Moral Evil and International Relations

Nicholas John Hugh Rengger, Renee Jeffery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay seeks to situate and contextualize contemporary debates about evil in international relations by placing them in their historical, theological and philosophical contexts. It emphasizes the sense that evil can and has been divided into moral and non-moral evils (such as natural evils) and argues that in international relations, and indeed politics in general, the central concern has always been with moral evil. It traces the emergence of three central ways of approaching the concept of evil: the Augustinian emphasis on evil as an absence not a presence; the Kantian conception of radical evil; and Hannah Arendt's notion of the "banality" of evil and looks at how each is manifested in contemporary discussions of evil in world politics. It also offers some thoughts on how we might think about responding to evil in world politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-17
JournalThe SAIS Review of International Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


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