Political violence does not end with the last death. A common feature of mass murder has been the attempt at destroying any memory of victims, with the aim of eliminating them from history. Perpetrators seek not only to eliminate a perceived threat, but also to eradicate any possibility of alternate, competing social and national histories. In his timely and important book, Unchopping a Tree, Ernesto Verdeja develops a critical justification for why transitional justice works. He asks, “What is the balance (...) between punishment and forgiveness? And, “What are the stakes in reconciling?” Employing a normative theory of reconciliation that differs from prevailing approaches, Verdeja outlines a concept that emphasizes the importance of shared notions of moral respect and tolerance among adversaries in transitional societies. Drawing heavily from cases such as reconciliation efforts in Latin America and Africa—and interviews with people involved in such efforts—Verdeja debates how best to envision reconciliation while remaining realistic about the very significant practical obstacles such efforts face Unchopping a Tree addresses the core concept of respect across four different social levels—political, institutional, civil society, and interpersonal—to explain the promise and challenges to securing reconciliation and broader social regeneration. (shrink)
Derrida's recent book, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, offers a succinct and elegant understanding of forgiveness as ‘impossibility’, unencumbered by any conditions or threats of instrumentalization. However it also contains a disturbing implication. The first part of this article discusses the theory at length, followed by a series of critiques in the second part that shows how his aporetic theory of forgiveness is morally dangerous, for it unwittingly rests upon erasing the memory of the transcendental shortcomings of his conception. The article (...) goes on to outline an alternative theory of forgiveness. (shrink)
Abstract: This article examines the uses of official apologies for massive human rights abuses in the context of democratic transitions. It sketches a normative model of apologies, highlighting how they serve to provide some moral and practical redress for past wrongs. It discusses a number of contributions apologies can make, including publicly confirming the status of victims as moral agents, fostering public reexamination and deliberation about social norms, and promoting critical understandings of history that undermine apologist historical accounts. The article (...) then presents certain normative criteria that any official apology must satisfy, and concludes with a discussion of several theoretical and practical challenges that apologies face in transitional contexts. It draws on Chilean President Patricio Aylwin's apology for his predecessor's crimes as an illustration of some of the promises and challenges that apologies face. (shrink)
This essay outlines a normative theory of reparations for transitional democracies. The article situates the theory within current critical‐theory debates on recognition and redistribution, and it argues that any model of reparations should aim to achieve what Nancy Fraser calls “status parity.” Such a model should be conceptualized according to a typology of acknowledgment along one axis (symbolic and material) and a typology of recipients (individual and collective) along the other. I conclude by identifying several key contributions that reparations can (...) make to transitional societies. (shrink)
Adorno’s philosophy has enjoyed a resurgence of attention in political theory over the past decade. In this paper, I challenge contemporary efforts to adopt his critical theory by arguing that his conceptions of mimesis and negative dialectics, which are central to his thought, are ultimately unsatisfactory. I begin by critiquing the normative content of the negative dialectic, and then move on to explore its problematic relation with mimesis. In the following sections I argue that mimesis cannot do the normative work (...) that Adorno requires of it. Rather, his idea of mimesis fails to inform critique (understood as ‘negative’ thought), relies on a problematic pre-modern idea of authenticity, and is incompatible with theoretical analyses of modern complex societies. (shrink)
This article proposes a normative theory of reparations for political violence from the standpoint of contemporary critical theory debates on recognition and redistribution. I argue that any satisfactory reparations theory should aspire to ‘status parity’, a term coined by Nancy Fraser, and should include symbolic and material components for both individuals and groups. The essay argues that reparations can promote a number of worthy goals, including the reaffirmation of moral respect and dignity of victims.