Economic Goods and the Communitarian Way of Life

In David Bilchitz & Raisa Cachalia (eds.), Transitional and Distributive Justice in Transformative Constitutionalism: Comparing Colombia and South Africa (forthcoming)

Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria
The contributions elsewhere in this volume from us, Nathalia Bautista and Thaddeus Metz, address the proper way to respond to gross human rights violations, given a Global South context. Specifically, considering the histories of Colombia and South Africa and some of the values indigenous to those locales, respectively, we advance non-individualist and non-retributive approaches to the social conflicts that had taken place there. Broadly speaking, we both advocate relational and constructive forms of transitional justice that make victim compensation central. According to Bautista, it is important not to rely merely on legal strategies, but also to draw on the values and more generally the cultures of local peoples, in order to resolve conflict. She highlights respects in which those from three different Colombian societies believe in communitarian ways of “restoring the normative bond” between former enemies, approaches that the state ought to consider when making reparations. Metz appeals to communal values frequently associated with the South African philosophy of ubuntu to construct an account of reconciliation, and he brings out what reconciliation entails for how to make economic restitution in a post-conflict society. In this chapter we consider how Metz’s ubuntu-based reconciliatory approach to reparations might be relevant to Colombia in ways he did not consider, after which we reflect on how the kinds of communitarian practices advanced by Bautista might apply to South Africa. We conclude that these cross-applications are revealing, pointing out how economic compensation in Colombia should plausibly be influenced by cultural factors, and how considerations of culture in South Africa call for compensation beyond economic factors.
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