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The Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy After the Holocaust Paperback – 17 Jun 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; New edition edition (17 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859842291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859842294
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Geras's is a remarkable book written with passion, compassion, and a genuine belief in the possibility of a better future. He is right to prompt us into proper consideration of what has previously been ignored."--"Imprints"

"In his passionate and lucid argument about political theory after the holocaust, Geras explains his baleful titular concept: if you are unwilling to help others in their need, you cannot expect others to do the same for you. Therefore any political philosophy which neglects the primacy of human duty to bring aid is short-sighted and shameful."--"Guardian"

"Some devote considerable time and money to combating moral catastrophes, but most of us hardly do more than lift a finger. Our behavior is the subject of Norman Geras's thought-provoking new book ... Geras identifies a major gap in contemporary political philosophy."--"Times Literary Supplement"

"The skill of Geras's approach is to point to the wider implications of the Holocaust, while refusing to offer easy answers to the intractable questions it raises."--"New Statesman"

About the Author

Norman Geras is Professor of government at the University of Manchester. His other books with Verso include The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg, Marx and Human Nature and Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind.

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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Oct. 2005
Format: Paperback
The Contract Of Mutual Indifference explores the phenomenon of the Passive Bystander with reference to the Holocaust and atrocities like those in Bosnia. Geras discusses a phenomenon that reveals mankind's remarkable ability to enjoy life while ignoring the suffering of others. He observes that the road to Auschwitz was built by hate but paved with indifference.

The book becomes an investigation of the moral consequences of ignoring oppression and persecution. But it's not all abstract theory. What makes the work so readable is its compelling blend of historical analysis, human nature and philosophy. The author argues convincingly that the tragedy of the Shoa has not yet been adequately dealt with in the field of political theory.

There is no denying the reality of the contract in the title of the book. In the past 15 years the world has witnessed atrocities of genocidal intent in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur, for example. In addition, there are ongoing crimes like the modern version of slavery, the practice of torture and child labour. There does seem to be reluctance to face up to evils like these, in political philosophy and in society as a whole.

The picture that Geras gives us of the relation between perpetrator, victim and bystander is not a pretty one. He considers many angles of the phenomenon, including the human survival mechanism of blocking out unbearable thoughts.
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