The Act as IdeaUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
The term "genocide"—"group killing"—which first appeared in Raphael Lemkin's 1944 book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, had by 1948 established itself in international law through the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Since then the charge of genocide has been both widely applied but also contested. In Genocide: The Act as Idea, Berel Lang examines and illuminates the concept of genocide, at once articulating difficulties in its definition and proposing solutions to them. In his analysis, Lang explores the relation of genocide to group identity, individual and corporate moral responsibility, the concept of individual and group intentions, and the concept of evil more generally.
The idea of genocide, Lang argues, represents a notable advance in the history of political and ethical thought which proposed alternatives to it, like "crimes against humanity," fail to take into account.
The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
PART I: BETWEEN GENOCIDE AND "GENOCIDE"'
1. The Evil in Genocide
2. Genocide and Comparative Evil: Counting Victims, Numbers, Degrees
3. Disputing ''Genocide'': Issues of Uniqueness and Group-Identity
4. The Pushback and Its Search for a Replacement
PART II: GENOCIDE AS PAST AND PRESENCE
5. "Genocide'' and ''Holocaust'': Language as History
6. Raphael Lemkin, Unsung Hero: Reparation
7. From Genocide to Group-Rights
8. Arendt on the Evil in Genocide: Banality's Depths
"Even after all that has already been said, both by himself and others, Berel Lang offers an original analysis of the historical phenomenon (genocide) and of the concept ('genocide'). Lang disarms his opponents with an effortlessness that is at once engaging and endearing, the work of a philosopher, historian, and rhetorician very much in his prime. This is a work of conceptual history of the highest order."—Reviews in Religion and Theology
"What distinguishes Berel Lang's work is its rare combination of philosophical sophistication and nuance coupled with what can only be called moral sensitivity."—Michael L. Morgan, University of Toronto