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    Steven E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany (1890-1990)

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback
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    nietzsche - Steven E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany (1890-1990) Empty Steven E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany (1890-1990)

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback le Mar 27 Nov - 16:38

    "Friedrich Nietzsche's impact upon the cultural and political sensibilities of the twentieth century has been altogether extraordinary. Since the 1890s his shaping presence has been felt continuously throughout Europe, the United States, and as far as Japan." (p.1)

    "This complex process can only be grasped by examining both its thematic and chronological dimensions." (p.2-3)

    "Conservative forces embodying the ancien régime were almost inevitably anti-Nietzschean, instinctively opposed to Nietzsche's anti-Christian immoralist posture, and shocked and frightened by his radical questioning of authority and tradition." (p.5)

    "When the right did seriously adopt Nietzsche it was after World War I during the Weimar Republic, and then it was the work of mainly radical-revolutionary elements." (p.6)

    "Nietzscheanism, like its master, was never monochromic. Critical scavenging of Nietzsche's works and themes led divergent European-wide audiences to fuse him with a broad range of cultural and political postures: anarchist, expressionist, feminist, futurist, nationalist, nazi, religious, sexual-libertarian, socialist, völkisch, and Zionist. It was, indeed, through these fusions, that Both Nietzsche and Nietzscheanism became a significant force. What follows therefore is a study in the dynamics of historical mediation which analyzes the diffusion, popularization, assimilation, rejection, and prismatic transfiguration of Nietzsche within changing historical and ideological contexts." (p.7)

    "Nietzscheans were simply those who regarded themselves as significantly influenced by Nietzsche and sought to give this influence some concrete or institutional expression. Nietzscheanism never constituted one movement reductible to a single constituency or political ideology." (p.14)

    "Nietzscheanism thrived in eclectic and syncretistic contexts. Because it functioned by virtue of its implantation into other preexistent structures it was not constitutive or autonomous. It thus could perform a number of crucial functions: it acted variously as an inspirational solvent, leavener, catalyst, and gadly.
    Nietzscheanism was thus publicly effective to the degree that it was structured and mediated by other forces and ideologies. There was no naked nihilism here, no pure Nietzschean dynamic but always framing processes and casuistic exercises of accomodation. Nietzschean thematics required tendantious anchoring and domestication. Suitably nationalized (or socialized or Protestentized), its dynamic was placed at the service of goals which tended either to tame its radical drive, or to selectively deploy and unleash it.
    How did such casuistry work ? Although there were always gleaning and references of plausibility, it was clear that Nietzsche was not identical with any of the political appropriations made in his name. All this appropriators were obliged to explain how Nietzsche, despite obvious contradictions or even hostility, was in effect compatible with their favored position, perhaps even its most enthusiastic representative. Placing Nietzsche within any framework entailed a filtering system in which desired elements were highlighted and embarrassing ones deleted or downplayed. More significant were the exercises that sought to distinguish the real or the deep (German, Christian, socialist) Nietzsche from the merely apparent one. Nietzsche was constantly decoded and recoded ; "correct" reading made to yield the desired underlying and "authentic" meaning and messages.
    " (p.15)

    "For the post-1890 literate public some sort of confrontation with Nietzsche [...] was becoming virtually obligatory." (p.18)

    "Nietzsche's furnishing a new criteria for modern ethics, wrote Georg Simmel in 1896, was nothing less than "a Copernican deed"." (p.23)

    "Inasmuch as the early academic reception of Nietzsche was both hostile and slow, there may have been an initial grain of truth to the observation that Nietzsche tended to attract more marginal and "bohemian" elements." (p.36)

    "Those who predicted a quick disappearance did not realize that it was precisely the fact that there was no uniformity of opinion or binding authoritative organization that ensured Nietzscheanism's long and varied life. Its elasticity and selective interpretative possibilities constituted its staying power and facilitated its infusion into so many areas of cultural and political life." (p.45)

    "The avant-garde found in Nietzsche sustenance for their alienation from the esthablishment's high culture and their desire to overcome the nineteenth century. He was a central force in the impulse to radical critique and the revolt against positivism and materialism." (p.51)

    "Given their portrayal of the pressures of bourgeois conformity and the emerging mass society, the expressionist artist typically espoused an elitist, Nietzschean immoralism. [...]
    This kind of immoralism extended to a celebration of madness
    ." (p.65)

    "In his drama Ithaka, Gottfried Benn's spokesman, Roenne, is moved to murder a professor who insists upon the supreme value of scientific knowledge." (p.67)

    "The expressionists, like many other Nietzscheans, wavered between an apolitical individual stance and a sense of redemptive social mission, a hunger for union with communities." (p.69)

