Naomi Kaplan

Document Type

Book Review

First Page



Samantha Power's book examines the American political tactic of doing nothing in response to the major genocides of the twentieth century. Power argues that American leaders are apathetic in response to genocide because politicians and the general public are suffering from a failure of imagination. Since genocide involves human anguish at an enormous scale, Power's contention is that human nature would rather turn away from recognizing such horrors. While Power's argument is persuasive, this Book Review argues that the reasons for apathy in response to genocide stem from a more fundamental failure of moral and legal perspective. This Book Review analyzes the Anglo-American legal structure as an outgrowth of what Carol Gilligan refers to as an "ethic of justice." Because Anglo-American law is primarily concerned with defining and protecting individual rights, acting out of a sense of responsibility to prevent genocide can seem fraught with legal tension.