International Relations Reconciliation
by
Kora Andrieu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0148

Introduction

“Reconciliation = closure + healing” wrote Johan Galtung. If reconciliation could indeed be reduced to an equation, there would be little debate regarding what should be done to promote it in postconflict situations. On the contrary, it seems that there is little consensus on what “reconciliation” actually means. One of the reasons for this lack of conceptual clarity is that reconciliation is both a goal and a process, which can happen in various contexts (between husband and wife, offender and victims, friends, communities, or nations). Philosophically, the concept of reconciliation is highly controversial too. According to Marx, it was a conservative term, coined by Hegel as a way to dissolve social conflicts in the interest of the State. The concept of reconciliation has also been accused of being illiberal in that it promotes an ideal of political harmony that denies the fundamental pluralism of modern societies (Garton Ash). Reconciliation is thus accused of being apolitical. It is also problematic in that it implies that there is a form of prior harmony to return too, when too often, such a state never existed. Some scholars therefore argue that one should talk more of “conciliation” than “re-conciliation” (Nagy, Moon, Dwyer). Others say that reconciliation is an abandonment of justice and an invitation to political apathy and resignation in front of justice (Mamdani). However, the term also has a deep religious content and is often viewed in a thick, normative way (Lederach) as describing a form of friendship, harmony, or healing. At the other end of the spectrum, scholars have tried to empty the concept of reconciliation from any moral connotations and to consider it in a purely objective, neutral way (e.g., Eisikovits). The problem with such a conception is that it ignores the deeply personal, intimate, and complex nature of reconciliation. Reconciliation thus becomes a simple modus vivendi, a “departure from violence” (Borneman), and a way to coexist without the reconciling parties necessarily interacting or forgiving one another. It therefore appears that an adequate conception of reconciliation must concentrate on expectations of citizens and officials, on their attitudes, and on the way institutions structure political relations. It must therefore capture both the institutional and the interpersonal characters of political interaction. The works included this bibliography mostly focus on political reconciliation at the level of nations and communities, more precisely after a systematic and widespread violation of human rights. To reflect these debates, it is divided according to the types of definition: thick, or thin; religious, or political; and institutional, judicial, restorative, or therapeutic. As a part of the process of rebuilding political relationships, reconciliation is, in either case, vital for the process of democratization and appears to involve both attitudinal, interpersonal, and institutional changes.

General Overviews

The works listed in this first section present the notion of reconciliation from various perspectives and methodologies: while Bloomfield, et al. 2003 is a practical, field-oriented analysis of the term and Prager and Govier 2003 presents specific case studies, Murphy 2010 and Schaap 2005 present more conceptual and philosophical reflections on reconciliation, and Lefranc 2006 is from a sociological, Bourdieusian perspective. Together, these works provide a wide overview of the range of issues raised by promoting and understanding reconciliation in post-conflict contexts. Hamber and van der Merwe 1998 brings these various perspectives together and applies them to the South African case.

  • Hamber, Brandon, and Hugo van der Merwe. “What Is This Thing Called Reconciliation?” Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Reconciliation in Review 1.1 (1998).

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    This short article seeks to clarify the concept of reconciliation in the South African context. It distinguishes an understanding of reconciliation as the dissolving of racial identities and racist attitudes into the model of the “Rainbow Nation”; an intercommunal understanding of reconciliation as bridging the divisions of the past; a religious ideology of confession and repentance; the regulation of social interaction through the rule of law; and, finally, reconciliation as coexistence and tolerance.

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    • Bloomfield, David, Teresa Barnes, and Luc Huyse, eds. Reconciliation after Violent Conflict: A Handbook. Stockholm: International IDEA, 2003.

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      Placing the goal of reconciliation within the larger process of democratization, this handbook offers ways of promoting it, always considering reconciliation more as a process than as a goal. Analyzing consecutively the people, the context, and the institutions, it provides an interesting and comprehensive look at the complex challenges and possibilities of reconciliation in transitional context. Available online.

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      • Lefranc, Sandrine. Après le conflit, la réconciliation? Paris: Michel Houdiard, 2006.

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        This book is a collection of articles written on politics of reconciliation and forgiveness, written from a sociological perspective. Both case studies (East Timor, Morocco . . .) and theoretical analysis are critical of the actors that promote the ideal of reconciliation and consider it as a pragmatic way to avoid the “normal” process of the rule of law: reconciliation, they say, is impunity in disguise.

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        • Murphy, Colleen. A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511761652Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This book is rooted in Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach and provides a deep and comprehensive philosophical analysis of the concept of political reconciliation as the process of rebuilding mutual relationships based on trust and reciprocity. This entails, the author says, rebuilding the rule of law and political trust, but also promoting capabilities.

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          • Prager, Carol A. L., and Trudy Govier, eds. Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003.

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            This collective book is written on reconciliation from the perspective of sociology, philosophy, psychology, and history, with case studies from Rwanda, Cambodia, the Third Reich, South Africa, and Canada. It also contains theoretical analysis, including one by David Crocker, who tries to build a normative theory of reconciliation, and one by Susan Dwyer on a narrative understanding of the term.

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            • Schaap, Andrew. Political Reconciliation. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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              This book seeks to rehabilitate the concept of reconciliation as politics, following a Gramscian methodology of critique, and examines the notion within contemporary debates in political theory. The author refutes the idea that reconciliation is ideological, in that it presupposes a comprehensive conception of community, and defines reconciliation as conditioned by both consensus and violence. He thereby defends an agonistic rather than a restorative understanding of political reconciliation.

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              Transitional Justice

              In an effort to avoid the pitfalls of the thick, normative understanding of reconciliation, writers and experts in the growing field of transitional justice suggest that reconciliation is not an end in itself but only the result of a set of conditions. Reconciliation thus arises as the result of other justice-related goals: criminal justice policies, truth commissions, reparations, and institutional reforms. The judicial aspect seems essential here: while some works such as Mani 2002 and Daly 2002 go beyond retributive justice to analysis of the deeper social and psychological aspects of reconciliation and “restorative justice,” Mamdani 1999 and Garapon 2002 focus on the rule of law and argue that there is no reconciliation without justice. De Greiff 2012 and United Nations 2004 try to build a holistic theory of the “paradigm” of reconciliation in transitional justice context, but Teitel 2000 sees transitional justice as a more exceptional form of justice, and Quinn 2009 and Roht-Arriaza and Marriezcunna 2006 warn against the danger of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to reconciliation in transitional contexts.

