chapter  8
8 Pages

From Personal Death to Social Policies

The reconfiguration of death in modern culture, its physical and ritual trans formation in terms of personal experience, inevitably affected the various forms of administration of death by society. The changes triggered new debates about death as a punishment or death in war. The modernist approach to death did not, however, dictate uniform approaches to death as an element of social policy, which is why fierce disagreements often arose. Other factors besides attitudes about death affected areas like abortion or military strategy. Furthermore, dif ferent regions continued to vary in death experience, both because of different material circumstances-death rates still varied widely, as did levels of population growth and population pressure-and different cultural traditions. As a result, specific groups but also specific regions reached divergent conclusions about death policies, quite obviously on issues such as the use of suicide killers as part of war or terrorism. Divergences often powerfully shaped the U.S. position in world opinion and also the global impact of U.S. policies, particularly in the military arena but also in international debates over issues like population policy. Impulses in the United States often departed from new norms in others areas, most obviously from those in western Europe. No smooth globalization of death DESCRIBEDPOLICIESINTHELATERTWENTIETHANDEARLYTWENTY lRSTCENTURIESANY more than it described the variety of contemporary rituals. What was pervasive, however, was a series of new questions about death policies, as against earlier TRADITIONSANDNINETEENTH CENTURYINNOVATIONSALIKE

The following chapters take up the important arenas of policy debate and outright policy change. Each chapter shows how the growing discomfort with death combined with, or conflicted with, other key factors. Distaste for death sometimes predominated-as in European attacks on the death penalty or in fer vent opposition to abortion in U.S. international policy. In other cases, different

goals won through, although even here the goals often had to be adjusted to death CONCERNSASINTHEPRO ABORTIONARGUMENTSORINELEMENTSOF53MILITARYPOLICY Comparison remains essential, both to highlight different decisions about how to incorporate new attitudes to death and to explain why the differences generated explicit disagreements over international standards.