Oxford University Press, $24, 306 pp.
Who’s sorry now? And will they apologize successfully? Dr. Aaron Lazare, professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, makes a convincing case for the growing importance and frequency of public and private apologies. He thinks this development is due to the interconnectedness and fragile interdependence of our global village. To survive dangerous disputes, people must achieve conflict resolution in more effective ways. In addition, since World War II, moral commitments to justice and human rights have increased. Lazare thinks the emergence of women’s influence in the world is also a factor in movements toward harmonious human relations.
Effective apologies restore relationships and produce healing by meeting many needs. Pseudo- and failed apologies make things worse. Lazare provides a defining account of what a good apology entails and shrewdly skewers self-serving shams. He teaches by telling stories and gives accounts of apologies attempted by presidents, governments, and clergymen-from popes, to cardinals, to sexual-abusing priests, to Jerry Falwell and...