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The Act as Idea

Berel Lang

224 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Cloth 2016 | ISBN 9780812248852 | $26.50s | Outside the Americas £19.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
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"Even after all that has already been said, both by himself and others, Berel Lang offers an original analysis of the historical phenomenon (genocide) and of the concept ('genocide'). Lang disarms his opponents with an effortlessness that is at once engaging and endearing, the work of a philosopher, historian, and rhetorician very much in his prime. This is a work of conceptual history of the highest order."—Reviews in Religion and Theology

"What distinguishes Berel Lang's work is its rare combination of philosophical sophistication and nuance coupled with what can only be called moral sensitivity."—Michael L. Morgan, University of Toronto

The term "genocide"—"group killing"—which first appeared in Raphael Lemkin's 1944 book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, had by 1948 established itself in international law through the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Since then the charge of genocide has been both widely applied but also contested. In Genocide: The Act as Idea, Berel Lang examines and illuminates the concept of genocide, at once articulating difficulties in its definition and proposing solutions to them. In his analysis, Lang explores the relation of genocide to group identity, individual and corporate moral responsibility, the concept of individual and group intentions, and the concept of evil more generally.

The idea of genocide, Lang argues, represents a notable advance in the history of political and ethical thought which proposed alternatives to it, like "crimes against humanity," fail to take into account.

Berel Lang, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the State University of New York, Albany, is the author among other books of Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide and, in 2013, Primo Levi: The Matter of a Life.

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