Genocide: A Normative Account

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In this study, Larry May examines the normative and conceptual problems concerning the crime of genocide. Genocide arises out of the worst of horrors. Legally, however, the unique character of genocide is reduced to a technical requirement, that the perpetrator's act manifest an intention to destroy a protected group. From this definition, many puzzles arise. How are groups to be identified and why are only four groups subject to genocide? What is the harm of destroying a group and why is this harm thought to be independent of killing many people? How can a person in the dock, as an individual, be responsible for a collective crime like genocide? How should we understand the specific crimes associated with genocide, especially instigation, incitement, and complicity? Are criminal trials in the aftermath of genocide the best strategy for achieving reconciliation and the return to the rule of law? Paying special attention to the recent case law concerning the Rwanda genocide, May offers the first philosophical exploration of the crime of genocide in international criminal law.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...In this deeply thoughtful, conceptually sharp survey of legal and philosophical issues related to mass atrocities, May (Vanderbilt Univ.) ranges from highly theoretical questions, such as whether genocide is the most serious of all crimes, to generally neglected practical and moral questions... Specialized academics interested in the phenomenon of genocide should eagerly consume this book; they will find it most provocative and useful... Highly recommended..."
—P. G. Conway, SUNY College at Oneonta, CHOICE

"The central difficulties in the law of genocide are not, of course, one of May's making, and his book deserves credit for carefully revealing both the necessity of a normative justification and the complex nature of that project."
-Alexander K.A. Greenawalt,Pace University School of Law

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521194655
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2010
  • Pages: 283
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry May is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and Strategic Research Professor of Social Justice at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University, Canberra. He is the author of nine books, most recently, Crimes against Humanity: A Normative Account, War Crimes and Just War, and Aggression and Crimes against Peace, which have won six awards in philosophy, law, and international relations.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: problems of genocide; Part I. The Nature of Value of Groups: 2. Nominalism and the constituents of social groups; 3. Identifying groups in genocide cases; Part II. The Harm of Genocide: 4. Harm to a group itself; 5. Harms to identity of a group's members; Part III. Elements of Genocide: 6. Destroying groups in whole or in part; 7. Collective and individual intent; 8. Motive and destruction of a group 'as such'; Part IV. Responsibility for Genocide: 9. Complicity and the Rwandan genocide; 10. Incitement to genocide and the Rwandan media case; 11. Instigating, planning, and intending genocide in Rwanda; Part V. Special Problems of Genocide: 12. Genocide and humanitarian intervention; 13. Reconciliation, criminal trials, and genocide.

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