What Would Satisfy Us? Taking Stock of Critical Approaches to Transitional Justice
International Journal of Transitional Justice, November 2019 Forthcoming
21 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2019 Last revised: 12 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 2019
In recent years, a distinct critical turn in transitional justice scholarship has emerged, seeking to question the naturalness and inevitability of mainstream transitional justice theory and practice and to envision a broader and more holistic project. While in many ways a positive development, this newfound critical enthusiasm risks producing an unwarranted sense of pessimism and failure. This points to the need to better manage expectations as to what ‘success’ looks like even as we try to re-imagine what transitional justice could become. To these ends, I draw upon and propose revisions to Robert Cox’s famous distinction between problem-solving and critical theory. To better maintain balance and perspective, I argue for the adoption of an ‘integrated’ approach to transitional justice critique that does more to engage with the difficult tradeoffs, policy choices, and contextual realities that would inevitably be associated with efforts to implement an alternative vision of transitional justice.
Keywords: critical theory, transitional justice, problem-solving theory, structural violence, economic justice
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