How does a country reconstitute itself as a functioning democracy after a period of dictatorship? The new community may execute, imprison, or temporarily disenfranchise some citizens, but it will be unable to exclude all who supported the fallen regime. Political reconciliation must lay the groundwork for political trust. Democracy offers the compromised--and many who were more than just compromised--a second chance.
In this new book, Anne Sa'adah explores twentieth-century Germany's second chances. Drawing on evidence from intellectual debates, trials, literary works, controversies about the actions of public figures, and partisan competition, Sa'adah analyzes German responses to the problem of reconciliation after 1945 and again after 1989. She depicts the frustrations, moral and political ambiguities, and disappointments inherent to even successful processes of democratization. She constantly underscores the difficult trade-off between achieving a modicum of justice and securing the legitimacy and stability of the new regime. A strategy of reconciliation emphasizing outward conformity to democratic norms and behavior, she argues, has a greater chance of sustaining a new and fragile democracy than do more direct attempts to punish past misdeeds and alter people's inner convictions.
[Anne Sa'adah] provides us with a thought-provoking survey of political and cultural controversies about the former German Democratic Republic since unification.
This rich and complex study dissects the problem of political trials by bringing in novels, individual cases, and comparative French, Czech, and German perspectives, contrasting the 'institutional' with the 'cultural' approach...A provocative and brilliant work.
Anne Sa'adah's book is a searching meditation on political justice and reconciliation; it is also a highly informed account of reckoning with the GDR past in post-unification Germany. Sa'adah's comparative knowledge, her intelligence, and her moral engagement make Germany's Second Chance a compelling work of philosophical history.
Germany's Second Chance is a poignant and penetrating assessment of the tough choices faced by new democracies struggling to forgive without forgetting, to come to terms with their recent fratricidal and genocidal pasts in ways that are morally defensible yet politically viable. The author reconstructs recent debates over the terms of political inclusion with a close ear to the ground for historical echoes of earlier conflicts. In so doing, she discloses how the question of whom to exclude from a new constitutional regime, rising from the ashes of dictatorial terror, is inescapable, recurrently vexing, and always the subject of both heated disagreement and cold, strategic negotiation.
Anne Sa'adah's ambitious book addresses issues of justice and reconciliation with the kind of comparative-historical sweep and muscular intellectual engagement readers will find refreshing, no matter what their interest in contemporary Germany...Germany's Second Chance...is a fine piece of work about issues of fundamental importance to the vitality of democratic governance...[A]n enormously stimulating read.
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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