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The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza

Overview

The principle of the “lesser evil”—the acceptability of pursuing one exceptional course of action in order to prevent a greater injustice—has long been a cornerstone of Western ethical philosophy. From its roots in classical ethics and Christian theology, to Hannah Arendt’s exploration of the work of the Jewish Councils during the Nazi regime, Weizman explores its development in three key transformations of the problem: the defining intervention of Médecins Sans Frontières in mid-1980s Ethiopia; the separation ...

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The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza

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Overview

The principle of the “lesser evil”—the acceptability of pursuing one exceptional course of action in order to prevent a greater injustice—has long been a cornerstone of Western ethical philosophy. From its roots in classical ethics and Christian theology, to Hannah Arendt’s exploration of the work of the Jewish Councils during the Nazi regime, Weizman explores its development in three key transformations of the problem: the defining intervention of Médecins Sans Frontières in mid-1980s Ethiopia; the separation wall in Israel-Palestine; and international and human rights law in Bosnia, Gaza and Iraq. Drawing on a wealth of new research, Weizman charts the latest manifestation of this age-old idea. In doing so he shows how military and political intervention acquired a new “humanitarian”
acceptability and legality in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Taussig
“Originality, ingenuity, and brilliance do not even begin to do justice to this amazing study, this architectural forensics of battle and human rights as pieced together from the study of the ruin and the terrifying logic of “the lesser evil.” How astonishing to see our new world this new way.”
Paul Gilroy
“Eyal Weizman’s work has become an indispensable source of both insight and guidance in these difficult times. He understands the evolving dynamics of war and sovereignty better than anyone.”
W. J. T. Mitchell
“This is a wonderful book, written with clarity, precision, and passion. It takes the reader into the heart of contemporary necro-politics and calculations of “lesser evils” by powerful states and their humanitarian accomplices. Deeply learned and informative on every page, this is essential reading for anyone who cares about contemporary conditions of warfare and state-controlled violence; about the spatial practices that reinforce and regulate systemic forms of violence, such as the calculation of minimal requirements for human survival. In the spirit of Doctors Without Borders, Weizman is an architect without borders, at home in political philosophy, military history, just war theory, and the spatial systems of controlled, calculated violence that constitute Israel–Palestine, and much of the world today.”
From the Publisher
“Eyal Weizman’s work has become an indispensable source of both insight and guidance in these difficult times. He understands the evolving dynamics of war and sovereignty better than anyone.”—Paul Gilroy, Professor of Social History, London School of Economics

“This is a wonderful book, written with clarity, precision, and passion. It takes the reader into the heart of contemporary necro-politics and calculations of “lesser evils” by powerful states and their humanitarian accomplices. Deeply learned and informative on every page, this is essential reading for anyone who cares about contemporary conditions of warfare and state-controlled violence; about the spatial practices that reinforce and regulate systemic forms of violence, such as the calculation of minimal requirements for human survival. In the spirit of Doctors Without Borders, Weizman is an architect without borders, at home in political philosophy, military history, just war theory, and the spatial systems of controlled, calculated violence that constitute Israel–Palestine, and much of the world today.”—W. J. T. Mitchell, Professor of English and Art History, University of Chicago

“Originality, ingenuity, and brilliance do not even begin to do justice to this amazing study, this architectural forensics of battle and human rights as pieced together from the study of the ruin and the terrifying logic of “the lesser evil”. How astonishing to see our new world this new way.”—Michael Taussig, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University

“Weizman continues to offer daring social and political commentary, questioning taken-for-granted structures and processes that perpetuate oppression and violence.”—Legacy Russell, BOMB Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844676477
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 6/19/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 992,155
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Eyal Weizman is an architect and Director of the Center for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and has worked with a variety of NGOs and human rights groups in Israel-Palestine. He co-edited the book A Civilian Occupation to accompany the major exhibition of the same name, has written many articles in journals, magazines, and books, and is an editor at large for Cabinet magazine. His other books include Hollow Land and Lesser Evils. He received the James Stirling Memorial Lecture Prize for 2006-7.

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Table of Contents

1 The Humanitarian Present 1

665 6

Lesser Evildoers 8

Pangloss's Law 10

Calculating Machines for the Reduction of Evil 15

An Ethical Governor 17

War of the Mad 19

Bulls and Spiders 21

2 Arendt in Ethiopia 27

On Omelettes and Eggs 35

The Politics of Compassion 37

Challenging Third Worldism 39

Humanitarian Optics 42

The Testimony of the Dead 45

Armies of Compassion 49

Minima Moralia 53

Aid Archipelago 56

Polis and the Police 58

3 The Best of All Possible Walls 65

Material Proportionality 73

Wallfare 80

Milgram in Gaza 86

A Legislative Attack 90

Anarchists Against the Law 92

4 Forensic Architecture: Only the Criminal Can Solve the Crime 99

Before the Forum 103

Speaking Bones 108

The Era of Forensics 112

Dying to Speak 113

The Forensics of Forensics 115

Forensic Fetishism 126

The Thirtieth Civilian 129

The Design of Ruins 133

The Devil's Advocate 134

Epilogue: The Destruction of Destruction 139

Acknowledgements 163

Notes 167

Index 183

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