The Limits Of Political Reconciliation

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The Limits of Political Reconciliation Recent history is replete with egregious, widespread and often systematic wrongdoings: genocide, torture, and mass killing. Cambodia, South Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, and Guatemala are examples where these grave political injustices have occurred. Histories of violence and humanitarian atrocities leave marks of damage, despair, and pain that can only justice can begin to heal. Hence the central question of Daniel Philpott’s book Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation: “What does justice consist of in the wake of its massive despoliation?” The answer, Philpott argues, is political reconciliation. However, in investigating two of Philpott’s six practices of reconciliation—apology and forgiveness—I argue that while the philosophy of political reconciliation is an aspirational goal, it is by no means a perfect process because the practices will not necessarily have the same implications for all parties involved. Compared with the traditional model of retributive justice, restorative justice, and by extension reconciliation, offers a more positive and constructive approach to restoring ties between the victim of an offence, the perpetrator and the community as a whole. According to Graham, reconciliation is both “… a goal in the sense that it aims to restore relationships or to promote agonism or mutual tolerance, respect, and dignity […] [And] it is a process because it requires multiple modes, steps, stages, and transformations across all levels of society and amongst all stakeholders in a conflict” (Graham 2015). Through reconciliation and the related processes of restorative justice, parties to the dispute explore and overcome the pain brought on by the co... ... middle of paper ... ...tension restorative justice, has great potential for the involved parties and the community in the wake of mass destruction. However, it is not a panacea. In analyzing the practices of apology and forgiveness, it becomes clear that there are both pros and cons to political reconciliation, and by extension restorative justice. Although a viable option for some crimes in some circumstances and under some conditions, such as in South Africa where it was generally considered a success, political reconciliation must not be considered a cheap or pretend form of justice, nor must it trivialize the valid demands of victims. While far from a perfect system, political reconciliation does have the power to explore and overcome the pain brought on by egregious political conflict in a manner that facilitates the building of future trust and cooperation within communities.

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