"As little state as possible "
The Dawn, 1880)
Choosing for Nietzsche's philosophy as a research subject
for this paper, we have taken the liberty of touching upon an interesting,
complicated and important matter.
Why interesting? Because we have always found Nietzsche's
way of philosophical thinking - this "labyrinth of audacious insights" -
the most incredibly original and fresh ever.
Why complicated? Because Nietzsche's writings are
sometimes no less controversial than they are gripping. His thought does
change over the years, and at times it appears to change significantly.
With his often apparent penchant for self-contradiction, Nietzsche
withholds, but he also reveals. As he says in "The Gay Science", one
wishes to be understood and one also wishes not to be understood.
Why important? Because the time is finally coming when
some of his predictions regarding Europe are becoming real, if
not turning out to be true; and that is the time we are living in.
The idea of determining Europe's true place in the set of
human values has been bothering the world's intellects for centuries. This
matter, vexed and attractive at the same time, has been keenly argued upon
in the theories of the prominent thinkers claiming to finally puzzle out
what Europe is ( Nation?.. State?.. Law?..) or what it will, or
might, be. One question that can be posed is whether these claims still
hold for the Europe of the 21st century (although, even if some of them
seem not to, they are nevertheless worth attention). The philosophers'
positions on Europe are sometimes partly coinciding and sometimes
diametrically opposed, reflecting time's influence and own strong
persuasions of their bearers, sometimes more of the former than the latter
but sometimes vice versa.
Prior to making an attempt to define the place of
Nietzsche's philosophy in the trends of European thought, let's take a
more or less impartial look at the Civilisation, at least by briefly
trying to 'sort out' what it is - Europe.
European Civilisation and Nietzsche
Europe is an ancient continent which is known for its
host of different philosophies, movements, psycho-social processes and
consecutive changes of power. Wars between nations have coloured the face
of the continent and Europe has known phases of high cultural self-esteem
with a feeling of prominence and cultural and philosophical righteousness
among the Europeans, but also has it known eras of self-criticism and
doubt about its legitimacy as a cultural entity. Some schools even want to
make way for the concept of Europe being merely a result of geographical
coincidence, where notions like 'Europe being a peninsula of the greater
Eurasian super-continent' also arise. One of the most striking
characteristics of the European civilisation is that its
'culture-bearers', i.e. the people shaping and being responsible for
European culture, are highly self-critical to their own civilisation,
whereas they have developed this same self-criticism because of views that
they have acquired by means of European sciences and philosophies.
Europeans have always been exposed to many other civilisations because of
the European need to expand, to colonise and to 'convert' other peoples to
European ways of thinking like Christianity and European ethics. After the
loss of the colonies - but particularly after the acceptance of
cultural anthropology as an important science - many European
nations realised that the Western culture could very well be just one of
the many civilisations of the world. European self-criticism as well as,
in narrower cases, the dismissal of ethnocentrism gave the pas to a new
concept: the unification of Europe, making use of the idea that there is
one European culture as well as a great economic potential for a unified
Europe. Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the philosophers who found
themselves in between the notions of both the grandeur of ethnic nations -
as nation-states - and the blessings of Europe as a coherent, powerful
culture, because he embraced the view of the European civilisation being
far better developed than others. Europe would therefore have to set the
example for the world.
Nietzsche was clearly in favour of the idea of Europe
being more powerful and successful, if only it were united. In order to
accomplish that oneness, the nation-states had to make place for the
greater European concept. It seems as if Nietzsche did not fully carry on
thinking into the direction of the earlier Enlightenment, where people
like Rousseau already started doubting the blissfulness of the modern
times and in fact were longing for a more natural, less Western line of
thought, against the apparent line of what was called progress. In a way,
Nietzsche was a child of the Enlightenment himself, to the extent that he
believed in progress and the development of the human race without
religious imperatives, but he clearly dismissed the strongly rational
aspect of this trend of Western philosophies; Nietzsche didn't think that
all people were strong and capable enough to decide for themselves what is
best and he thought that people should listen more to their instincts
rather than only to their reasoning. He believed that the perfect scenario
for the future would be a society shaped by the rise of a noble person, a
strong, intelligent man gifted with the faculties of permitting his
instincts to steer his life. These instincts, according to Nietzsche,
would enable this strong man - the Übermensch - to save the human race
from further decline, as was initiated by Christianity, which had also
destructed the refinement of the Hellenic soul.
