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Is it time to reconsider the idea of ‘the banality of evil’?

After attending the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt claimed what was terrifying about this man was not his moral monstrosity.

It was his sheer normality. She subtitled her 1963 book on the subject, Eichmann in Jerusalem, “a report on the banality of evil”.

Arendt’s phrase made its way into our broader culture. It is widely considered a salutary warning against the idea that enormous atrocities, such as the Holocaust, could never be conceived of, and carried out, again.

For Arendt, Eichmann, the principal organiser of the trains that took millions of Jewish men, women and…

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