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Intellectual Biography and Critical Balance-Sheet
Perhaps no philosopher is more of a conundrum than Nietzsche, the solitary rebel, poet, wayfarer, anti-revolutionary Aufklärer and theorist of aristocratic radicalism. His accusers identify in his ‘superman’ the origins of Nazism, and thus issue an irrevocable condemnation; his defenders pursue a hermeneutics of innocence founded ultimately in allegory. In a work that constitutes the most important contribution to Nietzschean studies in recent decades, Domenico Losurdo instead pursues a less reductive strategy. Taking literally the ruthless implications of Nietzsche's anti-democratic thinking – his celebration of slavery, of war and colonial expansion, and eugenics – he nevertheless refuses to treat these from the perspective of the mid-twentieth century. In doing so, he restores Nietzsche’s works to their complex nineteenth-century context, and presents a more compelling account of the importance of Nietzsche as philosopher than can be expected from his many contemporary apologists.

Translated by Gregor Benton. With an Introduction by Harrison Fluss.


Originally published in Italian by Bollati Boringhieri Editore as Domenico Losurdo, Nietzsche, il ribelle aristocratico: Biografia intellettuale e bilancio critico, Turin, 2002.

Abstract

Great historical crises oblige us to choose not between violence and nonviolence, but between two different forms of violence. Nonviolent movements are no exception to this rule. In the US, with the outbreak of the War of Secession, the Christian-nonviolent movement was obliged to choose between the violence of the Union-army (which ultimately imposed on the South an abolitionist revolution from above) and the violence of slavery. With the outbreak of World-War One, Lenin chose revolution, while, in India, Gandhi became the ‘recruiting agent-in-chief’ for the British army. At that moment, he struggled not for the general emancipation of colonial peoples, but only for the co-optation of the Indian people under the ruling races, and this co-optation was to be gained on the battlefield. While in the past, in spite of their mistakes and oscillations, the protagonists of nonviolence (Gandhi, Tolstoy, Martin Luther King, etc.) were an integral part of the anticolonialist movement, today nonviolence is the watchword of imperialism, which tries to discredit as violent its enemies and challengers.

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