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Hannah Arendt and the law and ethics of administration : bureaucratic evil, political thinking and reflective judgment

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  • Ddc:340
  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


After the absurd terrorism and violence of the totalitarianism and bureaucratic administrative and legal systems of the 20th century it does not give any meaning to rationalize harm as meaningful evil that even though it is evil may have some importance for the development of the world towards the good. Rather, evil is incomprehensible and as radical and banal evil it challenges human rationality. This is indeed the case when we are faced with instrumental and rationalized administrative and political evil. Therefore, we must analyse the banality of evil in politics and in administration in order to understand the concept of evil. Moreover, as proposed by Hannah Arendt, we need to fight this evil with political thinking and social philosophy. The only way to deal with harm and wrongdoing is to return a concept of responsibility that is closely linked to reflective thinking. In this paper, we will on the basis of a discussion of the banality of evil explore this in relation to Hannah Arendt’s analysis of the administration of evil, as expressed by the personality of Adolf Eichmann. Finally, we will place this concept of administrative evil in Hannah Arendt’s general political philosophy.

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