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Destroying the World to Save It: Aum…

Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and…

by Robert Jay Lifton

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The first part of the book is based on interviews with lower echelon Aum members. If you haven't read much about people who join destructive sub-groups, you're likely to find this part of interest.

I, however, was more interested in Lifton's analysis of the group, especially vis-a-vis his work with the Nazis. I didn't find this part particularly well written. The arguments were more off-hand remarks rather than clear points. Maybe he feels he's made them so many times before he doesn't need to get into the details. However, when he starts analyzing millennial groups in general, he just gets too loosey-goosey for me, and I stopped reading.

The footnotes are less than comprehensive and there is no bibliography. ( )
  aulsmith | Jun 24, 2014 |
An examination of the Japanese extremist cult.
  Fledgist | Sep 30, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805065113, Paperback)

The premise of Destroying the World to Save It is terrifying: after studying the history of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo (instigators of a 1995 nerve gas attack on a Tokyo subway), the author believes them to be only one group in a "loosely connected, still-developing global subculture of apocalyptic violence." We ignore this subculture, says National Book Award winner Robert Jay Lifton, at our future peril. In interviews with former Aum members once led by the guru figure Shoko Asahara, it is their "familiar ordinariness" that most disturbs Lifton. Drawing parallels to his studies of Nazi psychology, he notes that--just as in Germany--practicing doctors and trained scientists were persuaded to join Aum and offer their specialized knowledge in the service of the cult's plans. The story of Aum, says Lifton, has for the first time shown the world that not only other states but more elusive groups less open to diplomacy may be able to gain control of weapons of mass destruction.

While Destroying the World to Save It is a deeply researched and intelligent psychological analysis, Lifton's conclusion is nevertheless unsatisfying. While surmising that those who next attempt to carry out an apocalyptic plan may be more powerful and competent than Aum, he does not really present a good suggestion for how to prevent their success, offering only a psychologist's "plea for awareness." One hopes his study will encourage activism against global terrorism as well. --Maria Dolan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:45 -0400)

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