Hellenic - ancient Greek - soul was Nietzsche's ideal of how one should
be, by following the instincts of helping the strong, staying alive (and
thus saying 'yes' to life), subjecting the weak (slaves), being balanced
(keeping a more or less harmonious emotional life), being prominent (and
knowing it; feeling as a leader and trusting one's instincts and
insights), being proud (not allowing yourself to be humiliated - not even
by a god) and being artistic (constantly trying to advance and improve
yourself by competing with others). In this ancient Hellenic society gods
were powerful and they were real, direct projections of the human soul
because of their numerousness and many different characters and,
therefore, they respectively represented all the different aspects of the
human character. Gods were almost tangible and understandable, encouraging
human progress and prominence. On the other hand, Christianity, according
to Nietzsche, was a religion where the god had died a long time ago, he
had left his creatures and instead they needed a demigod (who also died).
Christianity would exploit the feelings and the fallibility of the
weaklings, the décadents; the people who denied their instincts and
who, in Nietzsche's view, would probably not have been able to seize power
anyway, because of physiological shortcomings. They, as he writes in
The Antichrist, had revolted against the masters when they were
slaves, reversing all life instincts, a process which led to a denial of
the importance of earthly life, to a loss of interest in this world and of
the need to improve oneself and, eventually, to denial of life. Gods were
no longer the example of power, virility or joy of life, but rather of
suffering, invisibility, transcendence, and this world was no more than a
bad prelude to the eternal life that had yet to come. The losers had
seized power by their perfidious lore about redemption from the world,
lust, power and suffering - life, in short - bringing to naught
every chance for the Übermensch to take over. People who had nothing to
lose on this earth would therefore be excellent Christians-to-be. Europe
in the days of Nietzsche was shaped by this losers' soteriology.
Europe of the nation-States, according to his views, has
inherited the Christian tradition and thus fallen prey to the democratic
virus. Being both anti-rationalist and anti-democrat, Nietzsche was a real
pro-European, a 'good European', apparently because he was
anti-rationalist and anti-democrat. In his days the idea of unification
was not yet understood, but Nietzsche knew he was a prophet. He always
thought that he was writing for a more appreciative audience, deeply
convinced that his time has not yet come, since "some are born
posthumously". So, hundred years later, perhaps we are that audience
and he is the first postmodernist.
It seems amazing how a person living in the time of the
purely nationalistic ideas (nationalism can be the deep love for one's own
culture, ethnic group and fatherland - without considering all other
nations de facto inferior - but in this case people believed
only in their own state) manages to soundly reject ideas habitual
and convenient to his contemporary society, so boldly treating the common
values by putting them upside down and shaking the sense out of them. What
made Nietzsche's genius develop into such a direction? Perhaps, one could
figure it out by first tracing the life circumstances of the philosopher,
considering them as the background of his thought.
Nietzsche's biography in brief
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born in 1844 in the town
of Röcken, Germany, the son of an austere Lutheran Pastor. He was a bit of
an adolescent prodigy - a talented linguist and a gifted amateur musician.
It was in the line of expectations that young Friedrich would continue in
the family tradition, but this proved to be a most ironic assumption. His
family background offers a striking contrast to his later thought, and, of
course, it is tempting to construe his philosophy as a reaction against
his childhood: his attitudes towards Christianity, Luther, small-town
morals and the Germans may seem easily explicable in such terms. Yet one
should be careful here, for this approach bars an adequate understanding
of Nietzsche's philosophy. The thought of a philosopher may be partly
occasioned by early experiences, but the conception of strict
casualty is not applicable here.
As a student, Nietzsche lost his Christian faith quite
early on, and gave up his theological studies to become a brilliant young
classicist. At the age of 24, he was appointed professor of classical
philology at the University of Basel. His life changed dramatically when
he got hold of a copy of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea
(1818). It was a book that confirmed his own atheism and enabled him to
systematise his thoughts into some sort of coherent world view. As a young
man, he was introduced to Wagner and his wife, Cosima, and was bewitched
by both of them during his early years. His first major book, The Birth
of Tragedy (1872), is dedicated to Wagner. He subsequently wrote a
series of aforistic books that criticise Western civilisation, such as
Human, All Too Human (1878). In the late 1870s, Nietzsche's general
health went into a gradual decline and he finally had to resign the
professorship. Nietzsche was unwell for most of his adult life, and may
have had syphilis. He suffered from a variety of ailments, including
headaches, insomnia and near blindness. He spent much of the rest of his
life in futile wanderings around Europe trying to recover his health. It's
quite obvious that his own personal struggles against illness inform his
philosophical message. Nietzsche thought modern civilisation was diseased,
infected by the toxins of Christianity and nihilism, and his mission was
to provide a remedy.
