Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Actors of Genocide and Processes of Deviantization: A Weberian Ideal Typical Formulation

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Actors of Genocide and Processes of Deviantization: A Weberian Ideal Typical Formulation

Article excerpt

Abstract

Many authors have proposed different definitions of genocide. This article discusses the concept of the actor of genocide embedded in such definitions. Two groups of authors are distinguishable: 1) authors who have an explicit specification of the actor of genocide in their genocide definitions and 2) authors without an explicit clarification of the actor of genocide in their genocide definitions (using either the word perpetrator or any other general expression/or no expression at all). After discussing genocide definitions, the article develops the concept of "deviantization" as an additional detection of actors of genocide. A process of deviantization is a process which labels a person or group of persons and/or their behavior as deviant and/or criminal. In this article, we define a process of deviantization as a Weberian ideal type.

Key words: process of deviantization, ideal type, genocide definitions, actor of genocide

Introduction

A systematic treatment of a subject such as genocide should pay attention to conceptual issues (Moshman, 2001). How can we define a concept like genocide? In their attempts to describe and explain it, many authors have proposed different definitions (see for example: Straus, 2001; Shaw, 2007), in which two types of conceptual structures are distinguishable: formal and prototypical conceptual structures (Moshman, 2001; Goertz, 2006).

Formal concepts exist in two types. The first type utilizes necessary and sufficient conditions. An example of such is the definition of a square: a square is a figure with four equal sides and four equal angles of 90 degrees. 'Necessary and sufficient conditions' entail a conceptual structure in the form of "if and only if n characteristics are present" (Goertz, 2006, p. 36). The second type of formal concept is the family resemblance concept. An example of this type is the concept of 'welfare state'. A welfare state may be defined by the number of qualitatively different services a 'state' provides its civilians. The analyst may decide that four out of six services is sufficient to speak of a welfare state. He or she may also decide that it does not matter which one of six services have to be present. The 'family resemblance' conceptual structure uses the form of "if m of n characteristics are present" (Goertz, 2006, p. 36).

Besides formal concepts, we distinguish a second major conceptual structure that being, the prototypical conceptual structure. A prototypical concept has fewer clear boundaries than formal concepts. It is defined according to the characteristics of a phenomenon presumed to be prototypical for a broader set of phenomena. To describe prototypical concepts, Moshman gives the example of robins and ostriches. Although they are both birds, people view robins as more birdlike than ostriches.

Although a mixture of both conceptual structures and their subtypes is possible, it is preferable to use formal concepts in scientific research. Such constructs have relatively clearer conceptual boundaries than prototypical concepts.1 In what follows, we therefore focus on the use of formal concepts in genocide studies.

There has been substantial discussion concerning the definition of genocide.2 For example, Straus identified five different constitutive elements in a review article: intentional group destruction as a core idea, intention, the mode of destruction, the actor of destruction and the victim of destruction (Straus, 2001).3 However, as of this writing there is no separate review article in the literature that entirely focuses on the conceptualization of the actor of genocide. This article therefore aims to fill that gap. After discussing the definitions of genocide, we develop the concept of "deviantization" as an additional detection of actors of genocide.4 We don't argue that the concept of deviantization replaces or is an alternative to the concept of genocide.

Lemkin and the actor of genocide

According to Lemkin, who coined the concept in 1944, genocide is "the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group" (Lemkin, 1944, p. …

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