Skip to main content

The Abuse of Evil: The Corruption of Politics and Religion since 9/11



The Abuse of Evil: The Corruption of Politics and Religion since 9/11

Richard J. Bernstein

ISBN: 978-0-745-63494-4 January 2006 Polity 144 Pages


Since 9/11 politicians, preachers, conservatives and the media are all speaking about evil. In the past the dicourse about evil in our religious, philosophic and literary traditions has provoked thinking, questioning and inquiry. But today the appeal to evil is being used as a political tool to obscure compex issues, block serious thinking and stifle public discussion and debate.

We are now confronting a clash of mentalities, not a clash of civilisations. One mentality is drawn to absolutes, moral certainties, and simplistic dichotomies of good and evil. The other seriously questions an appeal to absolutes in politics and criticizes the simplistic division of the world into the forces of evil and the forces of good.

In The Abuse of Evil Bernstein challenges the claim that without an appeal to absolutes, we lack the grounds for acting decisively in fighting our enemies. The post 9/11 abuse of evil corrupts both democratic politics and religion. The stakes are high in this clash of mentalities in shaping how we think and act in the world today - and in the future.



1. The Clash of Mentalities: The Craving for Absolutes versus Pragmatic Fallibilism.

2. The Anticipations and Legaices of Pragmatic Fallibilism.

3. Moral Certainty and Passionate Commitment.

4. Evil and the Corruption of Democratic Politics.

5. Evil and the Corruption of Religion.

Epilogue: What is to Done?.


Works Cited.


"A dazzling demonstration of philosophy’s public relevance."

Nancy Fraser, New School for Social Research

“Building on the conceptual framework advanced in his last book, Radical Evil, Bernstein argues that what defines the post 9-11 world is an abuse of evil. In the face of the pernicious moral absolutism of neo-conservatism and the religious right, Bernstein advances a pragmatic fallibilism that is consistent with both the fragility and tenacity of democracy. It is the great merit of this book to show that such a fallibilism is not only continuous with a religious world-view, but is its enabling condition. If philosophy, as Hegel insists, is its time comprehended in thought, then Bernstein gives his readers a philosophical wake-up call to think about evil in the face of so much unthinking moralism.”

Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research

  • A brilliant critique of the new political language of good and evil used by the Bush Administration.
  • Written by one of America's most highly respected political philosophers.
  • Provides a new theoretical framework to understand the post 9-11 world.
  • Powerfully and persuasively written.