POLITICS AND ANTI-POLITICS
"The appearance of character makes the State unnecessary. The wise man is the State. He needs no army, fort, or navy, -- he loves men too well.... He needs ... no church, for he is a prophet; no statute book, for he is the law-giver; ... no experience, for the life of the creator shoots through him and looks from his eyes."
1. The Problem of Nietzsche's Politics
In recent years, a number of scholars have argued that Nietzsche held political views that would require the state to possess enormous powers, powers so great that, if they are right, it would be quite reasonable to describe his views as "totalitarian."1 The passages in Nietzsche's writings that at least seem to support this sort of interpretation are numerous and, in many cases, very familiar to Nietzsche's readers.
However, Nietzsche makes other statements, many of them less well known, which could easily lead to the opposite sort of interpretation. In an early aphorism, for instance, he describes a particularly individualist kind of stateless society and his ambiguous remarks about it might well be understood as being favorable. Discussing the future of democratic societies after the collapse of religion, he confidently predicts that as the chaos of factional disputes grows worse and worse, people will become more mistrustful of all government, leading, as he puts it in mock-Hegelian language, "to the superseding of the concept of the state, the transcending of the antithesis between private and public." "Step by step, private organizations draw the business of the state into themselves: even the stickiest residue which from the ancient work of the state remains behind (that activity, for instance, which protects one private person from another) is taken care of by private entrepreneurs." He comments that, when this has been accomplished, and "all relapses into the old disease have been overcome," the book of mankind will yield "all sorts of curious stories and perhaps some good ones, too" (MAM 472). Not surprisingly, it has been suggested that Nietzsche was in fact an anarchist, that he believed that we ought to abolish the state altogether.2 Walter Kaufmann defended the view -- which at least on the surface seems similar to this one -- that Nietzsche's attitudes were deeply "anti-political."3
In the face of the widely disparate interpretations of Nietzsche's view of the state, one inevitably wonders what his political beliefs were. In what follows, I will try to show that he, in fact, did not hold any of the standard political ideologies. This becomes reasonably clear, I think, when one realizes that he was not interested in the same questions to which the standard ideologies are answers. If one hastily assumes, on the contrary, that he was interested in the same questions as we are, we can find evidence that he believed any one of several different, mutually inconsistent ideologies: we can "prove" that he was an anarchist, a totalitarian, even a classical liberal.4 In the context of his real concerns, though, his position appears to remain admirably constant and coherent throughout his career. The word that describes it most accurately is one that Kaufmann -- and Nietzsche himself (EH I 3) -- used: he was anti-political.
As it stands, of course, this statement tells one almost nothing; I will have to explain what "anti-political" must mean if it is to be applied to Nietzsche's views. This task brings special difficulties with it since Nietzsche never spelled out his political views with anything like the elaborateness he gave to his discussions of various moral and aesthetic questions. It is as if he found the subject too distasteful for sustained attention. My method will have to consist in identifying the parts of the theory of the state which he explicitly presents and in making informed guesses as to the connections between them. This method is obviously a risky one, but it is worth the risks because Nietzsche's unique and interesting view of the state cannot be unearthed in any other way.
2. Burckhardt as Educator
Several ideas which seem to lie beneath a good deal of what Nietzsche says about politics and the state can be found in a series of lectures which Jacob Burckhardt delivered at Basel the year after Nietzsche arrived there as a young professor.5 These lectures are an attempt to view all of history as a struggle between three different "powers": culture, religion, and the state. Running throughout his account is a principled contempt for the state, and especially for the "centralized modern state, dominating and determining culture, worshipped as a god and ruling like a sultan" (p. 199). Of the three powers, his strongest sympathies are obviously on the side of culture. The basis of both his contempt and his sympathy lies in the way he conceives both culture and the state, and in the moral principles he applies to them as well. The distinguishing characteristic of the state, for Burckhardt, is mere coercive power, and such "power is of its nature evil, whoever wields it" (p. 164, also p. 208). Though he never says so explicitly, he seems to
believe that coercive power necessarily violates human individuality in a way that makes it morally suspect at best (see pp. 174-175).
