Smashwords – Genocide - A History from Carthage to Darfur – a book by Maria Pritchard
This is a major achievement. It is the first synthetic, single-authored global history to connect state power and formation to violence through the willful extermination and attempted extermination of peoples. Its reach is not only global, it is alsotemporal, as the book examines violence through time. Kiernan absolutely shines in some ways as a historian of ideas [and] does an exemplary job of tracing the justificatory texts.
Kiernan's synthesis of this material is most impressive. When one reads this book, there will be conceptual and empirical quarrels, but they do not overshadow the success and tremendous value of this book. Its reach is not only global, it is also temporal, as the book examines violence through time. One of the book's great strengths is its truly global sweep.
One of the services the book performs is to highlight the ubiquity of mass killings in human history. Along the way, there is much revelatory, intriguing and disturbing information to be gleaned. Thorough though he is in cataloguing this history of horrors, Kiernan is careful to draw distinctions among various scales of killing and diverse forms of motivation. Genocidal phenomena, Kiernan argues insightfully, are actually inherently contradictory occurrences where an anxious perception of a specific trend, or a series of developments, produces sustained counterpoint imaginings.
Reality is going, or seems to be going one way, while the imagination proceeds in the opposite direction. Kiernan is right: all the atrocities he deals with in his narrative - and he deals with quite a few - display all these elements. Kiernan endeavours effectively to impose a remarkable structuring coherence on an impressive amount of data.
Genocide: A History from Carthage to Darfur
At the same time, he convincingly emphasises discursive links and resonances between different epochs and locations. You try and write a book like this. Beachler, Holocaust and Genocide Studies Winner of the gold medal for the best book in History awarded by the Independent Publishers Association Winner of the Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize for the best book in Holocaust Studies published in , given by the German Studies Association The German edition, Erde und Blut: Voelkermord und Vernichtung von der Antike bis heute, won first place in Germany's Nonfiction Book of the Month Prize Die Sachbucher des Monats, sponsored by Suddeutsche Zeitung and NDR Kultur June "In exploring the global 'prehistory' of the horrific forms of societal violence usually associated with the twentieth century, Kiernan identifies key factors that have been consistently associated with genocidal episodes.
His book makes an original contribution to our understanding of the phenomenon. In seeing genocide as linked to issues of land as well as race, nation, and expansion, Kiernan has opened up social, political, and economic analysis to the struggle for land and the control of property. Such an approach is unique as it is provocative. It is inspired by the author's profound reading of Cambodia and Southeast Asia. Blood and Soil provides an angle of vision rarely found in those who start and stop with a European base of scholarship. The problem with the literature is that it takes too much for granted: revolution, expansion, and genocide are presented as givens in the context of which the real action takes place.
For example, Weitz speculates that genocides in the twentieth century became so extensive and systematic because regimes engaged in massive social projects of mobilization for mass activities, like the construction of dams and population purges That observation is fine as far as it goes, but the real question surely is why such regimes feel compelled to engage in them? What drives them? The liberal method posits ideology as the prime mover of nefarious policies, but is it?
The same question can be posed of ideology: what is the origin of expansionist or redemptive ideologies and what function do they serve? Likewise, if even ideology needs to be mediated by crisis to result in genocide, why focus on the contents of ideology as the independent variable instead of on the crisis? It is necessary, then, to account for the crises that have punctuated European, and indeed world history, for centuries.
Naimark, Weitz, and Kiernan mention many conjunctures and hint at deeper processes, but the liberal method to which they subscribe means that they remain under-illuminated. This reasoning leads me to conclude that in order to understand the genesis of genocide we need to revise the dominant, liberal methodology.
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Rather than look within the empire or nation-state alone—the endogenetic bias of nomothetic social science and comparative historiography—we need to cast our gaze beyond it to the global context in which they have to compete for survival. It is time to consider the proposition that the missing variable in the equation is the exogenous pressure of the international state and economic system; and to try to imagine the genocides of modernity as part of a single process rather than merely in comparative and competitive terms.
