Compensation and reparation for historic injustice
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts
Document TypeMasters Advanced Seminar & Shorter thesis
CitationsNewton-Howes, T. E. N. (2013). Compensation and reparation for historic injustice. Masters Advanced Seminar & Shorter thesis, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2013 Timothy Edward Noel Newton-Howes
Similar to contemporary injustices, historic injustices may require contemporary restitution. What this restitution should consist of, and the conditions where such restitution is plausible are not immediately apparent. The thesis will address this opaqueness by clearly defining and distinguishing the two elements of restitution: compensation and reparation. This is a primarily descriptive task, and one that is not specific to historic injustice. Secondly, and with respect to historic injustices against individuals, I discuss the plausibility of contemporary claims for restitution. Restitution focuses on restoration of a loss, as well as reconciliation between parties whose relationship has been damaged; the discussion of compensation and reparation follows this distinction. The thesis will also illustrate the distinction between restitutional justice, and distributive justice. Those assessing claims for restitution must keep this distinction in mind as it would be a mistake to justify restitution by reference to contemporary inequality. I will show that the Non-Identity Problem is a significant challenge to claims for either element of restitution. Two arguments designed to avoid the Non-Identity problem will be discussed in detail: the Family Lines argument put forward by Thompson, and the New Injustice argument discussed by Boxill, Sher, and Cohen. In particular, the New Injustice argument offers a potential solution by focusing on the flow-on harm failing to provide restitution can cause. The New Injustice argument suffers practically, however, as it is insufficiently action-guiding. Concurrent with Scanlon’s account of blame, I suggest that establishing who is responsible, in both senses of the word, for injustice is vitally important for establishing the credibility for claims for restitution for not just contemporary injustice, but historic injustice also. The role and meaning of apology and commiseration for historic events will also be discussed. Finally, I will consider what might be owed from historic perpetrator’s descendants to historic victim’s descendants, even if we cannot justify restitution. I will show that restitution for historic injustice is implausible in cases where historic victims were individuals, but that there is value in commiseration for, and recognition of, these historic injustices. I make no conclusions about the likelihood of success of contemporary claims for restitution between transgenerational groups, such as nations. This restriction is largely for brevity. Thanks must be given to Andrew Cohen, Janna Thompson, Stephen Winter, and particularly my supervisor Daniel Halliday, for their feedback and comments on parts of the thesis. I also thank my two anonymous examiners for their critical feedback and suggestions, particularly with respect to my consideration of theories of harm. Additionally, I thank those who attended, and gave feedback to, my presentation at the AAP conference in Wellington, December 2012, and my peers at the University of Melbourne for discussion, feedback, and encouragement.
Keywordsrestitution; compensation; reparation; reconciliation; apology and commiseration; historic injustice; the non-identity problem; blame; responsibility
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