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Conceptions of the ‘good life’ and the various accounts of human well-being almost always entail some reference—direct or indirect—to physical and psychic health. The very term ‘disease’ implies ‘disease’, an absence of that which renders the human condition agreeable. There are many dimensions to disease, and to its counterpoint, ‘good health’. These range from concerns with therapy and the therapeutic to the advance of our understanding—in the modern world through the natural and social sciences—of illness, and from the cultural significance of disease to the economic costs and implications of ill-health and its management. Under the conditions of ‘modernity’ the nature and meaning of illness and of disease, though still culturally contested, has changed. Modern science has rendered the previously ‘inscrutable’ open to scrutiny and explanation. The advance of therapy is now inextricably bound up with the explanation of illness at the microbial, molecular and genetic levels. One consequence of the modern science of medicine has been to underwrite a quest for cures—paradigmatically embodied in new surgical interventions and technologies as well as, iconically, in the quest for ‘magic bullets’ represented, to begin with, by Paul Ehrlich’s salvarsan and later extended to antibiotics and to new-generation ‘designer drugs’.

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A comforting notion in much recent scholarly work on political regimes is that what, broadly, has come to be termed liberal democracy reflects the normative ‘telos’ of the modern world’s developmental trajectory. Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man stands as an almost iconic, if perhaps somewhat coarsely crafted, statement of this view. Przeworski, Alvarez, Cheibub and Limongi have, in Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990, presented a nuanced, empirically well grounded case for the general relative superiority of liberal democracy as a political framework for richer economies, and as a framework that societies will tend to adopt, with fewer dangers of regression, as they become wealthier. Even the economies of poorer countries—contrary to some earlier views—appear to grow and prosper no better under authoritarian regimes than they do under liberal democratic dispensations, not least with regard to the efficiency of resource allocation. Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom bears eloquent testimony to the wider social, political and ethical virtues of liberal democracy. After all, liberal democracies promise greater individual freedoms, better protection of rights, and better mechanisms for public policy formation and assessment than do authoritarian or ‘totalitarian’ forms of state. They also do not go to war against one another.

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The Editors wish to express their appreciation to the following individuals who assisted the refereeing process for 2006.

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Abstracts

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The predominant vision of war, in the system of sovereign nation-states that evolved in the aftermath of the Treaty of Westphalia, has been one of violence used by nation-states, or alliances of nation-states, against one another. Indeed, as Martin van Creveld in The Rise and Decline of the State suggests, one of the principal functions of the modern state was to wage war. War, in von Clausewitz’s famous formulation, was an instrument of international statecraft that entailed the ‘continuation of politics by other means’. The great wars of the twentieth century to a large extent took this form. It might even be said that inter-state war came to be seen by some as a ‘natural’, if somewhat episodic and terrifying, feature of the modern nation-state system.

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Contributors

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This issue is the first of a planned special series devoted to exploring the broad political, social and economic implications of war in the contemporary world. The politics of war raises fundamental questions about the changing nature of war, new conceptions of the utility and effects of war, and prospects for justice and peace.

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Notes on contributors

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The scope, compass and nature of the United States of America’s power in the post-9/11 context has run as a thematic thread through recent issues of Theoria.