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The Geometry of Genocide

A Study in Pure Sociology
Bradley Campbell

BUY Cloth · 272 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813937410 · $39.50 · Oct 2015
BUY Ebook · 272 pp. · ISBN 9780813937427 · $39.50 · Oct 2015

In The Geometry of Genocide, Bradley Campbell argues that genocide is best understood not as deviant behavior but as social control—a response to perceived deviant behavior on the part of victims. Using Donald Black’s method of pure sociology, Campbell considers genocide in relation to three features of social life: diversity, inequality, and intimacy. According to this theory, genocidal conflicts begin with changes in diversity and inequality, such as when two previously separated ethnic groups come into contact, or when a subordinate ethnic group attempts to rise in status. Further, conflicts are more likely to result in genocide when they occur in a context of social distance and inequality and when aggressors and victims cannot be easily separated.

Campbell applies his approach to five cases: the killings of American Indians in 1850s California, Muslims in 2002 India and 1992 Bosnia, Tutsis in 1994 Rwanda, and Jews in 1940s Europe. These case studies, which focus in detail on particular incidents within each instance of genocide, demonstrate the theory’s ability to explain an array of factors, including why genocide occurs and who participates. Campbell’s theory uniquely connects the study of genocide to the larger study of conflict and social control. By situating genocide among these broader phenomena, The Geometry of Genocide provides a novel and compelling explanation of genocide, while furthering our understanding of why humans have conflicts and why they respond to conflict as they do.


This book offers a comprehensive perspective on the sociological study of genocide through the lens of ‘pure sociology’ and the theory of social geometry. It is insightful and duly provocative, discussing an important topic and employing a sociological method that rightly has gained considerable attention. The approach of pure sociology shows its value best when it is able to reveal what others have not yet seen.

Mathieu Deflem, University of South Carolina, author of The Policing of Terrorism: Organizational and Global Perspectives

An enduring and eloquent contribution to the tradition of pure sociology, this book is valuable for the author’s careful accumulation of the details of the various genocides described herein, but also his explanation of why certain conditions that perhaps could have caused genocides—such as those during the era of Jim Crow in the United States—did not lead to them. A clear and engaging work.

James J. Chriss, Cleveland State University, author of Social Control: An Introduction

Despite the understandable temptation to view genocide through a moral lens, Bradley Campbell’s exceptional book— The Geometry of Genocide: A Study in Pure Sociology—pursues a dispassionate scientific agenda.... Campbell’s well-written and meticulously researched book should be read by sociologists of violence, but also by any sociologist who is interestedin a model of how value-free social science—even on a topic as disturbing as genocide—can produce unexpected and important findings.

American Journal of Sociology

[T]he Geometry of Genocide is a valuable addition to the theories on genocide that currently exist. It offers a way of examining genocide in its social setting....Campbell ends his book on a hopeful note. As the peoples of the world increasingly rely on each other and close the social distance, 'genocide is destined for annihilation'." I fervently hope Campbell is right on this point.

Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

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