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 ), 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.