Kora Andrieu

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:


“Reconciliation = closure + healing” wrote Johan Galtung. If reconciliation could indeed be reduced to an equation, there would be little debate regarding what should be done to promote it in postconflict situations. On the contrary, it seems that there is little consensus on what “reconciliation” actually means. One of the reasons for this lack of conceptual clarity is that reconciliation is both a goal and a process, which can happen in various contexts (between husband and wife, offender and victims, friends, communities, or nations). Philosophically, the concept of reconciliation is highly controversial too. According to Marx, it was a conservative term, coined by Hegel as a way to dissolve social conflicts in the interest of the State. The concept of reconciliation has also been accused of being illiberal in that it promotes an ideal of political harmony that denies the fundamental pluralism of modern societies (Garton Ash). Reconciliation is thus accused of being apolitical. It is also problematic in that it implies that there is a form of prior harmony to return too, when too often, such a state never existed. Some scholars therefore argue that one should talk more of “conciliation” than “re-conciliation” (Nagy, Moon, Dwyer). Others say that reconciliation is an abandonment of justice and an invitation to political apathy and resignation in front of justice (Mamdani). However, the term also has a deep religious content and is often viewed in a thick, normative way (Lederach) as describing a form of friendship, harmony, or healing. At the other end of the spectrum, scholars have tried to empty the concept of reconciliation from any moral connotations and to consider it in a purely objective, neutral way (e.g., Eisikovits). The problem with such a conception is that it ignores the deeply personal, intimate, and complex nature of reconciliation. Reconciliation thus becomes a simple modus vivendi, a “departure from violence” (Borneman), and a way to coexist without the reconciling parties necessarily interacting or forgiving one another. It therefore appears that an adequate conception of reconciliation must concentrate on expectations of citizens and officials, on their attitudes, and on the way institutions structure political relations. It must therefore capture both the institutional and the interpersonal characters of political interaction. The works included this bibliography mostly focus on political reconciliation at the level of nations and communities, more precisely after a systematic and widespread violation of human rights. To reflect these debates, it is divided according to the types of definition: thick, or thin; religious, or political; and institutional, judicial, restorative, or therapeutic. As a part of the process of rebuilding political relationships, reconciliation is, in either case, vital for the process of democratization and appears to involve both attitudinal, interpersonal, and institutional changes.

Article.  8963 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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