    "Like other Nietzschean avant-garde circles, George's circle regarded itself as fundamentally apolitical and was quite indiffedent, if not actively hostile, to political parties. Yet their aesthetic impulse towards transformation and national renewal was political in the broadest sense. Loke other Niertzschean radicalism it lacked a formal programme, leaving the nature of that renewal vague. The circle encompassed people ranging from a future leader of the German resistance to nazism, Count von Stauffenberg, to anti-Semites like Ludwig Klages ; Jews like Ernest Kantorowicz, Gundolf and Wolfskehl ; and those like Ernest Bertram who were attracted to nazism. [...]
    Whatever the internal differences, all adherents of the circle were overtly critical of the democratic system, especially the Americanized Weimar brand. They were patricians far removed from the vulgar Nazi sensibility. They contributed to an antiegalitarian, antidemocratic discourse that nevertheless aided the rise of a force they despised. They also called for the creation of a new German mythology
    ." (p.76)

    « Ernest Bertram’s enormously important Nietzsche. That work, reissued seven times betweeen 1918 and 1927, played a crucial role in the history of the völkisch appropriation of Nietzsche and his transfiguration into a Germanic right-wing prophet.” (p.77)

    Schuler’s most influential disciple was Ludwig Klages (who bitterly broke with George in 1904).” (p.79)

    Julius Langbehn was another völkisch thinker to try to cure Nietzsche.” (note 115 p.79)

    « As Karl Löwith wrote en 1927, there was a veritable Klages cult during this period. » (note 117 p.80)

    Klages offered a critique of power, repression, and aggression in which all the modern alternatives of liberalism, socialism, and capitalism seemed culpable. From this point of view, Klages’s ideas belonged to the anarchist-liberationist Asconan, not the authoritarian, tradition.” (p.83)

    This mix of elements always attracted the German and European avant-garde. Their radicalism was a response to real issues of liberal and industrial modernity. Almost definitionally hostile to bourgeois tastes and politics, Nietzsche provided them with a marvelous thematic reservoir with which they could proceed into a postliberal world.” (p.83)

    "As one caustic male critic put it, the "modern woman" had an ambivalent relationship to Nietzsche's whip: in the name of "emancipation" she sought to liberate herself from it but at the same time an ancient drive impelled her back to it." (p.86)

    "Only with the apparent radicalization of the women's movement around the mid-1890's did the Nietzschean impulse began to make itself apparent." (p.88)

    "The institutional expression of the New Morality was the breakaway Bund für Mutterschutz (League for the Protection of Mothers) established in 1905. By 1912 it could claim about four thousand members. Apart from Stöcker and Braun, well-known figures such as Iwan Bloch, Hedwig Dohm, Ellen Key, Max Marcuse, Werner Sombart and Max Weber endorsed its activities. The league advocated state recognition of unformalized marriages, established hostels for unmarried mothers, promoted free love, and provided easier access to contraception. It was in constant tension with the more conservative Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine which resisted their attempts to legalize abortion and after 1909 refused to grant them membership.
    Liberals and the mainline women's organizations regarded the league, especially its Nietzsche connection, as an outrage to Wilhelmine respectability. [...] Its critics, most notably Helen Lange, regarded erotic Nietzscheanism as a betrayal of the moderating, cultivating, Bildung conception of personality and as an outright attack on the "honor of bourgeois morality".
    " (p.90-91)

    "For the traditional right -a few exceptions notwithstanding- Nietzsche remained anathema to conservatives, ruling elites, and nationalists alike. Until 1914, establishment circles for the most part continued to regard the philosopher as subversive and dangerous, despite the frenetic efforts of Förster-Nietzche to endow Nietzsche with a patriotic pedigree. [...] When Nietzsche did emerge as a spokesman for the right it was a new and radical right different from the traditionally conservative right that emerged after World War I." (p.117-118)

    "The most rabid Nietzschean in social Darwinian and pan-Germanic circles was Alexander Tille (1866-1912). Tille was a leading member of the Alldeutsche Verband after 1898 and an early and intense Nietzsche publicist. He was also a major mediator of Nietzsche in Britain, teaching German for ten years at Glasgow University, and in 1895 became editor of an English translation of Nietzsche's works. He was also deputy director of the Organization of German Industrialists in Berlin and later became representative of an employers association in Saarbrucken. Tille's Nietzscheanism stressed the philosopher's dismissal of humanism, equality, Christian ethics, socialism, and democracy, and was combined with a brutal social Darwinism." (p.123)

