Wrongdoing is inescapable. We all do wrong and are wronged; and in response we often blame one another. But if blame is a defining feature of our social lives, so is ceasing to blame. We might excuse, justify, or forgive an offender; or simply let the offence go. Each mode of ceasing to blame is a social practice and each has characteristic norms that influence when and how we do it, as well as how it’s received. We argue that how we relinquish blame, and how effective we are, depends on many circumstances only partially within our control. Like any norm-governed practice, one can do it well or poorly, appropriately or inappropriately, successfully or unsuccessfully. To successfully participate in a practice, one’s action must be done for the right reasons and secure uptake. We argue that social and material circumstances can compromise one’s ability to effectively cease to blame in the manner one prefers. But if one can fail, then one can lack access to particular ceasing to blame practices if one is regularly prevented from effectively relinquishing blame. However, uncooperative social and material circumstances do not only arise by chance. Our central argument is that circumstances of oppression can systematically compromise one’s ability and opportunities to effectively perform a variety of ceasing to blame practices. This deprivation is an insidious facet of oppression that is neglected both in theories of oppression and of forgiveness but which has significant implications for how we understand the power and purpose of forgiveness.
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