This article discusses the relationship between political science and genocide, focusing on three major themes. First, it discusses the evolution of genocide studies within the discipline and expands on this. Second, it identifies seminal contributions that have emerged from some four decades of political science studies of genocide: a methodological emphasis on the comparative method, including both quantitative and qualitative studies; a move to broaden the concept of genocide using related but different terms; a theoretical emphasis on regime type; a theoretical emphasis on political leaders' decision-making calculus — more specifically, political scientists have been in the forefront of developing rationalist explanations of genocide; and a theoretical emphasis on the connections between warfare and genocide. Third, it presents some general critiques of political science approaches and suggests avenues for future research in the discipline.
A. Dirk Moses
This article describes the genocide concept of Raphael Lemkin. Genocide is a curious anomaly in the post-war regime of international humanitarian law, which is dominated by the discourse of human rights with its emphasis on individuals. It embodies the social ontology of ‘groupism’, because genocide is about the destruction of groups per se, not individuals per se. Lemkin thought that the Nazi policies were radically new, but only in the context of modern civilization. Wars of extermination have marked human society from antiquity until the religious conflagrations of early modern Europe, after which the doctrine that dominated was that war should be conducted against states rather than populations. Given that forty-nine members of his family died in the Holocaust, Lemkin's ecumenical approach to human suffering is at once astonishing and exemplary.
Paul A. Roth
This article examines what purports to be a core standing problem in the explanation of genocide — how to account for the large number of people willing to participate in mass murders. It contends that research in social psychology has already answered the question of ‘perpetrator production’. Recruiting people to be perpetrators proves to be alarmingly easy. In addition, the application of social psychology to genocide has also become entangled in an ongoing moral debate, a debate that focuses on whether an emphasis on the extrinsic predictors of behaviour fits with a sense that people should be held morally and legally responsible for the choices they make. The discussion also argues that social psychology neither casts a pall of inevitability over such events nor provides moral exculpation for those involved.
This article describes genocide as a crime of social classification, in which power-holders target particular populations for social and often physical destruction. Genocide can be described as a peculiarly sociological crime, in which the activity of social classification is perverted by pseudoscience. This articles argues argued that sociology can make central contributions to genocide studies. As a generalizing, concept-forming discipline it can help clarify the still-contested meaning of genocide and clarify some of its theoretical difficulties. Through historical-sociological work it can contribute to the comparative study of genocides. So far its contributions have been modest, but some important work has begun to overcome the sharply critical judgements of the discipline made by Zygmunt Bauman and others two decades ago.