Politico-philosophical perspectives on reconciliation

  • A.A. Van Niekerk Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Politico-philosophical perspectives, restoration of basic values, reconciliation, aftermath of apartheid, Truth and Reconciliation Commission


The article is an analysis of the philosophical meaning and political prospects of the idea of reconciliation between all South Africans. The author is sceptical about this prospect. While he regards reconciliation as an admirable theological doctrine, he doubts whether it is easily translatable into socio-political practice in South Africa. The settlement reached in the aftermath of apartheid is not primarily to be explicated in terms of a model of reconciliation where people forgive and learn to like one another, but rather in terms of the Hobbesian model of a “war of all against all”, redeemed by the restoration of basic values. The author analyses a variety of conceptions of reconciliation that were developed in the aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process. In South Africa, the emphasis should be on the “concilium” aspect of reconciliation, i.e. the (re-) constitution of an assembly for social, political and economic deliberation. A general commitment of all South Africans to the values embedded in the South African constitution holds far more promise for a peaceful future than and narrow emphasis on the idea of reconciliation.
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