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What Evil Means to Us


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About the Author

C. Fred Alford is Professor of Government and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Think No Evil: Korean Values in the Age of Globalization and What Evil Means to Us, both from Cornell, as well asTrauma, Culture, and PTSD,Trauma and Forgiveness: Consequences and Community, and many other books.


"Alford ... spent over a year interviewing state prison inmates, college students, and working people to find out how people conceptualize and experience evil. To many of his informants, doing evil is the 'pleasure in hurting and lack of remorse.' It is rooted, from what they told the author, in a baleful, bottomless sense of dread; to cause others to suffer this existential dislocation is somehow (in the mind) expected to alleviate it in oneself... Alford suggests that hope, and the answer to the problem of evil, may be found through shared narrative-the realm of 'metaphysics and theology.' Although this is a difficult book, it provides an unusually systematic approach to a topic more often addressed through anecdote or abstraction. Of interest especially to professionals who work with people 'on the edge.'"-Library Journal "The provocative general thesis of this narrative account is twofold. First, the impulse to do evil is all around us and lies deeply and inextricably within each of us... Second, the amelioration of evil in society depends on our acknowledging the universality of its grip on human persons and seeking its containment through creative acceptance of the dread that is inherent in the human condition."-Choice "This is not a tale for the weak of heart."-Times Literary Supplement "This is a deeply thoughtful and humane book which anyone interested in the phenomenon of evil- and who isn't?-will want to read and ponder."-V. Bradley Lewis, Review of Metaphysics "Alford makes many intriguing connections between evil as understood in classic literature and evil as recognized in popular culture. Anyone interested in the anatomy of human destructiveness would do well to consult this book."-Theological Studies "Alford's writing has a rich quality... Alford has a great degree of skill in raising thought-provoking questions without premature closure. It is refreshing to read a book that leaves one feeling unsettled, informed, and yet with a desire to pursue further readings and investigation. This book will be of great interest to anyone who studies the social and psychological effects of violence and who is interested in the philosophy of evil."-Stuart W. Twemlow, M.D., Psychoanalytic Books: A Quarterly Journal of Reviews "Alford has written a most interesting volume on how we experience evil... His book is a beautifully crafted psychoanalytic meditation... Lyrical and evocative... Extremely thought provoking, compelling and accessible. I urge all psychoanalysts to read this small gem."-Paul Marcus, The Psychoanalytic Review "This scholarly gem should appeal to a very broad cross-section of the population... Even those among us who have thought at great length about evil will likely benefit from Alford's remarkably accessible reflections on the darker side of human interaction."-Virginia Quarterly Review "What does the cliche that 'evil spelled backward is live' mean? Fred Alford wants to know, and with this provocative question he takes the reader on an intellectual journey which is, in his words, a 'domestic anthropology' of evil... This book is provocative, intellectually stimulating, and well written."-J. Reid Meloy, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association "Intelligent, erudite, and wide-ranging... His material is certainly rich, but it is his organization and critical analysis of that material, coupled with his exact and yet sometimes lyrical prose, that makes the book a landmark study... Alford's book is without a doubt a superlative study."-Sara L. Knox, Journal of Popular Culture "At a time when many construct babbling towers as a monument to their own erudition, Fred Alford is truly unique: a political theorist who brings his own brave, innovative research to bear on a profound question-the nature of evil-and does so with ringing clarity of intellect and prose."-Stanley Renshon, City University of New York "The book gives a healthy jolt to our psychological insight into evil. Alford's thesis-that a sense of dread can be the impetus for doing evil-demands serious attention."-Fred E. Katz, author of Ordinary People and Extraordinary Evil: A Report on the Beguilings of Evil "Total loss, total meaninglessness-in a lucid analysis packed with brilliant insights, C. Fred Alford shows how those phrases sum up what evil means to us. Taking his readers into a labyrinth formed by injustice and suffering, hopelessness and indifference, as well as by the agonizing questions raised by those afflictions of body and soul, Alford proves to be a trustworthy guide. He can help us not only to understand but also to restrain the human tendency to inflict on others the very conditions that we most dread."-John K. Roth, Claremont McKenna College "If man's capacity to perpetrate evil is deeply rooted in his psyche, so too is the concept of evil. Alford solves the riddle of 'What Evil Means to Us' by asking. The results of this creative inquiry are at once profound and deeply disturbing."-Jerrold M. Post, M.D., author of Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World

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