              • Daly, Erin. “Transformative Justice: Charting a Path to Reconciliation.” International Legal Perspectives 12 (2002): 73.

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                Erin Daly offers, in this long article, a comprehensive understanding of ways to understand political transitions not just in an institutional manner but also as a way to change the values of a society and transform its culture. Long-term peace and reconciliation imply a deep transformation from within, rather than a simple “transition”: it is not enough to act at the top, as one must also involve society at large. Also available online.

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                • De Greiff, Pablo. “Theorizing Transitional Justice.” In Transitional Justice Theories: Nomos 51. Edited by Melissa Williams, Rosemary Nagy, and Jon Elster, 31–77. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

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                  This theoretical work articulates a systematic conception of transitional justice as a “holistic” notion, arguing that its main tools and objectives cannot be applied selectively. The theory is constructed around a set of ends that De Greiff identifies for transitional justice measures: civic trust, recognition, reconciliation, and democracy. Acknowledging that reconciliation is a polysemic term, De Greiff chooses to define it negatively and starts by analyzing what an unreconciled society might be: one where resentment characterizes most social relations.

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                  • Garapon, Antoine. Des crimes qu’on ne peut ni punir ni pardonner: Pour une justice internationale. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2002.

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                    Legal specialist Antoine Garapon introduces the reader to the main challenge of transitional justice and reconciliation processes: that the crimes that they deal with, broadly defined as mass atrocities, are neither forgivable nor punishable. He distinguishes between a justice that punishes and a justice that reconciles, carefully analyzing the role of justice in promoting collective memory. The book is based on many case studies but remains highly conceptual.

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                    • Mamdani, Mahmood. “From Justice to Reconciliation: Making Sense of the African Experience.” In Crisis and Reconstruction: African Perspectives. Edited by Colin Leys and Mahmood Mamdani, 17–28. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1999.

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                      Famous professor of African Studies Mahmood Mamdani explores, in this chapter, the “collapse” of the paradigm of justice in postcolonial Africa and how it was replaced with the idea of reconciliation. Based on two case studies, Rwanda and South Africa, it tries to overcome the strict dichotomy between justice and reconciliation and to affirm that justice is the necessary component of a durable reconciliation.

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                      • Mani, Rama. Beyond Retribution: Seeking Justice in the Shadow of War. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2002.

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                        Using current examples from conflicts around the world, the author defends a holistic and integrated approach to justice after conflict and suggests that we address all three dimensions of the injustice of conflict: symptom, consequence, and cause. She thereby criticizes the short-term approach to peace-building and affirms that we must, instead, rebuild three dimensions of justice: legal, corrective, and distributive. Rama Mani mixes pragmatic, policy-oriented recommendations and philosophical considerations of the very meaning of “justice.”

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                        • Quinn, Johanna, ed. Reconciliation(s): Transitional Justice in Post-conflict Societies. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2009.

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                          This book focuses on the aims of transitional justice: reconciliation and healing. It criticizes the one-size-fits-all approach to address postconflict situations and explores, instead, “traditional” or indigenous and customary approaches to transitional contexts. What comes out of its various case studies is that reconciliation is a contentious and elusive but crucial objective of transitional justice.

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                          • Roht-Arriaza, Naomi, and Javier Mariezcurrena. Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511617911Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            Based on studies of ten countries, this book is a comprehensive and scholarly presentation of transitional justice and its foundations. The authors argue in favor of a local approach to transitional justice, as a better way to enforce the legitimacy of its mechanisms and to promote reconciliation at the community level.

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                            • Teitel, Ruti. Transitional Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                              This book is one of the first written exclusively on transitional justice. Ruti Teitel understands transitional justice as a legal response to massive human rights violations, operating in extraordinary circumstances. Trials are said to contribute to reconciliation in that they avoid private revenge, stabilize the political transition by making sure that the perpetrators won’t “spoil” it, individualize guilt, break the cycle of impunity, and strengthen the legitimacy of the democratization process.

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                              • United Nations Secretary General. The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-conflict Societies. UN Doc. S/2004/616. New York: UN Security Council, 2004.

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                                This report of the Secretary General not only offers a practical and complete presentation of the tools and functioning of transitional justice in the UN approach but also presents a rather sophisticated notion of the term. Transitional justice is defined as the “processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice, and achieve reconciliation” (p. 1). Four main mechanisms are identified: trials, truth-telling, reparations, and vetting.

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                                Healing

                                Several scholarly works, such as Hamber 2003, Hamber 2009, and Becker 2004, understand reconciliation in a therapeutic way, as the process of healing the psychological wounds of political violence. This interpretation is based on an analysis of the effects of political violence, understood as “extreme traumatization” destroying individuals’ sense of belonging to their community. Healing thus contributes to reconciliation better than justice does. This process can include psychological counseling to both victims and perpetrators, self-help support groups, and other more symbolic forms of healing, like theater, art, or rituals. This therapeutic approach is considered in Cobban 2002 as more appropriate to deal with legacies of mass violence than the formal, legal one. However, this view has also been criticized in Roth and Des Forges 2002: healing is indeed a slow, intimate, and complex process, one that an official institution will never be able to account for.

                                • Becker, David. “Dealing with the Consequences of Organised Violence in Trauma Work.” In Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation. Edited by Beatrix Austin, Alex Austin, Martina Fischer, et al. Berlin: Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management, 2004.

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                                  The author worked for several years in Chile with victims of political repression, and this article is also enriched by his experience in Angola and the former Yugoslavia. A complete overview of trauma theory helps the reader understand the relation between mental healing, peace, and reconciliation. Trauma is indeed defined as implying “a notion of tearing, of rupture and social breakdown” (p. 18), containing both individual and collective dimensions. David Becker stresses the importance of truth, justice, and empathy as a path to healing and reconciliation.

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                                  • Cobban, Helena. “The Legacies of Collective Violence.” Boston Review 27.2 (April/May 2002).

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                                    The author argues that retributive justice, in the form of international trials, is unsuited to correctly address the legacies of collective violence, which she describes, following Hannah Arendt, as “metaphysical.” Rather than crimes, what we are dealing with in places like Rwanda is a form of “sickness.” Reconciliation thus implies healing the traumas of both the perpetrators and the victims with more traditional and community-based procedures such as the gacaca.

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                                    • Hamber, Brandon. “Does the Truth Heal? A Psychological Perspective on the Political Strategies for Dealing with the Legacy of Political Violence.” In Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict. Edited by Nigel Biggar, 155–176. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003.

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                                      Based on the affirmation that modern conflict are more ethnic based than nation based, Brandon Hamber analyzes ways to overcome the effects of political violence on social ties. He argues in favor of a comprehensive strategy of social transformation and criticizes the expectation that truth commissions can actually heal victims: healing, he argues, is not a linear process that a uniform set of responses can bring about.

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                                      • Hamber, Brandon. Transforming Societies after Political Violence: Truth, Reconciliation, and Mental Health. London: Springer, 2009.

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                                        Drawing upon his extensive experience in South Africa and comparative examples, the author affirms that mental health should be central to any reconciliation or transitional justice mechanism and criticizes the notion of “closure.” The book explores the complex relation between individual psychological processes and macropolitical interventions such as truth commissions or trials. He affirms that there must be a bridge between national-level policy and the personal experiences of the victims of political violence.

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                                        • Roth, Kenneth, and Alison Des Forges. “Justice or Therapy?” Boston Review 27.3 (Summer 2002).

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                                          In this answer to Helena Cobban’s article (Cobban 2002), Kenneth Roth and Alison Des Forges argue that substituting therapy for justice is morally dangerous and that restorative justice and healing should not be replacements for formal justice. Cobban’s “medical metaphor,” they say, does not promote reconciliation, as it risks dissimulating individual responsibilities in the genocide.

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                                          Apologies

                                          Can official apologies contribute to national reconciliation? De Greiff 2007 and Andrieu 2009 believe that they do: by acknowledging past wrongs, admitting responsibility, and expressing regret, apologies might start the virtuous circle of trust building in a post-conflict society and thus be a first step towards reconciliation. Other works, such as Lind 2008, have a more nuanced approach, considering that repentance can create more tensions than healing and giving many examples of countries that have moved on without apologizing for their past. Tavuchis 1991 studies, from a more psychological perspective, the functioning of apologies and the way they promote reconciliation.

                                          • Andrieu, Kora. “‘Sorry for the Genocide?’ How Apologies Can Help National Reconciliation.” Millennium 38 (2009).

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                                            The aim of this article is to defend the politics of official apologies as part of a liberal conception of state and society. The acknowledgment of a wrongdoing, the acceptance of one’s responsibility, and the expression of sorrow and regret for it can therefore appear as a reliable way to promote national reconciliation, which is here understood following a Habermasian conception of discursive solidarity.

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                                            • De Greiff, Pablo. “The Role of Apologies in National Reconciliation Processes: On Making Trustworthy Institutions Trusted.” In The Age of Apology: Facing Up to the Past. Edited by Mark Gibney, Rhonda E. Howard-Hassman, Jean-Marc Coicaud, and Niklaus Steiner, 120–136. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

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                                              In this highly normative article, Pablo De Greiff compares the “thick” to the “thin” conception of reconciliation and distinguishes different understandings: reconciliation as coexistence, or reconciliation as civic trust. He defends the idea that reconciliation is “the condition under which citizens can trust one another as citizens again (or anew)” (p. 11).

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                                              • Lind, Jennifer. Sorry States: Apologies in International Relations. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.

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                                                The author asks if repentance really is the condition to reconciliation between states after war. Focusing on the cases of the relations between Japan and China, and between France and Germany, Lind offers a balanced appreciation of the potential of apologies in international relations: if they may indeed help rebuild trust, they can also have the inverse effect of causing internal backlash on the interpretation of history that is implied by public contrition.

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                                                • Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconciliation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

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                                                  The author concentrates on the shared norms that make the act of apologizing possible. Following a sociological approach, the author defines apologies as the act of reaffirming the value of shared norms and beliefs that have been threatened by the crime. It is therefore close to Margaret Walker’s account of reconciliation as the process of resettling the normative universe of a society (Walker 2006, cited under Social Trust).

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                                                  Social Trust

                                                  Trust implies a form of vulnerability, an attitude of confident and yet uncertain expectation. There are no guarantees in trust, because trust is a matter of belief and feeling (Govier and Verwoerd 2002). This is what distinguishes trust from legal contracts, argues Offe 1999. Trust is therefore a collective expectation, a certainty that the other members of the community will obey the same rules and share the same norms: Putnam 2000 and Baier 1986 thus make trust an essential element in the functioning of civil society. However, the functioning of trust is rather complex and raises important philosophical issues, as underlined in Pettit 1995 and Weinstock 1999. Analyzing reconciliation in terms of trust underlines the subjective dimension of it, as opposed to a strictly institutional understanding: Walker 2006 considers trust as the rebuilding of moral relationships. Govier and Verwoerd 2002 focuses on the state level and analyzes how confidence in political legitimacy arises incrementally, out of small actions and decisions: in a postconflict context, reconciliation can thus be made possible by the accomplishment of trust-building actions such as apologies, social cooperation, reparations, or trials. The links between transitional justice and reconciliation appear clearly here.

                                                  • Baier, Annette. “Trust and Antitrust.” Ethics 96.2 (1986): 231–260.

                                                    DOI: 10.1086/292745Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Philosopher Annette Baier tries, in this article, to fill the surprising lack of deep analysis of the notion of trust in moral philosophy. She considers that trust is the moral basis of our everyday relationships: morality itself requires trust to thrive. No life would be possible if we did not trust even strangers (doctors, teachers, food producers . . .). “We inhabit a climate of trust as we inhabit an atmosphere and notice it as we notice air, only when it becomes scarce or polluted” (p. 243), she writes. Available online by subscription.

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                                                    • Govier, Trudy, and Wilhelm Verwoerd. “Trust and the Problem of National Reconciliation.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 32.2 (2002): 178–205.

