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Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It

Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A timely, eye-opening examination of political evil, a concept widely misunderstood and desperately in need of clarification in our ever more chaotic world.

In an age of genocide, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and torture, evil threatens us in ways radically different from tsunamis and financial panics. Nature unleashes its wrath and people rush to help the victims. Evil shows its face and we are paralyzed over how to respond.

It was not always this way. During the twentieth century, thinkers as diverse as Hannah Arendt, Reinhold Niebuhr, Arthur Koestler, and George Orwell made evil central to everything they wrote. Acclaimed political scientist Alan Wolfe argues that in an age of partisan blame-assigning, therapeutic excuse-making, and theological question-dodging, we need to get serious about the problem of evil once again. While there will always be something incomprehensible about evil, we are very much capable of understanding and combating the use of evil means to obtain political ends.

Diplomats and politicians with their own agendas ignore this side of evil to grim and often tragic effect. These movers and shakers apply the concept of general evil, seemingly inconquerable, inviting only violence and despair to situations that are local in nature. Looking at examples of political evil around the globe—in the Middle East, Darfur, the Balkans, and at home in the West—Wolfe shows us how seemingly small distinctions can make an immense difference in international response. And he makes clear that much-needed change can be initiated with a shift in how we talk and think about political evil.

International shame in the years following the Rwandan genocide—after the world failed to recognize it as such—led to a large-scale campaign against genocide in Darfur. Except, Wolfe argues, in Darfur it wasnt genocide: it was civil war. We see—surprisingly, and powerfully—that labeling the conflict incorrectly had disastrous effects, even extending the violence as soldiers waited for seemingly inevitable Western intervention. When, on the other hand, Western leaders compared Serbian president and infamous ethnic cleanser Slobodan Milosevic to Hitler, they failed to recognize that exterminating people and seeking to take over their land are both evil but they are evil in different ways; misguided Western intervention in the Balkans eventually brought ethnic cleansing to an end, but only by allowing it to run its course.

At once impassioned and pragmatic, Political Evil sheds essential light on the creation of policy and on a concrete path to a more practicable and just future.

Review:

"Despite its fire-and-brimstone title, the latest from Wolfe (The Future of Liberalism) offers a restrained and balanced inquiry into the violent world confronting America today, covering a wide variety of leaders and philosophers, including St. Augustine, Hannah Arendt, Adolf Hitler, and Osama bin Laden. Wolfe spends little time mulling the subjectivity of 'evil' as a concept. Rather, by 'evil,' he means the threats that loom for the liberal democratic societies of Europe and America during the coming decades. His primary concern is to construct a typology of political evil, encompassing genocide, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, and such 'counterevil' as the American use of torture to combat its enemies. Too often, argues Wolfe, citizens allow their leaders to use acts of evil as an excuse for overly aggressive retaliations. Only by accurately classifying each threat can the West successfully respond to it. However, it's not clear how mere identification can solve real-world problems, such as poverty and powerlessness, which underlie many of the evil acts he discusses. Without addressing these root causes, any schema such as Wolfe's will be an exercise in scholasticism, akin to counting how many devils can dance on the head of a pin. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

What is political evil? How do we recognize it? How does it differ from other manifestations of evil? How can we stop it? Acclaimed political scientist Alan Wolfe addresses these vitally important questions in this timely, eye-opening examination.

Wolfe argues that political evil—evil perpetrated by those with specific political goals—is often oversimplified by diplomats and politicians with their own agendas, to grim and frequently tragic effect. Much of the problem, he suggests, is a lack of critical thought about what evil is and what terms we use to describe it. Looking at examples of political evil around the globe, from the Middle East to Darfur, the United States to the Balkans, Wolfe shows us how seemingly small distinctions—like labeling an event genocide too facilely, for instance—can make an immense difference in international response. And he makes clear that desperately needed change can be initiated with a shift in how we think and talk about political evil.

At once impassioned and pragmatic, Political Evil sheds essential light on the creation of policy and on a concrete path to a more practicable and just future.

About the Author

Alan Wolfe teaches political science at Boston College, where he is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. A contributing editor of The New Republic whose work appears frequently in leading magazines and newspapers, he is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including The Future of Liberalism. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307271853
Subtitle:
What It Is and How to Combat It
Publisher:
Knopf
Author:
Wolfe, Alan
Subject:
Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Subject:
Philosophy | Ethics
Publication Date:
20110927
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9.53 x 6.6 x 1.39 in 1.32 lb

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Culture
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Philosophy » Ethics
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Sports and Outdoors » Martial Arts » General
Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Martial Arts » General

Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It
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Product details 352 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307271853 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Despite its fire-and-brimstone title, the latest from Wolfe (The Future of Liberalism) offers a restrained and balanced inquiry into the violent world confronting America today, covering a wide variety of leaders and philosophers, including St. Augustine, Hannah Arendt, Adolf Hitler, and Osama bin Laden. Wolfe spends little time mulling the subjectivity of 'evil' as a concept. Rather, by 'evil,' he means the threats that loom for the liberal democratic societies of Europe and America during the coming decades. His primary concern is to construct a typology of political evil, encompassing genocide, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, and such 'counterevil' as the American use of torture to combat its enemies. Too often, argues Wolfe, citizens allow their leaders to use acts of evil as an excuse for overly aggressive retaliations. Only by accurately classifying each threat can the West successfully respond to it. However, it's not clear how mere identification can solve real-world problems, such as poverty and powerlessness, which underlie many of the evil acts he discusses. Without addressing these root causes, any schema such as Wolfe's will be an exercise in scholasticism, akin to counting how many devils can dance on the head of a pin. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , What is political evil? How do we recognize it? How does it differ from other manifestations of evil? How can we stop it? Acclaimed political scientist Alan Wolfe addresses these vitally important questions in this timely, eye-opening examination.

Wolfe argues that political evil—evil perpetrated by those with specific political goals—is often oversimplified by diplomats and politicians with their own agendas, to grim and frequently tragic effect. Much of the problem, he suggests, is a lack of critical thought about what evil is and what terms we use to describe it. Looking at examples of political evil around the globe, from the Middle East to Darfur, the United States to the Balkans, Wolfe shows us how seemingly small distinctions—like labeling an event genocide too facilely, for instance—can make an immense difference in international response. And he makes clear that desperately needed change can be initiated with a shift in how we think and talk about political evil.

At once impassioned and pragmatic, Political Evil sheds essential light on the creation of policy and on a concrete path to a more practicable and just future.

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