    "In Britain and the Empire, in France and the United States, Nietzsche was suddenly propelled into the limelight. He was constantly discussed in the popular press, his name entering ordinary households as perhaps the villain of the war. The legend that Nietzsche was a thinker who generated dangerous acts was now internationalized. As a later observer [Eric Vögelin] wrote, no other philosopher had been made responsible for a European War.
    Such convictions confirmed that by 1914 Friedrich Nietzsche had been transformed into a protean cultural symbol for many of the great issues of European life. [...]
    As H. L. Stewart put it in his book-lenght tract,
    Nietzsche and the Ideals of Germany (1915), the war was between a Germany that stood for an unscrupulous "Nietzschean immoralism" and those who fought for the cherished principles of "Christian restraint". [...] The negative equation of Nietzsche with Germany and the German mind was destined to become a tradition, and during World War II was successfully revided." (p.128-129)

    "Romain Rolland, for exemple, argued that war developments were to some degree the product of "what the masses make of the words of sage"." (p.130)

    "Nietzsche's American popularizer, H. L. Mencken, was actually arrested and charged with being the war agent of "the German monster, Nietzsky"." (p.131)

    "Would not war bring about Nietzsche's dictum to "live dangerously", facilite the search for heightened, authentic experience, and overcome the pervasive dedacence ?" (p.132)

    "There is no doubt that Nietzsche's pre-war appeal to intellectuals throughout Europe made it easy for them to pack a copy of Zarathustra into their kitbags as they marched off into the Great War. Writers like Robert Graves in England, d'Annunzio in Italy [...] and the future Fascist Drieu La Rochelle in France are only a few examples." (p.134)

    "Together with Goethe's Faust and the New Testament, Zarathustra was the most popular work that literate soldiers took into battle for inspiration and consolation. [...] About 150 000 copies of a specially durable wartime Zarathustra were distributed to the troops." (p.135)

    "The war provided the grounds for a more plausible construction of a nationalist Nietzsche. Moreover, it rendered the progressive version less appealing." (p.138)

    "For certain radical right, völkisch and Youth Movement circles, the war fused martial values with the vision of a grand, national cultural, and spiritual transformation. Nietzschean metaphors crucially informed this vision which became integral to the armory of Weimar's conservative revolution. Here Nietzsche could function as an effective counterfoil to Marx by emphasizing the cultural over the material and the spiritual over the economic. To be sure, in certain circles this emphasis predated the war. Eugen Diederich's neo-Romantic group centered around Die Tat, for exemple, had from its beginnings based its ideal of German cultural renaissance upon the Nietzschean influence. The war simply heightened their expectations. Its commentators insisted that through the crucible of the war the breakthrough to a new national Nietzschean authenticity was indeed possible.
    For other important völkisch groups, however, it was the war itself which prompted a new attitude towards Nietzsche. Hermann Popert's youth movement, the Vortrupp, which had dismissed Nietzsche as profoundly dangerous to a healthy national outlook, made a total about-face. The war transformed Nietzsche into their guiding völkisch star. Paul Schulze-Berghof (later an active disseminator of the Nazi Zarathustra myth) exemplified the Vortrupp's new attitude by naming Nietzsche "The Culture Prophet of German World Empire". [...]
    The radical right, nationalist revolutionaries who mushroomed during the Weimar Republic, was by no means an obvious force before 1918. Still, during the war signs of its presence began to do the cultural landscape. The war, of course, provided the basis for its main themes and goals. Nietzschean images emphasizing masculinity, will, heroism, and struggle permeated their political vocabulary. Commentators like Max Brahn combined these values with  an emphasis on Nietzsche as "a teacher of organization". [...] In certain esoteric right-wing journals Nietzsche influenced a germining proto-Fascist outlook.
    Der Panther: Deutsche Monattschrift für Politik und Volkstum, for instance, consistantly presented Nietzsche as the champion of cultural totality resulting from the fusion of aesthetic and heroic values, as opposed to the splintered, liberal, intellectualist and moralistic world." (p.144-145)

    "Our post facto knowledge of the "good" Thomas Mann should not blind us to his virulently antidemocratic, anti-Western posture prior to the Weimar Republic or, indeed, its complex ambiguities well after. In Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man Nietzsche was the central justifying figure around which he built his anticivilization arguments." (p.149-150)

    "We need waste little time establishing the centrality of Nietzsche for the Weimar radical right between 1918 and 1933. A few dissenting voices notwithstanding, he was its most authoritative and inspirational source. As its sympathetic chronicler Armin Mohler put it, the "conservative revolution" would have been "unthinkable" without Nietzsche. In his protean works the new right discovered a remarkably plastic, almost inexhaustible, source for enunciating a radical worldview and for locating both its enemies and positive ideals. In 1931 Friedrich Hielscher, an active publicist on the radical right, summed up Nietzsche's multiple functions for this political universe: "Nietzsche stands as questioner, as fighter, as the solitary one. He stands for the Reich as protector of the past, as crusher of the present, as transformer of the future"." (p.153)

    "Friedrich Mess's massive 1930 work, Nietzsche: The Lawgiver, was only the most systematic of many attempts. "Just as canonical law derived from the Bible and the writings of the Church fathers", Mess proclaimed, "so must the lex Futurana Europeanum be built upon Nietzsche's wisdom"." (p.154)

