Defining and Evaluating Political Trials
To this point we have demonstrated the problematic nature of our endeavor to define and evaluate political trials. The nature of a trial as well as its goodness or badness is tied intimately and inextricably to changing social and political events. Nevertheless, we have also argued that it is not impossible to define and evaluate political trials. It is, however, a difficult and complex undertaking that cannot be encapsulated in naturalist or positivist terms. This chapter demonstrates a method of analyzing numerous examples of the intimate relationship between court decisions and their context and deriving an assessment of the "politicalness" of trials and an evaluation of their goodness.
Our analysis so far indicates that to really understand what is meant by "political trial" we must begin by obtaining a "perspicuous overview" of how "political trial" is used. It is not possible nor necessary to be exhaustive in our examples. The examples we use are not model cases to be held up to other situations as a sort of template nor is "political trial" the sum total of the characteristic uses of the term. Our examples are simply places to begin, suggesting some widely considered traits of political trials.
Similarly, the characteristics that we suggest mark good or bad political trials are meant to be neither exhaustive nor absolute. They are signs of bad political trials, for example, only because of our order, our institutions, our political and economic ways of operating, and our strategies for pursuing desired ends and securing certain values. Trials are critiqued in terms of who we are now. We must ask, "What is intolerable to us? What makes us wince? What ignites our indignation? What is our 'regime of truth?'" What