E. Tjong Tjin Tai
- The willingness of the executioners: a Foucauldian critique of Goldhagen
- European Journal of Cultural Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 3 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
This article criticizes the explanatory model of Daniel Goldhagen’s study Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Goldhagen’s argument of a German eliminationist anti-Semitism as the central cause of the Holocaust is refuted as amounting to an extreme methodological individualism. His more limited claim to have analysed the motivational cause of the Holocaust is criticized by comparing it with Hannah Arendt’s study on totalitarianism and a Foucauldian point of view. It is argued that Goldhagen has described in an almost Foucauldian way how the behaviour of the perpetrators was moulded on a micro-level, which is the merit of his book, but that his explanation of behaviour in terms of choice and meaning comes close to the - flawed - theory of the early Sartre. A socially more sensitive approach allows us to see the complicated way in which Hitler’s willing executioners were formed. An important factor was the disciplinary power which was all-pervasive in the totalitarian Nazi-state, but which is present as well in a less obtrusive manner in modern western societies.. To counter the influence of panoptical power we have to turn to the ethical self-practices in the sense of the final Foucault.
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