This paper is part of a symposium on Berel Lang’s 2016 book Genocide: The Act as Idea (University of Pennsylvania Press). While agreeing with much of Lang’s important argument about the moral significance of criminalizing genocide as a crime against groups, I raise several objections and questions. Lang ties the crime of genocide to group rights, specifically the right of groups to exist in the future; I argue that the concept of group rights obscures rather than clarifies the crime of genocide. What matters is not the rights of groups but the value of groups, both to their members and to non-members. The two leading accounts are those of Arendt and Lemkin, one pluralist and one universalist, and Lang leaves the issue dividing them unresolved. He also neglects an important objection to the criminalization of genocide, namely that placing so much emphasis on groups invites just the kind of tribalist mentality that fosters genocide. Finally, I raise doubts about Lang’s claim that anyone who commits genocide knows it is wrong.
David Luban, Group Rights, Group Intentions, and the Value of Groups, J. Genocide Res. (forthcoming)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Luban, David, "Group Rights, Group Intentions, and the Value of Groups" (2018). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2039.