Capturing transitional justice: exploring Colleen Murphy’s The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice

Journal of Global Ethics 14 (2):137-146 (2018)
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Colleen Murphy’s impressive book presents a unified theory of transitional justice as a single, novel, distinct kind of justice, intended to guide normative evaluation of the choices transitional societies make in dealing with the past. I raise three central challenges to Murphy’s theory. First, how do we know that transitional justice is fundamentally a single special kind of justice that permits a grand unified theory? Second, is it plausible to hold, as Murphy claims, that societal transformation is the overarching aim or objective of transitional justice? Third, is transitional justice convincingly explained as pursuing societal transformation ‘through’ or ‘by’ dealing with past wrongdoing? I argue that Murphy’s ambitious and finely detailed account does not fully reckon with dissensus about transitional justice in the field and does not adequately defend the central claim that transitional justice aims at societal transformation to be pursued by responding to past wrongs.



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