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Conceptualising Regional Power in International Relations: Lessons from the South African Case


  • Daniel Flemes

    () (GIGA Institute of Latin American Studies)


Regional powers can be distinguished by four pivotal criteria: claim to leadership, power resources, employment of foreign policy instruments, and acceptance of leadership. Applying these indicators to the South African case, the analysis demonstrates the crucial significance of institutional foreign policy instruments. But although the South African government is ready to pay the costs of co-operative hegemony (such as capacity building for regional institutions and peacekeeping), the regional acceptance of South Africa’s leadership is constrained by its historical legacy. Additionally, Pretoria’s foreign policy is based on ideational resources such as its reputation as an advocate of democracy and human rights and the legitimacy derived from its paradigmatic behaviour as a ‘good global citizen’. However, the Mbeki presidency is more successful in converting these resources into discursive instruments of interest-assertion in global, rather than in regional bargains. In effect the regional power’s reformist South-oriented multilateralism is challenging some of the guiding principles of the current international system.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Flemes, 2007. "Conceptualising Regional Power in International Relations: Lessons from the South African Case," GIGA Working Paper Series 53, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:53

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    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:99:y:2005:i:01:p:29-43_05 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Flemes, 2007. "Emerging Middle Powers’ Soft Balancing Strategy: State and Perspectives of the IBSA Dialogue Forum," GIGA Working Paper Series 57, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Aydin Aydin, 2016. "Changing Dynamics In The Middle East After The Arab Awakening; The Position Of Turkish Foreign Policy," Proceedings of International Academic Conferences 3505993, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences.

    More about this item


    South Africa; regional power; foreign policy; co-operative hegemony; multipolarisation of the international system;

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