Modernity and the Holocaust / Edition 1

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A new afterword to this edition, "The Duty to Remember—But What?" tackles difficult issues of guilt and innocence on the individual and societal levels. Zygmunt Bauman explores the silences found in debates about the Holocaust, and asks what the historical facts of the Holocaust tell us about the hidden capacities of present-day life. He finds great danger in such phenomena as the seductiveness of martyrdom; going to extremes in the name of safety; the insidious effects of tragic memory; and efficient, "scientific" implementation of the death penalty. Bauman writes, "Once the problem of the guilt of the Holocaust perpetrators has been by and large settled . . . the one big remaining question is the innocence of all the rest—not the least the innocence of ourselves."Among the conditions that made the mass extermination of the Holocaust possible, according to Bauman, the most decisive factor was modernity itself. Bauman's provocative interpretation counters the tendency to reduce the Holocaust to an episode in Jewish history, or to one that cannot be repeated in the West precisely because of the progressive triumph of modern civilization. He demonstrates, rather, that we must understand the events of the Holocaust as deeply rooted in the very nature of modern society and in the central categories of modern social thought.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A stunningly original set of reflections on racism, extermination, rationality, individual responsibility in criminal societies, and the sources of obedience and resistance."—Voice Literary Supplement

"Such is the concentrated brilliance of Modernity and the Holocaust that it is sure to find an appreciative audience in every field of research which touches on the Holocaust (or which has been touched by it). Above all, to those who still hold faith with the notions of civilization, progress, and reason, this book will sit alongside others which have challenged fundamental beliefs of our time."—Times Literary Supplement

"Intellectually rich and provocative. . . . This is a text which belongs in our classrooms as well as on our shelves. Exceptionally well written."—Contemporary Sociology

"A new afterword to this edition tackles difficult issues of guilt and innocence on the individual and societal levels."—Shofar, Summer 2001, Vol. 19, No. 4

"This book is an intense scrutiny of the lengths to which haters sink in displaying their hostility to targeted victims of that malady sometimes called xenophobia."—Rabbi Sam Silver. Indiana Jewish Post and Opinion. 8/22/01

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801487194
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 254
  • Sales rank: 1,449,895
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Sociology after the Holocaust 1
2 Modernity, Racism, Extermination I 31
Some peculiarities of Jewish estrangement 33
Jewish incongruity from Christendom to modernity 37
Astride the barricades 41
The prismatic group 42
Modern dimensions of incongruity 46
The non-national nation 52
The modernity of racism 56
3 Modernity, Racism, Extermination II 61
From heterophobia to racism 62
Racism as a form of social engineering 66
From repellence to extermination 72
Looking ahead 77
4 The Uniqueness and Normality of the Holocaust 83
The problem 85
Genocide extraordinary 88
Peculiarity of modern genocide 93
Effects of the hierarchical and functional division of labour 98
Dehumanization of bureaucratic objects 102
The role of bureaucracy in the Holocaust 104
Bankruptcy of modern safeguards 107
Conclusions 111
5 Soliciting the Co-operation of the Victims 117
'Sealing off' the victims 122
The 'save what you can' game 129
Individual rationality in the service of collective destruction 135
Rationality of self-preservation 142
Conclusion 149
6 The Ethics of Obedience (Reading Milgram) 151
Inhumanity as a function of social distance 155
Complicity after one's own act 157
Technology moralized 159
Free-floating responsibility 161
Pluralism of power and power of conscience 163
The social nature of evil 166
7 Towards a Sociological Theory of Morality 169
Society as a factory of morality 170
The challenge of the Holocaust 175
Pre-societal sources of morality 179
Social proximity and moral responsibility 184
Social suppression of moral responsibility 188
Social production of distance 192
Final remarks 198
8 Afterthought: Rationality and Shame 201
Social Manipulation of Morality: The European Amalfi Prize Lecture 208
The Duty to Remember - But What?: Afterword to the 2000 Edition 222
Notes 251
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