States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering

States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering Congratulations to Stanley Cohen on winning the American Society of Criminology s International Division Award for outstanding publication of for States of DenialWith images of disaster and atrocity raining down on us from every quarter, it s hard not to resort to a balming fatalism Sociologist Stanley Cohen s timely book about how people and societies deny information which is too disturbing or threatening serves as a brilliant corrective This is how scholarship should be zesty, engaged, witty, and always accessible Anne Karpf, The Observer Cohen is original, wise and essentially optimistic He looks towards a practical utopia where a deep shame of passivity would become a mobilizing norm of social life Victoria Brittain, The Guardian The sociologist Stanley Cohen, who spent many years in Israel before continuing his academic work in Britain, offers one key to why wars happen, why peace settlements do not take, and why terrible conflicts are ignored or dealt with ineffectively His new book stresses how central denial is in conflict, indeed in all human life The concept is well known, but Cohen s careful building up of the detail of denial in its many forms is truly illuminating He leads the reader to the conclusion that it is denial that is normal and an ability to see the truth and act accordingly which is rare, whether in individuals or in governments Martin Woolacott, The Guardian a brilliant and important book Anne Karpf, Jewish Chronicle Stan Cohen masterfully exposes the intricate matrix of forms of denial Artfully crafted and beautifully written, States of Denial is certainly not an easy read it forces us to confront our blind spots and rationalizations After the twentieth century no serious intellectual can afford not to tread this book and absorb Stan Cohen s profound insights TIKKUN Over a period of several decades Cohen has made a series of original and provocative contributions to the field of criminology This book offers a rich contribution to criminology of a much broader scope, onein tune with an era of increasing globalization It explores in a profound way the pervasive resistance to confronting some of the worst crimes of our time Choice In an exceptionally wide ranging treatment of the topic, Cohen s timely book traces multiple forms of the denial of distant suffering He analyses denial through through the rich literature of its expression, including cognitive psychology and psychoanalysis, social and political sources, the reports of witnesses and bystanders, legal theory and literary texts Anthony Elliott, The Australian Ignorance is bliss But Cohen knows it is not The details of denial are shocking to read but Cohen looks beyond despair towards ahonest way of living He calls it the possibility of living outside the lie , the phrase used by former Czech president Vaclav Havel This isn t easy to achieve, he concedes, but that shouldn t stop you from trying Sydney Morning Herald This is a pathbreaking and comprehensive study of how political actors, civic groups, and private citizens manage to know and not know about the atrocity and suffering around them, a rare book whose practical value for activists and officials is as great as its contribution to scholarship Eric Klinenberg, Le Monde Diplomatique It would be hard to deny that denial is ubiquitous these days, but few have tried to survey the topic as comprehensively as Cohen does here Lynne Segal, Radical Philosophy How do we deal with the unthinkable How do the perpetrators of horrors justify their actions to themselves and to society And to what extent is a bystander a perpetrator These are basic, painful questions that need to be confronted directly which is what Stanley Cohen resolutely does in this book Rating very good New Internationalist Few topics can be so painful to contemplate as the modes of avoidance we construct to protect ourselves from what we do not want to know Stanley Cohen guides us through this labyrinth in a compelling study that is cool, thorough and analytic, yet also passionate and riveting, and, remarkably, infused with sympathetic understanding for the forms of denial that are a foundation for every personal life and every society , but must be faced honestly and overcome It is an impressive achievement To read and ponder it is an unsettling experience, but a very valuable one Noam Chomsky This is an exceptionally important book, because it asks difficult and painful questions and answers them with that rare combination of tenacity and modesty which Stan Cohen has made his trade mark The question of denial is at the very centre of the question of why human beings find being virtuous so difficult States of Denial is the most rigorous attempt to analyse our various strategies of denial and I am sure that this book will become the starting point for all future debate on the subject Michael Ignatieff States of Denial is thoughtful, profound, engaging, disturbing, knowledgeable and comprehensive Cohen reveals, modestly but thoroughly, a mastery of a vast amount of scholarly and journalistic work It s a remarkable book Howard Becker as