Is there a propensity for evil in the Western culture? How is “evil” defined? How is “evil” sanctioned and how does it shift, from era to era? What other phenomena enable “evil” to manifest? Is there a gender-specific type of “evil” that we can pinpoint in Western history? These were the questions that I sought answers to when reading this book. Sadly, none were answered. In fact, if you read the table of contents, you already know everything this book has to offer.
The author gives no new insight into the “evil” phenomenon, and goes about piecing together historical facts so well known, they’re self standing. But he does so with a sadistic attention to technical details that makes me believe Michel Faucheux, the author, missed his calling.
The strength of a nonfiction book lies in the author’s methodology, and the author’s creativity in turning data into information. Faucheux fails to explain his research methodology, which, as a reader, you are left to deduct from what he writes.
This book biggest weakness though lies in the author’s inability to do a meta analysis of this phenomenon, and it reads more like a resume of historical facts than a true review of a concept – which I expected, from the title.
It is a good starting point for history neophytes, otherwise it is neither researched enough, nor conceptually audacious enough to be worth your time (an uber fast read, anyway).
My copy – Michel Faucheux: Histoires du mal en Occident. Des tragédies de l’Histoire aux crimes célèbres, Éditions du Félin, 2004
The author is a former director of the Institute of Applied Sciences of Lyon, and wrote in the past about the history of happiness.
Photo: Quino Al – La Malagueta, Malaga, Spain