Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century

Listen / Download

The evils of the 20th Century are not in doubt. Genocides of Armenians, Gypsies and Jews. A 100 million murders to achieve a workers’ paradise in the Soviet Union, in China, in Cambodia. The area bombing of German civilians, the nuclear incineration of Japanese cities. The mass rapes of Bosnian women and the machete massacres in Rwanda.

A moral history of the 20th century by the philosopher Jonathan Glover finds the root of that evil not in technology or in biology, but in ideas. Nazism, Communism, Tribalism: these were the moral culprits of the century–mechanized warfare merely the means. The sacrifice of human beings in service of a greater cause was a 20th Century theme. Lenin called it breaking eggs to make an omelet. It was Harry Truman’s line on Hiroshima, too.

How, Jonathan Glover asks, do we confront the ideas that enlisted so many people in atrocity? The philosophical seeds of Inhumanity, this hour on The Connection.

(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Jonathan Glover, Author of “Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century.