The Relevance of Hannah Arendt’s Reflections on Evil: Globalization and Rightlessness

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The centenary of Hannah Arendt’s birth in 2006 has provided the catalyst for a body of literature grappling with the legacy of her thought, especially the question of its enduring political relevance. Yet this literature largely excludes from consideration a significant aspect of Arendt’s legacy, namely, her account of evil and its devastating political reality. This article contends that the neglect of Arendt’s understanding of the dynamic reality of evil unnecessarily delimits the opportunities her legacy affords to diagnose forms of evil today. In particular, I propose that Arendt’s notion of evil and her unique insight into its dynamic reality remain very much pertinent in light of a globalizing world where the conditions of extreme deprivation and exclusion have become thoroughly bound up with the structurally unequal conditions of the global political economy. The persistent global poverty knowingly reproduced in and through policies and practices of economic globalization effectively renders vast numbers of people superfluous and “rightless,” resulting in a distinctive form of political evil. I conclude that more attention should be paid to the deeper pertinence of Arendt’s concepts of evil, human superfluousness, and rightlessness for contemporary political life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-467
JournalHuman Rights Review
Issue number4
Early online date25 Feb 2010
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Hannah Arendt
  • Evil
  • Globalization
  • Rightlessness


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