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Little Eichmanns

"Little Eichmanns" is a phrase used to describe persons participating in society who, while on an individual scale may seem relatively harmless even to themselves, taken collectively create destructive and immoral systems in which they are actually complicit. This is comparable to how Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi bureaucrat, unfeelingly helped to orchestrate The Holocaust.

The use of "Eichmann" as an archetype stems from Hannah Arendt's notion of the banality of evil. Arendt wrote in her 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on The Banality of Evil that Eichmann relied in propaganda rather than thinking for himself, and carried out Nazi goals mostly to advance his career. She called him the embodiment of the "banality of evil" as he appeared at his trial to have an ordinary and common personality and displayed neither guilt nor hatred. She suggested that this most strikingly discredits the idea that the Nazi criminals were manifestly psychopathic and fundamentally different from ordinary people. Lewis Mumford collectively refers to people willing to placidly carry out the extreme goals of megamachines as "Eichmanns".[1]

Anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan used the phrase in his essay Whose Unabomber? in 1995.[2] The phrase gained prominence in American political culture four years after the September 11th attacks, when an essay written by Ward Churchill shortly after the attacks received renewed media scrutiny. In the essay, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens", Churchill reiterated the phrase to describe technocrats working at the World Trade Center. The Ward Churchill September 11 attacks essay controversy ensued.[3]

The idea that Adolf Eichmann—or, indeed, the majority of Nazis or of those working in such regimes—actually fit this concept has been criticized by historians such as Michael Burleigh, who contends that Eichmann and the majority of Nazis were in fact deeply ideological and extremely anti-Semitic, with Eichmann in particular having been fixated on and obsessed with the Jews from a young age.[4]

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  1. ^ Mumford, Lewis (1970). The Pentagon of Power: The Myth of the Machine, Vol. II. New York City: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 279. ISBN 0-15-163974-4. In every country there are now countless Eichmanns in administrative offices, in business corporations, in universities, in laboratories, in the armed forces: orderly, obedient people, ready to carry out any officially sanctioned fantasy, however dehumanized and debased. 
  2. ^ Zerzan, John (2002). Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilisation. Los Angeles: Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-75-X. 
  3. ^ Ward Churchill Statement, Daily Camera, February 1, 2005
  4. ^ Burleigh, Michael (2010). Moral Combat: A History of World War II. London: Harper Press. pp. 415–417. ISBN 978-0-00-719576-3. 


  • Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, NY: Penguin Books, 1994.

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