Norms Reconstituting Interests: Global Racial Equality and US Sanctions Against South Africa

  • Citation: Klotz, Audie. "Norms reconstituting interests: global racial equality and US sanctions against South Africa." International Organization 49.03 (1995): 451-478.
    • Topics:
    • IR Theories
    • Keywords:
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • South Africa
    • economic sanctions
    • racial equality
    • apartheid
    • anti apartheid movements
    • conservatism
    • democracy
    • international cooperation
    • civil rights movements
    • political debate

The extraordinary success of transnational anti-apartheid activists in generating great power sanctions against South Africa offers ample evidence that norms, independent of strategic and economic considerations, are an important factor in determining states’ policies. The crucial role of a strengthened global norm of racial equality in motivating U.S. anti-apartheid sanctions illustrates the limitations of conventional international relations theories, which rely primarily on structural and material interest explanations, and supports theoretically derived constructivist claims. In particular, this case suggests that analysts should examine the role of global norms in defining states’ interests, rather than viewing norms solely as external constraints on state behavior.

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