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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Political Evil: Author Meets Critics

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Further Reading

Alan Wolfe. "Evildoers and Us" in the Chronicle of Higher Education, September 11, 2011.

An excerpt from his book, Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (Knopf, 2011).


"Evil," The Hedgehog Review. Summer 2000.

This special issue on evil offers reflections on the sociology of evil, its transformation and relationship with suffering, and its history.


Hitchens, Christopher. "Simply Evil." Slate Magazine. 5 September 2011.

Hitchens writes that a decade after 9/11, "simply evil" remains the best description and most essential fact about al-Qaida.


Mamdani, Mahmood. "The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency,” in London Review of Books 5: 5-8 (2007).

In The Politics of Naming, Mamdani calls attention to the often times ambiguous manner in which we brand conflicts and violent situations. He suggests that the confusion of terms such as genocide, civil war, and insurgency might yield greater consequences than a slap on the wrist for poor word choice.


Minow, Martha. 1999. Between Vengence and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence. Beacon Press.

Minow prioritizes healing and the restoration of human dignity as the pathway to eliminating the political evil responsible for atrocities against mankind.


Schrag, Calvin. “Otherness and the Problem of Evil: How Does That Which Is Other Become Evil? in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 60 (1/3): 149–156 (2006).

Schrag’s attempt to comprehend the “Problem of Evil,” revolves around a pressing question: “How does that which is other become evil?” In this piece, he examines the intensification of moral evil in our domestic international affairs.


Traub, James. 2008. The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did). Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Traub offers a narrative of America’s effort to promote democracy around the world. While he acknowledges some of the agenda’s failed attempts, he remains hopeful about America’s ability to spread liberal democracy in a “more honest, more modest, and more generous” way.


"It seems like a handy word." The Economist. 6 June 2011.

This piece comments on the frequent misuse of the term genocide and explores how we have expanded its definition in order to more easily converse about violence and oppression.


"The uses and abuses of the G-word." The Economist. 2 June 2011.

In the same vein, the Economist criticizes the overuse of the word genocide, maintaining that it must be reserved to characterize only the most horrific crimes so as to note dilute their severity.



Spindle Law Interviews: Martha Minow

Terms of Engagement by James Traub (for Foreign Policy)