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This book is about history and morality in the twentieth century. It is about the psychology which made possible Hiroshima, the Nazi genocide, the Gulag, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and many other atrocities. In modern technological war, victims are distant and responsibility is fragmented. The scientists making the atomic bomb thought that they were only providing a weapon: how it was used was to be the responsibility of society. The people who dropped the bomb were only obeying orders. The machinery of the political decision-taking was so complex that no one among the politicians was unambiguously responsible. No one thought of themselves as causing the horrors of Hiroshima. Jonathan Glover examines tribalism: how, in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia, people who once lived together became trapped into mutual fear and hatred. He investigates how, in Stalin's Russia, Mao's China and in Cambodia, systems of belief made atrocities possible. The analysis of Nazism explores the emotionally powerful combination of tribalism and belief which enabled people to commit acts otherwise unimaginable. Drawing on accounts of participants, victims and observers, Jonathan Glover shows that different atrocities have common patterns which suggest weak points in our psychology. The resulting picture is used as a guide for the ethics we should create if we hope to overcome them. The message is not one of pessimism or despair: only by looking closely at the monsters inside us can we undertake the project of caging and taming them.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712665414
ISBN-10: 0712665412
Format: Paperback
(233mm x 153mm x 34mm)
Pages: 480
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Jan-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » In this sober and provocative book Glover examines the atrocities of the 20th century, such as Hiroshima, Nazism, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Bosnia and all those others that are so depressingly familiar, in order to construct a kind of moral history of the period. Although these have been already extensively documented, Glover's approach is to look at the psychological causes that seem to provide a common thread. He explores the impact of increasingly sophisticated weapons on people's attitudes, finding that technological developments have facilitated a moral distancing on the part of those who develop and employ the various engines of war. Running in parallel with modern technological developments, Glover draws on the accounts of victims and perpetrators to show how potentially fatal, even primitive tendencies are also continually at work. Despite the awfulness of what he describes - and much of it inevitably makes for very grim reading - Glover remains optimistic that by understanding ourselves better we can create a better world and that, technology being now so advanced and efficient, any changes can and must come only from within and among ourselves. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Jonathan Glover

Jonathan Glover is Director of the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King's College London. his previous books include Responsibility, Causing Death and Saving Lives, What Sort of People Should There Be? and I: Philosophy and Psychology of Personal Identity. He chaired a European Commission Working Party on the ethics of assisted reproduction.

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