Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Matthew Lange's "Killing Others"

Matthew Lange is Professor of Sociology at McGill University. He recently published Killing Others: A Natural History of Ethnic Violence and is also author of Educations in Ethnic Violence, Lineages of Despotism and Development, and Comparative-Historical Methods.

Lange applied the “Page 99 Test” to Killing Others and reported the following:
Killing Others explores historical trends in ethnic violence and focuses on two questions: What caused a large increase in the global prevalence of ethnic violence over the past two centuries? How did Western Europe and North America become global leaders in ethnic peace over the past 70 years despite having been world champions of ethnic violence over the previous century? Page 99 is part of a chapter describing how states, education, and religion played important roles creating and popularizing abstract ideas of ethnic and national community. These new communities of strangers contrast starkly with the smaller communities of acquaintances that were common throughout most of human history. The chapter presents a core part of the book’s argument: The development of certain communication and organizational technologies was necessary for ethnic and national consciousnesses to spread among populations, and such consciousnesses are a necessary condition for ethnic violence. Page 99 catches the tail end of the section on religion and the very beginning of a final section describing how—once created—ethnic consciousnesses can sustain themselves without support from states, education, and religion but wax and wane in strength depending on the social context. Considering the Madox test, the page is equally split between two sections and has a big section header in the middle of the page, with insufficient information in either of the sections to know what they are really about. Taken by itself, the page therefore lacks both flow and a clear message. Ford Madox Ford’s method might therefore suggest that this is a book best left alone, so I’m hoping people either take a deeper look or try a different page.
Learn more about Killing Others at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue