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Modernity and the Holocaust [Hardcover]

Zygmunt Bauman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 55.00
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Book Description

14 Sep 1989
Sociology is concerned with modern society, but has never come to terms with one of the most distinctive and horrific aspects of modernity – the Holocaust. The book examines what sociology can teach us about the Holocaust, but more particularly concentrates upon the lessons which the Holocaust has for sociology. Bauman′s work demonstrates that the Holocaust has to be understood as deeply involved with the nature of modernity. There is nothing comparable to this work available in the sociological literature.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press (14 Sep 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745606857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745606859
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,949,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

′Modernity and the Holocaust is a very fine book. Broad in scope and penetrating in analysis, it is disturbing as its subject matter demands, yet never fails to preserve the crucial element of reflective distance out of which new or more acute knowledge is able to emerge.′ Times Higher Education Supplement ′Such is the concentrated brilliance of this study that it is sure to find an appreciative audience in every field of research which touches on the Holocaust.′ Times Literary Supplement ′This is a profound book, brilliant in its insights ... It demands wide readership.′ Political Studies ′The book should be widely read by students of the social sciences, since it is, apart from a provocative analysis of explanations of genocide, a critique of sociology, which Bauman claims has neglected the ethical dilemmas posed by the destruction of the Jews.′ Sociology --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Sociology is concerned with modern society, but has never come to terms with one of the most distinctive and horrific aspects of modernity – the Holocaust. The book examines what sociology can teach us about the Holocaust, but more particularly concentrates upon the lessons which the Holocaust has for sociology. Bauman′s work demonstrates that the Holocaust has to be understood as deeply involved with the nature of modernity. There is nothing comparable to this work available in the sociological literature. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
There are two ways to belittle, misjudge, or shrug off the significance of the Holocaust for sociology as the theory of civilization, of modernity, of modern civilization. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Bauman's elucidation of the significance of the Holocaust is simply magnificent. He combines his exploration of the historical facts with a brave interpretation of the sociological significance of the horrifying events of the Second World War, maintaining a style that is simultaneously readable, informative and undeniably sensitive to the tricky subject matter.
Bauman's revelation, as the title suggests, is that, rather than being an event based on barbarism and a twisted sense morality, the Holocaust embodied the self-evident principles of the Modern World; rationality, hierarchies of power and distancing from personal culpability. He backs up his argument using a multitude of examples, and remains persuasive throughout.
Modernity and the Holocaust is a must for any Sociology students out there, but also for anyone with an open mind who is willing to accept how far-reaching the consequences of living through modernity truly are. Undoubtedly a five-star book...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and challenging 20 Feb 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is very heavy going, partly because of the academic sociology, but mainly because of the harrowing subject matter.

It is a very important book, and worth making the effort to read. Its argument is deeply troubling for those who still have the comforting illusion that modernity and sophisticated civilisation will lead to humane outcomes. Bauman argues persuasively that the Nazis' Final Solution to exterminate the Jews was possible only in a sophisticated, bureacratic modern society and that it is a huge mistake to assume that the Holocaust was a throwback to uncivilised barbarity. What the Nazis did was barbaric, but it was the product of civilisation and modernity. It might seem irrational, but only if you have a different world view from the Nazis. They rationally followed the logic of their evil philosophy through to its appalling conclusion. That's a lesson that must be learnt. We have not "progressed" beyond the Nazis. They don't belong to a state of civil development and progress we've left behind. Given the right circumstances it could all happen again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Bauman's Modernity and the Holocaust is a quite stunning analysis of the Holocaust's position in modernity. Far from being a freak occurance, Bauman illustrates that, disturbingly, the Holocaust was in fact entirely consistent with the principles of bureaucratic organisation, division of labour, and reason's guidance on which modernity is founded. Far from banishing evil, modernity in fact contains the possibility of evil, in the right circumstances.
While incorporating important writing from history, philosophy and psychology, Bauman's handling of the subject is purely sociological, and the book is a strong criticism of sociology's failure to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust adequately.
This book is probably the best and most important work of one of the greatest living sociologists. Reading it is highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having been a victim of the Holocaust while young and then changing name, nationality, country and living a different life I had consigned it to the not-to-be-remembered past.
Then found, in my old age, that I wanted to find out why this had happened, whether or not it had been avoidable and whether it could happen again. I read many academic books aboutthe history of the Holocaust - refrained from reading personal accounts of other victims [ I did not feel I needed to add to the agony]. Then, my attention was directed to Baumann's book and, although not the easiest of reads, it gives a different and compelling arguement on why it happened - which actually agrees with my own gut feeling about it.
It is a very valuable contribution to the debate and should be compulsory reading for anybody who teaches students about the holocaust. Sadly the sociological perspective gets frequently forgotten in the historical context.

We are social animals, rather than hisotrical ones - so read it and learn from it!
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