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’.
This issue of Theoria marks a decade of democracy in South Africa. Invited to reflect on the process and challenge of building a modern liberal democracy and on progress towards social justice since 1994, the contributors have responded with detailed and in-depth analyses of a range of pertinent issues, from public institutions, national reform strategies, popular perceptions and moral responsibility to philosophical ideals, educational reforms, political participation and unrepudiated injustices. Beyond apartheid, beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and beyond party politics, greater and more inclusive social justice, if not immediately within reach, is certainly attainable: through the equalization and redistribution of access to resources, through reparations for injustices, through respect for rights and recognition of obligations, through compromise, sympathy, socialization and debate, and through making sense of change, both symbolically and practically. Most of all, justice will be served, and democracy advanced, by promoting, widening and multiplying spaces and opportunities for people to conceptualize and act upon social transformation in new and different ways.
The relationship between the nature of institutions and principles of justice and right action has always been central to political studies. It lies at the heart of normative political theory. Major changes in the perceived structure of institutions or patterns of human interaction, or significant events that challenge our political imagination, tend to heighten our awareness of this complex relationship. The last decade of the 20th century, and early years of the 21st, have witnessed many such events and changes. One need only mention Al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States of America and its activities elsewhere, the United States’ response to these attacks by invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban and the decision by the United States—taken under false pretexts—to invade Iraq and effect ‘regime change’ there.
The Editorial in Theoria 101, written as the United States of America led a ‘coalition of the willing’ in the invasion of Iraq, posed questions about the global significance, viability and desirability of this project. In this first issue of 2004 some of the contributions explore further the implications of this invasion, and the role of the U.S. in world affairs.
This edition of Theoria encompasses an examination of the character of historical enquiry, critical encounters with contemporary perspectives in political theory, reflections on religion and the state, an exploration of the implications of the commodification of time and work and an examination of the role of human rights in the contemporary international context. In this it extends discussion of themes that have come to define the coherence and unity of the journal as an editorial project.