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                                                      Trudy Govier defines trust as the engagement of expectations of benign, not harmful behavior; assumption of the general integrity of the other and a sense that the trusted person is a good person; a willingness to rely or depend on the trusted person, which implies an acceptance of risk and vulnerability; and a general disposition to interpret the trusted person’s actions favorably. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                      • Offe, Claus. “How Can We Trust Our Fellow Citizens?” In Democracy and Trust. Edited by Marc Warren, 42–87. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511659959Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Claus Offe defines institutional trust as “knowing and recognizing as valid the values and forms of life incorporated in an institution and deriving from this recognition the assumption that this idea makes sufficient sense to a sufficient number of people to motivate their ongoing active support for the institution and the compliance with its rules.” Reconciliation is then defined as institution building: the goal of reconciliation processes is to make institutions both trustworthy and actually trusted.

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                                                        • Pettit, Philip. “The Cunning of Trust.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 24.3 (1995): 202–225.

                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1088-4963.1995.tb00029.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          Philosopher Philip Pettit tries, in this article, to answer the question of why we think that someone has good will towards us and will prove reliable if we manifest our trust. Trust responsiveness is not granted: it means only that we expect someone to do something, and it does not entail that the trustee will be moved by the trust of the truster. But Pettit argues that, psychologically, individuals’ desire to have good opinion of others and of themselves will motivate them to be trust responsive. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                          • Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.

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                                                            According to Putnam, “social capital” refers to features of social organizations, such as trust or civic organizations, which can improve the efficiency of society by making cooperation easier. Social capital is both a moral resource and a public good, unique in that, unlike other forms of capital, it increases the more it is used: trust builds on trust, distrust builds on distrust. This conception of social capital is useful when trying to understand the functioning of trust and the impact of reconciliation processes.

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                                                            • Walker, Margaret. Moral Repair: Reconstructing Moral Relations after Wrongdoing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511618024Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Reconciliation is here defined as the process of codifying and reinforcing the normative expectations that structure moral relationships predicated on trust. Margaret Walker affirms that moral relationships are “trust-based relationships anchored on our expectations for one another” (p. 135). We rely on each other to be responsive to expectations and to understand that accounting is owed when we do not behave in the ways upon which others rely.

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                                                              • Weinstock, Daniel. “Building Trust in Divided Societies.” Journal of Political Philosophy 7.3 (1999): 287–307.

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                                                                Philosopher Daniel Weinstock discusses the Kantian form of respect achieved in relations of trust among citizens who are strangers in a civil society. He argues that trust involves an expectation on the part of the truster that the trustee will respond “because of how she stands to me rather than of who she stands to that which I am entrusting to her” (p. 290). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                Truth-Telling

                                                                History writing and truth telling is an important step in helping a society move from violence and towards reconciliation. “Truth and reconciliation commissions” (TRCs) seek to establish both these goals, and rest on the assumption that the two are intrinsically related. “The truth heals” was indeed the slogan of the South African TRC. However, one needs to distinguish, here again, between personal and national processes of reconciliation. Also, examples show that political reconciliation can sometimes take place without any truth-telling process, as in Spain after 1975. Reconciliation thus stands in a particular relation with justice. If it is commonly argued that there can be no reconciliation without justice, reconciliation usually implies a more restorative form of justice, as opposed to a strictly retributive one. Reconciliation can therefore imply amnesties and thereby violate the individual right to retribution in the name of a higher collective goal (Allen 1999). Molly 2003 sees in this discourse of reconciliation a way to build a national myth and impose the “truth” upon the citizens. Rotberg and Thompson 2000 and Nedad 2006 offer a more balanced approach and consider that truth commissions can be understood in a more pluralist manner, as based on disagreement and diversity. Truth commissions can also be understood in relation to their goal: peace and justice. Borer 2006 and Hayner 2010 analyze them from this perspective.

                                                                • Allen, Jonathan. “Balancing Justice and Social Unity: Political Theory and the Idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” University of Toronto Law Journal 49.3 (1999): 315–355.

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                                                                  In this article, Jonathan Allen analyzes the conception of social unity that lies in the idea of truth and reconciliation commissions from the point of view of political philosophy. The notion of reconciliation, as understood in most TRCs, is a “thick” one that contradicts the liberal vision of individualism and appears closer to communitarian perceptions of social unity as being substantial. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                  • Borer, Tristan Ann, ed. Telling the Truths: Truth Telling and Peace Building in Post-conflict Societies. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006.

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                                                                    This collective book examines the links between truth-telling and peace-building: do truth commissions really promote gender equality, reconciliation, human rights, the rule of law, and healing? Case studies are various and include Zimbabwe and Guatemala. This book is now considered a classic in the study of truth commissions and transitional justice more generally.

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                                                                    • Hayner, Priscilla. Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions. New York and London: Routledge, 2010.

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                                                                      This fundamental book analyzes the rise of the model of truth commissions, the reasons for their emergence, and their fundamental assumptions about the value of truth in times of transition, the need for healing by public acknowledgment of the past, and reparations. It offers a thorough analysis of the “five strongest” truth commissions: those of South Africa, Guatemala, Peru, Morocco, and Timor-Leste. Annexes include a list of truth commissions created throughout the world and charts explaining their diverse functioning.

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                                                                      • Molly, Andrews. “Grand National Narratives and the Project of Truth Commissions: A Comparative Analysis.” Media, Culture and Society 25.1 (2003): 45–65.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0163443703025001633Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        This article analyzes the idea of “reconciliation” as the building of grand narratives in transitional context, based on a comparative analysis of South Africa and East Germany. It focuses on the relations between individual and collective memory in this process of myth-building and criticizes the tendency to see the “truth” in “truth and reconciliation commission” in a unilateral, top-down, manner. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                        • Nedad, Dimitrijevic. “Justice Beyond Blame: Moral Justification of (the Idea of) a Truth Commission.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 50.3 (2006): 368–382.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0022002706286952Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          The author analyzes the moral and political foundations of truth commissions. He considers that different processes of obtaining knowledge, seeking recognition, and institutionalizing acknowledgment about the true nature and consequences of the misdeeds from the close past are necessary for democratization and reconciliation. This implies affirming a new democratic legitimacy and creating the basis of civility after mass atrocity. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                          • Rotberg, Robert, and Dennis Thompson, ed. Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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                                                                            This book analyzes truth commissions from the perspective of moral and political philosophy. The authors propose an understanding of reconciliation as implying “an economy of moral disagreement”: the goal is less to agree on a single understanding of the past (“truth”) than to accept pluralism and diversity, as within a single universe of comprehension. Disagreement is not an obstacle to reconciliation: it is, on the contrary, the proof of a functioning democracy.

