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Torture and Democracy

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  72 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
This is the most comprehensive, and most comprehensively chilling, study of modern torture yet written. Darius Rejali, one of the world's leading experts on torture, takes the reader from the late nineteenth century to the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, from slavery and the electric chair to electrotorture in American inner cities, and from French and British colonial prison cel ...more
ebook, 880 pages
Published June 8th 2009 by Princeton University Press (first published November 12th 2007)
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Dec 17, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently used this book as the main research text for a paper I wrote on the portrayal of torture in American film and television post-9/11. After reading it, I can only be grateful that someone like Darius Rejali exists, and that he has taken the time to write about a dark and grisly subject with such detail and insight, and ultimately, so much humility and compassion. I also kind of wished I had gone to Reed College so I could have had Dr. Rejali as a professor.

Rejali starts the book by desc
I am temporarily letting this go to do a history of why women are where they are in regard to sexual rights and experience. Jan 2011

from the library c2007 there is a newer edition
author is prof at Reed College

Table of Contents c2007

Historical Claims
Puzzles and Cautions
The Priority of Public Monitoring
Variations among States
Variations within States
National Styles of Stealth Torture
Torture and Democracy
Does Torture Work?
Who Cares?

I Tor
Sep 18, 2011 Ilya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Torture, or inflicting severe physical or mental pain and suffering on a person, is older than civilization. It has been used for enforcing the social hierarchy, for example, between the slaves and the free citizens in ancient Greece or in the antebellum American South. It has been used for punishment, for example, of runaway slaves. It has been used for extracting confessions in judicial systems that valued them too much, whether late medieval and Renaissance Inquisition, the NKVD during Stalin ...more
Corbin Dodge
This has been a long, albeit good read on the history of torture, the techniques, and it's migration. It is written more on the academic side than I first expected, but any audience should be able to grasp it. I find an annoying repetition when he describes the migration of techniques from one country to the other, which gives me an almost dejavue feeling that I've read it before (but not quite as cool).

The connection he makes between penitence and the desire for confession in Christian countri
Aug 10, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: torture
A depressing although valuable book that shows how "clean" torture techniques--those that don't leave visible scars or physically incapacitate the victim--have been the hallmark of torturers in the military and police forces in democratic nations.

Rejali documents the use of psychological torture, waterboarding and other clean methods by France, the UK, the United States and other non-totalitarian/non-authoritarian nations. In the western European countries it started with interrogations in colo
Elisabeth M
Nov 10, 2008 Elisabeth M marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
I put this book on my wish list because, though it's obviously going to be a hard read, it looks like an exceptional study of modern history via the evolution of torture. Intriguingly, the author argues that it's not the dictatorships that continuously push torture forward: it's the democracies. While dictators resort to torture more often, and less discriminately, democracies are consistently responsible for developing the most innovative torture techniques. Having begun his research for this b ...more
Steven Wedgeworth
Dec 25, 2014 Steven Wedgeworth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a ginormous book about modern torture across the world. It comes in at 600 pgs prior to the indexes and appendixes (which make up about 250 more), and so no, I have not actually read all of it. It summarizes the modern debate, covers all of the various methods, get deeper into the modern debate, argues that torture does not really work, but also explains that governments do not really care at any given time because they are often acting irrationally under the pressure to "do something" a ...more
Feb 01, 2013 Naomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ethics, non-fiction
Powerful study of how and why democracies use torture (typically, what Rejali calls "clean" or the type that does not leave obvious long-lasting physical marks) and continuing to challenge the efficacy and morality of torture. Arguing that torture is a craft passed along rather than a science, Rejali traces the development of different clusters of tortures always found together, not because they make sense that way, but because they are the practices passed among particular communities. Recommen ...more
I read this book for a class I took specifically on Torture last year in graduate school. While this is probably the most gruesome piece of work I have ever read (and at over 700 pages long you cannot avoid it), it is the most comprehensive published work on the topic. In the age of 24 and the utilization of hot button talking points rather than intelligent debate, this work does not preach about the horrific nature of torture -- it illustrates it (and its inability as a practice to produce reli ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good, very in-depth scientific review of the history and facts of torture. No sensationalism or emotional appeals; strictly academic. Very useful for the pragmatic opponent of torture.

Tends to be a little long-winded/verbose.

He also has a very unique perspective on how torture has come to its current station in society, namely that torture in its current form and democracy go hand-in-hand practically. However, that is a a gross over-simplification.
Mar 21, 2008 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Frederick Ahl
An important and timely book...all 800+ pages of it. It can become tedious at times, but with a quickly roving eye and an aggressive pursuit of a single line of thought, the reader can find a decisive statement on what are and are not the boundaries of the *real* issue of torture. Illuminating and truly critical.
José-antonio Orosco
What a fascintating and haunting read! It turns out that most of the effective torture methods used by the Nazis and Soviets to get confessions from political prisoners were first developed by American cops in places like Chicago and New York in the early 20th century.
Mirza  Sultan-Galiev
Shows in amazing detail how the forms of torture we identify as uniquely "modern" were created not by the Third Reich and the USSR but by the Western democratic states.
No coverage of isolation detention however,which is a bit of an oversight.
Paul Rhodes
Aug 07, 2008 Paul Rhodes is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This book is almost nine hundred pages in length. It is thicker than both my shins. As Ed McMahon would say, everything you ever wanted to know about torture and democracy is in this book. I am going to be one happy camper when I finally finish it.
Aug 03, 2008 Jessica marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are into torture, and democracy
Recommended to Jessica by: the guy who wrote it, i guess
This mother is torturously massive, and I can guarantee I'll never read the whole book, but I would like to have a look at at least some of it, because it's about two of my favorite things!
Joe Donohue
Feb 17, 2016 Joe Donohue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: demagoguery
it should have been published during Abu Ghraib.

The futility of torture is exposed. There's no proof that it works.
Mar 09, 2012 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Democracies don't torture less than autocratic governments. They just find better ways to justify it.
Mark Konrad
Mark Konrad rated it really liked it
Jun 19, 2015
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Nov 24, 2015
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May 12, 2015
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Edgar rated it it was amazing
Apr 05, 2012
Brad Young
Brad Young rated it really liked it
Oct 03, 2009
Scot rated it really liked it
Apr 18, 2014
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“But *why* do clean torture and democracy appear to go hand in hand? This is an important puzzle (though by no means the only one suggested by the data). My explanation for this pattern generally is this: Public monitoring leads institutions that favor painful coercion to use and combine clean torture techniques to evade detection, and, to the extent that public monitoring is not only greater in democracies, but that public monitoring of human rights is a core value in modern democracies, it is the case that where we find democracies torturing today we will also be more likely to find stealthy torture.” 0 likes
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