By 1882, he was writing Thus Spake Zarathustra, in
which he put forward the two ideas for which he is most famous: the
'Overman' and 'Eternal Recurrence'. In the last years of his life he
became increasingly isolated and ill, but amazingly prolific, with books
like Beyond Good and Evil (1885), The Genealogy of Morals
(1887), The Anti-Christ (1888) and The Will to Power
(published posthumously in 1910). They're odd books, full of strange
poetic aphorisms and ironic assertions, expressed in a language that seems
neither literal nor figurative, but somewhere puzzlingly in between.
Partly because of these stylistic excesses, his philosophy was largely
ignored by most of his contemporaries, and his later work is often bitter
and dogmatic as a result. However, he always remained confident that his
day would come ("I want to be right not for today or tomorrow but for
"). By 1888, his behaviour had become increasingly
bizarre, and he was finally diagnosed as insane. He spent the last years
of his life being cared by his sister Elizabeth - an unpleasant woman who
later edited her brother's works into crude anti-Semitic propaganda. He
died in Weimar in 1900.
One of the central tendencies of Nietzsche's thought is
the theme of the 'weak' and the 'strong', masters and slaves, the
master-morality and the slave-morality.
In the historical evolution of Europe, he states, "the
weak" tend to gain more power. The new philosophy of the weak (or
ressentiment) is called Democracy, considered by him to be a
perfect form of slavery when one becomes a slave to masses. Even leaders
are weak in a democratic society, since they have to respond to the needs
of the crowd. Ressentiment presupposes a drive to blame other
people for all bad things happening. The weak may revolt against the
masters and they may defeat them, but if they do, they won't manage
themselves, for they don't have any idea of what to do with themselves.
Democracy develops itself in the nation-States, transforming every human
being, according to Nietzsche, into "a pygmy of equal rights", since this
is one of the major functions of the nation-States' institutions. It is
yet another losers' religion; Christianity in a profane coat, where even
the most disabled are capable of telling the strong what to do because
their number might be greater, and for that reason democracy is the system
where 'right' and 'wrong' are determined by vote and therefore by number
'Rebellion of the Hordes', philosopher Ortega y Gasset would say in
the 20th century, being inspired by Nietzsche.
In the unification of Europe Nietzsche recognises the
means to overcome the nation-State system, ressentiment and
democracy altogether. Europe is opposed to the philosophy of the weak and
he believes that strong leaders will emerge from "the swamp".
'Moralin' - indicating a term that is a crossbreed between 'moral'
and 'virtue' - has to make place for the 'dominance of the winner'.
Strangely enough, Nietzsche is convinced (and he predicts) that
Europeanisation will first of all lead to a further democratisation. Later
on, however, this process will undermine itself...
After this brief introduction into Nietzsche's
philosophical concepts, the following will allow to take a more in-depth
look at the line of his thoughts in connection with the posing of European
unification as an antidote to the nation-State system.
An outline of Nietzsche's thoughts
All socio-politic history is characterised by Nietzsche
as a struggle of two wills to power - the will of the strong ( highest
species, aristocratic masters) and the will of the weak (mass, slaves,
crowd, herd). Aristocratic will to power, according to Nietzsche, is the
instinct of an upsurge, the will to life; whereas the servile will to
power is the instinct of decline, will to death, to nothing. High culture
is aristocratic, while the dominance of the 'crowd' leads to the
degeneration of culture, to decadence. Moral is the main instrument of the
slaves against their masters, and moral judgements and establishments
allow to justify the flock's prevalence over the superior species. The
history of humanity during the last few millenniums (from dominance of
ancient aristocracy until modernity) is appraised by Nietzsche as the
process of gradual devolution of healthy life principles, as an ultimate
victory of vast masses of weaklings and suppressed over not numerous
aristocracy of the strong.
With variations, Nietzsche repeats the key idea of his
aristocratic conception - the high culture and the development of superior
human species need slavery and forced labour of the immense majority in
order to deliver the narrow privileged class from physical toil and the
struggle for existence:
"In a better social order, the hard work and misery of
life will be allotted to the man who suffers least from it, that is, to
the dullest man, and so on step by step upwards to the man who is most
sensitive to the highest, most sublimated kind of suffering, and therefore
suffers even when life is most greatly eased". (F. Nietzsche. Human,
All Too Human. 'My Utopia')
Nietzsche also develops an aristocratic notion of law.
