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Palgrave Macmillan

On the Uses and Abuses of Political Apologies

ISBN 9781137343710
Publication Date July 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Rhetoric, Politics and Society

Recent decades have witnessed a sharp rise in the number of state apologies for historical and more recent injustices, ranging from enslavement to displacement and from violations of treaties to war crimes, all providing the backdrop to displays of official regret. Featuring a host of leading authors in the field, this book seeks to contribute to the growing literature on official apologies by effectively combining philosophical reflection and empirical analysis. It achieves two interrelated goals: it enriches the theoretical debates on the nature and functions of apologies while bringing forth new insights from hitherto unexamined normative horizons. It further addresses often overlooked aspects of political apologies, such as their non-verbal dimension as well as religious overtones, while testing theoretical reflections through encounters with real practices of state apologies. Finally, the book explores the obstacles to, and the limitations of, political apologies.The result is an excellent interdisciplinary volume that affords the reader a better understanding of conditions for a legitimate and successful state apology.

Mihaela Mihai is the 50th Anniversary Lecturer in Politics at the University of York, UK. Her areas of interest are contemporary political and legal theory. Her recent work was published in Ratio Juris, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Journal of Political Philosophy, Parallax and Political Theory.
Mathias Thaler is Chancellor's Fellow in Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh, UK. His main research interest is in contemporary political theory. More specifically, Thaler currently works on a judgment-based approach to understanding, critiquing and reforming notions of political violence.

1. Introduction; Mihaela Mihai and Mathias Thaler


2. Beyond the Ideal Political Apology; Alice MacLachlan
3. Political Apologies and Categorical Apologies; Nick Smith


4. From Mea Culpa to Nostra Culpa: A Reparative Apology from the Catholic Church?; Danielle Celemajer
5. The Power of Ritual Ceremonies in State Apologies: An Empirical Analysis of the Bilateral Polish-Russian Commemoration Ceremony in Katyn in 2010; Michel-André Horelt
6. Confessing the Holocaust: The Evolution of German Guilt; Stefan Engert


7. Revisiting the 'Membership Theory of Apologies': Apology Politics in Australia and Canada; Melissa Nobles
8. The Canadian Apology to Indigenous Residential School Survivors: A Case Study of Re-Negotiation of Social Relations; Neil Funk-Unrau
9. What Makes a State Apology Authoritative? Lessons from Post-Authoritarian Brazil; Nina Schneider

10. The Apology in Democracies: Reflections on the Challenges of Competing Goods, Citizenship, Nationalism and Pluralist Politics; Michael Cunningham
11. An Apology for Public Apologies; Juan Espindola
12. Reasoning Like a State: Integration and the Limits of Official Regret; Cindy Holder

Danielle Celermajer, University of Sydney, Australia
Michael Cunningham, University of Wolverhampton, UK
Stefan Engert, J. W. Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Juan Espindola, National University of Mexico
Neil Funk-Unrau, Menno Simons College, Canada
Cindy Holder, University of Victoria, Canada
Michel-André Horelt, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Germany
Alice MacLachlan, York University, Canada
Melissa Nobles, Massachusetts Insitute of Technology, USA
Nina Schneider, University of Konstanz, Germany
Nick Smith, University of New Hampshire, USA


'This outstanding collection delivers on its title, going straight to what is specifically political in political apologies and showing how political apologies can be better or worse. These concise and vibrant essays, threaded throughout with concrete and timely examples, break through commonplaces to new insight and theory. This book is essential for those concerned with the practice or the theory of apology in the political realm and with the role of apology in societies dealing with the past.' - Margaret Urban Walker, Donald J. Schuenke Chair in Philosophy, Marquette University, USA
'In an age of 'meae culpae", On the Uses and Abuses of Political Apologies provides a theoretically rich and clear-eyed critique of the motivations behind official acts of regret and the meaning, if any, that victims of state violence derive from them. Are state apologies a 'smoke screen' for obscuring the political will to hold perpetrators accountable and compensate victims? Or can they provide a tangible and visible expression of official acknowledgement and change? This book delivers poignant insights into this conundrum-both ominous and hopeful.' - Eric Stover is Faculty Director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and the author of The Witnesses: War Crimes and the Promise of Justice in The Hague
'This volume explores some of the conundrums and complexities of the political apology. By examining cases arising in a number of national contexts, it provides a valuable contribution to the vibrant debate over the usefulness of apologies for past political misdeeds. Anyone examining this area will have to wrestle with it.' - John Torpey, Professor of Sociology, The Graduate Centre, City University of New York, USA.
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