Ends and Means of Transitional Justice

Journal of Global Ethics 14 (2):158-169 (2018)
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With her new book, The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice, Colleen Murphy has advanced novel, comprehensive and sophisticated philosophical accounts of both what severely conflict-ridden societies should be aiming for and how they should pursue it. Ultimately grounded on a prizing of rational agency, Murphy maintains that these societies, roughly, ought to strive for a stable and legitimate democratic polity committed to not repeating gross historical injustice and do so in ways that do right by victims. In this article, I argue, contra Murphy, that achieving democratic rights to political participation should not be considered an essential aim of transitional justice, and that, in contrast, doing right by victims should be considered an essential aim of it, not merely an appropriate means to achieving other aims. In addition, I highlight an issue downplayed in Murphy’s book, namely, the need to make trade-offs amongst the aims of transitional justice, which becomes particularly pressing upon accepting that doing right by victims is one of them.

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Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria


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