So far, he is espousing familiar classical liberal doctrines, but they have somewhat unfamiliar implications when set beside his definition of culture. Religion and the state, he tells us, satisfy "the political and metaphysical need" of human beings and "may claim authority at least over particular peoples, and indeed over the world." Culture, on the other hand,
"which meets material and spiritual needs in the narrower sense, is the sum of all that has spontaneously arisen for the advancement of material life and as an expression of spiritual and moral life -- all social intercourse, technologies, arts, literatures and sciences. It is the realm of the variable, free, not necessarily universal, of all that cannot lay claim to compulsive authority." (pp. 95-96).
Moral conduct is part of culture insofar as it is not a response to threats of punishment in the afterlife (p. 227). Forms of social organization, such as corporations, are part of culture if they arise because of the way individuals perceive their needs and not because they are imposed on them by political authority (p. 159). It is obvious why someone with Burckhardt's liberal principles would regard culture as nobler than the state: by definition, culture is that which arises in a "free marketplace of ideas" (freier geistiger Tauschplatz, p. 193), in which no one can coerce others into accepting his or her innovations. It is also clear enough why he should think there is a natural antagonism between them. If the state expands, coercive power increases, and this destroys the necessary condition of culture, which is freedom. On the other hand, freedom is the only thing which can enable an entire culture to flourish (pp. 191-193), and this requires a curtailment of state power.
Now, it would be a serious mistake to attribute all these ideas to Nietzsche, who once described himself as "not by any means 'liberal'" (FW 377). As we shall see, the differences between Nietzsche and Burckhardt are at least as interesting and illuminating as the similarities. But several of these ideas can be found in Nietzsche's writing throughout his career as a philosopher.
In Schopenhauer as Educator, published three years after Burckhardt delivered his lectures on history, Nietzsche considers the "doctrine that the state is the highest goal of mankind and that there is no higher duty for man than to serve the state." He responds to it by contrasting it with the attitude which underlies the pursuit of the aims of culture.
"I am concerned here with a type of man whose teleology envisions something above the good of the state, with the philosophers, and with them only in regard to a world which on the contrary is more or less independent of the state -- namely, culture. Of the many interlocking links which constitute the human community, some are of gold and others are of cheap alloy." (U III 4).
Apparently, culture and the state compete in some important way for our attention. Fourteen years later, in Twilight of the Idols, he states the same theme more generally and more bluntly: "Culture and the state -- one should not deceive oneself about this -- are antagonists" (G VIII 4). Finally, during the last months in which he is still able to write, he makes a remark which assumes the same antagonism between culture and the state, and shows the same preference for culture. This time, in fact, he refers to all three elements of Burckhardt's trichotomy:
"Not only have the German historians utterly lost the great perspective for the course and the values of culture; nor are they merely, without exception, buffoons of politics (or the church) -- but they have actually proscribed this great perspective (EH III W 2)."6
Like Burckhardt, Nietzsche views the modern state with a special repugnance, as something which threatens to acquire the position of an earthly god. In Schopenhauer as Educator he traces the development of the modern state back to the Middle Ages, when the church served, with its immense power, to harmonize the conflicting, hostile forces which are always part of human nature and to "in some measure assimilate them to one another." When the power of the church began to pass away, the state prevented the chaos which seemed about to erupt by stepping in to occupy the same central role in human life that the church had occupied, as the bond that holds us together; but "this means that it wishes the people to practice toward it the same idolatry that they once practiced toward the church." (U III 4.) Later on, he says that the extensive state power we see around us is not really necessary in order to prevent chaos, it only seems so to us because our demand for security is so high: we wish to "make society safe against thieves and fireproof and endlessly amenable to every kind of trade and traffic" (M 179).7 The ancient Greeks had a genuine need for "the idolization of the concept of the state" because they had strong destructive impulses which required being held in check, but it is not necessary for a tame people, like ourselves, "whose lust for power no longer rages as blindly" as theirs did (M 199). In investing the state with as much power as we have, "what is being effected is the very opposite of universal security, a fact our lovely century is undertaking to demonstrate" (M 179).
As a source of social order, the church had at least one advantage over the state: it is an institution "that believes in the power of spirituality to the extent of forbidding itself the use of all the cruder instruments of force; and on this score alone the church is a nobler institution than the state" (FW 358). But "the time will come when institutions will arise" which are superior to both church and state, and will put their "prototype, the Catholic Church, into shadows and forgetfulness" (MAM 476).
