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Why Not Kill Them All?: The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder Hardcover – August 6, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (August 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691092966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691092966
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2006

"Few university-press books organize a topic so persuasively that, in a just world, they should contribute to the founding of a discipline, or at least a staple course. Why Not Kill Them All? does just that. As the children of foreign elites attend our universities, the thought that they might read this book, or take such a course, comforts. It does not completely reassure. Chirot and McCauley offer important wisdom--that is, when you think about mass murder rationally."--Carlin Romano, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Daniel Chirot and Clark McCauley, in their superbly written book, rhetorically ask why a dominant group with overwhelming power would engage in genocide of its weaker rivals, and having established reasons for fratridcidal frenzies, they proceed to lay out measures that could prevent such human rights catastrophes."--Dipak Gupta, Political Science Quarterly

"Well written, interesting, informative, and balanced. Students in an introductory course in ethnic conflict in sociology, political science, or social psychology will find it helpful."--Djordje Stefanovic, Canadian Journal of Sociology

"The greatest strength of Why Not Kill Them All? is its broad historical literacy, drawing examples from the Bible, eleventh-century England, czarist Russia, nineteenth-century United States, and well-known cases from the last century. Chirot also displays deep personal knowledge of the violent, interethnic dynamics in the less bloody but more recent civil war in Ivory Coast."--Alan J. Kuperman, Perspectives on Politics

"Daniel Chirot's professional role as a professor of sociology and international studies places him in an excellent position to examine the patterns of mass violence. Similarly, Clark McCauley's study of ethnic conflict and work as a psychology professor provide a necessary lens through which to view and analyze the prevention of mass murder. The perspectives of this book add pertinent insight to the existing literature on genocide."--Rachel Ray Steele, International Journal on World Peace

From the Inside Flap

"Why Not Kill Them All? is an excellent book that adopts a fresh and complex approach to the problem of mass killings. In a study that ranges widely around the globe and through history, Chirot and McCauley demonstrate that genocides and other large-scale atrocities are relatively rare events. The human capacity for evil is deep-seated, the authors argue, but so is our inclination to settle conflicts amicably. The ties that bind us together are at least as strong as the forces that always threaten to rupture human connections. The challenge is to foster the social, cultural, and political tendencies that lead to cohesion rather than conflict. In their conclusion, the authors develop a set of powerful recommendations that students, policymakers, and concerned citizens will all want to consider."--Eric D. Weitz, Professor of History, University of Minnesota, author of A Century of Genocide

"In recent years a parade of social commentators has grappled with the question of the causes of mass killing and genocide. But none of these researchers have brought the breadth of historical and sociological comparison to the issue that Chirot and McCauley do. None has delved as deeply into the social psychology that rationalizes violence. A brilliant synthesis of psychology and historical sociology, this book breaks new ground in the study of mass violence. Troubling and yet hopeful, the book will appeal to specialists as well as the general reader trying to make sense of one of the most morally perplexing issues of our age."--Robert Hefner, Professor of Anthropology, Boston University

"In this wide-ranging book, Daniel Chirot and Clark McCauley make an important contribution to our understanding of genocide and other atrocities by seeking to explain why these tragic events are not more common. By posing this counterintuitive question the authors remind us that although genocide remains far more frequent than we might hope, it is in fact remarkably rare compared to the innumerable motives and opportunities that exist for violence between human social groups. In uncovering the mechanisms already in place in most societies that act to mitigate such violence, they help point the way to making genocide even less common in the future."--Ben Valentino, Dartmouth College, author of Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century

"A magisterial achievement. This book shows in detail how institutions and policies explain the miraculous postwar recovery and the subsequent economic growth of Western Europe, how they flavored the economic experience of different countries, and how they determined and shaped the nature of coordination and cooperation among the European economies. It is deeply learned, using a huge variety of sources and data, always informed about the facts and at the same time based on sound economic analysis."--Joel Mokyr, Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Economics and History, Northwestern University, author of The Gifts of Athena

