1st Edition

Everyday Evils A psychoanalytic view of evil and morality

By Coline Covington Copyright 2017
    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    Everyday Evils takes a psychoanalytic look at the evils committed by "ordinary" people in different contexts – from the Nazi concentration camps to Stockholm Syndrome to the atrocities publicized by Islamic State – and presents new perspectives on how such evil deeds come about as well as the extreme ways in which we deny the existence of evil.

    Concepts of group behaviour, morality, trauma and forgiveness are reconsidered within a multi-disciplinary framework. The psychodynamics of dissociation, and the capacity to witness evil acts while participating in them, raise questions about the origin of morality, and about the role of the observing ego in maintaining psychic equilibrium. Coline Covington examines how we demonize the "other" and how violent actions become normalized within communities, such as during the Rwandan genocide and Polish pogroms. The recent attraction of the millenarian theocracy of the Islamic State also highlights our fascination with violence and death. Covington emphasizes that evil comes about through a variety of causes and is highly contextual. It is our capacity to acknowledge the evils we live with, witness and commit that is vital to how we manage and respond to violence within ourselves and others and in mitigating our innate destructiveness. In conclusion, the book addresses how individuals and societies come to terms with evil, along with the problematic concept of forgiveness and the restoration of good.

    Everyday Evils blends psychoanalytic concepts together with the disciplines of sociology, history, anthropology, philosophy, theology and studies of violence in order to develop a richer, deeper and more comprehensive understanding of evil. Intending to make the unthinkable thinkable, this book will appeal to scholars from across those disciplines, as well as psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and anyone who has ever asked the question: "How could anyone do something like that?"


    Chapter 1: Evil and Destructiveness: A Psychoanalytic View

    Chapter 2: Hannah Arendt: Evil and the Eradication of Thought

    Chapter 3: Invisible Handcuffs: The Psychodynamics of Capture-Bonding

    Chapter 4: The Origin of Morality

    Chapter 5: Witnessing Evil

    Chapter 6: Demonization and Mass Killing: The Other as Evil

    Chapter 7: The Problem of Forgiveness and Reparation in the Aftermath of Evil

    Chapter 8: The Islamic State and the Glory of Death

    Chapter 9: Do We Need a Theory of Evil?



    Coline Covington is a Jungian analyst in private practice in London. She previously worked as a consultant to local authorities and the Metropolitan Police in the UK on juvenile justice policy. She is former Chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council and a Fellow of International Dialogue Initiative.

    "This book is ground-breaking and one of the most important interdisciplinary studies to appear in many years. Drawing on and integrating her profound knowledge of psychoanalysis, group psychology, modern history, political systems and ethics, Coline Covington has given us that rarest of works; one that is not only highly original and thought provoking, but that offers invaluable insights into some of the most compelling moral, and ethical issues of our time."-Theodore J. Jacobs, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry (Emeritus), Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Training and Supervising Analyst, The New York Psychoanalytic Institute and the Institute for Psychoanalysis.

    "Coline Covington’s brilliantly penetrating study brings the age old problem of evil up to date. Her subjects range from Islamic terrorism to domestic violence, showing how modern technology, global communication, and the twenty-four hour news cycle confront us with evil on a daily basis. At the same time, Covington’s clinical experience as a psychoanalyst permits her to drill down deeply in each instance she considers. This is an unsettling, but invaluable book. It forces us to recognize how the evils that men do, while dehumanizing in their intent and effect, are all too human in their motivations."-Owen Renik, M.D., Editor Emeritus, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Training and Supervising Analyst, San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis.

    "Recent incredible advances in science and technology have changed the way we live. Human nature with both its loving and destructive aspects basically remains the same. Suicide bombings, decapitations, tortures, rapes and sex trafficking remind us that "everyday evils" are here to stay. We are obliged to understand the reasons for inhumane individualized and societal deeds. This book is timely and deserves serious attention."-Vamık Volkan, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Virginia, and the author of Psychoanalysis, International Relations, and Diplomacy: A Sourcebook on Large-Group Psychology.

    "In this outstanding book, Covington courageously looks at the 'black hole' of evil in the eye without pretending to a final understanding of its complex nature. Expressed through varied and evocative lenses, her shared quest strongly grips the reader. Her passion and scholarship epitomize the kind of reflective thinking that provides hope for dethroning evil in its many guises. I highly recommend this well-written work to all who share a deep concern for our present and our future."-Ladson Hinton, MA, MD, New School for Analytical Psychology, C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.

    "In spite of decades of reflection on aggression and destructiveness, psychoanalysis has had surprisingly little to say on the idea and experience of evil. Coline Covington’s fascinating and important book reminds us just how serious an omission this has been. Synthesizing her formidable philosophical and historical erudition with her rich store of clinical experience, Covington offers an original psychoanalytic account of evil. Drawing on a range of thinkers from Freud and Winnicott to Arendt and René Girard, as well as literary figures such as Houellebecq and Littell, she argues persuasively that the most dehumanizing effect of evil is to destroy thought in its victims and perpetrators alike. In so doing, she recovers evil as an object of thought, albeit one that exceeds and disturbs its parameters."-Josh Cohen, Psychoanalyst, BPAS and Professor of Modern Literary Theory, Goldsmiths University of London.