Nietzsche clearly accepts the two important political conclusions I have found in Burckhardt -- that culture and the state are by nature antagonistic, and that the state is inferior to culture -- as well as the corollary which accompanies them: that the modern state, which possesses par excellencethe characteristics which make the state inferior, is an especially ignoble institution. This is true even though, as one can probably already see from the passages I have quoted, Nietzsche does not simply reproduce these ideas, but develops them in his own way.
A moment's reflection will suggest another, perhaps more interesting fact: that in giving reasons for these conclusions, Nietzsche will probably be a good deal more independent of Burckhardt. One should expect that the reasoning with which Burckhardt himself supported these conclusions will not be available to Nietzsche. It is well known that Nietzsche doubted that many people -- at least, up to the present stage of human development -- have ever been free. Thus he may not be able to discuss culture on the assumption that it always arises from a condition of freedom. Indeed, he never does define culture in terms of the conditions from which it arises; he understands it instead in terms of its purpose. The "purpose of culture," he says, is "to demand the formation of true human beings, and nothing besides" (U III 6). Indeed, the Nietzschean and Burckhardtian conceptions of culture are so different that it might be misleading to use the same word for both ideas. For Burckhardt, culture is a relatively mundane effort to supply us with the wherewithal to survive, and also to satisfy our "spiritual need in the narrower sense"; Nietzsche, on the contrary, conceives it almost entirely as a challenge to a heroic quest for self-development. When Nietzsche speaks of culture he seems to mean "high" culture, especially the fine arts; "culture" certainly does not refer to technology and social institutions, as in part it does when Burckhardt uses it. So when he says that culture and the state are antagonists he is making a rather different sort of statement from the one Burckhardt is making.
Since Nietzsche's idea of culture is not immediately, definitionally connected with the idea of freedom, he cannot have the very same reason that Burckhardt had for thinking that culture and the state are antagonistic and, with equal force, he cannot have the very same reason for preferring one to the other. His preferences are especially likely to be differently grounded, since it is doubtful that he shares the traditional liberal values which Burckhardt applies to culture and the state, at least in their traditional form. It is possible to disagree about what precisely Nietzsche's views on the use of coercion were, but he did say that every society that leads to "the enhancement of the type 'man'" is a society which "needs slavery in some sense or other" (JGB 257),8 and that if the principle of "refraining mutually from injury, violence, and exploitation" is "accepted as the fundamental principle of society, it immediately proves to be what it really is -- ... a principle of disintegration and decay" (JGB 259). For the Nietzsche of the 'eighties, the fact that an institution rests on coercive power cannot by itself cast any doubt on the value of that institution.
3. The Phenomenology of Citizenship
At one point Nietzsche argues, in effect, for both of the political conclusions we have been considering by basing them on a single psychological assumption. In Twilight of the Idols, he explains why "German culture is declining" on the basis of the hypothesis that "no one can spend more than he has." He claims that, applied to cultural concerns, this hypothesis means: "If one spends oneself for power, for power politics, for economics, world trade, parliamentarianism, and military interests -- if one spends in this direction the quantum of understanding, seriousness, will, and self-overcoming which one represents, then it will be lacking for the other direction." It follows that the state and culture are antagonists: "what is great culturally has always been unpolitical, even anti-political." If, as he goes on to say at this point, culture is always "what matters most," then the other conclusion follows as well (G VIII 4).
He is assuming, of course, that the amount of one's motivational energy, so to speak, is fixed, and that any amount of it that is directed toward one object is thereby used up and not available to any other object. To those who do not accept this psychological principle, the argument that rests upon it will undoubtedly prove unconvincing, and this is clearly a principle that some would not accept. Why is it not possible for artists to find inspiration in the glorious causes that they think their state represents, so that political concerns can lead to cultural greatness? More generally, why cannot one object of motivation create new sources of seriousness, will, and self-overcoming that can then be spent on other objects? An attempt to answer these questions would probably shed more light on Nietzsche's psychology than on his political views, which are our present concern.9Fortunately, he does give another argument for the same conclusion. It is considerably more complex than the one I have just rehearsed but since it does shed light on his political views, it is worthwhile for our purposes to discuss it at some length.
