, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 257-281
Date: 04 Jul 2006

“TRUTH” AND “RECONCILIATION” AS SOCIAL INDICATORS

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Abstract

Countries throughout the world are trying to move toward a more democratic future through truth and reconciliation processes, under the assumption that truth causes reconciliation and that reconciliation contributes to democratization. But are “truth” and “reconciliation” concepts that can be measured rigorously and reliability? I present evidence in this article that each can be measured as an attribute of individuals, based on a large survey conducted in South Africa. My findings indicate that truth does indeed contribute to reconciliation. But because reconciliation is quite capable of changing (and likely to change) over time, efforts must be made to track levels of reconciliation as an important social indicator. Many countries in transition would profit greatly from implementing a Reconciliation Barometer to measure movement toward or away from the consolidation of democratic reform.

* This research has been supported by the Law and Social Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation (SES 9906576). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The project is a collaborative effort between Amanda Gouws, Department of Political Science, the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), and me. I am indebted to Charles Villa-Vicencio, Helen Macdonald, Paul Haupt, Nyameka Goniwe, Fanie du Toit, Erik Doxtader, and the staff of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (South Africa), where I am a Distinguished Visiting Research Scholar, for the many helpful discussions that have informed my understanding of the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa. Most of the research on which this article relies was conducted while I was a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, to which I am extremely grateful. I also appreciate the research assistance of Eric Lomazoff, of the Russell Sage Foundation.