Unconscionable Crimes: How Norms Explain and Constrain Mass Atrocities

Unconscionable Crimes: How Norms Explain and Constrain Mass Atrocities

by Paul C. Morrow

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Overview

The first general theory of the influence of norms—moral, legal and social—on genocide and mass atrocity.

How can we explain—and prevent—such large-scale atrocities as the Holocaust? In Unconscionable Crimes, Paul Morrow presents the first general theory of the influence of norms on genocide and mass atrocity. After offering a clear overview of norms and norm transformation, rooted in recent work in moral and political philosophy, Morrow examines numerous twentieth-century cases of mass atrocity, drawing on documentary and testimonial sources to illustrate the influence of norms before, during, and after such crimes. 

Morrow considers such key explanatory pathways as the erosion of moral norms through brutalization and demoralization, the exploitation of legal norms to legitimize persecution and deny violence, and the enduring influence of gender-based social norms on targets and perpetrators of atrocities. Key constraints on atrocities would include the revision of moral norms that have traditionally guided the conduct of soldiers and humanitarian aid workers, the strengthening of legal prohibitions on large-scale crimes through statutory and institutional reform, and the elimination of social norms prescribing silence about personal experience of atrocities. Throughout, Morrow emphasizes the differences among moral, legal, and social norms, which stand in different relations to real or perceived social practices, and exhibit different patterns of creation, modification, and elimination. Ultimately, he argues, norms of each kind are integral to the explanation and the prevention of mass atrocities.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262044622
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 09/22/2020
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 795,538
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Paul C. Morrow is John M. Meagher Human Rights Fellow at the Human Rights Center of the University of Dayton. He was previously a visiting researcher at Utrecht University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1.1 The Notion of Norms 2

1.2 The Concept of Mass Atrocity 3

1.3 The Enigma of Explanation 5

1.4 The Problem of Prevention 7

1.5 The Argument of This Book 8

1.6 Sources and Methods 10

1.7 Chapter Summaries 12

1 Norms in the World: Agents, Action Guidance, and Historical Inquiry 17

1.1 Norms 18

1.2 Norm Guidance 21

1.3 Norm Transformation 23

1.4 Norms in the World 27

1.5 Two Problems: Circularity and Reducibility 31

2 "Necessary-and Even Proper": Moral Norms and the Explanation of Mass Atrocities 39

2.1 Moral Norms 41

2.2 The Thesis of Moral Norm Inversion 43

2.3 Eroding Moral Norms: Demoralization and Brutalization 45

2.4 Evading Moral Norms: Euphemism and Dehumanization 50

2.5 Breakdowns of Professional Ethics: Proof of Moral Norm Inversion? 54

3 Better Never to Deliberate? Moral Norms and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities 59

3.1 Moral Norms against Deliberation 61

3.2 Soldiers and Moral Norms against Deliberation 63

3.3 Humanitarian Aid Workers and Moral Norms against Deliberation 71

3.4 Mass Moral Education as a Means of" Atrocity Prevention 76

4 The Etiology of Inhumanity: Legal Norms and the Explanation of Mass Atrocities 81

4.1 Legal Norms 83

4.2 Legal Norms and the Etiology of Large-Scale Crimes 87

4.3 Legal Norms and the Creation of Social Out-Groups 90

4.4 Legal Norms and the Legitimation of Persecution 92

4.5 Legal Norms and the Denial of Violence 94

4.6 Legal Norms as Evidence of Mass Atrocities 96

4.7 Extremely Violent Societies: An Alternative Etiology? 98

5 The Limits of Legalization: Legal Norms and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities 103

5.1 Laws, Institutions, and Liability for Atrocities 105

5.2 Legal Norms and the Prevention of Large-Scale Crimes 110

5.3 Legalization: The Best Path to Prevention? 113

5.4 Transitional Justice as Suspended Legalization 119

6 The Grammar of Violence: Social Norms and the Explanation of Mass Atrocities 125

6.1 Social Norms 127

6.2 Gender-Based Social Norms in Explanations of Large-Scale Crimes 131

6.3 Gender-Based Social Norms and the Targets of Atrocities 134

6.4 Gender-Based Social Norms and the Perpetrators of Atrocities 137

6.5 The Limits of Social Norms 142

7 Arresting Incitement: Social Norms and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities 145

7.1 Social Norms and the Limited Significance of Rescue 147

7.2 Eliminating Social Norms as a Means of Atrocity Prevention 152

7.3 Creating Social Norms as a Means of Atrocity Prevention 158

7.4 The Prospects for Social Norms 167

Conclusion 171

Notes 177

Bibliography 237

Index 263

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