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                                                                            Memory and Narratives

                                                                            Memorializing the past is often considered an essential element of reconciliation processes. There are indeed many examples of societies that chose, on the contrary, to forget the past and promote a form of amnesia (Cambodia, Latin America, Russia, Spain), but experience shows that the past always comes back to haunt these nations. Public acknowledgment of the past is a way to counter tactics of denial, which are frequent among the offenders, as Moon 2006 underlines. Reconciliation is thus intrinsically linked to narrative building, as discussed in Doxtader 2003. A truthful memorialization policy is considered a way to teach future generations about the past and thereby to prevent the recurrence of violence. The building of monuments, for instance, gives private sufferings a collective dimension and can therefore contribute to healing. However, some works, such as Rotberg and Bar-On 2006, argue that reconciling narratives is not always possible because of “cognitive blocks” in conflicted societies. Dwyer 1999 also warns, from a more philosophical perspective, against attempts to build unified memory of the past, especially in ethnic conflict zones. A solution might therefore be, as Andrieu 2010 suggests, to adopt a more communicative approach, and see reconciliation simply as the (re-)creation of an open dialogue about the past or to understand reconciliation through the prism of deliberative democracy (Dryzek 2003).

                                                                            • Andrieu, Kora. “Civilizing Peacebuilding: Transitional Justice, Civil Society and the Liberal Paradigm.” Security Dialogue 41.5 (2010): 537–558.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/0967010610382109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              This article affirms that for long-term reconciliation to prevail, civil society should become the primary target of interventions. It criticizes the Weberian approach to peace operations for focusing too much on objective sources of legitimacy at the expense of those rooted in local, subjective perceptions of society. Building on Habermas’s notion of communicative action and Putnam’s definition of social capital, this article formulates the basis of a new approach to peace and reconciliations, one that would aim less at the rebuilding of state institutions and more at the reconstruction of social relations and unfettered dialogue between communities.

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                                                                              • Doxtader, Erik. “Reconciliation: A Rhetorical Conception.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 89 (2003): 267–292.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/0033563032000160954Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                This article analyzes the notion of reconciliation from a speech theory perspective, as a rhetorical norm that transcends violence. It is based on a Hegelian analysis of reconciliation as “the unity in difference,” the overcoming and integration of differences. Reconciliation, the author says, is the capacity to invent grounds for communication. This highly theoretical paper gives a deep philosophical analysis of the concept of reconciliation from the perspective of language theories.

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                                                                                • Dryzek, John. “Deliberative Democracy in Divided Societies: Alternatives to Agonism and Analgesia.” Political Theory 33 (2003): 218–242

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0090591704268372Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  This article examines how deliberative democracy can operate in conflicted societies, especially when faced with strong, exclusive, identity-oriented politics. The author successively analyzes the solution proposed by agonistic theory, consociational democrats, and finally defends a more engaged deliberative politics in a free public sphere, to overcome the rigidity of political identities.

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                                                                                  • Dwyer, Susan. “Reconciliation for Realists.” Ethics and International Affairs 13 (1999): 81–98.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-7093.1999.tb00328.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Susan Dwyer realistically sees reconciliation as taking place between different narratives, “guided by normative ideals of intelligibility, coherence, and understanding” (p. 87) It therefore rests on a narrative conception of the self and of society that is fundamental to the notion of trust: “we rely heavily on the tacit assumption that the lives of others have narrative unity” (p. 87). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                    • Moon, Claire. “Narrating Political Reconciliation: Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa.” Social and Legal Studies 15.2 (2006): 260–272.

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                                                                                      This book gives a critical and theoretical account of the formation of the South African TRC’s reconciliation narrative from the point of view of the norms of what Claire Moon calls the “global reconciliation industry” (p. 262). The author shows how the TRC narrated apartheid in a purely political manner, as a series of gross human rights violation, and argues that the TRC has thereby generated new social conflicts and left unacknowledged the everyday suffering of thousands of blacks and the material inequalities which made political violence possible.

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                                                                                      • Rotberg, Robert, and Dan Bar-On. Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict: History’s Double Helix. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                        This book is a collection of essays discussing how Israelis and Palestinians tell their histories in academia, textbooks, and media. The assumption of most of these articles is that Israelis and Palestinians have two competing and diametrically opposed narratives of the conflict that engulfs them. The book surveys these two versions of history. An interesting article by Illan Pappé affirms that these narratives can never be reconciled but only “bridged,” a movement which he defines as “a conscious historiographical effort that is intrinsic to the more general reconciliation effort” (p. 242).

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                                                                                        Socioeconomic Understandings

                                                                                        The socioeconomic aspect of reconciliation processes is often left aside. These articles define reconciliation as the building of what Amartya Sen calls “capabilities” (Robeyns 2005): war destroys capabilities that are fundamental for social interaction (participating in the political and economical life of a community, being respected, being able to form and pursue one’s own life plan), as discussed in Galtung 2001. Capabilities are a form of positive freedom: without them, citizens lack agency and cannot take part in the public life or act in their community. Capabilities refer to the effective freedom or opportunity of individuals to function and to achieve the things and the lives they value. If the capability approach is generally used in the development field, argues De Greiff and Duthie 2009, it could also be useful to transitional justice: war and poverty create similar forms of vulnerabilities. This conception of reconciliation as (re)building capabilities stresses the role of institutions in shaping what individuals can do and become, and in defining their structures of opportunities. This cannot be done without providing the effective means of political freedom: reconciliation is thus intrinsically linked to reparations and economic well-being, say both Miller 2007 and Nevins 2003, based on different case studies. While Torpey 2001 analyzes reparations in a historical perspective, Verdeja 2008 offers a deep philosophical perspective on reparations, going all the way back to John Locke’s thought. Providing economic redress for past abuses is a fundamental step in promoting reconciliation and long-term peace, concludes De Greiff 2006.

                                                                                        • De Greiff, Pablo. “Repairing the Past: Compensation for Victims of Human Rights Violations.” In The Handbook on Reparations. By Pablo De Greiff, 1–20. Stockholm: IDEA, 2006.

