Friday, March 16, 2007

Featured Book - States of Denial

Stanley Cohen
States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering
Polity Press, 2001, 121.5 COH

This week's post on RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor's new blog, 'The View from the 4th Floor of John Adam Street', praised the political events of the last week in which Gordon Brown and David Cameron went head-to-head, each attempting to win points and convince the British public that theirs was the party with the best ideas on confronting climate change.

However he also warned of the danger that the environment and climate change could start to be "seen as a political fad", and pointed to sociologist Stanley Cohen's book States of Denial as an exploration of our human ability to prevent ourselves from focusing on unpleasant events as a way to protect ourselves from the psychological burden of such information.

With some further thought, many of the major political and humanitarian issues confronting the world today tempt us into a similar process. The Zimbabwean Embassy in London it situated on The Strand, almost directly opposite the rear entrance of the RSA House. The regular protects against the Mugabe regime that have been taking place there have for a long time been a reminder to us of the need for international action against injustice in Zimbabwe. Perhaps the one positive to come from the assault on opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is that it has prompted increased international pressure on the Mugabe regime, including from Great Britain.

In this context, by analysing the psychology of how we respond to terrible and tragic events, Stanley Cohen can provide great insight into the way we are prone to react, helping us overcome this tendency and alerting us to our wider social responsibility as well as the political responsibility of our governments to confront those issues that it might well be easier to shy away from.

States of Denial is available to borrow from the RSA Library.

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