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War and Genocide: Organized Killing in Modern Society [Paperback]

Martin Shaw

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Book Description

1 July 2003
This comprehensive introduction to the study of war and genocide presents a disturbing case that the potential for slaughter is deeply rooted in the political, economic, social and ideological relations of the modern world.

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More About the Author

Dr. MARTIN SHAW is a mythologist, storyteller and author of " A Branch From The Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace in Wildness" (white cloud press 2011). Director of the Westcountry School of Myth in the United Kingdom, he is visiting lecturer on Desmond Tutu's leadership programme at Oxford University. Widely regarded as one of the most exciting new teachers of the mythic imagination, he has worked closely alongside Robert Bly, Coleman Barks, Gioia Timpanelli, and Daniel Deardorff. He is currently working on two new books whilst employing a busy schedule of teaching in both the U.S. and U.K. He lives with his family in Dartmoor National Park in Devon, England.

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From the Back Cover

This comprehensive introduction to the study of war and genocide presents a disturbing case that the potential for slaughter is deeply rooted in the political, economic, social and ideological relations of the modern world. Most accounts of war and genocide treat them as separate phenomena. This book thoroughly examines the links between these two most inhuman of human activities. It shows that the generally legitimate business of war and the monstrous crime of genocide are closely related. This is not just because genocide usually occurs in the midst of war, but because genocide is a form of war directed against civilian populations. The book shows how fine the line has been, in modern history, between ‘degenerate war’ involving the mass destruction of civilian populations, and ‘genocide’, the deliberate destruction of civilian groups as such. Written by one of the foremost sociological writers on war, War and Genocide has four main features: · an original argument about the meaning and causes of mass killing in the modern world; · a guide to the main intellectual resources – military, political and social theories – necessary to understand war and genocide; · summaries of the main historical episodes of slaughter, from the trenches of the First World War to the Nazi Holocaust and the killing fields of Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda; · practical guides to further reading, courses and websites. This book examines war and genocide together with their opposites, peace and justice. It looks at them from the standpoint of victims as well as perpetrators. It is an important book for anyone wanting to understand – and overcome – the continuing salience of destructive forces in modern society.

About the Author

Professor of International Relations and Politics, University of Sussex

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Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom in the wide extent to which they kill their own kind. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars War and Genocide is a gender biased read 12 April 2005
By Reading against the grain - Published on
Martin Shaw , according to the previous reviewer - "(rightly) dismisses psychological and sociological explanations about why one group commits genocide over another". In doing so, his study has become majorly flawed when it comes to women, and sexual minorities. Shaw discards "feminist interpretations" of rape during war time, adding that "more men are killed then women", where the real 'gendricide' to war can be noted. From the experience of Albania to all war, women are raped "to humilitate menfolk", according to Shaw. This does strike a note of 'psychological explanation' but is the only one that Shaw takes into account. Homosexuals murdered by the Nazi's are briefly mentioned as well as heterosexual women, lesbians and gays serving in the military. Shaw's minority and gender "asides" are conspicuous in what they say as well as don't say. As such, read against the grain of this recent study.

Other generalizations: Sweden is referred to as an 'international' peace culture' because Shaw has adoped the myth of 'war time neutrality' here without the benefit of new research. "Left wing journalists" are presented in quotation marks to disclaim them as a group. Shaw's bias against feminism is notable. His study is an example of how 'gender studies' exclude from scrutiny notable differences between men and women. His study is also framed within a fairly heteronormative perspective.

Minority and gender representation, which Shaw eliminates in his theory of 'total war' turn out to be the areas where his study falls short. Had he spent some time in illuminating these areas then dismissing or trivializing them, his study might be a better read. Since Shaw has discarded them, the study is biased in its attempts to free itself from psychological profile - at the expense of women and minorities.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An explanation of Genocide that makes sense 4 Aug 2004
By J. E Hoffman - Published on
After a genocide occurs, people always ask, "How could this happen?" Martin Shaw provides an answer that is simple, insightful and chilling.

Martin Shaw's premise is that war has devolved from "total war" where the entire state (both soldiers and civilians) are at war against an enemy to "degenerative war" where both soldiers and innocent civilians of the enemy state are treated as compatants to "genocide" where innocent civilians are perceived as the enemy and treated as combatants. It is no coincidence that genocide and war go hand-in-hand. The Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge killing fields, East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur... all of these atrocities occured in the midst of war. Even in Stalin's purges and Mao's "Cultural Revolution" and "Great Leap Forward" the pretext for mass-killing was a kind of civil war against perceived enemies of the state.

Shaw (rightly) dismisses psychological and sociological explanations about why one group commits genocide over another. (i.e., there was something deep in the German psyche that caused the Holocaust) Instead he treats genocide as a natural by-product of autocratic states that produce and mobilize machines for mass killing, then turn those machines against a group of unarmed civilians.

The book can be a bit repetitive at times in stating the case, but all-in-all an excellent introduction to the subject of genocide.
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