Chapter

Banal but not Benign: Arendt on Evil

David Boucher

in Evil in Contemporary Political Theory

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641963
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652860 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641963.003.0011
Banal but not Benign: Arendt on Evil

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A clear presence throughout this book is Hannah Arendt's controversial characterisation of evil as banal. Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil has always divided critics, and for a time dominated discussion of her wider work. This chapter concludes the book with a full account of the text and its reception. Arendt did not intend to belittle the horrific evil of the holocaust, but her account of evil-doing still has an unnerving quality. This chapter focuses on the banality of the evildoer, Eichmann himself, just getting on with his job. What emerges is a picture of an ordinary man who simply went about his daily tasks, seemingly barely aware of what he was actually doing. Behind Arendt's account, however, is a darker story of the status of human beings as vulnerable rights-bearers, dependent on political protection if they are to enjoy any rights at all.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; banal evil; Eichmann in Jerusalem; holocaust; human beings; political protection

Chapter.  10048 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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