Thursday, October 18, 2018

On Nietzsche’s Call for Renewed Aristocratic Sensibility

I am now reading the new translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Will to Power, by R. Kevin Hill and Michael A. Scarpitti (Penguin Classics, 2017). Here’s an excerpt from Kevin Hill’s Introduction to the book: the fourth book, “Discipline and Cultivation’, Nietzsche hints at a practical, perhaps even a political, solution to the crisis of Nihilism. For a part of Nietzsche’s diagnosis of modernity is that centuries of Christian influence have made us so submissive and mediocre that we willingly allow ourselves to become exploited politically and economically; as a result the world has become a kind of vast social machine with human beings as its cogs and wheels. Cultural creativity, ‘joyful fruitfulness’, becomes impossible for people like ourselves, and as a result higher culture begins to die. The principal modes of revolt against these conditions, whether liberal or Socialist, are rooted in levelling doctrines of egalitarianism which are themselves just so much secularized Christianity; only a renewed aristocratic sensibility, a new cultural elitism, can save us. 
In the end, Nietzsche does not seek to turn back the tide of levelling and the reduction of most people to mere social functions, even though he perceives this to be modernity's own form of slavery. Rather, noting that in the past, cultural achievement has always been the product of an aristocracy, and that every aristocracy presupposes some form of exploitation, he embraces this otherwise horrifying development (which in places he claims may culminate in some form of Socialism) as precisely the desired precondition for the emergence of a new cultural elite, an elite which will feed off this great social machine and use it in pursuit of its own ends. In order to do this, these new aristocrats will have to reject the enervating, egalitarian values which have prevailed among the many; for them to recognize that the world is will to power means to recognize that being a part of the dominating and exploiting elite is good.

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