The law, according to this concept, is a derivative of the will to power,
its reflex. From this position he rejects the ideas of freedom and
equality in human relationship, grounding the relevancy of privileges,
advantages and disparity. The inequality of rights is considered by
Nietzsche as a condition of the fact that rights exist at all. A right is
a privilege. Every type of entity has its own privilege. Nietzsche
believes that injustice never lies in unequal rights - it consists in the
claims for 'equal' rights. The justice is that people are not
equal, and juridical justice, thus, stems from the principle of inequality
of legal pretensions of different individuals - depending on whether they
belong to the strong upper crust or represent the ordinary "nulls" of the
throng, whose meaning and destination is serving the "chiefs" and
"ministers" of the flock. A man in himself, taken out of the context of
this serving, does not possess of neither rights, nor duties, nor virtues.
Nietzsche distinguishes two major types of state
organisation: aristocratic and democratic. He considers the
aristocratic states to be the greenhouses for the high culture and for the
strong breed of humans, while democracy is characterised as the effete
type of a state system. The Roman empire is estimated by Nietzsche as the
"most magnificent organisation form" ; the imperial Russia is also highly
appreciated. In his view, the existence of such genuine state formations
as the Roman empire or Russia is possible only in the presence of
anti-liberal and antidemocratic instincts and imperatives, aristocratic
will to authority, to traditions, to responsibility for the centuries
ahead and to solidarity of a chain of generations.
It is noteworthy that Nietzsche introduces a distinction
between "democracy as something yet to come" and "that which is even now
so designated and distinguished from older forms of government only by
driving with new horses: the roads are still the same old ones, and
the wheels are still the same old ones". While he evidently disapproves of
contemporary democracies, he seems more sympathetic towards that truer
democracy of the future which "wants to create and guarantee
independence for as many as possible, independence of opinions, way
of life, and business". (F. Nietzsche: The Wanderer and his
Shadow)* He envisages the eventual "victory of
democracy" and the rise of a "middle class that may forget
socialism like a disease that has been weathered"; and he adds: "The
practical result of this spreading of democratisation will first be a
European League of Nations".
On the whole, though, Nietzsche remains an irreconcilable
opponent to the ideas of public sovereignty. Realisation of such ideas
leads, in his view, to the upheaval of the foundation and to the decay of
"To differentiate between government and people, as if
two separate spheres of power, one stronger and higher, the other weaker
and lower, were negotiating and coming to agreement, is a bit of inherited
When, for example, Bismarck, describes the
constitutional form as a compromise between government and people, he is
speaking according to a principle that has its reason in history (which
is, of course, also the source for that portion of unreason , without
which nothing human can exist). By contrast, we are now supposed to learn
(according to a principle that has sprung from the head alone, and
is supposed to make history), that government is nothing but an
organ of the people, and not a provident, honourable "Above" in
relationship to a habitually humble "Below". Before one accepts this
formulation of the concept of government
we might consider the
consequences: for the relationship between people and government is the
strongest model relationship, according to which the interactions between
teacher and pupil, head of the house and servants, commander-in-chief and
soldier, master and apprentice, are automatically patterned. All these
relationships are now being slightly transformed, under the influence of
the prevailing constitutional form of government: they are becoming
compromises. But how will they have to reverse and displace themselves,
changing name and nature, when that very newest concept of government has
captured everyone's mind! But it will probably take another century for
that. In this regard, there is nothing to wish for more than
caution and slow development." (F. Nietzsche. Human, All Too Human.
'New and old concept of government')
Admitting in principle the state's disappearance in a
remote historical perspective, Nietzsche thought that least of all chaos
will follow, yet most likely a more reasonable institution than a state
will gain a victory over the state.
Giving a base for his future expectations, Nietzsche
reckoned that the democratic movement in Europe will first lead to
origination of a human type prepared for the new slavery, and then a
"strong man" will emerge - unprejudiced, of a dangerous and attractive
character, a "tyrant" unwittingly reared by the European democracy. This
Übermensch - translated either as Overman or Superman - is a new
kind of being, a superior character who will be able to leave behind the
pull of human gravity. The term occurs in the work of the Greek satirist
Lucian (c. 120-180 AD) as hyperanthropos, and in part one of
Faust by J.W. von Goethe (1749-1832). It is usually understood in
evolutionary terms - an inevitable development towards new life-forms.
Nietzsche's Zarathustra sees the Superman as far from inevitable - rather
as an extreme challenge to the human spirit. Indeed, the Superman may
never be realised, but Nietzsche insists that we have an obligation to
strive towards such a condition.
Overmen will be powerful, strong and healthy individuals,
who live an earthly and sensuous life, free from the error of belief in
some transcendent reality and from the restrictions of 'herd morality'.
They will readily accept the absurdity of the human condition and will
become artistic creators of themselves and a new pan-European society.
