Notes: Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman

Chapter 1: Introduction: Sociology after the Holocaust

- Bauman proposes to treat the Holocaust as a rare, yet significant and reliable, test of the hidden possibilities of modern society instead of an anomaly or a new malign strain of an allegedly tamed virus (violent irrationality, which is said to have been cured by modernity and the civilizing process).

- The rules of instrumental rationality are singularly incapable of preventing Holocaust-style phenomena.

- According to Herbert C. Kelman ("Violence without Moral Restraint", Journal of Social Issues, vol. 29 [1973]), moral inhibitions against violent atrocities tend to be eroded once three conditions are met, singly or together: the violence is authorized (by official orders coming from the legally entitled quarters), actions are routinized (by rule-governed practices and exact specification of roles), and the victims of the violence are dehumanized (by ideological definitions or indoctrinations).

- The increase in the physical and/or psychic distance between an act and its consequences achieves more than the suspension of moral inhibition; it quashes the moral significance of the act and thereby preempts all conflict between personal standard of moral decency and immorality of the social consequences of the act (re: mediation of action). This tendency is enormously helped by the mere discrepancy of scale between the result and its immediate cause--an incommensurability that easily defies comprehension grounded in commonsensical experience.