The Guilt of Nations by Elazar Barkan
Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices

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Synopsis

Exploring the global politics of restitution from 1945 Germany to present-day Bosnia.

How do nations and aggrieved parties, in the wake of heinous crimes and horrible injustices, make amends in a way that acknowledges wrongdoing and redefines future interactions? How does the growing practice of negotiating restitution restore a sense of morality and enhance prospects for world peace? Where has restitution worked and where has it not? The Guilt of Nations explores this increasingly important dynamic in world politics today. Beyond its moral implications, restitution reflects a critical shift in political and economic bargaining. While preserving individual rights, restitution also enables victimized groups to receive growing recognition as groups. Elazar Barkan traces instances of historical crimes, such as the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II, the sexual abuse of "comfort women" by Japanese soldiers, and the recent controversy over the financial dealings between Swiss banks and Nazi Germany. He argues that, as countries including the United States, Australia, and New Zealand come to recognize past injustices toward indigenous peoples within their borders, both governments and minority groups are compelled to redress the history of colonialism and redefine national identity. While restitution is not a panacea, this ever-spreading trend represents a new moral order in world politics.
 

About Elazar Barkan

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Published May 1, 2000 by W. W. Norton & Company. 464 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Guilt of Nations

Kirkus Reviews

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Barkan explores the complexity of restitution, concluding that, in the more successful cases (such as reparations paid by the American government to Japanese citizens for internment during WWII), the reward was not found in the material compensation itself but in the galvanization of victimized c...

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Publishers Weekly

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In the case of the Germans and the Jews, restitution enabled ""mourning to serve as a way to deal with melancholy, victimization, national repression and self- hate."" Although Barkan favors restitution, because ""alternative potential resolutions are too often frustrating and less effective,"" h...

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London Review of Books

In Part One Barkan considers the aftermath of World War Two, discussing the processes that led to reparations being made by Germany to the Jews, Switzerland’s opening up of its secret bank accounts to inspection, and the compensation paid to Japanese Americans who were interned on the West Coast.

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