    "From 1918 to 1933 the Right comprised over 550 clubs and 530 journals." (p.155)

    "When the radical right sought to appropriate socialism for their own purposes, Nietzsche was a central enabling force in the transition. That the new right chose to designate itself as socialist was perhaps a paradox, but it did reflect an awareness that the term had become an essential catchword in modern mass politics. In the eyes of the radical right, it was extremely important to wrest both the socialist constituency and its definitional monopoly from the left. In forging its own notion of socialism it stripped the concept of almost all Marxist landmarks and made any precise graps of its contours even more elusive.
    The right now offered a national socialism as a counterweight to the Marxist idea of international proletarian revolution. Its ideologues could proclaim themselves socialists not only because they assigned to the state authoritarian powers to regulate socioeconomic life along quasicorporate lines but also because they couched their analysis of society in a biting critique of the bourgeoisie and accorded to the lower classes a major role in their visions of national regeneration. Nietzsche provided a fruitful source for these themes. His radicalism was easily molded into the framework of a new right that, unlike its older conservative counterpart, put a premium on the national mobilization and integration of the working classes.
    Socialism here referred to the conflation of the national with the social. It aimed at inclusiveness and participation of the working masses within the broader whole. Dedication to the nation would create a socialism of the Volksgemeinschaft, a viable substitute for the socialism of class." (p.166-167)

    "The Jungen's direct attack on the party leadership inevitably resulted in a struggle that could only lead to their defeat. Many of its adherents left the party and became independent socialists. Their journal, Der Sozialist, soon took on an anticentralist, antistatist hue. Nietzschean volition informed their anarchist socialist vision of the future. No one worked out the bases of this Nietzschean anarchism more radically than the one-time editor of Der Sozialist, Gustav Landauer (1870-1919).
    Landauer, as Eugene Lunn has demonstrated, was able to harness Nietzschean irrationalism and voluntarism and point them leftward. He created an anarchism based on a form of vitalism and the notion of an individual and collective willful self-transformation. Landauer filtered Nietzsche's negation of human solidarity and community out of his system while incorporating the philosopher's critique of materialism and suspicion of the state. Landauer insisted that social questions could best be solved through willful transformations of consciousness. As Landauer put it in his
    Aufruf zum Sozialismus (1911): "Socialism is possible and impossible at all times ; it is possible when the right people are there to will it and to it ; it is impossible when people either don't will it or only supposedly will it, but are not capable of doing it". Nietzschean anarchic socialism thus served as an alternative to a cold, determinist Marxist orthodoxy. Landauer explicitly upheld the Nietzschean insistence that life and culture required illusion. Viewed from this perspective, socialism was a consciously generated antihistoricist myth of perpertual self-creation." (p.170-171)

    "Nietzschean socialists of the right also employed Nietzsche for the analysis of decadence and the road to recovery. Hugo Fischer, an associate of the radical conservative circle around Hans Freyer, commended both Marx and Nietzsche as analysts of the decadence of bourgeois society: nevertheless, Nietzsche was the superior thinker. He had placed decadence at the very center and, unlike Marx, was able to distinguish between merely symptomatic and real decadence. The socialism of the right was engendered by the search for a healthy, post-decadent, and anti-bourgeois New Man." (p.194-195)

    "In the late 1920s, he had expressed sympathy for the Communists and their positive, militant will to power. During the 1930s he became associated with national bolshevism and the search for common ground with Russia against the West. Der Arbeiter, that radical attempt to foresee the coming order and rethink the meaning of the worker, was to have been the manifesto of the National Bolsheviks. Precisely because of their capacity for total mobilization and for creating a new order, Jünger could admire both Italian fascism and bolshevism." (p.199)
    -Steven E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany (1890-1990), University of California Press, 1994, 337 pages.



    _________________
    « La racine de toute doctrine erronée se trouve dans une erreur philosophique. [...] Le rôle des penseurs vrais, mais aussi une tâche de tout homme libre, est de comprendre les possibles conséquences de chaque principe ou idée, de chaque décision avant qu'elle se change en action, afin d'exclure aussi bien ses conséquences nuisibles que la possibilité de tromperie. » -Jacob Sher, Avertissement contre le socialisme, Introduction à « Tableaux de l'avenir social-démocrate » d'Eugen Richter, avril 1998.

    "La vraie volupté est remportée comme une victoire sur la tristesse [...] Il n’y a pas de grands voluptueux sans une certaine mélancolie, pas de mélancoliques qui ne soient des voluptueux trahis." -Albert Thibaudet, La vie de Maurice Barrès, in Trente ans de vie française, volume 2, Éditions de la Nouvelle Revue Française, 1919, 312 pages, p.40.


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