Transitional Justice and the Quest for Democracy: A Contribution to a Political Theory of Democratic Transformations



    1. Centre de Recherche en Éthique
      Université de Montréal
      2910 Édouard Montpetit 408
      Montréal, QC, H3T1J7
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      Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2009 annual conference of the Association for Political Theory (Texas A&M) and at the 2008 meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association (University of British Columbia). For useful suggestions and constructive criticism I would like to thank Bruce Baum, Simone Chambers, David Dyzenhaus, Joseph Heath, Cindy Holder, Catherine Lu, Cecília MacDowell Santos, Serdar Tekin, and Melissa Williams. The Graduate Students' Group in Political Theory at the University of Toronto provided a great venue for testing the arguments presented here. Special thanks are owed to Mathias Thaler who offered extensive comments on previous versions of this article.


The paper seeks to contribute to the transitional justice literature by overcoming the Democracy v. Justice debate. This debate is normatively implausible and prudentially self-defeating. Normatively, transitional justice will be conceptualised as an imperative of democratic equal concern. Prudentially, it can prevent further violence and provide an opportunity for initiating processes of democratic emotional socialisation. The resentment and indignation animating transitions should be acknowledged as markers of a sense of justice. As such, they can help the reproduction of democracy. However, their public expression must be institutionally filtered through democratic norms. The consistent institutional instantiation of equal respect can educate and recuperate negative emotions for democracy.