THE CUNNING OF HISTORY: Mass Death and the American Future by Richard L. Rubenstein

THE CUNNING OF HISTORY: Mass Death and the American Future

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Rubenstein has pondered the significance of the Holocaust before (After Auschwitz, 1966) and this brief, interpretive essay represents his latest reappraisal of the meaning of extermination in the light of the Nixon regime and Watergate. The connection between the ""plumbers"" and the SS administrators of the death camps may seem far-fetched to even those Americans who saw Watergate as an ominous portent of future repression. Rubenstein, leaning heavily on Hannah Arendt and Max Weber, argues that the ""final solution"" represented the triumph of bureaucratic organization applied to the problem of surplus or redundant populations; his fear is that overpopulation and shrinking world resources are likely to make ""administrative massacre"" a commonplace in the years to come. The first step toward death, he contends, comes when a group of people is bureaucratically ""redefined"" to exclude it from citizenship--as the Germans did with the Jews. Stateless or denaturalized people are most likely to become nonpersons. Rubenstein argues cogently that this phenomenon develops hand in hand with the march of civilization toward greater rationalization. Thus the ""bureaucratic terror"" of the Nixon regime which was directed at the civil liberties of dissidents could become a first step toward segregating and condemning a pariah underclass to annihilation. An extreme argument but not one without some historical plausibility.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row