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Sun Jul 5, 2020, 01:06 AM

Putin's Referendum Provides Fresh Example of Banality of Evil, Anthropologist Says

Friday, July 3, 2020

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 1 – Russians voted for the Putin amendments less because of any fear that not doing so would have negative consequences for them than because of a sense that voting no would not have any consequences in a situation in which the public space is not something they control but must simply live within, Dmitry Dubrovsky says.

The Higher School of Economics anthropologist says this is the latest example of the phenomenon of the banality of evil that Hannah Arendt described in her book about the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem more than half a century ago (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/07/01/86100-banalnost-zla).

Russia is not a totalitarian state and does not control people entirely by fear, Dubrovsky says. Instead, it is a certain kind of “’hybrid non-democracy,’” a place where some people truly support the regime, others oppose it, but most go along out of a sense that it is useless to resist the state’s demands, because they are the new norm and violating it can have real costs.

People will take risks when they believe it is required by their profession or when they believe that doing so will achieve something. Thus, doctors treat those who are dangerously infectious because that is required by their job; and that is what citizens do when they have a sense that their actions can achieve something.


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