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                                                                                          De Greiff argues, in this introduction to the Handbook he directed, that reparations are the most visible and tangible manifestation of a state’s willingness to remedy past wrongs: to that extent, their potential role for reconciliation is important. Without the concrete, material support that they offer victims, truth-telling and prosecution may just appear as empty gestures.

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                                                                                          • De Greiff, Pablo, and Roger Duthie, eds. Transitional Justice and Development: Making Connections. New York: Social Science Research Council, 2009.

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                                                                                            This collective book is an essential step towards linking transitional justice to the field of development. Through a series of practical and conceptual studies, the authors show that both disciplines share many goals and could therefore act to reinforce one another. Essentially, they are both about empowering the most marginal people in societies (victims, poor) and promoting their recognition and social reintegration. Amartya Sen’s understanding of development as freedom and capabilities is again essential in making those connections.

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                                                                                            • Galtung, Johan. “After Violence: Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Resolution.” In Reconciliation, Justice, and Coexistence: Theory and Practice. Edited by Mohammed Abu-Nimer, 3–23. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2001.

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                                                                                              The father of peace studies, Johan Galtung, offers an analysis of reconciliation from the point of view of the concept of “positive peace,” which he invented. Reconciliation means more than simple peaceful coexistence, or “negative peace,” but also the eradication of structural violence and the promotion of social justice. “Healing” thus means that victims become capable, and that nothing prevents them anymore from realizing their full human potential.

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                                                                                              • Miller, Zinaida. Constructing Sustainable Reconciliation: Land, Power and Transitional Justice in Post-genocide Rwanda. Cape Town: Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, 2007.

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                                                                                                This article provides a new perspective on the Rwandan genocide, affirming that it was less ethnic categories than economic injustices, in particular access to land, that were its causes. Zinaida Miller’s article is a powerful illustration of the need for the transitional justice discourses of reconciliation to include considerations for long-term economic development.

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                                                                                                • Nevins, Joseph. “Reconciliation Over Coffee: Truth, Reconciliation and Environmental Violence in East Timor.” Political Geography 22 (2003): 677–701.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/S0962-6298(03)00052-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  This article analyzes the economic aspects of reconciliation in East Timor, focusing on the culture of coffee and environmental justice. Joseph Nevins underlines the economic crimes committed by Indonesia, more specifically the exploitation and oppression of coffee producers, and affirms that long-term reconciliation in the country will imply overcoming this legacy of economic injustices. He analyzes in particular the way the Timorese truth commission proposed to consider economic crimes as crimes against humanity.

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                                                                                                  • Robeyns, Ingrid. “The Capability Approach: A Theoretical Survey.” Journal of Human Development 6.1 (2005): 93–114.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/146498805200034266Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    This article is a good introduction to the concept of capabilities, first introduced by Amartya Sen and then developed by Martha Nussbaum. Capabilities are the key to understand “human development” not only as the level of resources people have, but also, and more importantly, as the freedoms they are able to enjoy. This includes positive freedoms such as participation in the public sphere, but also the concrete means that make life choices possible.

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                                                                                                    • Torpey, John. “Making Whole What Has Been Smashed: Reflections on Reparations.” Journal of Modern History 73.2 (2001): 333–358.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/321028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      This article offers an analysis on the spread of “reparation politics” since the latter half of the 20th century: what do attempts to come to terms with the past through monetary demands entail? John Torpey focuses on the claims for reparations for the Holocaust and the way it has been built into a model for such demands. He then studies what this trend reveals regarding our interpretation of history and our understanding of historical injustices as related to racial hierarchies.

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                                                                                                      • Verdeja, Ernesto. “A Critical Theory of Reparative Justice.” Constellations 15.2 (2008).

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                                                                                                        This article helps clarify the conceptual aspects of reparations and what they are meant to do: do they help victims return to a status quo ante? Do they contribute to morally repudiate the past? Or do they enable former opposed groups to become actual citizens? Ernesto Verdeja tries to build a critical theory of reparations as part of transitional justice: their goal, he says, is to further individual autonomy while promoting social justice and recognition. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                        Forgiveness, Religious Understandings, and Restorative Justice

                                                                                                        Forgiveness is the only disposition that allows us to break free of the endless cycle of violence, affirms Lederach 1997, based on a Christian analysis of the term. The most prevalent argument in favor of political forgiveness concerns its potential to release victims and wrongdoers from the effects of resentment (Philpott 2009). However, many commentators argue that forgiving is the exclusive prerogative of victims, and a very personal act, as Drumbl 2002 argues from its study of postgenocide Rwanda. According to this view, it is problematic to define a process of political reconciliation in terms of forgiveness, because forgiving is a very private business that cannot be promoted as a public policy (Derrida 1999). Another trend sees forgiveness as an essential component of justice itself, understood no longer as retributive but as restorative justice: Johnson and Van Ness 2007, Umbreit 2001, and Braithwaite 1989 theorize this alternative understanding of justice as reconciliation more than punishment, while Ferry 1996 conceptualizes restorative ethics from a deep philosophical perspective, as a middle ground between narration and argumentation.

                                                                                                        • Braithwaite, John. Crime, Shame and Reintegration. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511804618Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          John Braithwaite is one the inventors of the “restorative justice” paradigm in the English-speaking world, which has been used predominantly to handle fairly minor, or juvenile, crimes. The author underlines that restorative justice is concerned far more about restoration of the victim and the victimized community than about the punishment of the offender.

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                                                                                                          • Derrida, Jacques. “Le siècle et le pardon.” Le Monde des Débats 9 (December 1999).

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                                                                                                            Postmodernist and structuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida analyzes, in this short but complex article, the notion of “forgiveness” as it was used in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He argues that any attempt to make forgiveness the part of a political program is absurd, as forgiveness cannot be theorized and is fundamentally “crazy.”

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                                                                                                            • Drumbl, Mark. “Restorative Justice and Collective Responsibility: Lessons for and from the Rwandan Genocide.” Contemporary Justice Review 5.1 (2002): 5–22.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/10282580210831Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              This article explores the application of restorative justice in postgenocide Rwanda, where a purely retributive approach to justice has clearly shown its limits: the number of perpetrators was too high, and individual accountability hard to apply. Restorative justice has therefore been presented as an alternative through the traditional conflict resolution mechanism of gacaca. Mark Drumbl offers a critical perspective on the “healing” effect of such process.

