Superfluous Humanity: An Arendtian Perspective on the Political Evil of Global Poverty

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Abstract

This article seeks to move the debate about political evil within normative international theory into the realm of global poverty, through the work of Hannah Arendt. To that end, the article employs Arendt's conceptions of 'superfluousness' and 'banality of evil' to highlight how the international agenda reflects a narrow concern with one particular type of political evil, namely with gross violations of civil and political human rights, rather than gross violations of socioeconomic rights. This bias is challenged on the basis that the severe and widespread wrongs arising from extreme global poverty are a form of political evil as well, insofar as these make vast segments of humanity superfluous. Further, it is argued that we have become desensitised to the banal, thoughtless, 'ordinary' origins of pervasive economic rights violations, as these have become normalised in the global politico-economic order. In the end, the contemporary confrontation with political evil is unjustifiably and tragically selective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-300
Number of pages22
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Volume35
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

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