Synopses & Reviews
The first edition of Becoming Evil spoke unforgettably to a world shell-shocked by 9/11 that faced a new war on terror against members of an Axis of Evil. With this second edition, James Waller brings us up to date on some of the horrific events he used in the first edition to illustrate his theory of extraordinary human evil, particularly those from the perennially troubled Balkans and Africa, pointing out steps taken both forward and back. Nearly a third of the references are new, reflecting the rapid pace of scholarship in Holocaust and genocide studies, and the issue of gender now occupies a prominent place in the discussion of the social construction of cruelty. Waller also offers a reconfigured explanatory model of evil to acknowledge that human behavior is multiply influenced, and that any answer to the question "Why did that person act as he or she did?" can be examined at two levels of analysis-- the proximate and the ultimate. Bookended by a powerful new foreword from Greg Stanton, vice-president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, and a devastating postscript that addresses current outbreaks of genocide and mass killing, this new edition demonstrates that genocide is a problem whose time has not yet passed, but Waller's clear vision gives hope that at least we can begin to understand how ordinary people are recruited into the process of destruction.
"...offers a psychological explanation as to why some human beings are so deliberately harmful to others...A fascinating glimpse of evolutionary psychology is presented... an eyewitness account of inhumanity."--Journal of American Medicine Association
Social psychologist James Waller uncovers the internal and external factors that can lead ordinary people to commit extraordinary acts of evil. Waller offers a sophisticated and comprehensive psychological view of how anyone can potentially participate in heinous crimes against humanity. He outlines the evolutionary forces that shape human nature, the individual dispositions that are more likely to engage in acts of evil, and the context of cruelty in which these extraordinary acts can emerge. Eyewitness accounts are presented at the end of each chapter. In this second edition, Waller has revised and updated eyewitness accounts and substantially reworked Part II of the book, removing the chapter about human nature and evolutionary adaptations, and instead using this evolutionary perspective as a base for his entire model of human evil.
Political or social groups wanting to commit mass murder on the basis of racial, ethnic or religious differences are never hindered by a lack of willing executioners. In Becoming Evil
, social psychologist James Waller uncovers the internal and external factors that can lead ordinary people to commit extraordinary acts of evil.
Waller debunks the common explanations for genocide- group think, psychopathology, unique cultures- and offers a more sophisticated and comprehensive psychological view of how anyone can potentially participate in heinous crimes against humanity. He outlines the evolutionary forces that shape human nature, the individual dispositions that are more likely to engage in acts of evil, and the context of cruelty in which these extraordinary acts can emerge. Illustrative eyewitness accounts are presented at the end of each chapter. An important new look at how evil develops, Becoming Evil will help us understand such tragedies as the Holocaust and recent terrorist events. Waller argues that by becoming more aware of the things that lead to extraordinary evil, we will be less likely to be surprised by it and less likely to be unwitting accomplices through our passivity.
Table of Contents
Preface: "I Couldn't Do This to Someone"
Part 1: What Are the Origins of Extraordinary Human Evil?
Introduction: A Place Called Mauthausen
1. The Nature of Extraordinary Human Evil
"Nits Make Lice"
2. Killers of Conviction: Groups, Ideology, and Extraordinary Evil
3. The "Mad Nazi": Psychopathology, Personality, and Extraordinary Evil
The Massacre at Babi Yar
4. The Dead End of Demonization
The Invasion of Dili
Part 2: Beyond Demonization: How Ordinary People Commit Extraordinary Evil
A Model of Extraordinary Human Evil
5. The Nature of Human Nature: Our Ancestral Shadow
The Tonle Sap Massacre
6. Defining the Killers: Identities of the Perpetrators
Death of a Guatemalan Village
7. Immediate Social context: A Culture of Cruelty
The Church at Ntamara
8. Defining the "Other": Social Death of the Victims
The Safe Area of Srebrenica
Part 3: What Have We Learned and Why Does It Matter?
9. Conclusion: Can We Be Delivered from Extraordinary Evil?
Genocide Warning: Sudan