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Nietzsche and the State

“Where the state ends—look there, my brothers! Do you not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the overman?”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a prolific writer on just about every subject. His views on the modern state, however, have been largely overshadowed by his critique of morality. Nietzsche held a very clear and consistently critical view of the subject throughout his adult life. In his more sober moments, he saw the modern state as nothing more than a vehicle for mass power and as a squanderer of exceptional talent. In his most feverish moods, the state was “a cold monster” and a base falsehood.

During his lifetime, Nietzsche bore witness to the rise of statism in central Europe, and his disgust with nationalism, liberalism, and mass politics led him to live most of his life in self-imposed exile in Switzerland and northern Italy. Even after resigning from the University of Basel in 1879, he took to living in cheap boarding houses rather than return to his native land, which had undergone a dramatic transformation.

When Nietzsche was born in Saxony in 1844, the German Confederation consisted of 43 duchies, principalities, kingdoms, and free cities. He was only four years old when liberals and nationalists began to agitate for the creation of one unified German state. They succeeded in 1871, when Prussia defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War (in which Nietzsche briefly served as a medical orderly).

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