Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and by Jacques Sémelin

By Jacques Sémelin

Title note: unique name Purifier et détruire
Contributor note: Stanley Hoffman [Author of creation, etc.]

How do we understand the sociopolitical approaches that provide upward push to severe violence, ethnic detoxing, or genocide? an important leap forward in comparative research, Purify and Destroy demonstrates that it truly is certainly attainable to check the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and ethnic detoxification in Bosnia-Herzegovina whereas respecting the specificities of every appalling phenomenon. Jacques Semelin achieves this, partly, via top his readers throughout the 3 examples at the same time, the unraveling of which occasionally converges yet commonly diverges.

Semelin's process is multidisciplinary, depending not just on modern historical past but in addition on social psychology and political technological know-how. in line with the seminal contrast among bloodbath and genocide, Purify and Destroy identifies the most steps of a common technique of destruction, either rational and irrational, born of what Semelin phrases "delusional rationality." He describes a dynamic structural version with, at its middle, the matrix of a social imaginaire that, responding to fears, resentments, and utopias, carves and recarves the social physique through taking out "the enemy." Semelin identifies the most levels that may result in a genocidal method and explains how traditional humans can turn into perpetrators. He develops an highbrow framework to investigate the whole spectrum of mass violence, together with terrorism, within the 20th century and ahead of. Strongly serious of today's political instrumentalization of the "genocide" proposal, Semelin urges genocide learn to face again from criminal and normative definitions and are available of age as a self-discipline in its personal correct within the social sciences.

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Additional info for Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide

Sample text

Such is precisely the aim of this first chapter. Between imaginary and real: the role of ideology. Nonetheless, we must beware of taking the above to mean that the identity of victims is pure fantasy. Indeed, if we try to grasp these phenomena solely from the standpoint of the imaginary, we might conclude that it is all an ‘illusion’, and that the victims themselves are unreal. But they are very real indeed: the Nazis did not invent the ‘Jews’, whose history is ancient, who have religious and community traditions, and so on.

That which allowed people to say ‘us’ is not there. The ‘us’ becomes a grievance, a wound, an affliction. Who can lead the group forward out of this state of crisis and offer a new perspective? It is the social and political actors who will, of course, through their discourse and actions, take charge of the collective emotions associated with this mass trauma. Such actors are said to ‘know how to 16 PURIFY AND DESTROY talk to the people’, using metaphors and symbols that resonate deeply with their own history.

It is basically a narcissistic inclination: attention is shifted toward the other only to distinguish oneself and reinforce one’s own selfesteem. Freud noted that even long-standing emotional ties such as those among families are not shielded from such crises. In general, the closer the relations between human groups, the more hostile IMAGINARY CONSTRUCTS OF SOCIAL DESTRUCTIVENESS 29 they may be towards one another. The same phenomenon can be observed between societies and nations: ‘Of two neighbouring towns each is the other’s most jealous rival; every little canton looks down upon the others with contempt.

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