Their robust culture will concentrate on artistic rather than metaphysical
works. Rather more routine and mundane work will be performed by a slave
cast. But Overmen will not be cruel fascist despots. Once they have
conquered and recreated themselves, gone 'beyond' human nature, then they
will be tolerant and decent to the lower orders they rule over.
Nietzsche's future society is splendidly vague on detail.
It's a reactionary fantasy based on his own worship of pre-Socratic Greek
culture. Nowhere does Nietzsche explain or discuss the legitimacy of his
authoritarian political system. He offers no suggestions as to what kind
of civil law would apply when the passionate and instinctive intensity of
Overpeoples' lives led to disputes.
Nietzsche puts the rejection of his contemporary state -
this "new idol" of the crowd - into the mouth of Zarathustra. He deplores
the fact that in the modern world the state is taking the place once
occupied by true peoples and declares the state to be "the coldest of all
"[it] speaks its tongues of good and evil, which the
neighbour does not understand. It has invented its own language of customs
and rights. But the state tells lies in all tongues of good and evil
Confusion of tongues of good and evil: this sign I give you as the sign of
The meaning of this Zarathustra's anti-etatism apparently
consists in the loss of hopes for the contemporary state as a supporter of
a new aristocratic culture, insofar as - in Nietzsche's appreciation - it
got into the 'worst' hands, the hands of plebeian majority. It's quite
obvious here that Nietzsche is not against all states, not against a state
as a general idea; he's against the modern nation state as "the new idol".
In fact, Zarathustra preaches the international creed:
"Let him come to Zarathustra who has unlearned to love his people
because he has learned to love many peoples".
Europe, in Nietzsche's own time being torn apart by the
abnormal enmity of its peoples, had to, according to his expectations,
become unified in the future. In this connection the European problem as a
whole was viewed by the philosopher as the upbringing of a new caste
ruling over Europe. Such an interpretation of the development tendencies
also explains why Nietzsche constantly highlights the problem of
aristocratic education and propagandises the peculiar supranational
aristocratic solidarism which he stands up for. From this premise of
beyond-national elitism he criticises nationalism and national
narrow-mindedness, high self-conceit of Europeans in relation to the Asian
people, national arrogance of Germans, teutonomania, anti-French,
anti-Slavic and anti-Semitic moods and attitudes. He decries "nationalism"
as "dangerous", advocated intermarriage between different nations, and
expresses his hope for a "mixed race, that of the European man". He thinks
that diverse people had through their history acquired and stored up
various characteristics, and he thinks that the offspring of mixed races
might be able to draw on the accumulated capital of many peoples. After
the ideal of the "Good European" has been pronounced in these
terms, Nietzsche's discussions of race for obvious biographical and
historical reasons revolve, more often than not, around the Jews. It is
folly, he says, to sacrifice Jews as the scapegoats of all possible public
misfortunes. This he calls the "genetic fallacy" - to judge a person on
their origins rather than on their actions:
"Every nation, every man has disagreeable, even dangerous
characteristics; it is cruel to demand that the Jew should be an
I would like to know how much one must excuse in the overall
accounting of a people which, not without guilt on all our parts, has had
the most sorrowful history of all peoples, and to whom we owe the noblest
of all human beings (Christ), the purest philosopher (Spinoza), the
mightiest book, and the most effective moral code in the world." (F.
Nietzsche. Human, All Too Human. 'The European man and the destruction of
From the positions of the aristocratic revaluation of
values and seeking the ways to the future order of the new aristocracy,
Nietzsche denounces the policies of his contemporary European states as
the petty politics of mutual hostility and discord among Europeans. "The
time for small politics is gone", - he predicts, - "the next century will
bring the fight for the dominion of the earth - the coercion to
great politics". The spiritual warfare for the concept of politics will
take place, and all the political establishments resting on the lies of
old society will be blown up.
Much depends, though, on the form that a movement towards
a united Europe might take. In this connection, leaving aside the German
case, Nietzsche considers at least two possibilities. One of them he
fancies and the other he doesn't: on the one hand it is a 'European
noblesse' and on the other hand a 'European vulgarity'.
The first possibility is applicable to France, for "even
now France is still the seat of Europe's most spiritual and refined
culture and the leading school of taste". Napoleon is often appraised and
admired by Nietzsche, but, however, not for his military triumphs or his
imperial crown. Rather Nietzsche finds in him the antithesis of the German
"Wars of Liberation", of the resurgence of German nationalism, and -
besides Goethe - the greatest modern symbol of his own ideal: the Good
When Napoleon wanted to bring Europe into an
association of states
they botched everything with their "Wars of
Liberation" and conjured up the misfortune of the insanity of
nationalities (with the consequence of race fights in such long-mixed
countries as Europe! )."