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                                                                                                              • Ferry, Jean-Marc. L’ethique reconstructive. Paris: Cerf, 1996.

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                                                                                                                This book offers a deep philosophical analysis of the ethical dimension of restorative justice. Writing from a Habermasian perspective, rooted in the philosophy of language, Jean-Marc Ferry defines the principles of this “restorative ethics,” a middle ground, he says, between the rigid rationality of argumentation and the emotional subjectivity of narration.

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                                                                                                                • Johnson, Gerry, and Daniel Van Ness, eds. The Handbook of Restorative Justice. Cullompton, UK: Willan, 2007.

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                                                                                                                  This book brings together the thought and analysis of the most famous restorative justice and criminology experts, offering a comprehensive collection of scholarship about restorative justice for both domestic crimes and gross human rights violations in international law. It explores the main concepts of restorative justice, the variety of its practice, its values, and its roots. A chapter is dedicated to analyzing the global impact of restorative justice on reconciliation.

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                                                                                                                  • Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1997.

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                                                                                                                    John Paul Lederach defines a “thick” understanding of reconciliation, considering that a reconciled society is one of deep and comprehensive social harmony. This maximalist vision is captured by his quotation of Psalm 85:10—“Truth and Mercy have met together/Justice and Peace have kissed.” Lederach adds that “reconciliation is the place where these four are held together . . . where they are recognized as different and interdependent social energies.”

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                                                                                                                    • Philpott, Daniel. “An Ethic of Political Reconciliation.” Ethics & International Affairs 23 (2009).

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                                                                                                                      The author defines reconciliation as a concept of restorative justice and mercy. He argues that it is achieved through a set of political practices that can restore a measure of human flourishing and rebuild legitimacy. Punishment and forgiveness, he argues, are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                      • Umbreit, Mark. The Handbook of Victim Offender Mediation: An Essential Guide to Practice and Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

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                                                                                                                        This book presents the main elements of restorative justice, starting from the idea that classic retribution is limited in that it is purely perpetrator oriented and may lead to revictimization. It also fails to identify structural patterns of guilt and complicity, thereby creating new zones of impunity. On the contrary, restorative justice engages with victims and identifies the broader causes of the conflict, in the goal of repairing broken social relations.

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                                                                                                                        Political Liberal Understanding

                                                                                                                        Against the thick, religious understanding of reconciliation, works by liberals such as Darrel 2007 and Garton Ash 1997 argue that reconciliation means living with your enemies—not necessarily to love them, or forgive them, or forget the past in any way, but to coexist with them, to develop the degree of cooperation necessary to share your society with them. This “thin” conception of reconciliation is closer to the liberal idea of tolerance (Verdeja 2009, Kymlicka and Bashir 2008). Borneman 2002 applies this modest understanding to transitions from ethnic conflict, while Nagy 2002 analyzes how it can be an alternative to the rather thick and emotional conception of it that was mobilized in South Africa. Within this frame, reconciliation can be thought of in a “thin,” liberal way, as a procedure more than a substantial content, as Teitel 2002 analyzes from the perspective of law. It requires an agreement not on substantial moral values but only on the rules by which facts will be established and peaceful disagreement can take place. Gutmann and Thompson 1996 and Nagel 1987 demonstrate how this conception is inherent to democratic liberalism itself.

                                                                                                                        • Borneman, John. “Reconciliation after Ethnic Cleansing: Listening, Retribution, Affiliation.” Public Culture 14 (2002): 281–304.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1215/08992363-14-2-281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          The author defines reconciliation as coexistence and breaking the cycle of revenge. It is a rather “thin” understanding, which is far from other definitions of reconciliation as peace or harmony. In the specifically complex context of ethnic violence, the author considers reconciliation to be a “project of departure from violence” (p. 282) that interrupts a compulsive repetition of trauma. The most essential thing, according to this “thin” conception, is to remove the fear, which is an essential component in social conflicts and which is often subjectively formed on the basis of past experiences. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                          • Darrel, Moellendorf. “Reconciliation as a Political Value.” Journal of Social Philosophy 38.2 (2007): 205–221.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9833.2007.00375.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            The author defines reconciliation as a political value, which exists when former strangers view and treat each other as equal citizens after conflict and injustice. It stresses the institutional aspects of reconciliation, as a way to get rid of the too-“thick,” moral and apolitical, understandings of it.

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                                                                                                                            • Garton Ash, Timothy. “True Confessions.” New York Review of Books, 17 July 1997, 35–40.

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                                                                                                                              The author analyzes the notion of reconciliation in truth commissions and transitional justice and affirms that the search for “the truth” and for “reconciliation” in post-conflict or post-authoritarian societies is complex and inherently paradoxical: not only does it close possibilities for deliberation and debate, but it negates the value of pluralism that is at the heart of political liberalism and democracy. “The reconciliation of all with all,” he writes, “is a deeply illiberal idea.” Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                              • Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. Democracy and Disagreement. Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                The authors conceive reconciliation in terms of democratic reciprocity and dialogical liberalism. They show how deliberative democracy can help solve our deepest social, political, and moral disagreements and allow diverse groups, races, classes, and genders to reason together and accept living mutually and respecting each other in the inevitable conflicts that a liberal society allows. Reconciliation is thus related to what the authors call “the economy of moral disagreement.”

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                                                                                                                                • Kymlicka, Will, and Bashir Bashir, ed. The Politics of Reconciliation in Multicultural Societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                  The authors compare the “politics of reconciliation” with the “politics of difference.” If the first focuses on truth telling and reparations, the second concentrates on recognition and empowerment of minorities in multicultural societies. This book tries to combine both approaches and explore how they can interact, thereby leading to an understanding of reconciliation based on multicultural citizenship.

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                                                                                                                                  • Nagel, Thomas. “Moral Conflict and Political Legitimacy.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 16.3 (1987): 215–240.

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                                                                                                                                    Philosopher Thomas Nagel analyzes the difficult foundations of political liberalism and its principle of impartiality. How can these principles help us solve political disagreements? Liberals tend to consider that the state cannot contribute to solving the deepest moral and religious controversies, placing a higher value on individual freedoms of choice. To this extent, it is hard to see how public policies could ever contribute to reconciliation in a liberal society.

