ABSTRACT

Nearly half a century separates the writing of Theodor Adorno and Michael

Ignatieff, and their sober though not pessimistic perspective on gross human

rights violations and cruelty. Both write under the shadow of genocide and mass

atrocities. The Holocaust was central to Adorno’s philosophy and social theory;

for Ignatieff, the genocides in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as the

failure of the international community to prevent or intervene, informed his analy-

sis of the human rights project, and of what it could achieve. Both philosophers

were confronted with the proliferation of mass atrocity and genocide in the sec-

ond half of the twentieth century, as these spread through regions like Latin and

Central America, and Africa, or what had been revealed about Stalin’s Siberian

camps and mass starvation in Ukraine at the time.