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Jean Améry's Concept of Resentment at the Crossroads of Ethics and Politics

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The questions of forgiveness and political justice have recently become intertwined with the "transitional justice" project, the aim of which is the coming to terms with past human rights violations. This article demonstrates that "transitional justice" is less concerned with providing justice than with achieving historical closure, moral redemption, and a "new beginning." It proposes that justice requires a profound reflection of a political nature by introducing and discussing Jean Améry's concept of resentment. Central to Améry's view of resentment is the restoration of the victim's social status and dignity, the validation of the experience of victimhood; his view therefore contrasts with the Nietzschean derogative view of ressentiment. On the basis of Améry's conceptualizations and with reference to Derrida's notions of "hiatus" and "forgiveness as impossibility," the article problematizes the relation of ethics and politics - which the "transitional justice" project takes as given. It suggests that to theorize on justice, one needs to parenthesize the moral imagery of forgiveness and bring thirdness (or plurality) to the fore as the space where the identities of "victims" and "perpetrators" are established and played out.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, University of Alberta, Alberta, T6G 2H4, Canada

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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