Who’s to Blame? Collective Guilt on Trial  book cover
1st Edition

Who’s to Blame? Collective Guilt on Trial

  • Available for pre-order on April 20, 2023. Item will ship after May 11, 2023
ISBN 9781032460789
May 11, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
200 Pages

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Book Description

Who’s to Blame? Collective Guilt on Trial presents a psychoanalytic exploration of blame and collective guilt in the aftermath of large-scale atrocities that cause widespread trauma and victimization.

Coline Covington explores various aspects of social and collective guilt and considers how both perpetrators and victims make sense of their experiences, with particular reference to group behaviour and political morality. Covington challenges the concept of collective guilt associated with the aftermath of large-scale atrocities such as the Holocaust and examines the moral pressure placed on perpetrators to exhibit guilt as part of a realignment of political power and a process of restoring social morality. Who’s to Blame? Collective Guilt on Trial concludes with a chapter-length case study examining Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Combining psychoanalytic ideas with political, philosophical, and social theory, Who’s to Blame? Collective Guilt on Trial will be of great interest to readers interested in questions of collective guilt, blame and the possibilities of atonement. It will also appeal to psychoanalysts in practice and in training, and to academics of psychoanalytic studies, political philosophy, sociology and conflict resolution.

Table of Contents


Opening Quote




Chapter 1 Who’s to Blame?

Chapter 2 A Tragic Inheritance: The Irresolvable Conflict for Children of Perpetrators

Chapter 3 Collective Guilt – A Moral Imperative?

Chapter 4 Guilt and Shame

Chapter 5 Saving Face: Memory, Identity and Blame

Chapter 6 Rituals of Healing and the Perpetuation of Blame

Chapter 7 The Myth of Closure

Chapter 8 The "Empire of Lies": Russia’s War in Ukraine


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Coline Covington has for many years combined her background in political science and criminology with her psychoanalytic practice and thinking. She is currently a Fellow of International Dialogue Initiative (IDI), a thinktank on political conflict. She previously worked as a consultant to local authorities on juvenile justice policy and set up the first victim/offender mediation scheme in the UK with the Metropolitan Police. Who’s to Blame? is the third book of a trilogy on political morality.


"It takes courage to step into the maelstrom of groups blaming groups. Individual hurts and trauma lead to blame, shame and guilt, but when the large group is involved morality, meaning and transgenerational transmission add fuel to the fire and we are all in danger of getting burnt. This book takes us along a path we need to tread in the cause of survival. It is a book that leaves a lasting message in your mind and I strongly recommend it." - John, Lord Alderdice, FRCPsych, The Changing Character of War Centre, Pembroke College, Oxford.

"We live in an era when individuals pride themselves on their victim status, grievances are carefully nurtured, public apologies are de rigueur and reparations are constantly demanded of the formerly powerful. Covington's book cuts to the chase, subjecting our modern blame culture to forensic examination. She questions whether apologies of this sort make logical, historical or legal sense and what therapeutic emotional value they actually possess. A welcome breath of fresh, bracing air." - Michela Wrong, author of Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and a Regime Gone Bad

"In this brilliant study of collective guilt, Coline Covington fuses together the disciplines of history, politics, and psychoanalysis, helping us to understand the profound effects of blame on perpetrators and victims across generations. Her writing is both lucid and learned throughout." - Charles Grant, Director, Centre for European Reform