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The healing of nations: the promise and limits of political forgiveness

Amstutz, Mark R.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Mark Amstutz in this book considers the nature and potential of forgiveness in international and domestic politics. Like many, he had thought of forgiveness in personal terms. It pertained to issues of personal morality, to interpersonal relationships and religious life, but it was not applicable to political life, policies, officials, and structures. However, in response at least in part to Donald Shriver’s An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics (1995), Amstutz began to doubt that there was such a clear and wide divide between personal morality and political morality, with forgiveness relevant to the former and irrelevant to the latter. He came to think that forgiveness, while difficult to apply to political morality, could in fact be practiced in politics, especially in confronting past collective offenses. This led him to explore the potential contribution of concepts like culpability, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation to processes of collective healing at various levels of group life, including the communal, national, and international. Thus this book came into being. It consists of a study in applied political ethics. Amstutz’s goals in it are to identify and illuminate relevant moral norms with respect to forgiveness and to demonstrate how they can be employed in political life. Looking at four case studies – Argentina, Chile, Northern Ireland, and South Africa – he argues that forgiveness, when rooted in restorative justice, can promote healing and renewal in social and political life, thereby fostering a more just, humane, and stable political order. Chapters include the following: the nature and purpose of forgiveness; the possibility and promise of political forgiveness; justice, reconciliation, and political forgiveness; studies of Argentina, Chile, Northern Ireland, and South Africa; and thoughts toward a theory of political forgiveness.


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