Authoritarianism [Section 38 of Nietzsche and the Nazis]

[This is Section 38 of Nietzsche and the Nazis.]

38. Authoritarianism

treue-100pxA fifth and final set of themes link Nietzsche with the Nazis. Both were anti-democratic, anti-capitalistic, and anti-liberal.

The Nazis were not friends of democracy, but they were extremely effective players of democracy. They announced from the beginning, in their 1920 founding Party Program, their authoritarian principles. Nonetheless, finding themselves in the democratic system that was the Weimar republic, they played mostly by the rules and out-democracied the other political parties. They used democracy to achieve anti-democratic ends.

Nietzsche’s political views are less developed and more ambiguous, but it is clear he favors some sort of aristocracy. “What is serious for me,” Nietzsche wrote in Beyond Good and Evil, is “the ‘European problem’ as I understand it, the cultivation of a new caste that will rule Europe.”[130] Again, while Nietzsche is unspecific, he does not necessarily mean an official political aristocracy—he more likely means the de facto rule by an exceptional few, whatever the formal and official political structures are. In this way, even though Nietzsche despises the impulses that give rise to democracy, he does not worry much about the actual political dominance of democratic forms of government. Those forms of government, he believes, will simply become instruments through which the exceptional individuals, most likely from behind the scenes, will achieve their goals. As Nietzsche puts it, democracy will be a tool of “a master race, the future ‘masters of the earth’ … philosophical men of power and artist-tyrants” who will “employ democratic Europe as their most pliant and supple instrument for getting hold of the destinies of the earth.”[131]

Nietzsche is not programmatic about what form the new aristocratic class will take or what specific goals it will pursue. He believes that will be up to the overmen themselves—they will create their own values and shape the vehicles of their realization. And Nietzsche did not think of himself as an overman—merely as a herald of their coming. But Nietzsche is extremely clear that any social method, however brutal, will be legitimate should the new aristocrats desire it. A healthy aristocracy, he puts it forcefully, “accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings, who, for its sake, must be reduced and lowered to incomplete human beings, to slaves, to instruments.”[132]

nn-front-cover-thumbThat is certainly anti-liberal and fits well with Nietzsche’s self-assessment that he is “not by any means ‘liberal’.”[133]

In addition to dismissing liberalism, Nietzsche dismisses capitalism as a dehumanizing economic system[134] and rejects individualism when it comes to matters of marriage and procreation. Marriage, he thought, should not be based on “idiosyncrasy”—that is, upon love and personal sexual attraction.[135] Rather, he suggested, marriage should be state-organized for breeding purposes.[136]

On all those points, the Nazis can and did find inspiration in Nietzsche.

References

[130] BGE 251.

[131] Note for BGE, quoted in Hunt 1991, p. 39.

[132] BGE 258.

[133] GS 377.

[134] D 2 6.

[135] TI 9:39.

[136] BGE 251.

[Bibliography].

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