"In their new book, Chirot and McCauley bring to bear on the issue of mass murder a rich ethnographic literature dealing with the ubiquitous subject of violence in society. In particular, they draw the attention of readers to various institutions and practices that emerged in collective life to control violence. Why Not Kill Them All? is bound to become a standard text in university classes addressing the subject of genocide and mass political murder."--Jan T. Gross, author of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Isaksson on March 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I only had to so much as glance on the title of this book, Why Not Kill Them All?, to decide that I had to read it, no matter what. The art of warfare and mankind's quite unbelievable skill and capacity to stubbornly refuse killing and slaughtering his fellow man has fascinated, as well as frightened me, as far back as I can remember. And even though I've tried, in so many different ways and for such a very long time, I still fail miserably trying to get a real sense of understanding of these people, how and what these men (and women and children) who are more than happy to go to war and kill whoever has been designated as the "enemy" actually think about their own actions.

I've never killed anyone, let alone been in a fight, but yeah, of course I've wondered what it's like to take someone else's life. Just do the actual deed. Experience how it feels.

And how you rationalize it. Because if you look at it in an extremely cynical and simplified way, this act - this deliberate eradication of the life of a dissident - is nothing but an act of supreme childishness and needlessness. To even begin to think how someone in a split second can be both willing and eager to take someone else's life as easy as snapping one's fingers truly boggles my mind again and again.

How can this be? Is it too much to simply classify someone as mentally insane if he or she believes an act of murder (warfare included, which is really just legalized mass murder) can ever be justified and/necessary? After all, there is no method of problem-solving as definitive as killing. And shouldn't Homo sapiens, the only animal with an awareness of the notion of how everything in the end must finally die, at this day and age be able to solve any problem whatsoever without resorting to killing?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on February 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book tells us plenty about mass murder.

Of course, as the authors say, there are plenty of reasons not to "kill them all." Namely, they are like us. And, I might add that what goes around can come around.

But there are instances of mass murder as well as smaller incidents that have the same sorts of causes. We see how fear and other elements can lead to a desire to murder. We see that many soldiers in wartime can express a desire to kill enemy civilians as a matter of policy. We see how people can overcome their rather natural antipathy towards working as slaughterers. We see that many people can show a willingness to kill someone who merely makes them angry (as long as they only need to push a button or turn a knob to do it and feel that they have the authority to do so). We see the sort of propaganda that can be used to demean and dehumanize those who are intended victims.

It is clear that all sorts of people can support mass murder, out of some sort of rather basic instincts, even if they do not think of themselves as having any special overall loyalties or prejudices. One can use one's ability to reason to find excuses for one's behavior rather than to take some other course of action. And it is very common for people to refuse to even consider changing their stances on the basis of facts or logic.

Well, how does one oppose such behavior?

Chirot and McCauley have some comments on this, but they are not wildly hopeful. And I tend to agree, even though mass murder is counterproductive and unnecessary. Any group that has the ability to commit mass murder can almost always do something less extreme that has lesser long-term negative consequences for both sides. But will intelligent people agree to take facts and logic seriously?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Al on October 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a well-researched book: there are 30 pages of references, and the authors, Daniel Chirot and Clark McCauley, use them effectively.
Basically, Chirot and McCauley examine why genocide happens and suggest ways it can be prevented. They are very pessimistic: they rate the chances of more genocide in the future as likely, because the reasons genocide happens are still operative. One of their main points is the process they call "essentializing." They don't define it, so here's a dictionary definition: "essential: adj. 1) absolutely necessary; indispensable. 2)fundamental (essential principles). 3) of or constituting the essence of a person or thing. 4) (of an amino acid or a fatty acid) required by a living organism for normal growth, but not produced by the organism and therefore required in the diet. n. (esp. in pl.) a basic or indispensable element or thing. essentiality n. essentially adv."

also:"essentialism n. the belief that things have a set of characteristics which make them what they are, and that the task of science and philosophy is their discovery and expression. essentialist n. & adj."

So, I take that all to mean that Chirot and McCauley are using "essentializing" as meaning becoming prejudiced (against a particular group); ascribing particular, unflattering, qualities to all members of that group. "essentializing ...says that "they" are all alike and must be treated as a single entity." p. 206.
One of the authors, Chirot, went to Ivory Coast in April, 2003, and interviewed people about the conflict there between Northerners and Southerners.
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