The Politics of Official Apologies


The Politics of Official Apologies
Melissa Nobles
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.

Intense interest in past injustice lies at the center of contemporary world politics. This book examines the political uses of official apologies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. It explores why minority groups demand such apologies and why governments do or do not offer them. Nobles argues that apologies can help to alter the terms and meanings of national membership. Minority groups demand apologies in order to focus attention on historical injustices, the rectification of which, they argue, should guide changes in present-day government policies. Similarly, state actors support apologies for ideological and moral reasons, driven by their support of group rights, responsiveness to group demands, and belief that acknowledgement is due. Apologies, as employed by political actors, play an important, if underappreciated, role in bringing certain views about history and moral obligation to bear in public life.

Excerpts from Reviews:

The Politics of Official Apologies is an excellent book that stakes out important ground.. . The book is careful and nonpolemical; it does an excellent job of situating the phenomenon of apology in the wider field of redress politics; and it navigates admirably and sensitively through the specific details and histories of the relevant case. Sophisticated and scholarly, but also suitable for course use with graduate students and senior undergraduates, it should be on the bookshelves of every researcher working on questions of historic injustice.  The Journal of Politics   

These are important issues and so Melissa Nobles’ judicious and sober study is a welcome addition to what is sometimes an overheated debate. ..One of the most interesting and original parts of her argument is that apologies in fully developed democracies serve to change the meaning of what it is to be a citizen. . . The Spectator (UK), November 29, 2008