Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition (Hardback)
  • Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition (Hardback)
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Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition (Hardback)

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£28.95
Hardback 416 Pages / Published: 30/11/2018
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Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History Most Americans believe that a civilized state does not resort to torture, and yet, as W. Fitzhugh Brundage reveals in this essential and disturbing study, there is a long American tradition of excusing as well as decrying its use. The pilgrims and merchants who first came to America from Europe professed an intention to create a society free of the barbarism of Old World tyranny and New World savagery. But over the centuries Americans have turned to torture during moments of crisis at home and abroad and have debated its legitimacy in defense of law and order. From the Indian wars to Civil War POW prisons and early penitentiaries, from "the third degree" in police stations and racial lynchings to the War on Terror, U.S. institutions have proven to be far more amenable to torture than the nation's professed commitment to liberty would suggest. Legal and racial inequality fostered many opportunities for state agents to wield excessive power, which they justified as essential for American safety and well-being. Reconciling state violence with the aspirations of Americans for social and political justice is an enduring challenge. By tracing the historical debates about the efficacy of torture and the attempt to adapt it to democratic values, Civilizing Torture reveals the recurring struggle to decide what limits Americans are willing to impose on the power of the state. At a time of escalating rhetoric aimed at cleansing the nation of the undeserving, as well as ongoing military involvement in conflicts around the world, the debate over torture remains a critical and unresolved part of America's tradition.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674737662
Number of pages: 416
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
An indispensable book. Even as Americans have prided themselves on a civilized standard that is above torture, the United States has actually been engaged in the practice for virtually its entire history. Brundage shows that many of U.S. history's key moments have involved torture of the most despicable kinds. Here's hoping that Brundage's book is the beginning of a new reckoning.--John Fabian Witt, author of Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History
That Americans as a people and a nation-state are violent is indisputable. That we are also torturers, domestically and internationally, is not so well established. The myth that we are not torturers will persist, but Civilizing Torture will remain a powerful antidote in confronting it.--Lawrence Wilkerson, Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy, The College of William and Mary, and former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2002-2005
A remarkable account of America's episodic engagement with torture over the course of the nation's history. Brundage uncovers 'an American tradition' marked less by legal and moral restraint than by strategies of rhetorical management designed to conserve American innocence and exceptionalism. A searing analysis of America's past that helps make sense of its bewildering present.--David Garland, author of Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition
American claims to constitute a higher form of 'civilization' erode in the face of this sobering study of atrocity. With extraordinarily deep and wide-ranging research, Fitzhugh Brundage shows that the American state has repeatedly resorted to savage violence against marginalized groups such as Indians, slaves, and prisoners. Bringing a humane sensibility to an inhumane subject, Brundage forces us to confront our painful past.--Barbara J. Keys, author of Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s
Understanding the history of torture in the United States will not prevent future violence, but Brundage views this information as providing an important framework for an engaged citizenry... Given that the current occupant of the White House has insisted that torture 'absolutely' works and has boasted he 'would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding, ' the lessons of Civilizing Torture feel positively urgent.--Australian Book Review (03/01/2019)

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