Judge Thy Neighbor

Denunciations in the Spanish Inquisition, Romanov Russia, and Nazi Germany

Patrick Bergemann

Columbia University Press

Judge Thy Neighbor

Google Preview

Pub Date: February 2019

ISBN: 9780231180160

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: February 2019

ISBN: 9780231542388

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£47.00

Judge Thy Neighbor

Denunciations in the Spanish Inquisition, Romanov Russia, and Nazi Germany

Patrick Bergemann

Columbia University Press

From the Spanish Inquisition to Nazi Germany to the United States today, ordinary people have often chosen to turn in their neighbors to the authorities. What motivates citizens to inform on the people next door? In Judge Thy Neighbor, Patrick Bergemann provides a theoretical framework for understanding the motives for denunciations in terms of institutional structures and incentives.

In case studies of societies in which denunciations were widespread, Bergemann merges historical and quantitative analysis to explore individual participation in social control. He sheds light on Jewish converts’ shifting motives during the Spanish Inquisition; when and why seventeenth-century Romanov subjects fulfilled their obligation to report insults to the tsar’s honor; and the widespread petty and false complaints filed by German citizens under the Third Reich, as well as present-day plea bargains, whistleblowing, and crime reporting. Bergemann finds that when authorities use coercion or positive incentives to elicit information, individuals denounce out of self-preservation or to gain rewards. However, in the absence of these incentives, denunciations are often motivated by personal resentments and grudges. In both cases denunciations facilitate social control not because of citizen loyalty or shared ideology but through the local interests of ordinary participants. Offering an empirically and theoretically rich account of the dynamics of denunciation as well as vivid descriptions of the denounced, Judge Thy Neighbor is a timely and compelling analysis of the reasons people turn in their acquaintances, with relevance beyond conventionally repressive regimes.
There have been case studies of the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and lots of work on the Gestapo, but the explanations in all of those are ad hoc and make no effort to generalize beyond their single cases. Judge Thy Neighbor offers a theory that I expect will both transform future work on these and other cases of denunciations and influence broader social-science analyses of group dynamics, social movements, and microsocial relations. Richard Lachmann, State University of New York at Albany

About the Author

Patrick Bergemann is assistant professor of organizations and strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.