The Banality of Evil

Hannah Arendt and 'The Final Solution'

By (author) Bernard J. Bergen

Publication date:

06 August 1998

Length of book:

208 pages

Publisher

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780847692095

This highly original book is the first to explore the political and philosophical consequences of Hannah Arendt's concept of 'the banality of evil,' a term she used to describe Adolph Eichmann, architect of the Nazi 'final solution.' According to Bernard J. Bergen, the questions that preoccupied Arendt were the meaning and significance of the Nazi genocide to our modern times. As Bergen describes Arendt's struggle to understand 'the banality of evil,' he shows how Arendt redefined the meaning of our most treasured political concepts and principles_freedom, society, identity, truth, equality, and reason_in light of the horrific events of the Holocaust. Arendt concluded that the banality of evil results from the failure of human beings to fully experience our common human characteristics_thought, will, and judgment_and that the exercise and expression of these attributes is the only chance we have to prevent a recurrence of the kind of terrible evil perpetrated by the Nazis.
Bernard Bergen has written a thoughtful, clear inquiry into the key concepts and interpretations that make up Hannah Arendt's theory of totalitarianism. He approaches her Eichmann in Jerusalem with rare balance of judgment and sensitivity.