4 out of 4 stars
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How is it possible for human beings to destroy each other? A common theme in literature is man’s inhumanity to man, as many writers across centuries and cultures depict and explore human suffering and cruelty. Writer Fred Emil Katz used his mind and talent to travel in a different direction. A Holocaust survivor, Mr. Katz thought about environments that have allowed or fostered cruelty and attempted to apply nearly-scientific constructs to them in order to explore and explain how it is that people can be so callous and cruel. The result was his non-fiction book, We Live in Social Space.
In We Live in Social Space, Mr. Katz lays out four constructs that depict different aspects of society. The author terms each of these constructions “spaces”. He posits the existence of “Hidden Space”, “Closed Space”, “Transcendent Space”, and “Meaningful Space”. Through these paradigms, Mr. Katz explores societal phenomena such as the sudden resurgence of the taboo, the temporary re-engineering of morality within a certain context, the potential impact of a messianic figure, and the many possible nuances of an action or decision.
Mr. Katz is primarily focused on the Holocaust and the cultural context that allowed it to happen, but since he is attempting to merge some scientific thinking into his theory-building, he does not restrict his social space theories to that era alone. Throughout the book, Mr. Katz draws on other phenomena, from incidents and attitudes emerging from the 2016 United States presidential election to atrocities perpetrated during the Vietnam War to the actions of ISIS terrorist groups. Mr. Katz is able to point out certain similarities in circumstances and events that illustrate and support his theory.
For some readers, this book may seem intimidating. Maybe you’ve never studied philosophy or sociology before, or maybe the book sounds a bit dry. Although this is certainly a serious and sober book, it is also well organized and fairly brief. Readers will find a clear layout with no mechanical errors. There is occasional repetition of some of the examples, but this is deliberate, acknowledged by the author, and done to illustrate a unique point. The author also includes concluding remarks that help the reader keep straight the four social spaces and their implications as well as how they relate to one another. As with any scholarly work of quality, interested readers will also find a section of notes at the end that include a number of citations that influenced Mr. Katz’s work.
Mr. Katz has written four books related to his experience as a Holocaust survivor, and although this one is the fourth in that group, it stands alone. I am pleased to be able to rate We Live in Social Space by Fred Emil Katz 4 out of 4 stars. The book is scholarly, innovative, and understandable. Further, its themes and information are relevant to a vital question in human existence: how are we able to execute such inhumanity, and by extension, how can we stop this from happening again?
We live in Social Space
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