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Title: Political reconciliation
Author: Schaap, Andrew
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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In this study in political theory I develop a political conception of reconciliation. In the late twentieth century, the notion of reconciliation became prominent in the political discourse of many polities divided by grave state wrongs. Reconciliation is an inherently political aspiration since it is oriented to the constitution of a “we” to underwrite the legitimacy of shared public institutions. Yet the logic of reconciliation, which tends toward harmony and closure, also seems at odds with politics, which invariably entails plurality and conflict. The work of Carl Schmitt provides a point of departure for considering the political nature of reconciliation and defining the problem of how a relation of enmity might be transformed into one of civic friendship. In the first half of the thesis I examine the liberal ideal of toleration (articulated by John Locke) and the communitarian ideal of recognition (articulated by Charles Taylor) as political ethics that might animate reconciliation. Against toleration and recognition, I turn to Hannah Arendt’s ethic of worldliness to develop a theory of political reconciliation. Reconciliation, on this account, entails a difficult mode of interaction between former enemies that seeks to enclose both within a common horizon of understanding while affirming the possibility of calling any such shared horizon into question. In the second half of the thesis, I draw on an interdisciplinary literature concerning transitional justice to develop this theory of political reconciliation. Here I examine the implications of an Arendtian account of the political for how we should think about four key issues confronting societies divided by past wrongs: the constitution of a political association that might accommodate former enemies; political grounds for forgiveness; the collective responsibility of those implicated in state wrongs and; coming to terms with the past through remembrance of past wrongs. Two central arguments recur throughout the thesis. First, we should affirm reconciliation as a project that opens a space for politics by framing an encounter between enemies in which they might debate the possibility and terms of their association. Yet, we must also invoke politics to resist the tendency inherent in the logic of reconciliation to bring to a close what should remain open, incomplete, contestable. Second, and following from this, in conceiving reconciliation politically we must reverse the order of our moral thinking. It is a political mistake to presuppose a moral community that must be restored between those alienated by past wrongs. Political reconciliation would never get off the ground if it required agreement on shared norms and the facts of wrongdoing in order to initiate the return of the wrongdoers to community with those wronged. Rather, it must begin with the constitution of space for politics and the invocation of a “we” that is not-yet and proceed from this faith in community toward the possibility of a shared understanding of what went before.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available