Source: (2003) In John Torpey, ed., Politics and the past: on repairing historical injustices. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Pp. 37-62.

The past is very much present on the public agenda in many parts of the world today. Rather than glorification of a heroic past, it is often a searchlight into dark and terrible areas of a societyxe2x80x99s or countryxe2x80x99s past. This transformation from a collective memory of a glorious past to a collective memory of a painful past has led to what Jeffrey Olick and Brenda Coughlin identify as a new principle of legitimation. They term it the xe2x80x9cpolitics of regret.xe2x80x9d The politics of regret consists of a variety of practices whereby many societies seek to confront painful legacies of the past. These practices include xe2x80x93 among others xe2x80x93 apology, reparations, and criminal prosecution. While these are distinguishable, Olick and Coughlin focus in this chapter on what they have in common. In this regard, they first examine two frameworks for understanding the politics of regret: (a) moral philosophy and the discourse of universal human rights; and (b) the comparative political study of regime transitions, or xe2x80x9ctransitology.xe2x80x9d They then argue for what is unique and new about regret as a political principle by exploring ideas that support a genuinely developmental, socio-historical account of political regret.