The Danger of Following Rules: Reflections on Eichmann in Jerusalem

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech Publishing


In this article I build upon Hanna Arendt’s reflections on the “banality of evil” to elaborate on the dangers of unreflectively embracing abstract norms and bureaucratic reasoning as guidelines and justifications for behavior. By offering validation for our actions (or the lack thereof) regardless of their likely effects, abstract norms and rules harbor the danger of appeasing consciences and relieving us from our responsibility towards other human beings. I exemplify the effects of bureaucratic reasoning through the United Nations’ failures in Rwanda and Srebrenica. In Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt warned against the banal evil hidden in the uncritical following of accepted norms and rules of behavior. I conclude that in order to avoid the danger of becoming Eichmanns of some sort we need to carefully and prudently assess the potential effects of our actions and embrace responsibility for the consequences they may produce in the concrete circumstances we engage with.




Zanotti, L., 2014. The Danger of Following Rules: Reflections on Eichmann in Jerusalem. Spectra, 3(2). DOI: