Evilization in liberal discourse: From Kant's 'unjust enemy' to today's 'rogue state'

Harald Muller
Content Type
Journal Article
International Politics
Issue Number
Publication Date
July 2014
Palgrave Macmillan
Liberal discourse should have a hard time looking for 'evil' in international relations. Standing on the pillar of rationalism and humanitarianism, there seems to be little space for the morally and emotionally charged notion of evil to enter considerations. Yet, the liberal belief in the freedom of will implies that humans are capable of turning against the advice of reason and opt for evil behavior and underlying principles. This possibility is epitomized by Kant's construction of the 'evil enemy'. Since 'evil' appears sporadically in international relations, with Hitler's Germany as prototype, its existence in the real world of international relations cannot be ruled out a priori. Designating an 'other' as evil is thus a discursive possibility. The practice to turn this possibility into reality is conceptualized here as 'evilization' in analogy to 'securitization'. There is strong variance among liberal democracies in applying this practice, ranging from 'pacifism' to 'militancy', which often leads to dire consequences. Deriving the principles of fallibility and prudence from liberal reasoning, this article concludes with the proposition that 'liberal pacifism' is the preferable option in most conceivable circumstances, but that the possibility of confronting political evil is rare, but existing.
International Relations, Politics
Political Geography
Germany, Cameroon