Difficult questions arise about the conditions under which compassion plays a significant role in shaping social life.2 They invite the comment that we do not have a sociology of compassion or much understanding about how to create one. Important as they are, Levi’s reflections deal with a world that most people have the good fortune never to encounter; they may not seem to shed much light on ‘normal states of affairs’. But the writings of Peter Singer and others prompt the observation that some of the same indifference to the survival of others in the death camps exists in relations between the rich and poor in world society today. Far from applying only to the camps, Levi’s comments draw attention to two important themes for the study of compassion in world politics. They invite discussion of the conditions under which compassion ‘stands a chance’ in human affairs; more specifically, they raise the question of whether compassion requires forms of reciprocity that exist when peoples’ lives are closely woven together in relations of mutual dependence. If that is the case then compassion is likely to be absent where it is most needed.