiciary. He also ably documents South Africa’s achievements in improving education, housing, and public health, showing that, over the last 25 years, the country has mostly matched or surpassed the accomplishments of comparable upper-middle-income countries. . . . He writes lucidly about the economic and political shortcomings on which other accounts focus, but he makes an eloquent case for the remarkable progress South Africa has made in the wake of apartheid’s brutal legacy."—Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs
"Lieberman’s analysis evaluates South Africa as a country, not as a miracle. Rather than being the bearer of the promise of democracy, the world can evaluate South Africa, Lieberman says, on its record of government performance, which has much to laud. . . . Important."—Carolyn Holmes, Washington Post
“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
“Evan Lieberman’s captivating book gives readers an in-depth understanding of a nation in transition. South Africa’s leaders are under high pressure as their ability to create change is being questioned, along with the promise of democracy itself. I loved this book.”—Claude Grunitzky, founder of TRUE Africa