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Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century [Paperback]

by Benjamin A. Valentino
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 8, 2005 0801472733 978-0801472732 1

Benjamin A. Valentino finds that ethnic hatreds or discrimination, undemocratic systems of government, and dysfunctions in society play a much smaller role in mass killing and genocide than is commonly assumed. He shows that the impetus for mass killing usually originates from a relatively small group of powerful leaders and is often carried out without the active support of broader society. Mass killing, in his view, is a brutal political or military strategy designed to accomplish leaders' most important objectives, counter threats to their power, and solve their most difficult problems.

In order to capture the full scope of mass killing during the twentieth century, Valentino does not limit his analysis to violence directed against ethnic groups, or to the attempt to destroy victim groups as such, as do most previous studies of genocide. Rather, he defines mass killing broadly as the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants, using the criteria of 50,000 or more deaths within five years as a quantitative standard. Final Solutions focuses on three types of mass killing: communist mass killings like the ones carried out in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia; ethnic genocides as in Armenia, Nazi Germany, and Rwanda; and "counter-guerrilla" campaigns including the brutal civil war in Guatemala and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Valentino closes the book by arguing that attempts to prevent mass killing should focus on disarming and removing from power the leaders and small groups responsible for instigating and organizing the killing.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In this brilliant study of genocides and mass murders, Valentino analyzes conditions leading to such monstrous crimes based on more than eight cases. . . . Valentino's extraordinary scholarship provides a challenge to conventional wisdom about what can and should be done about genocide."—Choice



"In trying to make sense of such violence, scholars have tended to look within societies: at collective psychology, ethnic and racial hatred, and the character of government. In this astute and provocative study, Valentino argues instead that leaders, not societies, are to blame. In most cases, he finds that powerful leaders use mass killing to advance their own interests or indulge their own hatreds, rather than to carry out the desires of their constituencies. . . . Valentino cleverly notes that if mass killing is not deeply rooted in society but a tactic of state power, the rest of the world has fewer excuses for inaction."—Foreign Affairs



"Valentino's analysis is flawless. His empirically rooted case studies are appropriate and interpretive strategies rigorous."—Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism



"I find Final Solutions to be superb—even brilliant—in its consideration of the mass killing that took place in the bloody twentieth century. Benjamin Valentino's reasoning is tight, his care with nuance and definition is exemplary, his exploration of the literature is both deep and amazingly broad, and his conclusions are stunning, unconventional, provocative, and convincingly developed."—John Mueller, Ohio State University



"Final Solutions deftly focuses on the responsibility of the strategic calculations of political leaders for mass killing in the twentieth century. By examining a wide selection of cases, including a number in which large-scale massacres and genocide did not occur, Benjamin A. Valentino is able to test his ideas about the prevention of one of humanity's most dire problems."—Norman M. Naimark, author of Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe

From the Inside Flap

"I find Final Solutions to be superb—even brilliant—in its consideration of the mass killing that took place in the bloody twentieth century. Benjamin Valentino’s reasoning is tight, his care with nuance and definition is exemplary, his exploration of the literature is both deep and amazingly broad, and his conclusions are stunning, unconventional, provocative, and convincingly developed."—John Mueller, Ohio State University

"Final Solutions deftly focuses on the responsibility of the strategic calculations of political leaders for mass killing in the twentieth century. By examining a wide selection of cases, including a number in which large-scale massacres and genocide did not occur, Benjamin A. Valentino is able to test his ideas about the prevention of one of humanity's most dire problems."—Norman M. Naimark, author of Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe


Product Details

  • Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (December 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801472733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801472732
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A final solution for "final solutions"? November 9, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book provides an excellent, important study of genocide and similar episodes of mass murder by government of its own people. Valentino classifies mass murder campaigns into six types, of which the most important are Communist, ethnic, and anti-guerrilla (elimination not only of combatants but of all possible supporters thereof, during civil unrest). This somewhat underestimates the world's complexity; fascist regimes, notably, massacred not only Jews and other ethnic groups, but homosexuals, socialists, handicapped persons, mentally ill, dissidents of every sort, and even modernist artists. Still, Valentino's typology, and especially his explanations of it, are useful. Valentino also shows that leaders invoke mass murder when they feel threatened. War, economic collapse, consolidation of the regime, or sheer paranoia can turn a ruling group's minds to mass murder. Conversely, a good growing economy in time of peace seems to mollify even the sourest dictator; he cites China since Mao and the USSR after Stalin, when Mao's and Stalin's lieutenants--often their actual hatchet-men--ran much less bloody governments.

The most important argument in the book is that genocide and mass killing are usually invoked by one leader or a very small ruling group. These "final solutions" are not often popular with the masses. This may or may not be true, and will provoke controversy. We have the cases of China and the USSR; but we also have the case of Germany, where anti-Semitic purges had occurred intermittently for centuries. For that matter, Valentino mentions the United States' extermination of many of its Native American groups; this was largely a populist matter, usually without government support (Andrew Jackson's presidency being a notable exception).
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading February 23, 2004
Format:Hardcover
Dr. Valentino lays out his thesis, analysis and ultimately his conclusions in a logical and methodical approach that is truly thought provoking. His keen insights and broad knowledge of the material is unparalleled and indisputable. Without political slant or bias, Dr. Valentino's meticulous approach to understanding the horrors of mass killings and genocide lays a firm, new foundation for taking action to prevent these atrocities in the future. This book should be required reading for foreign policy makers around the world.
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