This brilliantly written tome by Adam Jones delivers exactly what it promises: A comprehensive introduction to genocide. Not only does Jones prove to be an extraordinary scholar for amassing so much information, but also an excellent author for producing such a clear, insightful, and substantive text.
As you can imagine, there are many books on the subject. However, most tend to focus on specific genocides only: i.e., Darfur, Rwanda, Jewish Holocaust, etc. This book, however, seems to cover them all - at least all the major ones in recent history. Here, each genocide is examined individually by chapter and receives fair and proper treatment. Jones shows no apparent signs of favouritism or prejudice as he remains objective from start to finish. Almost every statement of fact is supported by a citation or some kind of attribution, which shows just how much research was conducted for this project. And at the end of each chapter, an impressive list of notes and selected books is offered for further study, which I'm sure readers will find very useful.
From the genocide of Native Americans to the most recent genocide in Darfur, Jones gets right down to business and discloses every essential piece of information one needs to know; the historical background, the circumstances, the atrocities, the methods in which the atrocities were committed, the identity of the perpetrators and the victims, the number of casualties, and the end result of each genocide. Not shy of addressing even the toughest questions (example: "Is genocide ever justified?" or, "Are democracies less likely to wage war and genocide...?"), Jones provides us with not only his own expertise on such matters, but also the insights of other prominent experts in the field. This gives the reader a much more balanced and multidimensional view on the complexities of genocide.
I found Chapters 10 through 16 especially informative, and fascinating at the same time. Here, the focus is on the psychological aspect of genocide: Why do "ordinary" people participate in such atrocities? How could anyone ever become so cruel and sadistic? Why would anyone even attempt to justify or deny a genocide? What's going on inside the brain of these people? I've always wanted to understand the mindset of these individuals and what motivates them to do such things, beyond the simplistic "hatred," and "brainwashed by propaganda" factors that so many authors tend to contend with. Although racism and propaganda do in fact play a significant role in genocide, there are other elements that motivate "genocidaires."
These elements, according to Jones' findings, are purely psychological. They include: Greed, Fear, Narcissism, and Humiliation. As Jones elaborates on these factors, things begin to truly unravel, especially when he introduces the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments, which I think are quite astonishing and may very well surprise some (if not most) readers. However, I would also suspect that some readers may not agree with everything stated in this book.
For example, I disagree entirely with Jones' siding with the likes of Noam Chomsky, who stood in defence of Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. As far as Jones is concerned, scum bags like Faurisson should not be punished by law for denying a genocide and for promoting outrageous propaganda. This, quite frankly, caught me off guard. I'm very surprised by that fact, considering the overall tone of this book. It really boggles my mind as to why Jones - a man so dedicated in spreading awareness about genocide - would actually tolerate the views of those that dismiss it. But thankfully, Jones does not persuade the reader into accepting his personal views, and at least he has the decency to present both sides of the argument to allow readers to form their own opinion. But as far as I'm concerned, there is a visible distinction between free speech and hate speech. Genocide denial falls into the category of hate speech, which in moral terms, should be completely outlawed.
But besides my disagreement with the author on this one particular issue, I have nothing to complain about. Jones demonstrates a high degree of professionalism and accomplishes a very difficult task in breaking down such broad subject. I would consider this book ideal for high school, college, and university students. In my opinion, this is the sort of book that belongs in every library and book store. I highly recommend it!