Negative Emotions and Transitional Justice

Negative Emotions and Transitional Justice

Mihaela Mihai
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Negative Emotions and Transitional Justice
    Book Description:

    Vehement resentment and indignation are pervasive in societies emerging from dictatorship or civil conflict. How can institutions channel these emotions without undermining the prospects for democracy?

    Emphasizing the need to recognize and constructively engage negative public emotions, Mihaela Mihai contributes theoretically and practically to the growing field of transitional justice. Drawing on an extensive philosophical literature and case studies of democratic transitions in South Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe, her book rescues negative emotions from their bad reputation and highlights the obstacles and the opportunities such emotions create for democracy. By valorizing negative emotions, either through the judicial review of transitional justice bills or the criminal trials of victimizers, institutions realize the value of respect and concern for all while contributing to a culture that is hospitable to democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-54118-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science, Law
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Problem (pp. 1-24)

    A “Day of Rage” marked the beginning of the end for Hosni Mubarak’s twenty-nine years of dictatorial rule over Egypt. “We are so furious. We must have change, better chances to work, to buy a flat and have just the life’s basics,” one citizen told the BBC reporter following the mass protests and the violent clashes in January 2011.¹ The economic and political frustration with the regime mobilized the Egyptian population across the country in a struggle that culminated in the dictator’s resignation on February 11, 2011. Yet victory came at a cost: hundreds of protesters were killed and thousands...

  5. 1 TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE: Optional or Imperative? (pp. 25-44)

    Should societies deal with a painful past of violence and oppression? The attempt to provide a persuasive justification for an institutional engagement with the past has led to two major debates in the scholarship: Truth versus Justice and Stability versus Justice. Gradually, scholars of transitional justice grew to agree that the first of these two oppositions should be overcome. Truth and justice are now seen as compatible, complementary goals of a more capaciously understood project of transitional justice. However, the second debate is still dividing the field. Democratization cannot progress if we do not bury the past, the transitional justice...


    Abusive regimes imprison, kidnap, spy, torture, and kill, thus denying their victims many aspects of a purposeful life. Government-sponsored crimes can be placed on a continuum ranging from milder forms of coercion—restrictions on freedom of movement and speech, expropriation, denial of public services—all the way to genocide. Such actions are met, most of the time, with resentment and indignation. Resentment corresponds to the individual’s experience of injustice toward herself, whereas indignation is the feeling that arises from witnessing an injustice done to another. Sometimes these negative emotions mobilize groups to push for change. Once the regime of violence...

  7. 3 ENABLING EMOTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY I: Judicial Review of Transitional Justice Legislation (pp. 79-122)

    The previous two chapters have dealt with the issue of justifying transitional justice projects for polities aspiring to democratize. We have seen that, from the point of view of a constitutional democracy, there are solid prudential implications attached to a fair engagement with the past. Our account of the socialization of the sense of justice has paved the way for the next step in the attempt to develop a political theory of transitional justice. This chapter addresses the second programmatic question of this book, that of distributing corrective measures. Who should distribute transitional justice? And how should transitional justice be...

  8. 4 ENABLING EMOTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY II: Criminal Trials in Democratic Transitions (pp. 123-158)

    The previous chapter has marked the first step in the attempt to deal with the second programmatic question of this book, that of distributing transitional justice. It offered some theoretical insight into what it means to say that courts should contribute to the cause of democratization by reviewing bills aimed at regulating the distribution of corrective measures. It also provided two examples of how courts have reviewed transitional bills under strenuous emotional circumstances and how emotional claims for redress by mobilized survivors and victims’ families pushed for justice. It is now time to turn to the other venue through which...

  9. CONCLUSIONS (pp. 159-170)

    The cases investigated in this book—situated on a spectrum ranging from democratically appropriate to democratically catastrophic expressions of public emotions—illustrate the ways in which the emotional atmosphere of adjudication can affect the task of the judges and highlight the institutional need to seriously engage with negative emotions. We can see that, both in reviewing legislation and deciding trials, courts’ strategies were heavily dependent on the political context, on their own level of legitimacy, the nature of the former regime, the level of mobilization in civil society, the type of actors involved, and the level of political survival of...

  10. NOTES (pp. 171-196)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 197-220)
  12. INDEX (pp. 221-223)


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