fine a product as any scholar might reasonably wish for The book is sociological while at the same time an exercise in social psychologya very good book about many things British Journal of Sociology This book presents the case history of human denial It is disturbing but gripping reading, a tonic of truth for us all Journal of Medicine,Conflict SurvivalStates of Denial deserves a wide readership It is testament of Cohen s brilliance both as a sociologist and as a writer that he manages to deal with a broad and difficult topic in a manner that is both comprehensive and deeply engaging The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice In an exceptionally wide ranging treatment of the topic, Cohen s timely book traces multiple forms of the denial of distant suffering He analyses denial through the rich literature of its expression including cognitive psychoanalysis Social and political sources, the reports of witnesses and bystanders, legal theory and literary texts The Australian A remarkable new book that hits the nail on the head page after page after page It should be compulsory reading for the political class in Northern Ireland, players of historical games and experts in whataboutery Leader This book compels readers to look at their own responses and judge their own behaviour when faced with the atrocities and suffering of others Criminal Justice Matters States of Denial presents a highly differentiated understanding that includes an appreciation of the value of denial alongside recognition of its perils, the goals of the book are excruciatingly important, and the results are a rich source of insights and concepts This is compelling moral sociology, among other things, and will be an important starting point for the future research American Journal of Sociology This is a passionate work, with a fierce commitment to humanity and to the need for societal and personal transformation to resist the denuals which permit atrocities to flourish Good for the corporate soul The Round Table The exhaustiveness of Cohen s review of cases and theories, the constant shifts and linkages between the micro and the macro level, and, above all, the rigour and insightfulness of Cohen s own theoretical framework make the book a must for social scientists More generally, the nature of the subject matter makes the book a must for any person who is willing to break free the forms of denial inherent in any society European Journal of Social Theory This is a noble tract for our times, written by a modest, honest man British Journal of CriminologyTo say that States of Denial is exceptionally important, impressive or remarkable is to understate the enormity of this book s achievement Stanley Cohen s deeply disturbing study of the ways in which people and states react to knowledge about the suffering of others is an oustanding piece of scholarship Jacqueline Tombs, Stirling University, UK This book provides an excellent introduction and exploration of the concept of denial It examines the concept of denial in such a thorough and all encompassing manner that the reader is forced to examine their own behaviours to atrocities and suffering It is easy to read and well researched Patricia Kingori, University College, London Medical Sociology News Denial is a difficult and thought provoking area Cohen certainly allows the reader to reflect on the concepts and apply them to current issues I would therefore recommend this book to professionals working with clients who are in some form of denial Dr Carol A Ireland, The Psychologist States of Denial is a quite brilliant examination of the human capacity, or incapacity, to handle disaster and tragedy Laurie Taylor, The HumanistBlocking out, turning a blind eye, shutting off, not wanting to know, wearing blinkers, seeing what we want to see these are all expressions of denial Alcoholics who refuse to recognize their condition, people who brush aside suspicions of their partner s infidelity, the wife who doesn t notice that her husband is abusing their daughter are supposedly in denial Governments deny their responsibility for atrocities, and plan them to achieve maximum deniability Truth Commissions try to overcome the suppression and denial of past horrors Bystander nations deny their responsibility to intervene Do these phenomena have anything in common When we deny, are we aware of what we are doing or is this an unconscious defence mechanism to protect us from unwelcome truths Can there be cultures of denial How do organizations like Amnesty and Oxfam try to overcome the public s apparent indifference to distant suffering and cruelty Is denial always so bad or do we need positive illusions to retain our sanity States of Denial is the first comprehensive study of both the personal and political ways in which uncomfortable realities are avoided and evaded It ranges from clinical studies of depression, to media images of suffering, to explanations of the passive bystander and compassion fatigue The book shows how organized atrocities the Holocaust and other genocides, torture, and political massacres are denied by perpetrators and by bystanders, those who stand by and do nothing

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