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Nietzsche’s impact on the world of culture, philosophy, and the arts is uncontested, but his political thought remains mired in controversy. By placing Nietzsche back in his late-nineteenth-century German context, Nietzsche’s Great Politics moves away from the disputes surrounding Nietzsche’s appropriation by the Nazis and challenges the use of the philosopher in postmodern democratic thought. Rather than starting with contemporary democratic theory or continental philosophy, Hugo Drochon argues that Nietzsche’s political ideas must first be understood in light of Bismarck’s policies, in particular his “Great Politics,” which transformed the international politics of the late nineteenth century.
Nietzsche’s Great Politics shows how Nietzsche made Bismarck’s notion his own, enabling him to offer a vision of a unified European political order that was to serve as a counterbalance to both Britain and Russia. This order was to be led by a “good European” cultural elite whose goal would be to encourage the rebirth of Greek high culture. In relocating Nietzsche’s politics to their own time, the book offers not only a novel reading of the philosopher but also a more accurate picture of why his political thought remains so relevant today.
by Michael Allen Gillespie
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In the seven and a half years before his collapse into madness, Nietzsche completed Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the best-selling and most widely read philosophical work of all time, as well as six additional works that are today considered required reading for Western intellectuals. Together, these works mark the final period of Nietzsche’s thought, when he developed a new, more profound, and more systematic teaching rooted in the idea of the eternal recurrence, which he considered his deepest thought.
Cutting against the grain of most current Nietzsche scholarship, Michael Allen Gillespie presents the thought of the late Nietzsche as Nietzsche himself intended, drawing not only on his published works but on the plans for the works he was unable to complete, which can be found throughout his notes and correspondence. Gillespie argues that the idea of the eternal recurrence transformed Nietzsche’s thinking from 1881 to 1889. It provided both the basis for his rejection of traditional metaphysics and the grounding for the new logic, ontology, theology, and anthropology he intended to create with the aim of a fundamental transformation of European civilization, a “revaluation of all values.” Nietzsche first broached the idea of the eternal recurrence in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but its failure to gain attention or public acceptance led him to present the idea again through a series of works intended to culminate in a never-completed magnum opus. Nietzsche believed this idea would enable the redemption of humanity. At the same time, he recognized its terrifying, apocalyptic consequences, since it would also produce wars of unprecedented ferocity and destruction. Through his careful analysis, Gillespie reveals a more radical and more dangerous Nietzsche than the humanistic or democratic Nietzsche we commonly think of today, but also a Nietzsche who was deeply at odds with the Nietzsche imagined to be the forefather of Fascism.
Gillespie’s essays examine Nietzsche’s final teaching—its components and its political, philosophical, and theological significance. The book concludes with a critical examination and a reflection on its meaning for us today.
by Gary Shapiro
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We have Nietzsche to thank for some of the most important accomplishments in intellectual history, but as Gary Shapiro shows in this unique look at Nietzsche’s thought, the nineteenth-century philosopher actually anticipated some of the most pressing questions of our own era. Putting Nietzsche into conversation with contemporary philosophers such as Deleuze, Agamben, Foucault, Derrida, and others, Shapiro links Nietzsche’s powerful ideas to topics that are very much on the contemporary agenda: globalization, the nature of the livable earth, and the geopolitical categories that characterize people and places.
Shapiro explores Nietzsche’s rejection of historical inevitability and its idea of the end of history. He highlights Nietzsche’s prescient vision of today’s massive human mobility and his criticism of the nation state’s desperate efforts to sustain its exclusive rule by declaring emergencies and states of exception. Shapiro then explores Nietzsche’s vision of a transformed garden earth and the ways it sketches an aesthetic of the Anthropocene. He concludes with an explanation of the deep political structure of Nietzsche’s “philosophy of the Antichrist,” by relating it to traditional political theology. By triangulating Nietzsche between his time and ours, between Bismarck’s Germany and post-9/11 America, Nietzsche’s Earth invites readers to rethink not just the philosopher himself but the very direction of human history.
Reviewed by Gabriel Zamosc, University of Colorado Denver
in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
“This book offers a valuable and provocative contribution to the growing literature on Nietzsche’s political philosophy. It invites us to understand Nietzsche’s politics as consisting mainly in a kind of political program calling for a radical transformation of our earthly habitation. On Shapiro’s reading, this program principally requires reconceiving our relation to temporality, and, in particular, to the future, by cultivating a kind of openness that can make us receptive to those rare opportunities for radical change Nietzsche called “great events”. Nietzsche’s politics of futurity, however, requires displacing the way of thinking prevalent in the petty politics of nation-states. In each chapter, Shapiro investigates different aspects of Nietzsche’s critiques of this way of thinking, trying to articulate, at the same time, its positive alternative.”