This paper starts by sketching Kant’s four ideal legal and political conditions—'anarchy,’ ‘despotism,’ ‘republic,’ and ‘barbarism’—before showing their usefulness for analyzing different political forces that may operate in any given society. Contrary to the common tendency in political philosophy to view our societies as either in the so-called ‘state of nature’ (‘anarchy’) or in ‘civil society’ (‘republic’), I propose that we might find ourselves in societies where aspects or ‘pockets’ of our lives are subject to any one of these (anarchic, despotic, republican, and barbaric) political forces. I then combine Kant’s ideas on barbaric evil with Arendt’s ideas on totalitarian evil, which gives us a four-fold conception of political evil. This fourfold distinction is then used to identify some types and patterns of destructive political forces as they occur in actual, historical societies, such as racist, sexist, or heterosexist violence and oppression.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-248
Number of pages27
JournalProceedings of the Aristotelean Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Kant (Immanuel)
  • barbarism
  • evil
  • Hannah Arendt


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