The predominant vision of war, in the system of sovereign nation-states that evolved in the aftermath of the Treaty of Westphalia, has been one of violence used by nation-states, or alliances of nation-states, against one another. Indeed, as Martin van Creveld in The Rise and Decline of the State suggests, one of the principal functions of the modern state was to wage war. War, in von Clausewitz’s famous formulation, was an instrument of international statecraft that entailed the ‘continuation of politics by other means’. The great wars of the twentieth century to a large extent took this form. It might even be said that inter-state war came to be seen by some as a ‘natural’, if somewhat episodic and terrifying, feature of the modern nation-state system.
This issue is the first of a planned special series devoted to exploring the broad political, social and economic implications of war in the contemporary world. The politics of war raises fundamental questions about the changing nature of war, new conceptions of the utility and effects of war, and prospects for justice and peace.
The scope, compass and nature of the United States of America’s power in the post-9/11 context has run as a thematic thread through recent issues of Theoria.
The Ariadne’s thread that runs through, and connects, the articles in this issue of Theoria is the modern state. How should the state approach welfare policy? Is the state’s power as absolute as once it had been? What is the importance of nationalism for states? What assumptions about the relationship between the state and civil society should be examined, and how? What, especially in a developing society such as South Africa, is—or should be—the relationship between the state and the poor? These are the overarching questions that knit together the contributions.
This edition of Theoria speaks to the dynamics of globalization, to the nature and scope of democracy and democratic consolidation, and to the challenge of grounding authority, both sacral and ‘secular’. These themes have become especially resonant at a historical moment when religious fundamentalism has, in the context of increasing global interconnectedness, become more ‘present’, and when capitalist modernization has come increasingly to be broadly legitimated in the language of ‘democratic consolidation’.