The core of this argument is to be found in the section "On the New Idol" in Zarathustra. His language in that section is angry and bitter, and several of the things he says there are paradoxical and mysterious. He claims that the state is a source of death or, more exactly, he speaks as if all states somehow collude in the self-destruction of their subjects: "State I call it ... where the slow suicide of all is called life." To speak of the state is to speak "about the death of peoples." The state is also a source of self-alienation: "state, where all lose themselves, the good and the wicked." He says that it gives the people "a hundred new appetites" and mentions two of them: "They want power and first the lever of power, much money." The state is, oddly enough, "the sin against customs and laws." "Confusion of tongues of good and evil" is"the sign of the state." Twice he speaks as if the state makes claims about itself. It says: "I, the state, am the people." It also says: "On earth there is nothing greater than I: the ordering finger of God am I." Both statements are lies: "whatever it says it lies." Finally, he tells us that it is "where the state ends" that we can see "the rainbow and the bridges of the overman." (Z I 11).
Though the shrill tone of these remarks might lead one to suspect otherwise, I believe it can be shown that their author means them all seriously and more or less literally. Indeed, if one accepts certain other things he believes, they are all fairly plausible as well.
It is probably already obvious that some of these remarks resemble antistatist comments I have quoted from works that preceded Zarathustra. One of them recalls another theme from the earlier writings, one that, until Zarathustra, had not been connected with the anti-state motif. This is the paradoxical remark that the state is "the sin against customs (Sitten) and laws." In Daybreak, Nietzsche had written at length about an idea he called the "concept of morality of custom" (Begriff der Sittlichkeit der Sitte). This earlier discussion was his attempt to account for morality as a purely social phenomenon: "morality is nothing other (therefore no more!) than obedience to customs," where customs are simply the "traditional way of behaving and evaluating" that has arisen in a particular community (M 9). Morality is a social phenomenon in a particularly strong sense: it is created by the community itself by means of a gradual evolutionary process. The "morality which prevails in a community is constantly being worked at by everybody" (M 11) and represents the accumulated "experiences of men of earlier times as to what they supposed useful or harmful" (M 19).
These ideas are present in Zarathustra as essential parts of the critique of the state presented there. Zarathustra explains why the claim "I, the state, am the people" is a lie by saying: "It was creators who created peoples and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life" (Z I 11). The creators created peoples by hanging a faith -- that code of values -- over them: "No people could live without first esteeming; but if they want to preserve themselves, then they must not esteem as the neighbor esteems". A common code serves to distinguish one group of people from another, making them the unique community that they are. Until apparently quite recently, these creators were the groups themselves: "First, peoples were creators; and only in later times, individuals. Verily, the individual himself is still the most recent creation" (Z I 15).
It is in this context that Zarathustra situates the idea of the state. In the section "On Great Events," he talks about aspects of human life that because they produce a great deal of "noise and smoke," distract us from a great truth: "Not around the inventors of new noise, but around the inventors of new values does the world revolve; it revolves inaudibly". The state is one of the most powerful sources of distracting noise: the state "likes to talk with smoke and bellowing -- to make himself believe ... that he is talking out of the belly of reality. For he wants to be by all means the most important beast on earth, the state; and they believe him" (Z II 18). In so far as there is a belly of reality, it is the creator of new values -- which for the most part is the people themselves. The state naturally tends to displace, in the consciousness of its subjects, the position that is usually rightfully occupied by the people. This would be at least part of the reason why the state represents the death of peoples.
At this point, two questions must be answered before one can appreciate Nietzsche's position -- or even understand it. think this displacement of the people occurs? And why does he view it with such alarm?
Nietzsche never gives a systematic and fully developed answer to the first question, but he makes enough suggestive remarks to enable us to guess what he probably had in mind. He usually looks at the state as a source of beliefs about how we should act: by means of laws and other directives it tells us supposed truths about what we ought to do. A question to which he returns several times is: Why do we ever believe that these supposed truths are true? He identifies two sources of this faith in the state. One source is tradition or custom (Herkommen). "Where, however, law is no longer custom, as with us, it can only be commanded, it can only be force; we, all of us, no longer have a traditional sense of justice, thus we must submit to arbitrary laws" (MAM 459). Here he seems to be saying that if law is not identical to custom, it must be perceived as something imposed on us by a being that is distinct from ourselves. Before the separation of law and custom, the question of why we should believe what law tells us cannot arise, because it merely tells us what we all already believe; afterwards, obviously, it can. He mentions one solid source of faith in the state which could conceivably survive this separation. He says that, while the faults of the state will make insightful people sceptical about it, "the uninsightful will suppose it proper to see the finger of God, and to patiently resign oneself to directives from above (in which concept the divine and human types of government usually merge)." This attitude, which views the state in terms that are essentially religious, is necessary to the life of the state. In part, this is due to the relationship between religion and custom. "The power which lies in the unity of the perceptions of the people, in the same beliefs and purposes for all, is something which religion protects and puts its seal on" (MAM 472).
