Book Review: Altruism, Intergroup Apology, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

By Meera Lee Sethi | September 1, 2008 | 0 comments

By Samuel P. Oliner, assisted by Piotr Olaf Zylicz
Paragon House, 2008, 328 pages

In his new book, Humboldt State University sociologist (and Greater Good editorial board member) Samuel Oliner argues that apology and forgiveness on a global scale are ideas whose time has come.

Through interviews, surveys, and meditations on the research literature, Oliner and colleague Piotr Zylicz examine the role of apology in post-conflict situations. Their approach blends philosophy with pragmatism: The book addresses deep, abstract questions (e.g., “Does collective guilt exist?”), but also looks at the concrete steps countries like Germany, Japan, and China have taken to address the bitter fallout from political violence.

By pinpointing behaviors that can facilitate or impede the process of reconciliation, Oliner has produced what could almost be considered a workbook for peace. “A harmonious world,” the authors write, “is not an impossible dream.”

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About The Author

Meera Lee Sethi is a Chicago-based writer and a contributing editor for


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