The five articles that comprise this edition of Theoria cover a range of issues from reconsidering the war on terrorism to defending black solidarity to the abjection of the vagina in Brazil and South Africa. While the subject matter of the five articles is diverse, there is a common thread that connects them: they all touch on the themes of inclusion and exclusion. In an increasingly globalised world shaped by crossborder events like the war on terrorism, we find ourselves connected to one another in new ways, and we are forced to consider the issue of belonging. Global migration brings people from developing parts of the world, some of which are predominantly Muslim, into contact with people in developed parts of the world, like Europe. The cultural and ethnic tensions and clashes that result raise questions about belonging—who belongs and who does not—and who has the right to be included in the state, and who should be excluded. The first two articles examine ways of excluding and marginalising members of society, respectively women and black intellectuals, in ways that are not necessarily obvious to the wider society. The second and third articles overlap in exposing ways of including marginalised people that are shown to be false. The final two articles look at new ways of creating discourses of inclusion through appealing to new forms of moral humanism and moral realism. Behind and through these narratives flows a concern about how, or even whether, one can expand inclusion in old and new discourses, or just reproduce new forms of old exclusions or replace old exclusions with new ones.
All but one of the five papers in the present volume of Theoria deal with aspects of one of the central thematic concerns of contemporary political theory: the deliberative and participatory arrangements optimal for democratic flourishing. The first three essays are critical responses to Cass Sunstein’s treatment of democracy and deliberation in his timely and important book, Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge (2006). Infotopia enquires as to how, in the information age, we may arrive at the best, most accurate information. Sunstein assesses arrangements by which dispersed information is pooled in order to improve collective decision-making. He evaluates competing methods for aggregating information, including surveys, deliberation, markets, blogs, open source software and wikis.
On the mainstream liberal view it is both possible and desirable to separate out political and economic power from prescriptive normative views of how life ought to be led—at least beyond a relatively restricted ‘overlapping consensus’ about what constitutes the right process for resolving disputes about political leadership, justice and the economy. This is said to establish a public realm where claims to resources and recognition are framed in universal terms, and a private realm where particular beliefs about God, family and culture reside. Only by compromising views of politics justified by particular visions of the good life can we who value freedom and equality co-exist peacefully and prosperously, especially in an increasingly multi-cultural and socio-economically diverse world. In various ways the articles in this edition challenge this view, and offer more complex portrayals of the theoretical and empirical relationships between democracy, morality and discipline.
That democracy has won is common cause. The vast majority of states of the world today are termed ‘democratic’, a fact that stands in some contrast to the global order just some fifty years ago. Even more importantly, there is no competing alternative model of political rule, other than perhaps forms of radical Islam. Yet at the very moment of its triumph, democracy finds itself in trouble. Recent survey evidence from the United States suggests both political disengagement and a growing cynicism towards parties and elites, and similar trends are evident in Europe. Moreover, democracy faces substantial problems in the developing world, whether a tangible fragility among newly democratic states in Africa, or serious discontent at the responsiveness of government in many middle-income countries. Hence, at the very moment of hegemony we have increasing talk of democratic deficit.
We live in a secular age. Or so we are told. In fact, the real worlds of society, politics and social and political thought tell a very different story. Church attendance in many parts of the western world may be on the wane, but this is balanced by huge increases in church attendance in other parts of the world as well as the global rise of new, more ‘attractive’ forms of religious worship. In politics, the secular project has had, at best, patchy success. The formal separation of church and state is an outstanding achievement, but it is not always as clear-cut as may be desirable. This is exemplified by the extent to which religion forms the basis of most recent political conflicts. The events of 11 September 2001 and its aftermath in Iraq and elsewhere is only one example of this phenomenon; it is also an example of the extent to which religion and other aspects of politics and political psychology are interwoven. This fact is identified within the longstanding, if under-represented, position in social and political theory that points to the religious origins of modern political thought and agency. In a recent edition of Theoria, issue 106 (April 2005), Avishai Margalit and S. N. Eisenstadt provided compelling arguments in defense of this position.
In 2005 Theoria 105 was themed “Fundamentalism, Authority and Globalization” and included papers by Avishai Margalit and S.N. Eisenstadt that pointed to the religious origins of modern political thought and movements. The centrality of religion in recent conflict in the world and the seeming resurgence of religious fundamentalism of all persuasions poses specific challenges to the wider project of modernity. What Eisenstadt and Margalit pointed to is that the very core of modern political thought is underpinned by religious ideas and that we need to examine more carefully the seeming clash between modern and anti-modern tendencies.
This issue is the third in an ongoing series examining the political, social and economic implications of war in the contemporary world. Previous issues on this theme (Theoria 109, April 2006, and 110, August 2006) touched on debates about ‘old’ and ‘new’wars, militant American neoconservatism and the war on terror, the ramifications of humanitarian intervention and conscientious objection, and prospects for global justice and peace. The implications of current U.S. foreign policy continue to loom large in this issue, but the focus falls in addition on the personal and moral effects of war and its consequences for the individual: the moral claims behind the Bush Doctrine, and its effects on domestic issues and personal life, the question of targeted killings of individual terrorists, the continued relevance and utility of Clausewitz’s theory of war, and the use of foreign health aid as a deterrent to bioterrorism.