Can You Forgive Me?
The Politics of Forgiveness in an Angry Age
At least at first blush, the idea of forgiveness is pretty simple. When society forgives, it makes a judgment that a person should be accepted back into the fold after having violated its norms. But almost everything about this idea is more complex than it seems.
There is more to forgiveness than we may have thought. On the one hand, it is a universal experience, which makes these dilemmas instantly recognizable: everyone has asked to be forgiven, and everyone has been asked to forgive. On the other hand, it is also political. Forgiveness depends on unstated value judgments that society makes without conscious awareness, including our perception of the person who seeks it, the person wronged, the norm violated, etc. Like any social benefit, the prize is doled out unevenly. In Can You Forgive Me? The Politics of Forgiveness in an Angry Age, Joseph Margulies hopes to get people thinking about the hidden politics of a universal experience.
By revealing that there is a politics of forgiveness, Can You Forgive Me? requires us to grapple not only with the idea of forgiveness, but the corollary notion that a person can be unforgiveable and cast permanently beyond the pale. Buy telling stories of people who committed supposedly “unforgiveable” acts, the book compels readers to question what that label means and to consider the transformative potential of looking at forgiveness differently.