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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible insight into the horrors of the Holocaust
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...
Published on 29 Oct 2001

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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish. Anti-sociological. Miserable.
This highly estimed sociology book is in reality totally amateurish - judged from a sociological point of view. Bauman says it himself in the book: This is not a sociological approach, he says in the book. And it truly is not sociology. Now how can it be a fine sociological book, if it is not sociology? And how can the book and Bauman judge sociology when he is clearly -...
Published 19 months ago by Lars Jorgensen


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible insight into the horrors of the Holocaust, 29 Oct 2001
By A Customer
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
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James Christie (Perth, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Modernity and the Holocaust (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars An assessment not only of the Holocaust, but also of sociology, 4 Jan 2010
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D. Morgan - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Another viewpoint on the origin of the Holocaust, 3 Aug 2012
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Ibola Knill (Leeds. UK) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good text, but not introductory to Bauman., 16 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Modernity and the Holocaust (Paperback)
This seminal work by Zygmunt Bauman has brought to the fore the unnerving truth that the Holocaust cannot simply be explained as 'evil people doing evil things' which could never happen 'here'. The main thrust of this work, depending on your interpretation, is to argue that there is an "elective affinity" between the holocaust and modernity, that is, "modern genocide is genocide for a purpose". The culmination of many factors came together which resulted in the Holocaust, but Bauman stresses time and again that the Holocaust was the logical conclusion of these multiplicities of modernity, rather than an aim of the Nazi's.

For Bauman, it was the centralization of power within the state with the aim of creating order (the use of the Gardener removing weeds is especially good, and typical of Bauman's canny use of metaphors), and the creation of the mechanisms for creating order, which made the Holocaust a possibility. These two factors, in Bauman's eyes, are intrinsically linked to modernity, and what he has described as Modernity's 'drive for order'. These two emergencies of Modernity also made possible the adiaphorization of the German people towards the Jews which produced the paralyzation of opposition needed for such acts to occur.

This text is unsettling in its insistence that we live in a society that let the Holocaust happen, and contains nothing to stop it happening again. Although, in the near 25 years since writing this, it has been argued (including by Bauman) that the concentration of power in the state with the aim to define order has faded, giving way to the logic of the market. Bauman has termed this new era the 'liquid modern', and this text does thus have some limitation regarding application in contemporary society. However, a familiarity with Bauman's later works, especially regarding liquid modernity and the 'flawed consumer', would be beneficial as one can see how the implications of Bauman's Modernity and the Holocaust are applicable today when considering how society treats the poor.

Over-all, a very good text, which is benefited by having prior knowledge of Bauman's other works. I would say if you do, this should be a definite in your book collection, however, if you don't, I'd suggest going to the library first and reading around the text.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and disturbing, 3 Dec 2007
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Dmitry Pozhidaev (Belgrade, Serbia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Modernity and the Holocaust (Paperback)
I would like to join my voice to the two previous reviewers - the book definitely deserves it. It was an academic success 15 years ago when it was published and it still remains a very significant event academically. Moreover, its impact on social thinking becomes more and more visible with time. Surely, Bauman was not the only thinker who warned about the dangers of modernity - Max Weber, for example, was concerned about modern "disenchantment" and victory of formal rationality over substantive rationality. Still, these were mostly theoretical concerns mitigated by the belief in eventual progress. The most disturbing part of Bauman's book is that progress may not be synonymous with happiness and a bright future. Using a wealth of historical material and demonstrating an outstanding erudition, Bauman showed how neatly the horrors of the Holocaust fit into what is cherished as achievements and advantages of modernity: effectiveness, efficiency, organization, predictability, etc. It is also a very powerful warning against unreserved reliance on modernity (and modern institutions) as a panacea for social diseases and outright barbarity. It is a difficult but rewarding reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting read, 9 May 2012
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this book is very thought provoking and insightful as to how and why the holocaust came about. it explores the modes of intrumental thinking and rationalization. i needed it for my university course and it was an easy read and well explained. any philosophers out there should give it a try.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish. Anti-sociological. Miserable., 6 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Modernity and the Holocaust (Paperback)
This highly estimed sociology book is in reality totally amateurish - judged from a sociological point of view. Bauman says it himself in the book: This is not a sociological approach, he says in the book. And it truly is not sociology. Now how can it be a fine sociological book, if it is not sociology? And how can the book and Bauman judge sociology when he is clearly - and explicitly - NOT working within the sociological tradition? He cannot of course. So we have apparently new but in reality only empty judgments coming from Baumans commonsense 'ethical' standards. In fact one cannot understand anything about modernity or the holocaust not to say anything about the German people, who participated in the horrors by reading Bauman's book. So if you want to understand any of these important issues - do not read it...
This critical but true evaluation - check it out yourself - of course is not welcome to all of those, who have been using or recommending the book. But that only illustrates the sociological standards dominating the field in general. Amateurs reading and promoting amateurs not being able to sound sociological judgment about, what is great and what is amateurish sociology. Now - I have been asked to substantiate my critical judgment. So here are some more lines to explain my view.

The most fundamental idea problems - in the construction of Bauman's thesis are the following:
1) The nazi-regime is on the most defining measures a reaction to 'modernity'. Not... characteristic of modernity. That is modernity is defined by enlightenment, democracy, equal human worth, science, art etc. Nazism was against all this. Then you could say that 'bureaucracy' is a part of modernity. But you have bureaucracy in other times as well. And the reason that 'bureaucracy' went to do such bad things in the Nazi regime was exactly that all the above defining characteristics of modernity was suppressed.
2) Bauman's construction of the ethical dilemma - when a human being meets another human being and have to make a choice whether to behave ethical or not - is made without the slightest consideration of context. So you have all the German people made personally responsible for not acting ethical in their terrible fascistic context. As if you stood with the same freedom to choose to act ethically in Germany in 1940 as you do today. If you did act ethically then you would most likely risk being killed by the regime. Bauman's construction is in this respect totally without sociological understanding - that is 'context'. It is therefore a totally false construction. And a construction which makes every German human being personally responsible for everything, that happened. The real sociological truth is of course, that if you allow a society to develop with such monstrous fascist ideas, you - as a person - are almost totally powerless in regard to ethical behavior. But Bauman's book makes it totally impossible to understand such things. In fact he explicitly talks against all the known sociological understandings of the context. Therefore he in fact (absurdly) makes every person/individual responsible for everything. And so you have a book which claims to make it easier to understand, how it could happen; but actually makes it impossible to understand - and the book also makes it impossible to get the slightest idea of how to prevent something like that from happening again.

Therefore my judgment: Amateurish. Anti-sociological. Miserable.
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Modernity and the Holocaust
Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman (Paperback - 28 Nov 1991)
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