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.
Raphaël De Kadt
This edition of Theoria is being assembled at a time of war. The government of the United States of America is projecting, through force, its power in the Middle East. The invasion of Iraq has been presented as a war of liberation. Its principal declared purpose has become the emancipation of the Iraqi people from tyrannical rule. Whatever the pretexts, declared and imputed, for the decision to go to war – which have ranged from the desire to disarm Saddam’s regime of its weapons of mass destruction to securing control of Iraqi oil supplies – there is little doubt that this is primarily an attempt to politically ‘reengineer’ an entire region. As such it fits neatly with the doctrine, articulated by the neo-conservative authors associated with the Project for the New American Century, which presses for the creation of an enduring, twenty-first century pax Americana of global reach. In their view, it is imperative that the United States does not lose the military supremacy it currently enjoys. No superpower that might challenge it should be allowed to emerge. To this end, the present war entails an attempt to erect a ‘coercive carapace’ across the Middle East, stretching from Israel in the west through to Afghanistan or indeed perhaps even India – a potentially ‘natural’ ally – in the east. Iraq is the centrally located landmass on which this exercise will first be tested, and from which it will be extended. This bold endeavour is concerned, in its own way, to ‘make the world safe for democracy’ and, by extension, American interests.
It is fitting that this 100th edition of Theoria addresses many of the major themes that have come, over the years, to define the journal as an editorial project. The articles that follow revisit issues of economic organization and development, and the cultural and political factors that animate them; reflect anew on the nature of justice and the implications thereof for the transformation of everyday life; and consider once more the contribution of thought itself – produced and sustained by intellectual, institutional and educational activities – in interpreting change, and changing our interpretations.