Transitional Justice and Its Discontents

Issue Date April 2015
Volume 26
Issue 2
Page Numbers 5-20
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The political-transition paradigm has been widely debated in the pages of the Journal of Democracy and elsewhere, but its idealistic younger sibling, the transitional-justice paradigm, has rarely been scrutinized so critically. This article argues that as the International Criminal Court runs out of steam, the heyday of transitional justice—with its clamor for more international tribunals and truth commissions—has passed. Whatever lawyers want us to believe, laws are made by people, and law cannot be morally superior to politics. In the aftermath of mass violence, we need a combination of serious historical research and pragmatic political solutions, not therapeutic legalism.

About the Author

Duncan McCargo is director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen. His book Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand is forthcoming from Cornell University Press.

View all work by Duncan McCargo