The modern era is notable for its emphasis on justice as the idée-clef of political philosophy. RC31 has concentrated on issues of Justice over the past three years. It carries that concern into 2013 with the theme of ‘Justice: Violence & Forgiveness’

Violence is not just the product of an emotion, such as hate or enmity. It is also a strategy – for removing opposition and securing conformity. Investigation takes two paths, the first analytical, the second ethical. As regards analysis, we may conceptualize violence as physical or psychological or structural. A question arises: If power is not necessarily expressed through violence, is violence necessarily an expression of power?

Violence tends to be seen as justifiable where defensive, rather than aggressive. But aggressive violence, too, has often been viewed as just. Moses’s violence against idol-worshippers was portrayed as just. So, too, violence against ‘the Great Satan’ or ‘the Axis of Evil’. Is it right e.g. that a terrorist may be tortured to prevent some further outrage? Is ‘extremism in the defense of liberty’ morally sound? All the same, the default position on violence – maiming, raping, torturing – persists: it is broadly taken to be wrong and unjust as such.

How is it possible – if at all - to reject violence as unjust? Is violence unjust in se? Is it legitimated as and when necessary to the imposition of justice? Does justice sanction the deployment of violence (as e.g. in just war theory or humanitarian interventions)? Is violence (as when we call it ‘force’) a part of justice? Is justice somehow violated by violence, as in cases of rape, torture, killing, etc? Are justice and violence mutually consistent, or mutually contradictory?

As to Forgiveness, this concept seems to contain the element of mercy, which tends not to be seen as an element of justice, but a means of moderating its severity. If, however, justice is ‘just’, does it need moderating? Does mercy stand outside justice? Is it at least as essential to justice as violence (‘force’?) appears to be? What is the role of retributive justice? Assume Forgiveness strategies to involve victims and perpetrators brought together without penalty, to share their experiences (in catharsis), and to build reconciliation on a sounder basis. Do such strategies take proper account of the impact of criminal violence on victims? Are they genuine expressions of justice? Are they exercises in prudential morality – the best that can be achieved in hard times? May the invitation to mercy itself violate the victim?

The Research Committee on Political Philosophy (RC31) of The International Political Science Association (IPSA) seeks contributions that relate justice to the logic and ethics of violence and forgiveness. The first conference on this subject is being held in Boston over 20-22 May, 2013. Please note that the dates have changed since the original announcement.

The conference is sponsored by Boston University, by CRISPP (Critical Review of International Social & Political Philosophy), and by The Journal of Political Philosophy.

Proposals are now invited for the Boston conference. All papers should attend to the relation of justice to violence or forgiveness or both. Please send a preliminary abstract of no more than one page, and no later than 15 March 2013 to Prof. Preston King, Chair of RC31, to John Medearis, Secretary, RC31,, and to the local organizer, Prof. Walter Fluker,