Atrocity, the State, and Reparation Politics

Part of the Springer Series in Transitional Justice book series (SSTJ, volume 7)


Today, it is nearly a given that groups seeking redress or reparation for past wrongs will receive some form of justice. Groups wronged by states often seek and receive apologies and compensation, to the extent that it is worthy of discussion when groups do not. Yet how did this widespread acceptance of redress and reparation emerge? Chapter One introduces key concepts and definitions needed to understand this question along with setting the framework necessary to understand how different groups, experiencing similar atrocities, achieve varying degrees of redress.

The central component of a state-sponsored atrocity occurs when the state inflicts a violent and structured injustice on a segment of its population. This goes beyond legitimate legal, judicial, and political mechanisms that are established to protect society. The majority of these acts are illegal; however, they have been given a veneer of legality. States generally recognize that their actions are not only violating international law, but are also breaking international societal norms of accepted behavior.

This work draws upon the norm life cycle and political opportunity structure to make a two-fold argument. First, that an international redress and reparation norm has emerged in the post-World War II era which has increased both the numbers of states engaging in reparation politics, and the expectations of victimized communities. Second, even in an era of increased openness vis-à-vis redress and reparation movements, differential success remains. This argues that there are certain factors within the framework of political opportunity structure that can explain varying achievements.


Redress and reparation movement Apologies Reparation politics Restitution Reparations Norm life cycle Redress and reparation norm Norm emergence Norm cascade Norm entrepreneurs Atrocity Injustice 


  1. Barkan, Elazar. 2000. The guilt of nations: Restitution and negotiating historical injustices. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  2. Berg, Manfred, and Bernd Schaefer. 2009. Historical justice in international perspective: How societies are trying to right the wrongs of the past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cairns, Alan. 2003. Coming to terms with the past. In Politics and the past: On repairing historical injustices, ed. John Torpey. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  4. Census. 2001. Digital Atlas. Statistics South Africa. Accessed Aug. 2, 2007.
  5. Ellickson, Robert C. 2001. The evolution of social norms: A perspective from the legal academy. In Social norms, ed. Michael Hechter and Karl-Dieter Opp. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  6. Finnemore, Martha. 1996. National interests in international society. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Finnemore, Martha, and Kathryn Sikkink. 1998. International norm dynamics and political change. International Organization 52(4): 887–917.Google Scholar
  8. Humphrey, Michael. 2002. Politics of atrocity and reconciliation: From terror to trauma. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Laremont, Ricardo René. 2001. Jewish and Japanese American reparations: Political lessons for the Africana community. Journal of Asian American Studies 2001 (3): 235–250.Google Scholar
  10. Legro, Jeffrey W. 1997. Which norms matter? Revisiting the “failure” of internationalism. International Organization 51(1): 31–63.Google Scholar
  11. McCarthy, John D., and Mayer N. Zald. 1977. Resource mobilization and social movements: A partial theory. The American Journal of Sociology 82 (6): 1212–1241.Google Scholar
  12. Ratner, Steven R., Jason S. Abrams, and James L. Bischoff. 2009. Accountability for human rights atrocities in international law: Beyond the Nuremberg legacy. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Shklar, Judith. 1990. The faces of injustice. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Sikkink, Kathryn. 2011. The justice cascade: How human rights prosecutions are changing world politics. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  15. Snow, David A., Sarah A. Soule, and Hanspeter Kriesi. 2007. Mapping the terrain. In The Blackwell companion to social movements, ed. David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule and Hanspeter Kriesi. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Staub, Ervin. 1989. The roots of evil: The origins of genocide and other group violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Tarrow, Sidney. 1994. Power in movement: Social movements, collective action and politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Tarrow, Sidney. 1996. States and opportunities: The political structuring of social movements. In Comparative perspectives on social movements: Political opportunities, mobilizing structures, and culture framings, ed. Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy and Mayer N. Zald. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Torpey, John. 2006. Making whole what has been smashed: On reparations politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. United Nations. 2002. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. A/CONF.183/9.Google Scholar
  21. Vermeersch, Peter. 2007. The Romani movement: Minority politics & ethnic mobilization in contemporary Central Europe. New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  22. Wilkinson, Paul. 1971. Social movement. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Weber State UniversityOgdenUSA

Personalised recommendations