The New Yorker: Nietzsche’s Eternal Return

(wrote on Jan 20, 2020. Unclear why i left it in draft form then. publish as is.)

“The Eternal Return” – Interpreting the legacy of Friedrich Nietzsche, by Alex Ross. From Oct. 14, 2019’s issue of the New Yorker.

I knew very little about Nietzsche. Only vaguely aware of Nietzsche was used by Nazis because he was advocating for the existence of “superhuman” and how us little people should be deference to the “superhuman”.

This article opened my eyes.  Nietzsche was much more nuanced than that, and he was at once been used by both far right and far left. because he seemed to advocate for both sides at the same time, but apparently both sides misread him.  I didn’t know about his low opinion about democracy before. On this duality:

Nietzsche’s central insight about the modern state—one that greatly influenced the sociology of Max Weber and the political thinking of Carl Schmitt—is that it faces a crisis of authority. When power is no longer divinely ordained, the right to govern is contested. In “Human, All Too Human,” Nietzsche predicted that, as the democratic state secularized itself, there would be a surge of religious fanaticism resistant to centralized government. On the other side, he anticipated a zealous adherence to the state on the part of nonbelievers. Religious forces might seize control again, engendering new forms of enlightened despotism—“perhaps less enlightened and more fearful than before.” These struggles could go on for a while, Nietzsche writes. In one long paragraph, he prophesies the history of the twentieth century, from fascism to theocracy.

To the opponents of democracy, Nietzsche says, in essence: Just wait. Liberal democracy will devour itself, creating conditions for authoritarian rule. Disorder and instability will sow distrust in politics itself. “Step by step, private companies will absorb the functions of the state,” Nietzsche writes. “Even the most tenacious remnants of the old work of governing (the activity, for example, that is supposed to protect private persons from one another) will finally be taken care of by private entrepreneurs.” The distinction between public and private spheres will disappear. The state will give way to the “liberation of the private person (I take care not to say: of the individual).”

The article went on to clarify that both sides missed the point. what Nietzsche was really after, was a kind of balance.

In “Ecce Homo,” Nietzsche writes, “I attack only the winner.” He goes after the most tyrannical, domineering forces — hence, his critiques of God and Wagner.
….When one entity gathers too much power, the system ceases to function….Behind Nietzsche’s array of extreme positions is a much less alarming belief: that the only healthy state for humanity is one in which rival perspectives vie with one another, with none gaining the upper hand.

A few other interesting read from this same issue:
“Troubles” Edna O’Brien’s life of literary intensity by Ian Parker
“The Next Word” Could a computer write this article? by John Seabrook