There is a much deeper reason, though, why religion is necessary for the state:
"...the interests of tutelary government and the interests of religion go hand in hand so that, when the latter begins to die down, the foundations of the state are convulsed. The belief in a divine arrangement of political things, in a mystery in the existence of the state, has its source in religion: if religion atrophies, the state will unavoidably lose its old veil of Isis and cease to inspire respect." (MAM 472)
If people can see things from a religious point of view, if they are capable of seeing some part of reality as sacred, then they can believe that the sort of authority which the state must claim to be can exist; they can even believe in the rightness of despotic laws if they see them as coming from an agent with the divine ability to make a directive right merely by issuing it. To the extent that they cannot see the world from a religious point of view they cannot believe such things.
For Nietzsche, the weakening of religion -- a process which he believes has now been going on for several centuries -- produces for the state a crisis of legitimacy which cannot ultimately be decided in its favor. The ultimate outcome will be the one he predicts in the ironically Hegelian passage I quoted early on: the death of the state. Until then, it is obvious that the state will defend itself against the unavoidably fatal outcome. Nietzsche never explicitly attempts to catalogue the various ruses that the state can use to this end, but all of the characteristics of the politics of his day to which he objected so loudly are obvious examples: the building of nationalistic empires, the various other methods of providing the people with reasons to feel national pride, identifying the state with morally attractive causes, idolizing ordinary politicians as great men. He does explicitly mention one method which he believes the state will resort to eventually, the most desperate method and the worst:
"Socialism is the fantastic younger brother of nearly decrepit despotism, from which it intends to inherit; ... and since cannot even count any longer on the old religious piety toward the state, but must on the contrary work involuntarily a incessantly for its elimination -- because it works for the eimination of all existing states -- it can only hope to exist for short periods of time, here and there, by means of the most etraordinary terrorism" (MAM 473).
The means by which the modern state defends itself are, among other things, highly effective methods for attracting the attention of their subjects and thus displacing other objects from their minds (see MAM 481). In fact, all states are very effective at distracting us from the objects that interest Nietzsche most. The social processes which he believes are usually the real source of beliefs about how we should act -- the sorts of processes which he describes in the first two essays of On the Genealogy of Morals -- are generally extremely difficult to discover even with careful scrutiny. They are not the product of any particular, specialized institution. The state, however, is an institution which does appear to specialize in fabricating truths about what we should do, and it is highly visible and audible. Life presents us with an optical illusion which invites us to look in the wrong place for the source of our values. The modern state simply makes this natural situation worse than it would naturally be.
Why does Nietzsche view this phenomenon with such alarm? In general, when anything political excites his animus, it is usually because of its effect on human character. At one point he refers reverently to "the old master Heinrich Schutz" as "one of the most genuine and most German musicians -- German in the old sense of the word, no mere Reichsdeutscher" (EH III W 1). His many vicious remarks about "the Germans" are not aimed at the entire German Volk throughout history, but at their present political system; and he objects to this system because of what it has made of the Germans. It makes greatness of the sort that Schutz represented even more rare than it was.
