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Global South Powers in Transition

A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and South Africa


Edited By Deon Geldenhuys and Humberto González

Employing a novel collaborative transnational methodology, this ground-breaking book presents the first comprehensive and systematic comparison of Mexico and South Africa. Although geographically, historically and diplomatically far apart, Mexico and South Africa are ambitious and influential powers in the Global South and also experience wide-ranging domestic transitions. A binational team of 26 researchers from the two countries, all specialists in their respective disciplines, probe the transitions that Mexico and South Africa are undergoing in areas such as socio-cultural diversity, domestic politics, economic development, labour dynamics, social and territorial inequality, food security, crime and violence, and foreign relations. The detailed country studies allow the authors to identify striking similarities but also profound differences between the two societies. In so doing, the book helps to explain Mexico and South Africa to each other but also to the world at large.

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CHAPTER 10 International relations and foreign policies



International relations and foreign policies

General introduction

Jorge A. Schiavon and Lesley Masters

Foreign policy is framed by the realities of a state’s physical, international geographical position, as well as historical and current domestic political contexts. Since the 1990s, and following their democratisation and integration into the global system of governance, Mexico and South Africa have sought to pursue active roles on the international stage. This coincides with the changing international context, where relations are no longer shaped by an ideological divide between East and West (Cold War), and where globalisation has seen greater interaction between states on transboundary issues from climate change, socio-economic development and narcotics trafficking, to nuclear non-proliferation and international terrorism. To gain an understanding of the international roles assumed by Mexico and South Africa as Global South powers in transition, this chapter draws on Holsti’s analytical framework of states’ role conceptions in world politics (Holsti 1970: 234). These refer to the images that decision-makers have of the role that their state should adopt towards the external environment, or what they regard as suitable actions for their state (Holsti 1970: 245–6).

There is still debate on the sources that define a particular role conception, which range from geographical location, level of economic development, resources and capabilities, values, ideologies and the national interest; to the influence of external factors such as the characteristics of the international system, expectations held by other states, and a state’s...

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