Taking Wrongs Seriously: Acknowledgment, Reconciliation, And the Politics of Sustainable Peace

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9781591024255: Taking Wrongs Seriously: Acknowledgment, Reconciliation, And the Politics of Sustainable Peace

How can we respond in the aftermath of wrongdoing? How can social trust be restored in the wake of intense political conflict? In this challenging work, philosopher Trudy Govier explores central dilemmas of political reconciliation, employing illustrative material from Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Peru, and elsewhere.

Govier stresses that reconciliation is fundamentally about relationships. Whether through means of truth commissions, apologies, community processes, or criminal trials, the basic goal of reconciliation is improved social trust among alienated individuals and groups.

A major strength of Govier’s approach is her creative practical framework for reflection. She explains that people should not to be identified with the roles they may have played, and she points out that, with reference to wrongs committed in political conflicts, individuals often play several roles. The perpetrators of some acts can be the victims of others; the victims in some circumstances may become responsive interveners in others. Rare is the political conflict in which one group commits all wrongs.

Govier argues that, to build social trust and sustainable peace, acknowledgment of past wrongs is crucial. The need for mutuality in acknowledgment is an underappreciated aspect of the aftermath of conflicts. She further examines the themes of responsibility (individual, collective, and shared); apology; forgiveness; reparations; the rehabilitation of child soldiers; the problems of monetary compensation; and truth-telling and truth commissions.

Govier’s lucid style and willingness to explore counterarguments make this a lively and thought-provoking work.

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About the Author:

Trudy Govier (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada), associate professor of philosophy at the University of Lethbridge, is the author of A Practical Study of Argument, Forgiveness and Revenge, The Philosophy of Argument, and A Delicate Balance, among other books.


"A history of majority repression in totalitarian states, minority repression in democratic states, and violence between and among communities in war-torn societies has meant that reconciliation is in high demand. So is a monograph on the subject that intertwines theory and case studies while covering the spectrum of disciplinary perspectives and the various cognitive and emotive, ethical and legal, logical and psychological dimensions of the subject. In lucid and evocative prose, Trudy Govier fills that gap while demonstrating the relevance of philosophy to the crises of our time."

Howard Adelman, Research Professor
Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance
Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia)
Co-editor of the Encyclopedia on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
Co-author of The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience

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