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Thinking in Dark TimesHannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics$
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Roger Berkowitz, Jeffrey Katz, and Thomas Keenan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780823230754

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823230754.001.0001

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Banality and Cleverness

Banality and Cleverness

Eichmann In Jerusalem Revisited

(p.139) Banality and Cleverness
Thinking in Dark Times

Peter Baehr

Fordham University Press

This chapter explores Hannah Arendt's “banality of evil” argument in Eichmann in Jerusalem. She claimed that Eichmann was not a demon on a mission from Hell, but a crass, ludicrous, pathetic individual. Faced with a media blitz that depicted him as the quintessence of perversion, Arendt wished to puncture such verbiage with a formula designed to show that very unremarkable people have often perpetrated the most despicable acts of modern times. Many disagree with Arendt's portrait of Eichmann, claiming that he was far more of an ideological antisemite than she realized. Others defend her, saying that, even if she were wrong specifically about Eichmann, her argument applies more generally.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, banality of evil, Adolf Eichmann, antisemitism

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