What alarms him about the phenomenon we are presently considering is likewise its effect on human character. One can understand what this effect is by recalling some familiar characteristics of Nietzsche's point of view, especially as it is represented in Zarathustra. Zarathustra preaches the goal of human perfection, which is symbolized by the overman.10 To reach this goal it is necessary, as the first step along the way, to know what we are and what it is that makes us the way we are. He tells us that we are, more than anything else, beings which evaluate things: "Only man placed values in things.... Therefore he calls himself 'man,' which means: the esteemer." Our own evaluations make us what we are; we are therefore our own creators. Of course, for the most part we have so far only done this as members of a people, and not as individuals. But now it is becoming possible for individuals to frame new values on their own, breaking free of the herd. Zarathustra demands that we do this in such a way that we approach the goal of perfection. The realization that we frame our own values and thus create ourselves is an exciting fact, since it casts us in a heroic role, but it is also frightening, since it means that human life and the values it is based on are in a certain way arbitrary, since they do not come to us from above, "as a voice from heaven" (Z I 15). Thus, we have good reason to evade this realization. The primary evil of the state, for Zarathustra and for Nietzsche, is the fact that it provides us with a very attractive opportunity to commit this fatal evasion. It enables us to attribute the supreme power, which really belongs to us, to an entity that appears to be above us and consequently seems to be less arbitrary that we are. To the extent that we make use of this opportunity, the state becomes a source of self-alienation, of estrangement from our true nature. In Nietzsche's view the concept of God is a source of the very same sort of self-alienation, and this is surely a large part of the reason why he insists so strongly on the analogy between the state and God: in the drama of human development, they play precisely the same growth-retarding role. And for a philosopher for whom life and growth are the same thing, this means that both are sources of death. Only where the state ends (and only when God dies) does the way to perfection become visible to us.
By now it is obvious enough, I hope, why Nietzsche thought culture and the state are antagonistic and why his sympathies were overwhelmingly on the side of culture. His conception of culture is connected more or less by definition with the notion of development toward the ideal, in that he conceives of culture as that which fosters this sort of development. He has a very definite idea of what sort of awareness must be promoted in order for this mission of culture to be achieved. On the basis of an analysis of the sort of consciousness into which those who live in states are liable to fall -- on the basis of what might be called his phenomenology of citizenship -- he believes that states tend by nature to interfere with the development of this sort of awareness. The state is thus antagonistic toward culture and, for all the same reasons, inferior to it.
This critique of the state is quite different from the classical liberal critique and many anarchist ones as well, in that it makes no appeal to human rights or to the idea that the use of force is a bad thing. There is also a more profound difference, one which in fact distinguishes Nietzsche's political views from all standard political ideologies. All such ideologies can be understood as answers to two questions: "How much power ought to be given to the state?" and "What ought to be done with the power that the state has?" Nietzsche's views do not supply us, to any great extent, with answers to either of these questions. For the most part, he does not object to any state because of what it does or how much, but because of how much space states in general tend to occupy in our minds; they receive too much of our energy and attention (see MAM 481 and M 179). His concerns are obviously incompatible with thinking that the state ought to have large amounts of power, but they do not otherwise clearly imply anything about what state policy ought to be.
A good part of the reason why Nietzsche's critique of the state do not have very strong implications of this sort lies in the fact that the principles that he is using are entirely teleological: he is only concerned with a certain goal that the state tends to make more difficult to attain. Such principles cannot clearly imply that the state ought to be abolished or drastically curtailed because they cannot rule out, by themselves, the possibility that such abolition or curtailment would make the goal even more difficult to attain than the state does. If his critique were based on principles which are in some way deontological -- for instance, principles which assert rights to life, liberty, and property, a right to liberty of thought and discussion, the wrongness of aggressive force, the wrongness of inequality, or the necessity of autonomy -- the matter would be different; then his principles would imply, immediately, that whatever state activities run afoul of these principles ought to be stopped. He does make one statement which does seem, at first sight, to have strong implications of this kind: when he declares that his "war cry" is "as little state as possible" (MAM 473, see also M 179) he could very easily be taken to mean that the scope of the state ought to be reduced to nothing or next to nothing. This, however, is not what he means. Though he believes that the state will inevitably decay, he insists that "to work for the dissemination and realization of this conception is surely something else"; it would not be advisable "to lay one's hand on the plough just now" because "no one can yet show the seeds that are afterwards to be spread on the torn earth" (MAM 472). The evil of the state is that it prevents us from doing the work which would replace it as a source of values; that work not being done, the destruction of the state would do us less than no good. The point is to turn our backs on issues of state policy altogether and take up the neglected task. In this quite literal sense of the word, Nietzsche is "anti-political."
4. The Reign of the Philosopher-tyrants
Some scholars have claimed that what Nietzsche condemns in "On the New Idol" is not the state as such but only "the ossified bureaucratized state" of the past century or so,11 or only "the nationalistic state".12 The reasons that lie behind such interpretations apparently have nothing to do with the text of "On the New Idol" itself: the many vicious remarks he makes about the state there all utterly categorical. The reasons seem to arise, rather, from the need to make what he says there consistent with certain things he wrote not long afterward. At least at first glance, these later remarks do provide strong reason for reading the anti-political tone out of Zarathustra because, in them, Nietzsche seems to be inventing and advocating his own form of totalitarianism.
