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Apology Subverted: the Commodification of Apology

Taft, Lee
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) Yale Law Journal. 109(5):1135

Lee Taft notes that we are living in a time in which public acts of contrition have become commonplace. He cites one commentator who describes it as “apology mania.” In this context, Taft examines the role of apology in the context of civil mediation. Highlighting the moral dimension of apology, he emphasizes its significance for healing of injury when “healin” and “injury” are understood in “noncommodified” terms. That is, some types of injury and compensatory redress can be satisfactorily commodified in monetary terms: harm and compensation for harm can be equated with a dollar value. Other types of injury and redress should be understood in noncommodified terms — in other words, in a moral dimension. Apology then can lead to healing through a restoration of moral balance. It is precisely this extraordinary value of apology that gives Taft pause when considering the role of apology in the legal arena. He argues that when apology is thrust into the legal arena, its fundamental moral character may become dramatically altered and subverted from a moral action into a market transaction.


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