The notion of 'European vulgarity', on the other
hand, is ascribed to England, with its "damnable Anglomania of 'modern
ideas' ". Nietzsche assumes that the 'European noblesse' is
something that still has to emerge, develop and slowly but surely acquire
dominance; while the 'European vulgarity' is actually accomplished
and it's only a matter of its victory over the rest of Europe in making it
liable to unification.
On the related issue of nationalism Nietzsche is quite
clear. Few writers have had less respect for their country and its
politics. A letter from Switzerland, 12 May 1887, can suffice to show
"I feel kinship only with the most cultivated French and
Russian people, but not at all with the so-called distinguished
elite among my own countrymen who judge everything from the
principle: 'Germany above everything'
('Deutschland über alles' -
Nietzsche denounces "nationalism and race hatred" as a
"scabies of the heart and blood poisoning", for which he is "by far not
'German' enough, as the word 'German' is used today"; he is "too well
informed" and "in race and descent too manifold and mixed" "to share the
thoroughly mendacious [verlogen] racial self-admiration and
displays itself in Germany
" Nietzsche states that he
prefers to be an heir of the "European spirit".
The cultural wish for European unity: Nietzsche and his
Beyond Good and Evil
In an earlier stage of his life Nietzsche used to
associate a lot with his friend Richard Wagner: an intelligent,
charismatic composer who had brought forth a huge oeuvre of sentimental
musical pieces, in particular about Germanic gods. Wagner embodied the
German longing for greatness and some ethnic predestination. At his house
there were always people around who would listen to the maestro speak and
play; philosophers were also invited and the tenor of the conversations
would often be nationalistic and anti-Semitic, as was the case in most
circles of intellectuals and the gentry in those days.
Nietzsche was often seen at Wagner's place and he was
also impressed by the music and the feelings of nationalism and German
greatness, that they aroused even in him. Nationalism was tearing Europe
apart but at the same time the continent was becoming 'smaller' because of
improving infrastructure. Wars could take place on a bigger scale,
therefore expansive nations threatening others with war were sure of
success, especially if they had organised themselves in monstrous
associations with other nations.
It will be helpful to look at the political and
intellectual background of the time in which the flamboyant philosopher
Friedrich Nietzsche had to develop his thoughts. The western world, the
'Abendland' (Evening Land), found itself once again in an identity
crisis. Despite this, in 1882 French philosopher Ernest Renan wrote his
famous, confident declaration 'Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?',
glorifying the concept of nationalism:
"What is a nation? A nation is a soul, a spiritual
principle. Only two things, actually, constitute this soul, this spiritual
principle. One is in the past, the other is in the present. One is the
possession in common of a rich legacy of remembrances: the other is the
actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to continue to value
the heritage which all hold in common. (
) The worship of ancestors is
understandably justifiable, since our ancestors have made us what we are.
) One loves in proportion to the sacrifices which one has approved and
for which one has suffered. One loves the house which he has built and
which he has made over. (
) Man is not enslaved, nor is his race nor his
language, nor his religion, nor the course of the rivers, nor the
direction of the mountain ranges. A great aggregation of men, with a
healthy spirit and warmth of heart, creates a moral conscience which is
In those days, this nationalistic stance towards politics
and culture was considered very progressive because it transcended
religions, races and hitherto accepted political tendencies. The nations
were growing more and more apart because of a common
political philosophy, and politicians tried to fight each other by making
use of nationalistic vocabulary and tactics. All these movements of
intelligentsia and opposition groups were calling for the vernacular
mobilisation of 'the people' against a variety of evils: autocracy,
bureaucracy, capitalism, and western ways. But the latent danger of
nationalism was that it could be appropriated by the autocrats,
bureaucrats and capitalists. The classic instances were Germany and Japan.
In the Germany of 1848 revolutions of the intellectuals were divided and
crushed; the Prussian chancellor, Bismarck, swiftly pre-empted and tamed
German linguistic nationalism in the service of a Prussian-led
Kleindeutschland and a Lutheran Prussian monarch. Popular German
nationalism accordingly migrated into Pan-German expansionism and the
völkisch fantasies of an academic proletariat who dreamed of German
conquest and agricultural settlement in the East, in the footsteps of
Teutonic knights and medieval German merchants. Bismarck's famous
exhortation to the German people, over the heads of their particular
political leaders, to 'think with your blood' was an attempt to activate a
mass psychological vibration predicated upon an intuitive sense of
consanguinity. But Nietzsche stayed away from politics, although he
disapproved of these developments on paper.
