What caused the collapse of apartheid?

Kathleen C. Schwartzman, Kristie A. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In a 1992 national referendum, white South Africans voted to make the transition to full democracy. What accounts for the willingness of the ruling whites to close down the forty-four-year old apartheid system and open up the political arena? Numerous explanations have been offered for the recent wave of democratic transitions. Some have argued that transitions such as those in the Soviet Union (1991), Brazil (1981), and Portugal (1974) were the result of social protest. Others have attributed the transition to the rise of an industrial labor force. While South African observers argued that domestic economic stagnation would force a political readjustment, others argued that globalization made democratic coalitions preferable and more plausible. Using South African data and a time-series path model, we investigate these alternative explanations of the South African transition. Our analysis suggests that constraints on the domestic labor market and international financial boycotts were the primary factors in the collapse of apartheid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-139
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Political and Military Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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