Rhetoric and Realpolitik: Interrogating the Relationship between Transitional Justice and Socio-Economic Justice

McAuliffe, P ORCID: 0000-0002-7712-5472
(2016) Rhetoric and Realpolitik: Interrogating the Relationship between Transitional Justice and Socio-Economic Justice. In: Finnish Yearbook of International Law. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 239 - 308.

[img] Text
fybil 2.pdf - Submitted Version

Download (296kB)


In the last decade, theorists and scholars of transitional justice have not only explored avenues for the field to address the socio-economic roots of conflict, but have increasingly argued that success in this regard is the metric by which it should ultimately be judged. However, the record of the field in identifying or remedying violations of economic, social and cultural rights is underwhelming at best. While one might agree that the roots of conflict and authoritarianism are structural and that such deprivations do lend themselves to judicial or quasijudicial action, neither the mechanisms of transitional justice nor the context in which they apply are apt to significantly catalyse beneficial change. As regards the former, the temporary, exceptionalist and extra-governmental nature of the mechanisms leave them unsuited to tackle structural abuses. In terms of the context in which transitional justice applies, advocates of a greater role in addressing root causes of conflict need to acknowledge that political transition from less to more democratic regimes is a relatively superficial phenomenon. The very real sense of civil-political possibility that transitions from war or authoritarianism to peace and democracy present is rarely accompanied by a transition in the shape of economic power. Transitional justice can take advantage of the period of flux to redress or temper political power imbalances symbolically, historically and jurisprudentially. These achievements are now dismissed by some as merely cosmetic outcomes of an overly liberal-legalist approach, but simultaneous opportunities to redress socio-economic imbalances simply may not exist. A more realistic appraisal of transitional justice’s merits is possible only if we accept the relative superficiality of its mechanisms and context of application. Addressing structural injustice is the task of the transitional government and development agencies—schemes for transitional justice can at best form just one of many valid sources of advice, but assuming they can catalyse, dominate or contribute substantially to re-ordering horizontal inequalities is to set expectations too high.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: ISBN: 9781849465663 (hardback) 9781782254362 (ebook) Series: Finnish Yearbook of International Law
Uncontrolled Keywords: transitional justice, peace-building, horizontal inequality, socioeconomic justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2017 15:29
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 10:18
Related URLs:
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3006161