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Governments, Citizens, and Genocide

A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Approach

Alex Alvarez

Publication Year: 2001

Governments, Citizens, and Genocide
A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Approach

Alex Alvarez

A comprehensive analysis demonstrating how whole societies come to support the practice of genocide.

"Alex Alvarez has produced an exceptionally comprehensive and useful analysis of modern genocide... [It] is perhaps the most important interdisciplinary account to appear since Zygmunt Bauman's classic work, Modernity and the Holocaust."
-- Stephen Feinstein, Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

"Alex Alvarez has written a first-rate propaedeutic on the running sore of genocide. The singular merit of the work is its capacity to integrate a diverse literature in a fair-minded way and to take account of genocides in the post-Holocaust environment ranging from Cambodia to Serbia. The work reveals patterns of authoritarian continuities of repression and rule across cultures that merit serious and widespread public concern." -- Irving Louis Horowitz, Rutgers University

More people have been killed in 20th-century genocides than in all wars and revolutions in the same period. Recent events in countries such as Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia have drawn attention to the fact that genocide is a pressing contemporary problem, one that has involved the United States in varying negotiating and peace-keeping roles. Genocide is increasingly recognized as a threat to national and international security, as well as a source of tremendous human suffering and social devastation.

Governments, Citizens, and Genocide views the crime of genocide through the lens of social science. It discusses the problem of defining genocide and then examines it from the levels of the state, the organization, and the individual. Alex Alvarez offers both a skillful synthesis of the existing literature on genocide and important new insights developed from the study of criminal behavior. He shows that governmental policies and institutions in genocidal states are designed to suppress the moral inhibitions of ordinary individuals.

By linking different levels of analysis, and comparing a variety of cases, the study provides a much more complex understanding of genocide than have prior studies. Based on lessons drawn from his analysis, Alvarez offers an important discussion of the ways in which genocide might be anticipated and prevented.

Alex Alvarez is Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University. His primary research interests are minorities, crime, and criminal justice, as well as collective and interpersonal violence. He is author of articles in Journal of Criminal Justice, Social Science History, and Sociological Imagination and is currently writing a book on patterns of American murder.

April 2001
240 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, bibl., index
cloth 0-253-33849-2 $29.95 s /

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

I first wish to thank Susanna Maxwell, the Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Northern Arizona University, who has provided a tremendous amount of moral and material support for my work. I also want to express my gratitude to Ray Michalowski and Marilyn McShane, who in their capacity as Chairs ...

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pp. 1-9

This book presents a comparative and interdisciplinary discussion of the crime of genocide. Given the increasing pervasiveness of genocide in this century, it is surprising that social scientists have so seldom applied their efforts to the study of this particular type of criminality. ...

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1. The Age of Genocide

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pp. 10-27

If war is, as Alfred Nobel suggested, “the horror of all horrors, and the greatest of all crimes,” then the crime of genocide must surely be its terrible twin. While genocide, or the attempted destruction of a population group, has been a deadly companion to human society for most of recorded history, ...

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2. A Crime by Any Other Name

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pp. 28-55

While the term “genocide” has only recently entered the modern lexicon, it must be pointed out that genocide is by no means a new phenomenon. As Leo Kuper points out, “The word is new, the crime is ancient.”2 Appearing in many guises and epochs, genocides have punctuated the historic landscape from time immemorial, ...

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3. Deadly Regimes

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pp. 56-85

In an interview just months before his death, Pol Pot, former Khmer Rouge leader and the architect of the Cambodian genocide, denied being responsible for the genocide committed against his people during the 1970s. Asserting that “I came to carry out the struggle, not to kill people,” Pol Pot portrayed himself as a misunderstood ...

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4. Lethal Cogs

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pp. 86-108

On the night of May 11, 1960, in a run-down suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a man was kidnapped just steps away from his house. As he walked home from work in the dark, two men approached from the opposite direction, grabbed him, and threw him into a waiting car that quickly sped away. ...

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5. Accommodating Genocide

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pp. 109-129

The massacre at the Nyarabuye church is a particularly powerful example of the type of killing that marked the Rwandan genocide.3 When the killing erupted throughout that country, several thousand Tutsis gathered at the church, many on the advice of the local bourgemestre, or mayor, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi. ...

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6. Confronting Genocide

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pp. 130-152

Genocide often evokes images of inexplicable and powerful natural and supernatural forces. One survivor said the Holocaust “was storm, lightning, thunder, wind, rain,”3 while Rezak Hukanovic, a survivor of the camps at Omarska and Manjaca, described the genocide in Bosnia this way: “Bosnia trembled as if it had been hit by a powerful earthquake. ...


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pp. 153-196


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pp. 197-216


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pp. 217-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780253108487
E-ISBN-10: 0253108489
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253338495

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2001