The theme of this special issue of Theoria is the relationship between constitutions, constitutional review and democracy. The four essays that make up the issue advance new arguments, offer fresh perspectives and make innovative proposals in response to a cluster of questions: what institutional arrangement of constitutional review best realizes the ideals of democracy? How does rightsbased judicial review fare, relative to constitutional review carried out by other branches of government, from the perspectives of democratic legitimacy and epistemic competence? Are courts more likely to uphold individual rights than legislatures? If democracy requires the participation of citizens in ordinary political decision making, should citizens be permitted to participate in the periodic revision of formal constitutions?
Earlier versions of the five articles of this edition of Theoria were presented at a conference held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in March 2010.1 Although they are diverse in style and content, all address the shared theme of the conference and this edition — ‘Poverty, Charity, Justice’.
Raphael De Kadt
In 1991, Charles Simkins, the doyen of economic demography in South Africa, wrote an article in Theoria entitled ‘The Scope and Methods of Political Economy’. In this article, a reworked version of his inaugural lecture as the Helen Suzman Professor of Political Economy at the University of the Witwatersrand, Simkins made a powerful case that economics is, of necessity, a moral science. Through the years, a concern with the intersection of politics, economics and the moral dimensions of the ‘human condition’ has been a recurrent theme, and organising motif, of this journal. Many of its contributors have, in diverse and often resonant fashion, reminded readers of the importance of this intersection and of extent to which the understanding of the economy is embedded in an appreciation of its broader historical — that is to say political, societal and cultural — contexts.
The focus of this special issue of Theoria is the Politics of Migration. Our aim in designing and attracting contributions to this issue was to contribute to the current debates on various aspects of global migration practices that are challenging the ways in which many nation-states, sending and receiving migrants, conceive of their place in this ever-changing globalised and globalising world in which we all live. International Relations theorists have, for several years, been writing about the contesting phenomena of integration and disintegration in global politics. As the world becomes more globalised, more linked and interdependent, the reality of a kind of global citizenship for the privileged elite with access to the markets and their spoils become more apparent. Those on the other end of the spectrum, often immigrant, minority and working class groupings who do not have access to resources beyond those promised to them by the state they rely on, react against these globalising forces. The result is a contest between a global integration and pulling together of individuals all over the world with similar political and economic situations, and a disintegration within and between nation-states, where those without these networks retreat into ethnic and cultural enclaves that offer them protection and defence against globalising impulses.
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.