On the 15th of March 1886 a group of German labourers and
farmers arrived in the harbour of Asunción, Paraguay, to found a colony of
Aryan Germans on the continent of South America. Among them were Friedrich
Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth, and her husband, Bernard Förster, who had
initiated this project.
In such an era Friedrich Nietzsche was developing his
thoughts and giving publicity to them. His book Beyond Good and
Evil, which was published in August 1885, contained quite a few
unusual statements for a philosopher of that époque. Part Eight of the
book, Peoples and Fatherlands, is probably Nietzsche's most
political - or rather less apolitical - chapter ever written.
Peoples and Fatherlands starts off where it is once
again demonstrated that he in fact is a child of the nineteenth century,
because he describes with sincere admiration the beauty of Richard
Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; a pompous, overladen work
with spirit - at the same time seeming to have ripened too late - and of
northern, almost barbarian emotionalism, without the finesse found in the
south of Europe. This music is typical for the German soul, he says,
which is at once young and aged, over-mellow and still
too rich in future. This kind of music best expresses what I consider true
of the Germans: they are of the day before yesterday and the day after
tomorrow - they have as yet no today."
Nietzsche doesn't like the gloominess and the unrefined
character of German ethnic pride; he promotes the idea of the 'good
Europeans', more cosmopolitan Europeans, who unite the good traits of
various European cultures; but occasionally even these good Europeans have
their hours when they permit themselves a warm-hearted patriotism, a lapse
and regression into old loves and narrownesses. Such feelings he can fully
ascribe to listening to musical pieces like Die Meistersinger , but
when one is dealing with intelligent and well-educated people these
feelings will undoubtedly dwindle. The intellectual capacities will
finally take over. He is even honest enough to mention 'being moved by
Wagner's music too much', as well as to succumbing to certain types of
nationalism, while describing them as "
atavistic attacks of patriotism
and cleaving to one's native soil". The Good Europeanism is a perfect
alternative to this type of primitive nationalism.
It was the age of the masses and the mass fell for
everything that was massive. Nietzsche alludes in Beyond Good and
Evil that the popularity of statesmen would be proportionate to the
greatness they had built, no matter how monstrous the outcome of greatness
was. "Great politics" is a subject that many people would talk about and
even disagree upon, as shown by Nietzsche when he overhears a discussion
between two old patriots trying to shout each other down with their
favourite arguments stating that Bismarck couldn't have done great things
if he weren't great, etc., etc
As an antidote to this useless bickering
and division among nations Nietzsche offers the inevitable coming about of
a united Europe. He says that such discussions and the political situation
of the day are merely symptoms, pains, for the birth of the united
Peoples and Fatherlands advocates a pan-Europeanism
that carries forward the heritage of Greece and Rome and of Judaism and
Christianity, the combined legacy of Asia and Europe. The preceding
chapter in Beyond Good and Evil ends with Nietzsche crying out "Oh
Europa! Europa!"- addressing Europe as if she were still the Phoenician
princess carried off by Zeus transfigured into a white bull, the Asian
girl who became mother by Zeus to the distinctively European. But even
though Nietzsche employs that old fable, the Europa he addresses in
Chapter 8 is no Phoenician girl, and "the great stupidity" threatening to
carry Europe off is no god but merely a modern ideology. The mythic
opening of the theme of Europe as a fusion of Asia and Europe is continued
more prosaically in this chapter.
Both physiologically and spiritually an essentially
different type of human will emerge from the new societies that will have
come into being because of the European unification. The assimilation
process of this unification will cause the gradual rise of a
supranational, nomadic type of man, who will become the European. If the
process is hindered by democratisation it only
gain in vehemence and depth"; "this process will
probably lead to results which its naïve propagators and panegyrists, the
apostles of 'modern ideas', would be at least inclined to anticipate."
Most Europeans will probably be overcivilised, effete and
weak, but they will be of the type prepared for slavery "in the subtlest
Nietzsche highly promotes the idea of cross-breeding. His
eurocentrism focuses on four components of this 'mixture' that will come:
the Germans, Jews, French and English. According to Nietzsche, the Germans
are ever searching for perfection and are always in a state of
development. They are restless, their soul is too complicated (also
because of a cross-breed with a possibly pre-Aryan element that is
untraceable). They will always wonder who they are and in their enthusiasm
of having found something typically German that makes them feel good, they
can be dangerous. The Germans are the contrary of the great Antiques where
eloquence and happiness were abundant.
About cross-breeding Nietzsche says:
"There are two kinds of genius: the kind which above all
begets and wants to beget, and the kind which likes to be fructified and
to give birth."
