The topic of “evil” means different things depending upon context. For some, it is an archaic term, while others view it as a central problem of ethics, psychology, or politics. Coupled with state power, the problem of evil takes on a special salience for most observers. When governments do evil –in whatever way we define the term – the scale of harm increases, sometimes exponentially. The evils of state violence, then, demand our attention and concern. Yet the linkage of evil with state power does not resolve the underlying question of how to understand the concepts that we invoke when we use the term. Instead, the question becomes what evil means in the context of and in relation to state power.
The fifteen essays in this book bring multiple perspectives to bear on the problems of state-sponsored evil and violence, and on the ways in which law enables or responds to them. The approaches and conclusions articulated by the various contributors sometimes complement and sometimes stand in tension with each other, but as a whole they contribute to our ongoing effort to understand the characteristics and workings of state power, and our need to grapple with the harm it causes.