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                                                                                                                                    • Nagy, Rosemary. “Reconciliation in Post-commission South Africa: Thick and Thin Accounts of Solidarity.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 35.2 (2002): 323–346.

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                                                                                                                                      The author analyzes the use of reconciliation in the South African truth commission, considering the “thick” definition of reconciliation as harmony, healing, and forgiveness to be problematic, as it erases private differences and possible disagreements. How can a balance be found between plurality and solidarity after mass violence? The author finds an answer in public apologies as the basis for creating a new, shared history through dialogue. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                      • Teitel, Ruti. “Transitional Justice as Liberal Narrative.” In Transnational Legal Processes: Globalisation and Power Disparities. Edited by Michael Likosky and A. Vaughan, 316–324. London: Buttersworth, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                        Ruti Teitel analyzes here the extent to which justice can contribute to the formation of a liberal order. She studies the various dilemmas that can arise in these special circumstances, affirming that the law, during political transition, will necessarily be partial and contextualized. “What is just is contingent and informed by prior injustices,” she writes, thereby showing the limits of the often overambitious agenda of post-conflict reconciliation and “healing.”

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                                                                                                                                        • Verdeja, Ernesto. Unchopping a Tree: Reconciliation in the Aftermath of Political Reconciliation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                          This book in critical theory analyzes the extent to which transitional justice “works” and builds a normative theory of political reconciliation as respect, tolerance, and shared values. Verdeja analyzes this conception at four different levels: political, institutional, civil society, and interpersonal.

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                                                                                                                                          Criticisms

                                                                                                                                          The difficulties in defining precisely the political meaning of reconciliation have led many authors to criticize its very use, as underlined in Borer 2004 from the South African context, and Rosoux 2009 from Rwanda. Scholars’ works such as Jankélévitch 1985 have argued that a policy encouraging victims to forgive those who have harmed them risks adding insult to their injuries, and induce a sense of moral inadequacy on top of the devastation already suffered. Améry 1999 suggests that reconciliation thus becomes immoral and defends the morality of resentment instead as an ethical duty after crimes that shock the conscience of mankind, while Eisikovits 2004 suggests the use of “sympathy” instead of reconciliation. Reconciliation can also be counterproductive, as demands for forgiveness may exacerbate rather than quell individual resentment (Hirsch 2011). Ironically, then, a policy advocating forgiveness might undermine one of its own aims—the reduction of resentful passions after conflict, as Wilson 2000 argues was the case in South Africa.

                                                                                                                                          • Améry, Jean. At the Mind’s Limits. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                            After surviving torture and Auschwitz, Austrian resistant Jean Améry wrote this essay to legitimize his resentment and his refusal to forgive or reconcile with his perpetrators. Offering a quasimetaphysical analysis of the consequences of mass violence, the author affirms that survivors have no way to making their pain understand. Political violence destroys communication and makes victims lose their “trust in the world” (p. 95). His resentment and bitterness are morally justified as his own reaction against the very effects of time.

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                                                                                                                                            • Borer, Tristan Ann. “Reconciling South Africa or South Africans? Cautionary Notes from the TRC.” African Studies Quarterly 8.1 (2004): 19–38.

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                                                                                                                                              The author tries to analyze whether the South African TRC has “worked” and effectively reached the goals it has set for itself. One should be careful to distinguish between individual and national reconciliation. Depending on which one is being used as a criterion, the evaluation of the TRC will greatly differ. While South Africa as a country may be politically reconciled, South Africans as individuals are still deeply divided socially.

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                                                                                                                                              • Eisikovits, Nir. “Forget Forgiveness: On the Benefits of Sympathy for Political Reconciliation.” Theoria 52.1 (2004): 31–63.

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                                                                                                                                                The author criticizes the use of notions such as forgiveness in politics and considers that Adam Smith’s and David Hume’s idea of “sympathy” is a better, and more realistic, word for describing these political processes. Forgiving is indeed a private business that cannot be promoted by a public institution. Sympathy is a more neutral word that describes our ability to project ourselves into the circumstances of others, a principle of communication that allows us to feel what others feel. Also available online.

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                                                                                                                                                • Hirsch, Alexander, ed. Theorizing Post-conflict Reconciliation: Agonism, Restitution and Repair. New York: Routledge, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                  This volume in agonistic theory criticizes the main assumption and practices of transitional justice studies, considering that they fail to promote reconciliation by inviting survivors of political violence to “move on,” forgiving and forgetting in the name of the unity of the community. But any attempt to erase past discord only furthers injustices, the authors argue. Based on several case studies, the book offers an alternative understanding of political reconciliation through pluralism.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Jankélévitch, Vladimir. L’imprescriptible. Paris: Seuil, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                    Philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch offers here a powerful criticism against the very ideas of forgiveness and reconciliation. He argues that for immoral crimes such as the Holocaust, forgiving would be like committing another crime: “forgiveness dies in the death camps” (p. 21), he writes, making us rethink the intrinsic value often attributed to reconciliation. There is indeed, according to the author, a moral value in resentment and hatred.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Rosoux, Valérie. “Réconcilier: Ambition et piège de la justice transitionnelle; Le cas du Rwanda.” Droit et Société 73.3 (2009): 613–633.

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                                                                                                                                                      The author wonders if the imperative to reconcile, long considered an ethical or religious motive, is really a political issue or simply a fashionable discourse. Is reconciliation a realistic goal in the aftermath of mass atrocity? Based on an analysis of gacaca in Rwanda, and using victims’ testimonies, she questions the possibility of reconciliation in a postgenocide context and underlines the lack of clarity of the term itself. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Wilson, Richard. “Reconciliation and Revenge in Post-apartheid South Africa.” Current Anthropology 41 (2000): 75–98.

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                                                                                                                                                        Social anthropologist Richard Wilson questions the value of the human rights discourse of reconciliation in South Africa from the point of view of local practices and everyday moralities, especially in the townships. He thereby underlines the tensions between transnational human rights and the local understandings of justice: this “legal pluralism” fundamentally undermines the universality of the discourse on reconciliation.

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