A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation. By Eric Weitz. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003. 360pp. $29.95.
Historian Eric Weitz traces themes of utopianism, racism, and nationalism through four genocidal regimes. Allotting one chapter each to the notorious Lenin/Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Milosevic regimes, Weitz traces the specific "population politics" to their historical conclusions.
Weitz's deconstruction of the concepts of race and nation are concise and effective, demonstrating the fluidity and modernity of such understandings of human differences. Notably absent from Weitz's book, however, is a clear definition of or even sustained reflection upon the idea of utopia. Weitz largely assumes his reader's familiarity with utopia, and the assumption is crippling for a reader not well-versed in Utopian theory. Moreover, the reader who is comfortable with the concept of utopia will be disappointed by the infrequency of actual applications of utopianism to these four regimes. For example, Weitz alludes to the complex juxtaposition of optimism and pessimism in these genocidal regimes without stating that such a paradox is inherently Utopian. The word utopia denotes both "a region of happiness and perfection" and "a region that exists nowhere." When nowhere is attempted somewhere, utopia becomes dystopia. The clear progression of each regime from the possibility of Utopia to the actuality of dystopia could likewise have been demonstrated, but Weitz ignores the concept of dystopia.
Weitz notes that each regime promulgated and perpetuated a specific ideology, but he fails to demonstrate the manner in which the particular ideological perspective of a regime shaped not only its participation in history but also its construction of "eternity." Each regime came to view individuals through the lens of a determining characteristic-namely, these concepts of race or nation. …