Eichmann in Jerusalem


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ARENDT, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking, (1963). Octavo, original tan cloth, original dust jacket.

First edition of Arendt's most famous and most controversial work on "the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil."

On publication Eichmann in Jerusalem ignited a furor that remains to this day. To the poet Robert Lowell, it was a "masterpiece," while others vilified Arendt as a self-hating Jew. Her contention that modernity demands a new sense of good and evil radically challenges basic legal and cultural beliefs that hold the "intent to do wrong is necessary for the commission of a crime." In this momentous and complex work Arendt reconfigures those assumptions in the face of what she calls: "the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil" (emphasis in original).

To scholar Roger Berkowitz, when Arendt proposes Eichmann "'had no motives at all' and that he 'never realized what he was doing'… she did not mean that he wasn't aware of the Holocaust or the Final Solution… What she meant was that he acted thoughtlessly and dutifully, not as a robotic bureaucrat, but as part of a movement, as someone convinced that he was sacrificing an easy morality for a higher good… 'the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique'… the insight of Eichmann in Jerusalem is not that Eichmann was just following orders, but that Eichmann was a 'joiner.' In his own words, Eichmann feared 'to live a leaderless and difficult individual life'" (New York Times). Historian Corey Robin contends: "In the modern world, the most common mode of collaboration is work itself… That is why Arendt pays so much attention to Eichmann's careerism, less as a personal motivation than as a structure of action. Genocide is a form of work" (Nation). The idea "that careerism may be as lethal as idealism… that some of the worst crimes are the result of ordinary vices rather than extraordinary ideas: these are the implications of Eichmann in Jerusalem" (London Review of Books). Arendt writes: "what for Eichmann was a job, with its daily routine, its ups and downs, was for the Jews quite literally the end of the world." Serialized earlier the same year in The New Yorker.

A fine copy.

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