Too much Hegelian-Marxist humanism pervades this thinking of the s to be plausible for us today. Thus Horkheimer argues that the positivist positing of objective facts can be sublated by the recognition that since history is really the product of the collective human subject, though alienated from that subject because it is not made consciously in a controlled manner, the historical world can be viewed as a potentiality to be molded according to human will rather than as objectively given. He therefore advocated the unity of theory and practice so that scholarly cognition becomes a means by which to realize political goals, goals that he posited as immanent in the historical process.
However, other aspects of his argument remain compelling. The first is that theory needs to reflect on its own role in the process of societal reproduction. Traditional theory, he observed, was a function of the industrial system because it promoted a knowledge that made available the world as a place for human manipulation according to a means-end rationality.
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Critical Theory, by contrast, aims to produce knowledge that transcends the societal conditions that produced its periodic crises. For those of us who study genocide, this is surely a pressing imperative.
Is it not true, after all, that the liberal theory of genocide highlights specific phenomena but fails to illuminate the nature of the system that produces it? The concept of theory, Horkheimer urged, needs to move world society to a new state of development. In this respect, the Hegelian heritage retains its usefulness. We need to study the entire system, in other words, not just its constituent parts.
Horkheimer proposed that a critical theory not proceed, therefore, like traditional theory, which focuses on specific phenomena and tries to relate concepts to reality by way of hypotheses. Instead, Critical Theory proceeds historically by showing how the capitalist system functions and unfolds over time. It is not a storehouse of concepts and categories with which to interpret the course of events, then, but an internally integrated view that constructs a complete picture of a historically evolving global society as a whole. What is here concretely for a critical study of genocide and where should we look for tools?
The chapters of his books, then, are not conventional comparisons of cases, searching for uniform laws by isolating variables, but illustrations of a posited world system. Like the Frankfurt School, he presumes the existence of a basic structure of economic life that drives history and seeks to bear it out in his focused studies. He thus works historically, laying bare the unfolding of system Wallerstein, This approach challenges the complacent assumptions of conventional Genocide Studies.
Is the Westernization or Americanization of the world really the answer to genocide? In this reading, globalization is actually the opposite, namely, a harbinger of them because semi-peripheral states are driven to strive for accelerated developmental agendas in order to maintain or improve their status in a highly competitive world system. In fact, in a recent book, World Systems Analysis: An Introduction , those two concepts do not arise at all, although he covers the twentieth century.
Apparently, unless phenomena can be indentured to what he thinks drives the system—the endless accumulation of capital—they do not warrant inclusion or explanation. That is Mark Levene of Southampton University. In his many articles and two volume magnum opus, Genocide in the Age of the Nation State , he takes the Wallerstein approach as his background and focuses on the crises that produce genocide.
The latter cannot be understood except in interaction with others. His volumes aim to lay bare these connections rather than present narrative history. In a series of important articles in the Journal of Genocide Research , Levene placed this potential for genocide in the context of a more general political-spatial crisis caused by the international system, a crisis that was perhaps above all environmental a, b. Distinctive in the twentieth century, is the arrival of the nation state, rather than the multi-national empire, as the normative form of political organization.
For these reasons, the twentieth century has been the most deadly of all. As he writes in volume one of his Genocide in the Age of the Nation State :. We have here then, a Sonderweg of the West, an anti-theodicy that inverts the celebratory rise of the West in the fashionable pro-imperial encomia that are being written today. Far from being a return to barbarism, as Lemkin thought, the twentieth century marks something very new, the paradox of progress and destruction. But what is it about the nation-state that makes it such a lethal polity?
Levene recognizes that the empires were racist, hierarchical and often practiced retributive genocide when challenged, but they were inclusive if subject nations, peoples and cities towed the line. They were not inherently genocidal. Extermination or the effacement of otherness was not a constituent part of their nature. The problem of the nation-state, which begins with the martial French republican state of the s, actually has sources a thousand years earlier in a European peculiarity.
They lie in the unique combination of political power and religious legitimation in the European reaction to the disintegration of the Roman Empire and formation of Western Europe in the Middle Ages , 1: With Christianity as the official religion of small feudal entities, the inevitable conflicts were met with declarations of war on schismatics and heretics, who were scapegoated in a phobic way.
This phobic reaction, a pattern and term Levene uses in relation to totalitarian regimes like the Nazis, starts here. This constellation of religion and politics exhibited the:. The European system of small states emphasized uniformity, a tendency exacerbated in reformation with imposition of national confessions in official church authorities. A corollary was, as mentioned above, a tendency to phobic reactions to threats: there was well-organized plot, religious minorities were seen as dangerous, wicked foreign bodies , 2: There would have been more extermination of schismatic movements had they not been protected by neighboring powers.
Given that the master narrative for Levene, then, is the rise of the West—meaning the rise of the nation state model—the historical turning point is not —the spread of European power abroad in blue water empires, as scholars like David Stannard and other proponents on the colonial genocide thesis maintain—but the French Revolution, with its militarized nationalism and nation state model borne out of defensive wars.
For it was here that the first modern genocide occurred, the counter-insurgency against royalist rebels who, in the new dispensation, were regarded as evil opponents of reason and progress embodied in the new nation. This new ideology knew no internal limits against the extirpation of such opponents, nor was there a chance of conversion, which Christian Europe at least offered heretics and non-Christians.
It was a totalizing agenda of people making from above, engendering the new religion patriotism, and ultimately mass politics that elites found difficult to contain years later, as German historians skeptical of the Enlightenment, Gerhard Ritter and Friedrich Meinecke, also pointed out. The imperative for uniformity so characteristic of pre-modern Europe was thus secularized in the nineteenth century.
The social glue of religion was replaced by utopian concepts like race or class. Here was a state directed model of rapid and militant modernization that was adopted by peoples who wanted to establish and protect their sovereignty. Imperial Germany became the European state embodying it by the end of the nineteenth century, and of course Nazi Germany decades later, which was the most radical modernizer in its drive for population uniformity and internal coherence.
Genocide, then, is explained not by recourse to cultural or political contingencies endogenous to specific nation states, although the cultural perception of their elites remains important, but by the pressure that a competitive, indeed Darwinistic, system of state economies places on national leaderships to establish and maintain sovereign viability.
Nor when it favored minorities like the Armenians, who then, in Turkish eyes, became disloyal, indeed, dangerous subjects 2: Levene writes:. And he argues that while the late colonial and imperial surge of violence between and was indeed perpetrated by the Empires, the context marked a specific phase in world history: the pressure placed on Chinese, Russian, and Ottoman Empires by the West to compete, to be more efficient, provoked indigenous uprisings. They themselves put down rebellions: Germans and British in Africa, for instance. It was a phase in the rise of the West, whose model of the sovereign nation state was globalized after World War II.
The city was reduced to rubble. In Ancient Greece, the Spartan state was particularly ruthless. When they invaded Laconia, they enslaved the indigenous inhabitants, known as helots. Far from being considered a crime, the murder of a helot became a rite of passage for young Spartan men. Hitler praised the Spartan state as a role model for the Third Reich.
Even the Athenian Empire, regarded as an early ideal of reason and democracy, used mass murder as a means of keeping their subjects in order. During the 20th century in particular, nationalism was often used as a means to an end, rather than being the initial cause of the violence. It has been a powerful political tool for amoral politicians. There are many examples of leaders stirring up nationalistic sentiments in order to strengthen their position. Rwanda and Bosnia both show how nationalism can be incited by the powerful to shore up their own status. Tensions often exist between neighbouring groups of people and may cause occasional acts of violence.
However, it takes a conscious, concerted campaign of nationalist propaganda to incite a population to commit or condone mass murder. The propaganda often states that the enemy are less than human, degenerate and corrupting. If this is the case, their annihilation becomes acceptable rather than criminal.
It was a common contention about Native Americans and Australian Aborigines, along with many other indigenous people living on desirable land. It is questionable whether any nation is more likely to commit genocide: circumstances often appear to matter more than national characteristics. Few nations who have built an empire can claim a clean record regarding massacres but the violence often occurs on both sides. Some British colonizers committed mass murder of Native American groups and some Native Americans massacred groups of European colonists. According to Ben Kiernan in Blood and Soil , an Aboriginal leader in Australia asked British forces to wipe out a neighbouring tribe but in this case, the invaders did not comply.
Although the image of European Imperialists massacring indigenous people is a familiar one, it is not the full picture. Europeans have massacred each other and non-Europeans have also committed genocide on their neighbours.
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