Talking about Evil: Psychoanalytic, Social, and Cultural Perspectives

Edited by Rina Lazar (Israel)

lazarcoverart1116wHow can we talk about evil? How can we make sense of its presence all around us? How can we come to terms with the sad fact that our involvement in doing or enabling evil is an interminable aspect of our lives in the world? This edited volume (Routledge Relational Perspectives Book Series, 2017) is an attempt to engage these questions in a new way.

Written from within the complicated reality of Israel, the contributors to this book forge a collective effort to think about evil from multiple perspectives. This is a necessary effort since psychoanalysis has been slow to account for the existence of evil, while philosophy and the social sciences have tended to neglect its psychological aspects.

The essays collected here join to form a wide canvas on which a portrait of evil gradually emerges, from the Bible, through the enlightenment, to the Holocaust; from Kant, through Freud, Klein, Bromberg, and Stein, to Arendt, Agamben, and Bauman; using literature, history, cinema, social theory, and psychoanalysis. Talking about Evil opens up a much needed space for thinking, in itself an antidote to evil. It will be of interest to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, as well as scholars and students of philosophy, social theory, and the humanities.

Contributors Include:

Introduction – Rina Lazar
1: Yolanda Gampel – Evil
2: Yaron Senderovic – The Banality of Radical Evil
3: Boaz Shalgi – From the Universal to the Particular: An Intersubjective
Psychoanalytic View of Evil and Law
4: Amos Goldberg -Three Forms of Post-Genocidal Violence in Beni Wircberg’s
5: Michael Gluzman – The Two Holocausts of Avot Yeshurun
6: Joshua Durban – From “The Scream” to “The Pieta”: Murderous Mourning and Evil
7: Michal Ben-Naftali – Reflections on “Doing Evil”
8: Moshe Zuckerman – The Evil of Banality in the Modern Era: Remarks on Hannah
Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem”
9: Shlomo Biderman – The Kingdom of Evil
10: David Kitron – On Godly Evil, Human Evil and Humanism
11: Shai Biderman – A Touch of Evil: Cinematic Perspectives
12: Merav Roth – The Restorative Power of Reading Literature – From Evil to Dialectics
13: Rina Lazar – Talking about Evil in Retrospect: Trying to Conceive the Inconceivable


“Evil is not a new topic. However, the Holocaust, manifold military conflicts, the emergence of ethnic and forced migration waves, and the rise in corruption require that we situate it in the different contexts where it acquires meaning. Evil is an action that threatens the ethics of life and causes the collapse of essential values. What place does it occupy in our minds, in human relations, in psychoanalytic practice? Evil creates a category that defies psychology manuals. Defining it accurately is a pressing need, because be it natural, rational, irrational, or banal, evil lies on the border between the sayable and the bearable. This book offers a unique and important effort to address these old yet timely questions. Drawing on a truly interdisciplinary range of contributors–philosophers, psychoanalysts, historians, sociologists, literary scholars, and theologians–this book achieves an unusual breadth of engagement with the question of evil in its many contexts and effects. It will become a necessary reference for scholars and practitioners in many fields of thought and research.”

– Janine Puget,
senior p
sychoanalyst, Buenos Aires;
Sigourney Award-Winning author of Discontinuous Subjectivation and Psychoanalysis: Uncertainty and Certainties (2015); numerous other
contributions to psychoanalysis

“This book on evil amounts to a great deal: it counters the ‘evil-skeptics’ who believe that the concept of evil has no explanatory power and that all it does is to serve as a rhetorical device of strong condemnation. Evil, the book tells us, is manifested by morally despicable acts, but despicable doesn’t mean ineffable. By looking at evil from diverse disciplines and varied points of view, the essays in the book make a genuine contribution in answering two vital questions: why morally despicable actions are done, and whether the people who are doing evil are constitutionally different from people who don’t.”

 – Avishai Margalit,
Professor Emeritus of
Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem;
George F. Kennan Professor at the I
nstitute for Advanced Study in Princeton;
winner of Israel Prize for philosophy (2010) and Ernest Bloch Prize (2012);
author of The Ethics of Memory (2002) and On Compromise and Rotten Compromises (

“This compelling set of meditations on evil will consistently engage all who are troubled by the paradoxical human propensity toward inhumanity. In their entirety, the essays provide a remarkable wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary conversation about the problematics of understanding evil. As individual contributions, each essay offers a unique and deeply thought-provoking perspective on those aspects of the human condition that permit the violent erasure of other humans. In all, this captivating and enlightening book yields a rare amalgam of psychoanalytic, philosophical, and historical insights into our most bedeviling concerns in a manner that adds a hopeful wisdom to our struggles toward a humane world.”

  – Sam Gerson, PhD,
founder and past-p
resident of the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology (NCSPP) and the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC), Associate Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and Editor of Studies in Gender and Sexuality and the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, and winner of the Elise M. Hayman Award for the Study of Genocide and the Holocaust (2007)


lazarphoto1014wwwRina Lazar, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Tel Aviv. She is a lecturer and supervisor at the Psychotherapy Program, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. She is also a board member of the International Association of Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP). Lazar has co-edited two books and published papers on a range of topics in various psychoanalytic journals.

Rina Lazar, PhD
Ramot Naftali 9
Tel Aviv Israel 69278
Email Rina Lazar