Notes: Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman

Chapter 4: The Uniqueness and Normality of the Holocaust

- Holocaust was as much a product, as it was a failure, of modern civilization.

- The German state annihilated six million Jews. At the rate of 100 per day this would have required nearly 200 years. People can be manipulated into fury, but fury cannot be maintained for 200 years. A lynch mob is an unreliable instrument of annihilation; it can sometimes be moved by sympathy.

- Thorough, comprehensive, exhaustive murder required the replacement of the mob with a bureaucracy, the replacement of shared rage with obedience to authority. The requisite bureaucracy would be effective whether manned by extreme or tepid anti- Semites, considerably broadening the pool of potential recruits; it would govern the actions of its members not by arousing passions but by organizing routines.

- Motives for mass murder have been many and varied. They range from pure, cold-blooded calculation of competitive gain, to equally pure, disinterested hatred or heterophobia. Most communal strifes and genocidal campaigns against aborigines lie comfortably within this range. If accompanied by an ideology, the latter does not go much further than a simple "us or them" vision of the world. Truly modern genocide is different. Modern genocide is genocide with a purpose. Getting rid of the adversary is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end: a necessity that stems from the ultimate objective, a step that one has to take if one wants ever to reach the end of the road. The end itself is a grand vision of a better, and radically different, society. Modern genocide is an element of social engineering, meant to bring about a social order conforming to the design of the perfect society.

- Stalin's and Hitler's victims were killed because they did not fit, for one reason or another, the scheme of a perfect society. Their killing was not the work of destruction, but creation. They were eliminated, so that an objectively better human world--more efficient, more moral, more beautiful--could be established.

- From the fact that the Holocaust is modern, it does not follow that modernity is a Holocaust. The Holocaust is a by-product of the modern drive to a fully designed, fully controlled world, once the drive is getting out of control and running wild. Most of the time, modernity is prevented from doing so. Its ambitions clash with the pluralism of the human world; they stop short of their fulfillment for the lack of an absolute power absolute enough and a monopolistic agency monopolistic enough to be able to disregard, shrug off, or overwhelm all autonomous, and thus countervailing and mitigating, forces.

- What in fact has happened in the course of the civilizing process, is the redeployment of violence, and the redistribution of access to violence. Like so many other things which we have been trained to abhor and detest, violence has been taken out of sight, rather than forced out of existence. It has become invisible, that is, from the vantage point of narrowly circumscribed and privatized personal experience. It has been enclosed instead in segregated and isolated territories, on the whole inaccessible to ordinary members of society; or evicted to the "twilight areas", off-limits for a large majority (and the majority which counts) of society's members; or exported to distant places which on the whole are irrelevant for the life-business of civilized humans.

- Violence has been turned into a technique. Like all techniques, it is free from emotions and purely rational.

- Use of violence is most efficient and cost-effective when the means are subjected to solely instrumental-rational criteria, and thus dissociated from moral evaluation of the ends. The dissociation is by and large and outcome of two parallel processes, which are both central to the bureaucratic model of action. The first is the meticulous functional division of labour (as additional to, and distinct in its consequences, from linear graduation of power and subordination); the second is the substitution of technical for a moral responsibility.

- Dehumanization starts at the point when, thanks to the distantiation, the objects at which the bureaucratic operation is aimed can, and are, reduced to a set of quantitative measures. Reduced, like all other objects of bureaucratic management, to pure, quality-free measurements, human objects lose their distinctiveness.

- Contrary to widespread opinion, bureaucracy is not merely a tool, which can be used with equal facility at one time for cruel and morally contemptible, at another for deeply humane purposes. Even if it does move in any direction in which it is pushed, bureaucracy is more like a loaded dice. It has a logic and a momentum of its own. It renders some solutions more, and other solutions less, probable.

- Bureaucracy is programmed to seek the optimal solution. It is programmed to measure the optimum in such terms as would not distinguish between one human object and another, or between human and inhuman objects. What matters is the efficiency and lowering of costs of their processing.

- Bureaucracy did not hatch the fear of racial contamination and the obsession with racial hygiene. For that it needed visionaries, as bureaucracy picks up where visionaries stop. But bureaucracy made the Holocaust. And it made it in its own image.

- In the absence of traditional authority, the only checks and balances capable of keeping the body politic away from extremities can be supplied by political democracy. The latter is not, however, quick to arrive, and it is slower still to take root once the hold of the old authority and system of control had been broken--particularly if the breaking was done in a hurry.

- In most cases, even the most profound blows to traditional authorities in pre-modern societies differed from modern upheavals in two crucial aspects; first, they left the primeval, communal controls of order intact or at least still viable; and second, they weakened, rather than strengthened the possibility of organized action on a supracommunal level, as the social organization of the higher order fell apart and whatever exchange was left between localities was once again subjected to a free play of uncoordinated forces.