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Editorial

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.

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Notes on the Contributors

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Editorial

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.

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Notes on the Contributors

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Editorial

The editors of Theoria feel especially privileged to present, as the opening contribution to this issue, a remarkable essay by the late great sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Not long before his untimely death earlier this year, Bourdieu entrusted the journal with the publication of this reflection on, and spirited re-affirmation of, the role of the intellectual and the nature of intellectual engagement. This essay is especially resonant in that it speaks so eloquently to, and by implication endorses, the underlying nature and purpose of Theoria as an editorial project. Thus, as we mourn the passing of this remarkable scholar, we take pleasure in communicating through this essay the passion, compassion, wit and commitment – as well as the vast and singular erudition so lightly worn – that were the hallmarks of his large and impressive oeuvre. We have departed from Theoria’s convention in this instance, and have elected not to provide a preliminary sketch of Bourdieu’s argument. Instead, we invite readers to engage directly, without our intermediation, with his evocation of the “utopia of the collective intellectual”; it is to the realization of this “utopia” that we would like to believe this journal makes a modest contribution. We would thus like to believe Pierre Bourdieu would have taken pleasure in engaging, critically, with the contributions to this issue – contributions which provocatively address, among other things, the globally pressing issues of justice and democracy as well as the need to revisit the prospects of market socialism in the context of developing societies.

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Editorial

Lawrence Freedman has suggested that the Third World War is now under way.1 Whether or not one agrees with his diagnosis, it is clear that the events of 11 September and the responses that they have occasioned are of world-historic importance. No aspect of our globalised economy will be left unaffected, no region will escape the impact of the conflict. From Indonesia and Malaysia to Nigeria and Paraguay, domestic political stability has been rendered more precarious. The order of war itself has been inverted; civilians, and the very fabric of civil society itself, were the first targets of attacks launched with essentially civilian instruments. The iconic impact has been no less extraordinary: arguably the two most potent symbols of capitalist modernity and its awesome technological capacities – the skyscraper and the jet airplane – were destroyed, intentionally, in a brilliantly orchestrated, chillingly effective media event. The ramifications need little spelling out: the very self-confidence and normative underpinnings of western civilisation have been shaken and questioned through the terrorists’ unprecedentedly potent “propaganda of the deed”. The political capacity and will, as well as the unity, of the West are being tested as perhaps never before. The juggernaut of technological progress and economic growth appears, at least momentarily, to have been halted in its tracks, as the global economy slides into recession. The erstwhile unchallenged power of the most technologically advanced society in history has been brought into question by an atavistic, theocratic ideology joined to the will of agents working, without the aid of hyper-modern technology and with relatively small financial resources, from the very margins of the global political and economic system.

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Editorial

The collapse of the state-socialist systems in Eastern Europe and the much discussed rise of the so-called ‘new economy’ have compelled scholars and thinkers to address developments of arguably world-historical significance. In particular, they have had to reflect on the impact on global society of what appears to be a new, globalised economic system characterised, among other things, by the unrivalled hegemony of capitalism, the consolidation of liberal-democracy in the advanced economies and the claimed demise of the nation-state. These developments have had implications for culture and for intellectual life, for education and for labour markets, and for public policy. They have forced us to revisit the role of the state and to reflect, anew, on the manner in which we describe and analyse the attendant societal phenomena. They invite us, too, to ask once again whether – and if so what – alternative, more desirable, institutional arrangements might be envisaged. The contributions to this issue of Theoria address, in diverse ways, these and related questions.

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