The Greeks were a people of the begetting kind, as well
as the French. The more fructifying types would be the Romans and the
Jews, and Nietzsche wants to add the Germans to this set of more masculine
peoples tormented and enraptured by unknown fevers and
irresistibly driven outside themselves, enamoured of and lusting after
foreign races (after those which 'want to be fructified') and at the same
time hungry for dominion, like everything which knows itself full of
generative power and consequently 'by the grace of God'. These two genius
seek one another, as man and woman do."
The Jews, this most internationalistic of all peoples
within Europe, will be confronted by Nietzsche with the Germans when he
writes in 'Part Eight', Peoples and Fatherlands, that it is the
Germans again who are suffering and want to suffer from nationalistic
nervous fever and political ambition. The Germans will therefore now and
then feel strongly anti-French, anti-Polish, anti-Jewish and so forth.
Nietzsche writes that he has never met a German who was favourably
inclined towards the Jews and this anti-Semitism has crept into every
corner of German politics. The Germans would rather expel the Jews; they
have the instinct of a people whose type is still weak and undetermined,
so that it could easily be effaced, easily extinguished by a stronger
race. That race could be the Jews; the toughest and strongest of all.
Somewhere later Nietzsche wittily alludes to the wondrous cross-breed one
could get when the Jewish genius of money and patience would mix with the
commanding and obedient character of the officers from the district of
Mark Brandenburg. Quickly though, he points out that in fact we have to be
serious about this because we must be "breeding a new caste which will
reign over Europe".
Thus, Nietzsche clearly sees positive perspectives for
Europe if the Germans would join the great cross-breeding. Continuing the
nationalistic course, on the other hand, would be more 'like
The English will have only little to offer the
unification. This non-philosophical race without taste, gloomier, more
sensual than the German is in greater need of Christianity, the
'philosopher-with-the-hammer' writes. The peasant features of their soul
are too conspicuous. The need to reach happiness was something that
Nietzsche disliked about them, and their morality always seemed too
boorish to him.
France on the other hand, has always been the most
spiritual and refined country in Europe, although this French taste,
according to Nietzsche, is fading away because of English influences. The
French have focused so much on keeping away the German, heavy culture that
their own was infiltrated by the English culture. The few who have
remained genuinely French are those who have the ambition to hide
themselves; at least, not to be infected by maniacal stupidity of
democratic bourgeois. What Nietzsche particularly likes about this
contribution to the cross-breeding is that the French are very artistic,
that they are superior by an ancient, manifold ethic culture, which makes
them curious and unprejudiced in a wholesome way. Also nice about the
French people is their being an interesting mixture of the North and the
South. The French could be exemplary; the Born Middlelanders, the 'Good
The European peoples are obviously growing towards each
other because they fear further mutual influences. It is time to
acknowledge these events as symptoms of a wish and necessity for real
Nietzsche is perhaps best known as the prophet of the
great wars and power and as opponent of political liberalism and
democracy. That is the idol of "tough Nietzscheans" and whipping boy of
many a critic. The "tender Nietzscheans", on the other hand, insist -
quite rightly - that Nietzsche scorned totalitarianism, denounced the
State as "The New Idol" and was himself a kindly and charitable person.
Actually, Nietzsche opposed both the idolatry of the State and political
liberalism because he was basically "antipolitical" and, moreover,
loathed the very idea of belonging to any "party" whatever.
"I know that in the not distant future many Germans will
feel as I do: the desire to live for one's education free from politics,
nationality, and newspapers
The leitmotif of Nietzsche's life and thought - the theme
of the antipolitical individual who seeks self-perfection away from the
modern world - is quite idealistic and reactionary, yet stemming from a
progressive position. So are his pro-European ideas. They are far from
being clearly defined in a purely structural sense (indeed, Nietzsche
doesn't really elaborate on what the single Europe will ultimately become,
what therefore enables us to pose such questions as: "What exactly will we
get in the long run, after abolishing the nation-State system?"), and yet
he's amazingly far-seeing, advanced and daring.
There is something shrill about much of Nietzsche's
writings: he delights in antithesis to what is current; it is as if he
were swimming against the stream for its own sake; and he makes a sport of
being provocative. And even if one does not agree with him, one may yet
value this aspect of his unique philosophical thought.
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Radicalism. The University of Chicago Press, 1990.
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Oxford University Press, 1994.
Kaufmann, Walter: Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist,
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Lampert, Laurence: "Peoples and Fatherlands" Nietzsche's
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Volume XXXVII, Supplement, 1999.
McIntyre, Ben: Forgotten Fatherland. MacMillan UK, 1993.
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uchenii. (History of political and Legal Doctrines) NORMA-INFRA,
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Published on Internet January 2002.