Justice As Reconciliation: Political Theory in a World of Difference
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Divisiveness routinely turns violent, thus making research into alternative means of dealing with conflict an urgent necessity. This dissertation focuses on the politics of divisiveness and the techniques of conflict transformation. In this, I offer a robust and operable theory of reconciliation. I argue that reconciliation is the first principle of justice. In this sense, the ideal of justice is enacted through the improvement and coordination of social-political relations, which requires the development of trust and institutions that facilitate the ever emergent demos. This is not to suggest that alternative approaches to justice, such as distributive models, are useless or wrong. Rather, justice requires a consensus which cannot be realized when persons see their neighbors as enemies. In conflicts, activities that benefit the enemy Other, such as the redistribution of wealth, will be taken as an injustice by other embattled social groups. As I demonstrate through various cases, interpersonal and institutional responses, like redistribution, often escalate discord and rarely create a shared sense of justice. Thus, conflict becomes a cyclical and multilevel problem. I explore how we can better respond to the cycle of conflict at individual, social, and systemic levels, in order to realize a legitimate notion of justice. I use an interdisciplinary approach to defend my arguments, drawing on iv philosophy and conflict resolution (CR). CR is an emerging field that emphasizes practical responses to conflict, often with advocacy for reconciliation. However, more theoretical work needs to be done to explain the ideal of reconciliation that directs CR practices. Within philosophy, little work has been done on the topic of reconciliation. A vast literature exists on the topic of justice, but this literature offers few practical descriptions of how persons come to agree upon the terms of justice. Thus, theories of justice are often labeled as 'ideal' simply because they are disconnected from the fragmented and conflict-ridden reality most people experience. This dissertation, as a project in non-ideal political theory that is empirically informed by cases and concerns in CR, fills these gaps in both philosophy and CR.