I bought this book for use on a psychology course, but as I read more and more of it, I began to realise that many people would find it interesting. As popular films or books show, the public 'like' bad boys. While we may not claim to understand them, people who committ violent acts rouse our curiosity. Interest in serial killers serves as one example, as there are countless documenatries or studies which attempt to 'see' into the mind of such people, and what makes them do what they do. I think this book goes a long way to explaining (or helping to explain) why such violence occurs.
The book really has 5 parts:-
Introduction - discussion on the question of evil and the answers
Image and reality
The four roots of evil
How they do it
Conclusion - a discussion on why there is evil
Within these sections, Baumeister deals with many forms of violence, ranging from violence committed during times of war, gang violence, and even to violence in marriage, such as marital rape. The focus is not only on the perpetrators of violence though - the victims of violence are also discussed.
This is a very interesting and intelligent piece of work. It illustrates how evil is made to exist in our world - the media are often providing us with stories which could easily be put down to 'evil' almost every day of our lives (the recent war, brutal muggings of defenseless old people, child abuse stories, murder and so on). But the really scary thing about this book is that, with a lot of the stories quoted, the people involved are 'everyday' people, people like me and you. It is not just psychopaths who committ terrible acts - Baumeister refers to the Nazi regime, pointing out that police officers and guards often had to kill people as ordered, and that they did so out of a certain kind of duty. Extreme as this may be in some ways, it also shows how easily evil took control over that situation.
A brilliant book - disturbing in it's truthfulness.