Transitional Justice

Transitional Justice

Transitional Justice

Transitional Justice


Criminal tribunals, truth commissions, reparations, apologies and memorializations are the characteristic instruments in the transitional justice toolkit that can help societies transition from authoritarianism to democracy, from civil war to peace, and from state-sponsored extra-legal violence to a rights-respecting rule of law. Over the last several decades, their growing use has established transitional justice as a body of both theory and practice whose guiding norms and structures encompasses the range of institutional mechanisms by which societies address the wrongs committed by past regimes in order to lay the foundation for more legitimate political and legal order.

In Transitional Justice, a group of leading scholars in philosophy, law, and political science settles some of the key theoretical debates over the meaning of transitional justice while opening up new ones. By engaging both theorists and empirical social scientists in debates over central categories of analysis in the study of transitional justice, it also illuminates the challenges of making strong empirical claims about the impact of transitional institutions.


This volume, the fifty-first in the NOMOS series, arose out of the papers and commentaries presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Legal and Political Philosophy in conjunction with the American Political Science Association meetings in Washington, D.C., in September 2005. As with all NOMOS volumes, the theme was selected by the membership of the Society.

Because of his extraordinary expertise in the field of transitional justice, I invited Jon Elster to join me in co-convening those meetings and co-editing the volume. I am tremendously grateful that he agreed. His recommendations for participants in the conference contributed to its highly stimulating interdisciplinary discussion. Equally important, Professor Elster’s knowledge of the current stage of empirical work on transitional justice led to a much deeper engagement between theoretical and empirical approaches in the present volume than would otherwise have been the case.

Elizabeth Kiss, David Dyzenhaus, and Debra Satz presented the three principal papers at the conference, stimulating excellent commentaries from Gopal Sreenivasan, Jeremy Webber, Bernard Boxill, Eric Posner, Gary Bass, and Adrian Vermeule. As the volume’s contents reflect, several of these commentaries developed into substantial free-standing contributions to the scholarly literature. Others, while retaining their form as commentaries, introduce the key debates in the field into the conversation that runs throughout the volume. I extend my sincere thanks to all of the participants in the original conference for launching this conversation.

Warm thanks are also due to the contributors who joined the conversation a bit later, whom we recruited in order to cover territory that we felt needed more attention than had been achievable . . .

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