A reader who goes directly from Zarathustra to section 203 of Beyond Good and Evil, for instance, is likely to be startled by what he sees. There, Nietzsche asks "Where, then, must we reach with our hopes?" and replies: "Toward new philosophers ... toward men of the future who in the present tie the knot and constraint that forces the will of millenia upon new tracks." He adds that this man of the future must put an end to "the monstrous fortuity that has so far had its way and play regarding the future of man" by seizing control of the future: he must "teach man the future of man as his will, as dependent on a human will" A few pages later he adds: "The time for petty politics is over: the very next century will bring the fight for the dominion of the earth -- the compulsion to large-scale politics" (JGB 208). He seems to be imagining and hoping for a degree and kind of state power that the world did not know until the twentieth century.
Certainly, an author who is as anti-political as Nietzsche appears to be in "On the New Idol" could not have hoped for such things. In order to avoid concluding that he changed his mind with bizarre abruptness -- the writing of Beyond Good and Evil came a mere three years after that of "On the New Idol" -- we must interpret away the apparent meanings of some of the things he says. The way in which this is probably most often done is to suppose that when he says "state" in Zarathustra he does not mean quite what we usually mean by the word. This way of doing it is made rather unattractive by the fact that "On the New Idol" appears, in the context of his earlier writings, to be merely a summary and completion of many clearly anti-political remarks that are scattered throughout them. There is, though, an alternative way to accomplish the needed interpretive task: it is, so to speak, to suppose that when he says "politics" in "large-scale politics" he does not mean what we ordinarily mean by the word.
In a note written during the time of Beyond Good and Evil, he calls for the creation 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" (WM 960). He concludes the note with: "Enough: the time is coming when one will learn politics all over again." The last statement -- die Zeit kommt, wo man über Politik umlernen wird -- ambiguous. It could mean "time is come for us to transform all our view about politics"13: that is, we must change our opinions about what should be done about the process which we generally call politics (the control of human beings by means of the state). On the other hand, it may mean that we must change the very meaning that "politics" has for us.14 We can imagine circumstances which would provide us with good reason to change the meaning of "politics." For instance, we might become interested in certain activities which, because they are ways of controlling human beings, resemble what we usually call politics, except that they do not involve the state. If we believe that they are very important and powerful sources of order, we can express their importance and power by expanding our concept of the political to include them, in addition to the activities of the state. If these forms of control extend beyond national boundaries (which are the present limits of most of the activities of the state) and if they accomplish ends which are greater than anything within the reach of the state, we may want to distinguish them from state politics by calling them "large-scale" or "great" (grosse) politics. I believe that this is the sort of conceptual and linguistic change that Nietzsche is attempting to legislate here.
In another note from the same period he identifies the principal instrument to be used by the artist-tyrant: "Law-giving moralities are the principal means of fashioning man according to the pleasure of a creative and profound will, provided that such an artist's will ... can ... prevail through long periods of time, in the form of laws, religions, and customs" (WM 957). Apparently, the politics practiced by this tyrant is not the work of a head of state at all, but of an individual with a powerful influence over all social institutions, the state merely being among them. This leaves open a very important question: to what extent do the methods which are distinctive of the state play a role in the means by which the philosophical man of power molds the character of future generations? Even though he will not be a head of state, it is still conceivable that those who do directly control the state will implement his ideas by imposing them on democratic Europe by brute force. How would he mould human character? In yet another note from the same period he gives a perfectly explicit answer to this last question. There he tells us that a philosopher can only "draw up to his lonely height a long chain of generations" if he possesses "the uncanny privileges of the great educator":
"An educator never says what he himself thinks, but always only what he thinks of a thing in relation to the requirements of those he educates. He must not be in this dissimulation; it is part of his mastery that one believes in his honesty. He must be capable of every means of discipline: some he can drive toward the heights only with the whips of scorn; others, who are sluggish, irresolute, cowardly, vain perhaps only with exaggerated praise. Such an educator is beyond good and evil; but no one must know it." (WM 980.)
