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Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, & the Problems With the Banality of Evil Hypothesis w/ Ramon Glazov – Parallax Views

On this edition of Parallax Views, Ramon Glazov, whose articles have been featured in such publications as Jacobin and Overland Magazine, returns to the program to discuss the problematic elements of political philosophers Hannah Arendt’s famous “Banality of Evil” hypothesis born out SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem after the Holocaust. Among the topics covered in this conversation:

– Ramon’s interest in the topic and the classic cinematic thriller Boys from Brazil

– Virulent antisemitic politics vs. the “Banality of Evil” hypothesis as an explanation for Eichmann’s actions

Heidegger’s Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Lowith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse by Richard Wolin; Arendt’s relationship with the German philosopher and Nazi party member Maritn Heidegger; Arendt’s identification with high German culture; her condescending views on Eastern European Jews; how did these things potentially inform Arendt’s views on the Holocaust?

– The question of deviance in understanding Eichmann; the concept of thoughtlessness in Arendt’s “Banality of Evil” hypothesis

; the idea of the dark side of the Enlightenment; Horkheimer, Adorno, the Frankfurt School, and the Dialectic of the Enlightenment; the Enlightenment, modernity, and the Holocaust;

– The question of whether or not Adolf Eichmann was a true believer or a functionary bureaucrat “desk murderer” who was “just following orders”

– Bettina Stangneth’s biography Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer

– The myth and reality of Adolf Eichmann; Eichmann was in charge of logistics for the Holocaust and put on trial; did Eichmann seek to craft/present a specific image of himself at the trial?;

– Eichmann, Immanuel Kant, and the Kant’s categorical imperative; claims that Eichmann was “just doing his job” rather than a committed antisemite and political supporter of Nazism; the psychiatric examination of Eichmann and Eichmann as a fake or simulated neurotic

– Eichmann’s career in the SS as a flamboyant glory-hound who quickly rose up through the ranks; Eichmann’s relationship with the Jewish people (specifically in Vienna, Austria) and his spying on Jewish communities as an SS officer; evidence of Eichmann’s loyalty to the Nazi cause

– Eichmann’s study of Hebrew, his self-presentation as an expert in Hebrew, and his self-mythology claiming that he was born in Palestine (this is before the trial; he was actually a German Austrian); Eichmann’s grandiose myth-making about himself

– High-ranking Nazi official Herman Göring’s comment at a trial that “This Wisliceny is just a little swine, who looks like a big one because Eichmann isn’t here” in reference to SS officer Dieter Wisliceny and Eichmann’s role in the Holocaust

– Simon Wiesenthal and the rise of the Nazi hunters; false rumors about Eichmann being in the Middle East and stirring up Arab nationalists against Israel in the post-war period when he was really hiding out in Argentina

– Eichmann’s own myth making as indicative of someone who wasn’t banal but cunning and knowing in his actions

– While in Argentina Eichmann wrote a large amount of written materials justifying himself; examining Eichmann’s Argentina papers and what they tell us about Eichmann before his trial; he attacks humanism and Kant in these papers despite later claiming to have been a Kantian led astray; Eichmann treats the Holocaust as being a justified military operation in these papers rather than a genocide

– Eichmann wasn’t non-philosophical; he was deeply interested in Heidegger; Eichmann’s Black Notebooks and his views on “calculation” and modernity; Eichmann’s view of modernity being a product of Jewish culture and the Holocaust as a “self-annihilation”

– Eichmann, the Frankfurt School, Arendt, Romanticism, and the Enlightenment; differences and similarities between the left and right critiques of modernity, instrumentalization of reason, etc.

– The consequences of the “Banality of Evil” hypothesis; the application of the “Banality of Evil” hypothesis to Colonialism; obfuscation of the deliberate actions taken by oppressors over oppressed group

– Rwanda, Modernity, the “Banality of Evil”, and the paradigms of evil and genocide

– How Arendt’s “Banality of Evil” hypothesis has impacted both Anglo-thinkers and Continental-thinkers in psychology and psychoanalysis; Stanley Milgram and the Milgram experiment; the problems with the Milgram experiment;

– Slavoj Zizek and the Eichmann-ization of concept of the pervert in psychoanalytic thought; the Marquis de Sade and Lacan’s essay “Kant With Sade” that appears after Eichmann’s execution; the pervert as a functionary following directions from “the Big Other”; the pervert as the perfect conformist; pre-Eichmann trial views of the concept of the pervert and how they differ from the Eichmann-ized pervert; psycho-dynamics and the pervert as inherently conservative in the post-Eichmann trial period

– A slight digression into the changing views about the Marquis de Sade over the years; the Marquis de Sade as the ancestor of 007 James Bond creator Ian Fleming

– Hannah Arendt and her philosophical hero Socrates; Arendt’s attempt to grapple with what constitutes thinking; Arendt and thought as the antidote to totalitarian atrocities; Socrates and the Thirty Tyrants; Socrates as a not particularly pro-democracy philosopher even in the narrower, ancient sense of the term; Socrates, Plato, and Xenophon; Socrates in Athens; The Trial of Socrates by I.F. Stone; the charge of impiety against Socrates and his execution

– Are there real world consequences to examining the world and social phenomena through the lens of the “Banality of Evil” hypothesis; the “Banality of Evil” as downplaying the specific cultural racial bigotries/hatreds and their role in social phenomena; the “Banality of Evil” as an elitist hypothesis

– The range of personalities that supported the Nazi cause; the movement was not just supported by philistine thugs but elements of the society’s well-educated as well

– And much, much more!