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Extremely Violent Societies: Mass Violence in the Twentieth-Century World by Christian Gerlach

So, the claim is intriguing and the focus on socioeconomic change truly deserving, but in the [End Page ] end the main arc of the book is less convincing in its explanatory power, probably because—at least in this initial response to this puzzle—the author dismisses the very central preoccupation of the more traditional genocide literature: Politics can be genocidal but do not need to be.

Socioeconomic change can transform a traditional countryside into a surplus-generating sphere of a national, imperial or world economy and create conditions for mass violence but does not have to, necessarily. The element that distinguishes Botswana from Rwanda is not only the ethnic composition but also the process of state formation, the inclusiveness of the polity and the quality of the political interaction.

The perplexed reader is also puzzled by two lacunae. One is that humans have experienced a great deal of variation around violence.

There are numerous societies well recorded by anthropologists in which the level of violence is negligible. To ignore them assumes that they enjoy this level of harmony because they did not experience modernization, but also implies a sort of determinism by which mass violence should be expected if modernization occurs.

5 Most Mysterious Uncontacted Tribes

The second lacuna that probably has more to do with tone and choice than anything else is the particular reading of the genocide literature that seems intentionally limited to: In the very copious notes almost half of the book due probably to the publisher's decision to use larger If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE, click 'Authenticate'.

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Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. In this groundbreaking book Christian Gerlach traces the social roots of the extraordinary processes of human destruction involved in mass violence throughout the twentieth century.

He argues that terms such as 'genocide' and 'ethnic cleansing' are too narrow to explain the diverse motives and interests that cause violence to spread in varying forms and intensities.

Extremely Violent Societies: Mass Violence in the Twentieth-Century World

From killings and expulsions to enforced hunger, collective rape, strategic bombing, forced labour and imprisonment he explores what happened before, during, and after periods of widespread bloodshed in countries such as Armenia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nazi-occupied Greece and in anti-guerilla wars worldwide in order to highlight the crucial role of socio-economic pressures in the generation of group conflicts.

By focussing on why so many different people participated in or supported mass violence, and why different groups were victimized, he offers us a new way of understanding one of the most disturbing phenomena of our times.


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