A Sociologist’s View
Everyone has a sense of what evil is. But as societies we rarely agree on our definitions of evil. Are criminals evil? Is homosexuality evil? Is taxation evil? Is Arctic oil drilling evil? I want to argue that our need to identify what is bad in people and society helps us better identify what ‘we’ are. But there is no absolute scale against which to measure good and evil in modern times, so evil becomes a contest of definitions. What is, however, common to most definitions of evil in our time is the focus on the individual—the monster—instead of society. The task of a Sociology of Evil is to interrogate our definitions of evil and to discuss whether these definitions are a help or a hindrance in understanding the human world.
Titus Hjelm is Reader in Sociology at University College London, UK. He has published widely in the fields of sociology of religion, social theory and youth studies. He is the co-editor of the Journal of Religion in Europe and the founding chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Sociology of Religion Group. He spends his spare time playing heavy metal in the internationally acclaimed band Thunderstone. Their sixth album will be released in early 2016.
7:00 PM @ cafe 1001
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