Talking about Evil: Psychoanalytic, Social, and Cultural Perspectives, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Talking about Evil

Psychoanalytic, Social, and Cultural Perspectives, 1st Edition

Edited by Rina Lazar


226 pages

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Paperback: 9781138100596
pub: 2016-10-05
Hardback: 9781138100565
pub: 2016-10-04
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pub: 2016-10-04
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How can we talk about evil? How can we make sense of its presence all around us? How can we come to terms with the sad fact that our involvement in doing or enabling evil is an interminable aspect of our lives in the world? This book is an attempt to engage these questions in a new way.

Written from within the complicated reality of Israel, the contributors to this book forge a collective effort to think about evil from multiple perspectives. A necessary effort, since psychoanalysis has been slow to account for the existence of evil, while philosophy and the social sciences have tended to neglect its psychological aspects.

The essays collected here join to form a wide canvas on which a portrait of evil gradually emerges, from the Bible, through the enlightenment to the Holocaust; from Kant, through Freud, Klein, Bromberg and Stein to Arendt, Agamben and Bauman; using literature, history, cinema, social theory and psychoanalysis.  

Talking about Evil opens up a much needed space for thinking, in itself an antidote to evil. It will be of interest to psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, and scholars and students of philosophy, social theory and the humanities.


'Evil is not a new topic. However, the Holocaust, manifold military conflicts, the emergence of ethnic and forced migration waves, and the rise in corruption require that we situate it in the different contexts where it acquires meaning. Evil is an action that threatens the ethics of life and causes the collapse of essential values. What place does it occupy in our minds, in human relations, in psychoanalytic practice? Evil creates a category that defies psychology manuals. Defining it accurately is a pressing need, because be it natural, rational, irrational, or banal, evil lies on the border between the sayable and the bearable.

This book offers a unique and important effort to address these old yet timely questions. Drawing on a truly interdisciplinary range of contributors; philosophers, psychoanalysts, historians, sociologists, literary scholars and theologians, this book achieves an unusual breadth of engagement with the question of evil in its many contexts and effects. It will become a necessary reference for scholars and practitioners in many fields of thought and research.' - Janine Puget, senior Psychoanalyst, Buenos Aires; Sigourney Award-Winning author of Discontinuous Subjectivation and Psychoanalysis: Uncertainty and Certainties (2015); numerous other contributions to psychoanalysis.

‘This book on evil amounts to a great deal: it counters the "evil-skeptics" who believe that the concept of evil has no explanatory power and that all it does is to serve as a rhetorical device of strong condemnation. Evil, the book tells us, is manifested by morally despicable acts, but despicable doesn't mean ineffable. By looking at evil from diverse disciplines and varied points of view, the essays in the book make a genuine contribution in answering two vital questions: Why morally despicable actions are done, and is it true that the people who are doing evil are constitutionally different from people who don't?’ - Avishai Margalit, Professor Emeritus in Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and George F. Kennan, Professor at the institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, winner of Israel Prize for philosophy (2010) and Ernest Bloch Prize (2012), and author of The Ethics of Memory (2002) and On Compromise and Rotten Compromises ( 2009).

‘This compelling set of meditations on evil will consistently engage all who are troubled by the paradoxical human propensity toward inhumanity. In their entirety, the essays provide a remarkable wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary conversation about the problematics of understanding evil. As individual contributions, each essay offers a unique and deeply thought-provoking perspective on those aspects of the human condition that permit the violent erasure of other humans. In all, this captivating and enlightening book yields a rare amalgam of psychoanalytic, philosophical, and historical insights into our most bedeviling concerns in a manner that adds a hopeful wisdom to our struggles toward a humane world.’ - Sam Gerson, Ph.D., founder and Past-President of the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology (NCSPP) and the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC), Associate Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and Editor for Studies in Gender and Sexuality and the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, and winner of the"Elise M. Hayman Award for the Study of Genocide and the Holocaust" (2007).

Table of Contents

Contributors Introduction 1: Evil 2: The Banality of Radical Evil 3: From the Universal to the Particular: An Intersubjective Psychoanalytic View of Evil and Law 4: Three Forms of Post-Genocidal Violence in Beni Wircberg's Memoir 5: The Two Holocausts of Avot Yeshurun 6: From "The Scream" to "The Pieta": Murderous Mourning and Evil 7: Reflections on "Doing Evil" 8: The Evil of Banality in the Modern Era: Remarks on Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem" 9: The Kingdom of Evil 10: On Godly Evil, Human Evil and Humanism 11: A Touch of Evil: Cinematic Perspectives 12: The restorative power of reading Literature - From Evil toDialectics 13: Talking about Evil in Retrospect: Trying to Conceive the Inconceivable

About the Editor

Rina Lazar, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Tel Aviv. She is a lecturer and supervisor at the Psychotherapy Program, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. She is also a board member of the International Association of Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP). Lazar has co-edited two books and published papers on a range of topics in various psychoanalytic journals.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis