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Violence Workers: Police Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Brazilian Atrocities Paperback – November 4, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0520234475 ISBN-10: 0520234472 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (November 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520234472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520234475
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A groundbreaking work.... Its conclusions allow us to understand how state-sponsored violence is a social illness, and how easily moral boundaries can be destroyed.... Our lesson is to grasp carefully how the technique of transforming individuals into evildoers is a highly rational exercise of constructed hatred, the isolation of individuals, and the blurring of the border between duty and cruelty."-Maria Pia Lara, editor of Rethinking Evil: Contemporary Perspectives "It's rare enough that people study torturers. It's very dangerous fieldwork, demoralizing material to ponder over, and intellectually hazardous to put it together coherently. These authors do better than this: they come back with a book well worth thinking about. Thinking about torture these days is something we do less and less; one can only hope this book will be an antidote to so much thoughtlessness."-Darius Rejali, author of Torture and Modernity: Self, Society and State in Modern Iran

From the Inside Flap

"A groundbreaking work. Its conclusions allow us to understand how state-sponsored violence is a social illness, and how easily moral boundaries can be destroyed. Our lesson is to grasp carefully how the technique of transforming individuals into evildoers is a highly rational exercise of constructed hatred, the isolation of individuals, and the blurring of the border between duty and cruelty."—María Pía Lara, editor of Rethinking Evil: Contemporary Perspectives

"It's rare enough that people study torturers. It's very dangerous fieldwork, demoralizing material to ponder over, and intellectually hazardous to put it together coherently. These authors do better than this: they come back with a book well worth thinking about. Thinking about torture these days is something we do less and less; one can only hope this book will be an antidote to so much thoughtlessness."—Darius Rejali, author of Torture and Modernity: Self, Society and State in Modern Iran

"The volume disturbingly reminds us that the problem of impunity is not just one that concerns the direct torturers and murderers but also all those who are complicit in the system of impunity."—Sir Nigel Rodley, United Nations Commission on Human Rights

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By P. Willson on September 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The final chapter is all you need to read -- and it will tell you that they learned nothing that hasn't been said more succinctly and compellingly by any number of other authors. In fact, just get Suedfeld's 'Psychology and Torture,' a somewhat flawed, but far more thorough and well-founded book.

This is a tedious and repetitive -- and very superficial -- book 'researching' 23 Brazilians involved with death squads or torture squads. There are 444 officially named perpetrators; only 3 of these 23 were on that official list -- so these were not the guys known to thousands of victims as the 'real' torturers or executioners. This, in short, is a totally unrepresentative sample.

On top of that, as several opening chapters explain, they all blatantly lied about what they did do -- one fellow a little less than the others. Yet their obviously shifty descriptions of how they got into doing the things they wouldn't admit ever doing (just sort stumbled or got sucked into it, or 'arbitrarily' assigned by supervisors), or how they felt about doing it and having done it (not guilty in the slightest), are taken as legitimate data and extended to torturers and mass killers in general.

Is it possible the job assignments weren't arbitrary, but based on specific organizational selection criteria? Since the authors assign the responsibility for these poor guys being turned into murderers and torturers largely to the hierarchical structure of elite paramilitary police organizations, and to 'socio-cultural' and 'political' pressures (we can't call it fascism, for some reason), then why not consider that there is a self-selecting and/or a deliberate screening aspect?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael H. Stone, MD on August 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
An outstanding book, that took courage to put together-- telling with credibility and compassion about the torture to which the Brazilian police & military subjected citizens whom they saw as on the "wrong" side politically. The authors bring to light an evil we thought went out of fashion with the Inquisition -- but here it is again in the 20th century. They make it clear that the propensity to torture is part of the human condition, that comes out in certain times of stress -- and that, sadly, very few people or nations can resist resorting to
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Sandidge on September 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
I applaud the effort, skill, courage, and scholarship that went into this book. I found the subject captivating and the effort was obviously beyond that of most studies. For these reasons perhaps this work deserves four or even five stars. However, the language of presentation made it a bit dry. More importantly, some linkages seemed a bit forced. Perhaps it's because I'm a man or maybe because I'm not familiar with the ideas used, but the continued reference to masculinity effects seemed somewhat strained as if the main author was trying to push an agenda.

I also take issue with her categorization into bureaucratic, personalistic, and blended types of torturers. The sample of 24 alleged police torturers/murderers was too small and she seemed at times to assert that these were underlying personality categories. This part of the analysis seemed too tautological to me. Perhaps I'm being too critical given the current exploratory state of this area of scholarship.

Because of the importance of the subject matter, I categorize this book as a "must read" for anyone concerned about how civil bureaucracies can break away from public accountability and trend toward evil and the execution of the most horrendous atrocities despite being composed of "just normal men and women".
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