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On Inhumanity

Dehumanization and How to Resist It

David Livingstone Smith



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Oxford University Press
15 July 2020
The Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust, the lynching of African Americans, the colonial slave trade: these are horrific episodes of mass violence spawned from racism and hatred. We like to think that we could never see such evils again--that we would stand up and fight. But something deep in the human psyche--deeper than prejudice itself--leads people to persecute the other: dehumanization, or the human propensity to think of others as less than human. An award-winning author and philosopher, Smith takes an unflinching look at the mechanisms of the mind that encourage us to see someone as less than human. There is something peculiar and horrifying in human psychology that makes us vulnerable to thinking of whole groups of people as subhuman creatures. When governments or other groups stand to gain by exploiting this innate propensity, and know just how to manipulate words and images to trigger it, there is no limit to the violence and hatred that can result. Drawing on numerous historical and contemporary cases and recent psychological research, On Inhumanity is the first accessible guide to the phenomenon of dehumanization. Smith walks readers through the psychology of dehumanization, revealing its underlying role in both notorious and lesser-known episodes of violence from history and current events. In particular, he considers the uncomfortable kinship between racism and dehumanization, where beliefs involving race are so often precursors to dehumanization and the horrors that flow from it. On Inhumanity is bracing and vital reading in a world lurching towards authoritarian political regimes, resurgent white nationalism, refugee crises that breed nativist hostility, and fast-spreading racist rhetoric. The book will open your eyes to the pervasive dangers of dehumanization and the prejudices that can too easily take root within us, and resist them before they spread into the wider world.
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 185mm,  Width: 135mm,  Spine: 22mm
Weight:   294g
ISBN:   9780190923006
ISBN 10:   0190923008
Pages:   192
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter 2. Why Dehumanization Matters Chapter 3. Defining Dehumanization Chapter 4. Holocaust Chapter 5. Lynching Chapter 6. How We Do Race Chapter 7. Racism Chapter 8. Race Science Chapter 9. Essence Chapter 10. From Barbados to Nazi Germany Chapter 11. Which Lives Matter? Chapter 12. The Act of Killing Chapter 13. Morality Chapter 14. Self-Engineering Chapter 15. Ideology Chapter 16. The Politics of the Human Chapter 17. Dangerous Speech Chapter 18. Illusion Chapter 19. Genocide Chapter 20. Contradiction Chapter 21. Impurity Chapter 22. Monsters Chapter 23. Criminals Chapter 24. Varities of Dehumanization Chapter 25. Dehumanization and its Neighbours Chapter 26. Resisting c. Reading Deeper

David Livingstone Smith is Professor of Philosophy at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. He has written or edited eight books, including Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others (St. Martin's Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf award for nonfiction. His work has been translated into seven languages. David is an interdisciplinary scholar, whose publications are cited not only by other philosophers, but also by historians, legal scholars, psychologists, and anthropologists. He has been featured in several prime-time television documentaries, is often interviewed and cited in the national and international media, and was a guest at the 2012 G20 economic summit, where he spoke about dehumanization and mass violence.

Reviews for On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It

Smith's greatest strength lies in his ability to elucidate often complex notions in clear, concise terms -- as well as his lack of fear in bluntly telling the reader that we are all potentially capable of dehumanization. There is darkness in all of us -- but the point is to confront that darkness head-on. There can be no progress toward a better, more peaceful future for society without that reckoning. --Linda Roland Danil, Los Angeles Review of Books Smith's useful work serves as a solid entry-point for those grappling with the psychological and political workings of white supremacy, xenophobia, and other forms of us-versus-them thinking. --Publisher's Weekly This brilliant and powerful book is a philosophically sophisticated and prophetically courageous treatment of dehumanization, especially in regard to race. It is timely and needful in our monstrous times! Don't miss it! -- Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard University, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University On Inhumanity is a powerful exploration of the processes and consequences of dehumanization. Concerning himself with violence and the processes that motivate the extermination of 'lesser beings,' Smith pens a much-needed treatment of the constantly reemerging brutality that is seemingly endemic to the human condition... Simply put, On Inhumanity is a most appropriate confrontation with the illusions and political powers that produce sub-humanity in the 21st century. -- Tommy J. Curry, University of Edinburgh, author of The Man-Not On Inhumanity profoundly interrogates the processes that lead [or what leads] ordinary people to engage in horrific acts of violence against others. Tracing common themes across the Holocaust, lynching, and genocides, Smith identifies dehumanization--seeing human beings as subhuman creatures--as the central feature of these mass atrocities, as well as of everyday forms of racial oppression. Most compelling is that Smith refuses to conclude that dehumanization is our inevitable destiny and instead charts a course for resisting it. On Inhumanity brilliantly provides a chilling warning of repeating the past and a hopeful call to create a more humane future. -- Dorothy Roberts, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, author of Fatal Invention A chilling, comprehensive, and passionate account of dehumanisation. Smith offers a devastating reminder of the capacity of every human to treat other humans as lesser. -- Angela Saini, journalist, author of Inferior and Superior This book is firm but gentle, wise but accessible. Its reflections on our worst habits of politics are phrased in such a way that they allow us to see what better habits might be. -- Timothy Snyder, Yale University, author of On Tyranny

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