Magazine article New Internationalist

[States of Denial]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[States of Denial]

Article excerpt

States of Denial

by Stanley Cohen

(Polity ISBN 0 7456 2392 1 )

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. His answers involve psychological and sociological theories which he leads us through with calm expertise. As a child in South Africa, Cohen questioned apartheid, wondering why 'our family had been allocated black men and women as domestic servants'. Moreover, he wondered why everyone else wasn't wondering this as well. A continuing interest in the mental processes which allow people to commit, observe and indeed endure cruelty eventually resulted in a comprehensive, passionate, witty, engaging and disturbing investigation into the different forms of denial. …

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