The banality of evil


Adam Kirsch, the former book editor of the now defunct New York Sun, offers an appraisal of the legendary Jewish thinker Hannah Arendt, who coined the phrase "banality of evil" in reaction to the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Here’s Kirsch, from The New Yorker:

Arendt’s concept has become so famous that it is hard to remember how bitterly controversial it was when she first used it. Many readers resisted what looked like an attempt to trivialize the Nazis. “No banality of a man could have done so hugely evil a job so well,” one critic wrote. Yet even those who dispute Arendt’s judgment acknowledge her influence on the way we think about political evil. As long as ordinary people can be transformed overnight into mass murderers, we are still living in Hannah Arendt’s world.

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