Evil, morality and modernity

Franken, Lizelle (2012-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis takes Zygmunt Bauman’s book Modernity and the Holocaust as a point of departure in an attempt to show that genocides of the twentieth century are by-products of modernity, and not aberrations, as previously thought. Bauman’s work focuses on the distinctly modern nature of the Holocaust. Using the theory he develops in Modernity and the Holocaust, this thesis attempts to show, first and foremost, that the Holocaust is not the only example of modern genocide. By comparing and contrasting the Holocaust to another, more recent, genocide, namely the Rwandan genocide of 1994, it becomes clear that despite superficial differences between the two genocides, the Rwandan genocide is also a by-product of modernity. This conclusion has important implications, not only for the way in which we remember the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, but also for our understanding of evil and perpetrators of evil. Drawing on the work of Bauman and Hannah Arendt, especially with regard to the Eichmann case, chapter three investigates our traditional assumptions and expectations with regard to evil and perpetrators of evil and notes the unsettling differences between our assumptions and the modern reality. In order to truly understand the nature of perpetrators of modern genocide, it is important to look at the influence of morality on such perpetrators and the reasons why morality seems incompatible with modernity. In this regard, Haas’ book Morality after Auschwitz is of critical importance. Given the various failures and unexpected by-products of modernity, one has to wonder whether postmodernity would offer a better moral alternative to modernity. Chapter five investigates this supposition, and finds it wanting. Drawing yet again on Bauman, the notion of an ethics of responsibility is put forth as the only safeguard against modern evil.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis neem Zygmunt Bauman se boek Modernity and the Holocaust as ‘n beginpunt en probeer om te wys dat die volksmoorde van die twintigste eeu byprodukte, en nie afwykings, van moderniteit is nie. Bauman se werk fokus op die moderne eienskappe van die Holocaust. Deur gebruik te maak van die teorie wat hy in Modernity and the Holocaust ontwikkel, probeer hierdie tesis om, eerstens, te wys dat die Holocaust nie die enigste voorbeeld van ‘n moderne volksmoord is nie. Deur die Holocaust met ‘n ander, meer onlangse volksmoord, die Rwandese volksmoord van 1994, te vergelyk en te kontrasteer word dit duidelik dat ten spyte van die oppervlakkige verskille tussen die twee volksmoorde, die Rwandese volksmoord ook ‘n byproduk van moderniteit is. Hierdie gevolgtrekking het belangrike implikasies nie net vir die manier waarop ons die Holocaust en die Rwandese volksmoord onthou nie, maar ook vir die wyse waarop ons die kwaad (evil) en perpetrators of evil1 verstaan. Deur verder gebruik te maak van Bauman se werk sowel as die werk van Hannah Arendt, veral met betrekking tot die Eichmann saak, ondersoek hoofstuk drie ons tradisionele aannames en verwagtinge met betrekking tot die kwaad (evil) en perpetrators of evil en wys die onaangename verskille tussen ons aannames en die moderne realiteit uit. Ten einde werklik die aard van perpetrators van moderne volksmoord te verstaan, is dit belangirk om na die invloed van moraliteit op hierdie perpetrators of evil te kyk, asook die redes waarom moraliteit blykbaar teenstrydig is met moderniteit. Haas se belangrike boek, Morality after Auschwitz, word hier geraadpleeg. Gegewe die verskeie tekortkominge van moderniteit, moet ons wonder of postmoderniteit nie dalk ‘n beter morele alternatief bied nie. Hoofstuk vyf ondersoek hierdie stelling en vind dat postmoderniteit ook nie voldoende is nie. Laastens word Bauman weereens geraadpleeg en sy seining van ‘n etiek van verantwoordelikheid word voorgestel as die enigste beskerming teen moderne kwaad.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/20262
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