As the last sentence indicates, Nietzsche expects this idea to be shocking, but if it is shocking it is not because it offends principles which we would normally think of as political, since the methods he is advocating are not those that are distinctive of the state at all. Rather, the principle it offends is the traditional view of the role of the philosopher, as one who speaks only with a view to expressing the truth. The new philosopher would use the same sort of language as the traditional philosopher, he would speak as if to tell us the objective values of things, but in fact he would only speak with a view to altering the future of human life. He does not use the methods of the state for the ends of philosophy, he uses philosophical means -- ideas and language -- for ends that are truly political, political in the great sense. The reign of these philosopher-tyrants would realize fully and more or less literally one of the most Nietzschean of Nietzsche's ideas: "Thoughts that come on dove's feet control the world" (Z II 22).
Chapter III: Politics and Anti-Politics
1. Kurt Rudolf Fischer, "Nazism as a Nietzschean 'Experiment'," Nietzsche Studien, 6 (1977), pp. 116-122. W. H. Sokel, "Political Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in Walter Kaufmann's Image of Nietzsche," Nietzsche Studien, 12 (1983), pp. 436-442. Werner J. Dannhauser, "The Trivialization of Friedrich Nietzsche," The American Spectator, vol. 15 no. 5 (May, 1982), pp. 7-13. Tracy Strong, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration (Berkeley: University of California Press, (1976), pp. 215-216. Ofelia Schutte argues that Nietzsche justifies "highly authoritarian systems of government" in her Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), Ch. VII.
2. H. L. Mencken, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kenikat, 1964), p. 192. The anarchism Nietzsche considers in the passage I have just quoted is clearly an instance of the individualist anarchism Robert Nozick discusses in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), pp. 10-119, and not the collectivist anarchism of the political left.
3. Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (New York: Meridian, 1956), pp. 135 and 357.
4. In the third Untimely Meditation, which is nominally about Schopenhauer, nearly the only Schopenhaurean idea he actually states is the following familiar axiom of classical liberalism: "Concerning the state he held, as is well known, that its sole purpose is to give protection -- externally, internally, and against protectors as well -- and were one to impute other purposes besides protection to it, one could easily endanger its true purpose" (U III 7). When this statement is read in the context of Nietzsche's hero-worshipping essay, it is impossible to escape the impression that he strongly sympathizes with the idea it states.
5. These lectures were published in the twentieth century as Weltgeschichtliche Bertrachtungen (Leipzig: Alfred Kroner, n.d.). I will quote from the English translation: James Hastings Nichols, ed., Force and Freedom: An Interpretation of History (New York: Meridian, 1955). The page numbers cited in my text refer to this edition. Kaufmann states that Nietzsche attended some of Burckhardt's lectures during his years at Basel. Nietzsche, p. 35. He adds (pp. 35-36) that the contact they had during these years did not result in Nietzsche's being influenced by Burckhardt -- a claim that I hope to convince the reader is surely not true.
6. He continues, in the next paragraph, with a remark which probably cannot be understood without relating it to the passage I have just quoted from Schopenhauer as Educator: "'German' has become an argument, Deutschland, Duetschland über alles a principle" Elsewhere he tells us that this principle "was the end of German philosophy" (G VIII 1, see also FW 357). He has already indicated in the meditation on Schopenhauer that the proper pursuit of the aims of culture, and especially philosophy, requires that one place something above the state; to place one's country, on the contrary, above all else (which, of course, is what this principle means) would then represent the opposite of what the aims of culture require.
7. The idea that the great powers of the modern state result in part from a desire to make the world safe for business can also be found in Burckhardt. See Force and Freedom, p. 200.
8. I do not mean to suggest that he meant anything particularly horrible by this -- after all, he thought that people who work in factories for wages are slaves (M 206).
9. It would probably lead, ultimately, into what might be called Nietzsche's ontology, since this psychological principle appears to be an application of two principles of the theory of power to be found in the Nachlass of the 'eighties: that the quantity of power in the universe is fixed and that any constellation of power quanta can only expand by diminishing others.
10. Of course "perfection," here, cannot refer to a single state of affairs toward which all human life is expected to aim. What perfects one person would only spoil another. I will discuss Nietzsche's conception of perfection in VII, 6.
11. Sokel, p. 440.
12. Strong, p. 205.
13. This is how Strong translates it. Strong, p. 212.
14. Kaufmann translates this statement: "... the time is coming when politics will have a different meaning."