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What is Genocide?

ISBN: 978-0-7456-3183-7
232 pages
February 2007, Polity
What is Genocide? (0745631835) cover image
In this intellectually and politically potent new book, Martin Shaw proposes a way through the confusion surrounding the idea of genocide. He considers the origins and development of the concept and its relationships to other forms of political violence. Offering a radical critique of the existing literature on genocide, Shaw argues that what distinguishes genocide from more legitimate warfare is that the enemies targeted are groups and individuals of a civilian character. He vividly illustrates his argument from a wide range of historical episodes, and shows how the question 'What is genocide?' matters politically whenever populations are threatened by violence.

This compelling book will undoubtedly open up vigorous debate, appealing to students and scholars across the social sciences and in law. Shaw's arguments will be of lasting importance.
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  • Contents
  • Preface
  • 1 The Sociological Crime
  • Social classification and genocide
  • Studying genocide?
  • Disciplining the study
  • Sociology and the sociological crime
  • Revisiting concepts and classification
  • 2 Neglected Foundations
  • Genocide as social destruction and its connections with war
  • Lemkin's sociological framework
  • Genocide and the laws of war
  • Separation of genocide from war
  • Narrowing genocide to physical destruction
  • A new definition
  • 3 The Maximal Standard
  • The significance of the Holocaust
  • Holocaust ‘uniqueness’
  • The Holocaust standard in comparative study
  • Holocausts and genocides
  • 4 The Minimal Euphemism
  • The substitution of 'ethnic cleansing' for genocide
  • Origins of 'cleansing' terminology
  • 'Cleansing' and genocide
  • 'Non-genocidal' expulsions: the case of the Germans
  • Connections between post-war 'cleansing' and the Holocaust
  • Peaceful, legal 'transfers' and 'exchanges'?
  • The territorial dimension
  • 5 Conceptual Proliferation
  • The many 'cides' of genocide
  • New frameworks: murderous cleansing and democide
  • Ethnocide and cultural genocide
  • Gendercide
  • Politicide
  • Classicide
  • Urbicide
  • Auto-genocide
  • Genocide as a framework
  • 6 From Intentionality to a Structural Concept
  • Social action, social relations and conflict
  • Intention in the light of a sociology of action
  • Limits of intentionality
  • Social relations and a structure of conflict
  • 7 Elements of Genocidal Conflict
  • Social groups, destruction and war
  • Social groups in genocide
  • The destruction of groups
  • Genocide as war
  • 8 The Missing Concept of Genocide Studies
  • The civilian category and its social meaning
  • The civilian enemy
  • Civilians in international law
  • The social production of civilians
  • Civilians, combatants and social stratification
  • Civilian resistance and genocidal war
  • 9 Explanations
  • From modernity to warfare
  • Types of genocide
  • Modernity
  • Culture and psychology
  • Economy
  • Politics
  • Warfare
  • Domestic and international
  • The Relevance of Conceptual Analysis
  • Genocide in 21st century politics
  • New historic conditions for genocide?
  • Contemporary challenge: the case of Darfur
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Martin Shaw, Professor of International Relations and Politics, University of Sussex
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  • Book on a timely topic by an author of international standing.
  • Really gets to grips with the conceptual issues around genocide - others focus mainly on legal issues or historical material
  • Argument is vividly illustrated from a wide range of recent and historical episodes, including Darfur, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia.
  • Looks at wide range of political violence, helping the book to appeal more widely.
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    "This book is rigorous and robust and puts forth a compelling case ... Shaw's idea of genocide as a form of warfare is rich, compelling and important."
    Alex J. Bellamy, International Affairs

    "Its contribution as a text that might be useful pedagogically is beyond question."
    British Journal of Sociology

    "Martin Shaw argues that genocide studies have mistakenly focused on the intentions of the perpetrators and the identities of the victims rather than on the structure of conflict situations. He wants us to return closer to Raphael Lemkin s original definition of genocide, which focused on attacks by the armed on the unarmed. Genocide, Shaw says, is a form of war directed against civilians. Whether we will all agree on how to define terms like 'genocide' or 'ethnic cleansing', his book is a model of conceptual clarity and cogent argument, a valuable addition to the literature, greatly assisting our understanding of genocide."
    Michael Mann, University of California, Los Angeles

    "By re-examining the sources of the genocide concept in the thought of its inventor, Raphael Lemkin, in light of classical and contemporary social theory, Martin Shaw is able to correct the cumulative distortions in definition and analysis of earlier practitioners of 'genocide studies', thereby making genocide a viable category with which to understand perhaps the most disturbing aspects of the past and present world. Scholars in the field will welcome his intelligent discussion of the issues even where they may differ in emphasis."
    Dirk Moses, University of Sydney

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