This article examines whether a Modern World-Systems (MWS) perspective can provide an improved understanding of the processes of democratization in Africa (and other developing regions of the world) by conducting a comparative case study of South Africa and Zambia in the 1990s, examining the transitions to democracy and divergent processes of democratic consolidation in each country. Semi-peripheral South Africa has, due to its more advantageous position in the world-system, been better equipped than peripheral Zambia to safeguard democracy against erosion and reversal. The central irony of the MWS is that the weakest states in the MWS can be pushed around by core powers and are more easily forced to democratize while at the same time they are least likely to possess the resources necessary for democratic consolidation. Semi-peripheral states can maintain their independence vis-à-vis the core to a higher degree, but if the decision is made to undertake a democratic transition they are more likely to possess the resources necessary for successful consolidation. The MWS perspective allows for an improved understanding of the causal pathway of how position in the MWS translates into the ability to consolidate democracy than does approaches that emphasize domestic factors.
- South Africa,
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