Steven Lukes is Professor of Sociology at the New York University. Currently he is a Krzysztof Michalski Visiting Fellow at the IWM. He was formerly a professor at the University of Siena, the European University Institute (Florence) and the London School of Economics. His main interests are political and social theory, the sociology of Durkheim and his followers, individualism, rationality, the category of the person, Marxism and ethics, sociology of morality and new forms of liberalism, varieties of conceptions of power, the notion of the “good society”, rationality and relativism, moral conflict and politics.
Confronting the atrocities of our times–mass killings, genocide, mass rape, torture and so on–we reach for the question ‘why’? It has been repeatedly asked, among others by Hannah Arendt, Arthur Koestler, Zygmunt Bauman, Bruno Bettelheim, Christopher Browning, Daniel Goldhagen and Timothy Snyder. In posing this question, what kind of answer are we looking for? What would count as satisfying answers and where should we look for them? In this lecture, Steven Lukes shall examine various approaches to this insistent question, explore what underlies and motivates it, and suggest which approaches are to be avoided but also which seem to be the most promising and why.