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Cruelty or HumanityChallenges, Opportunities and Responsibilities$
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Stuart Rees

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781447356974

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447356974.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

Explaining causes

Explaining causes

(p.49) 3 Explaining causes
Cruelty or Humanity

Stuart Rees

Policy Press

This chapter addresses the causes of cruelty. It covers a continuum of explanations from the banality of evil to automaton-like behaviour in bureaucracies, from pleasures derived from sadism to the cruelties fostered by selfishness. The banality thesis identifies widespread acceptance of cruelties if legitimized by states, their governments, their policies and/or by other powerful institutions. Analysis of conditioned behaviour refers largely to operators of state and non-state organizations who keep the wheels of cruelty turning, yet such personnel usually remain invisible, inaccessible, and non-accountable. Completing the cruelty puzzles requires accounts of sadistic behaviour, which is embedded as much in cultures of violence as in the pathology of any one person. The explanations overlap but have distinct characteristics. The chapter also considers cruelty driven by managerial demands for efficiency, a powerfully addictive notion which is not value neutral, and looks at the civil war between Colombian government forces and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels in Colombia.

Keywords:   cruelty, evil, sadism, selfishness, government policies, conditioned behaviour, sadistic behaviour, cultures of violence, Colombian civil war

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