Butler is Professor of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town.
His research has focused on the politics of public policy, with special reference to black economic empowerment, the resources sector, energy policy, public health, and state reform. He has also made contributions to the study of South African politics, with books and edited collections on the politics of the ANC, party modernisation, and party funding.
One unifying theme is the relationship between money and politics in middle income countries, with a special focus on political finance, clientelism, and resource theories of party dominance.
Recent publications include Contemporary South Africa 3rd edition (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and the biography Cyril Ramaphosa: The Road to Presidential Power, 3rd edition (Oxford, James Currey, and Auckland Park, Jacana). Butler is a regular columnist for Johannesburg’s Business Day newspaper.