Political Reconciliation

Political Reconciliation

Political Reconciliation

Political Reconciliation

Synopsis

Since the end of the Cold War, the concept of reconciliation has emerged as a central term of political discourse within societies divided by a history of political violence. Reconciliation has been promoted as a way of reckoning with the legacy of past wrongs while opening the way for community in the future. This book examines the issues of transitional justice in the context of contemporary debates in political theory concerning the nature of 'the political'. Bringing together research on transitional justice and political theory, the author argues that if we are to talk of reconciliation in politics we need to think about it in a fundamentally different way than is commonly presupposed; as agonistic rather than restorative.

Excerpt

The beginning and completion of my university education coincided roughly with two public spectacles: the fall of the Berlin wall and the attacks on the World Trade Center. That both events were of great significance could not be doubted by those who watched as they were broadcast around the world. However, what their implications were for the various human societies that cover the globe became a subject of speculation and debate. While it was widely understood that the fall of the Berlin wall signalled the end of the cold war, the announcement that it meant the end of history and the beginning of a new world order was met with hope or trepidation according to one's likely place in that order. Following the attacks on the World Trade Center, it was widely reported that the world could never be the same again. What changed remains unclear. What is apparent is that it started off a new war (and a new kind of war) against a different idea: not communism this time but terror. Only with hindsight will we be able to judge its significance for the world we share.

This book is very much a reflection of the time between these two events-the epilogue to the 'short twentieth century'-during which societies around the world struggled to readjust to changed political circumstances. For many, this was perceived as an opportunity for a new beginning. In several parts of the world, old conflicts that had been fuelled by a 'cold' war came to end. Authoritarian regimes collapsed. Insurgents capitulated. But new conflicts also emerged with the resurgence of ethnic divisions within polities previously held together by communist regimes. With democratisation in countries such as South Africa and Chile, successor regimes were confronted by the problem of how to reckon with the legacy of grave state wrongs that continued to divide the polity.

In this context, reconciliation became an important objective of public policy. Reconciliation suggested dealing with past wrongs in a way that might promote national unity and open the way for a more peaceful future. Most controversially, the ideal of reconciliation was sometimes invoked to legitimise provision of amnesty to perpetrators of political violence. But reconciliation was not pursued only in new democracies. In settler societies such as Australia, the memory and continuing impact of the wrongs of colonisation continued to undermine the legitimacy of the political association by calling into question the basis of the 'we'

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