Tag: Nietzsche

Writer’s Block

I hate writer’s block. I know, I know: Who doesn’t? But writing about writer’s block is like what Virginia Woolf said about describing pain. The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare, Donne, Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry. There’s no easy language for it. I’ve been sitting here, in front of the computer, for weeks, trying to get going on this next section of the Thomas book. Just one false start after another. Every sentence falls flat, every paragraph is dead on arrival. And those are the good days. When the writing is happening, there are few […]

What’s a Jewish holiday without a little pressure or guilt? Maybe it’s not a holiday at all.

NB: Like the matzoh the Jews prepared in ancient Egypt, this post was written in great haste. A few weeks ago, I invited my friend Lizzie to our seder Friday night. I knew that Lizzie had some ambivalence about the seder, so I stressed in my invitation that she should only come if she wanted to. Her response gave me a big laugh: “Only if I want to? How is it a holiday if there isn’t a little guilt and pressure thrown in?” Which got me thinking about the Passover story and guilt. I originally was going to write something much longer on this, but I’m so exhausted at this point—having been shopping and cooking for a few days, with 26 […]

Monday Morning at the Wagners

From Cosima Wagner’s Diaries 1878-1883: Coming from his bath, R.[ichard] says to me: “You are quite right—we should have slaves”… [January 7, 1878] One more potential bit of evidence, incidentally, for my claim that Nietzsche’s arguments in early essays like “The Greek State” and in Birth of Tragedy may have been about real, not metaphorical, slavery. In her diary, Cosima Wagner makes clear that she and Richard had been discussing the benefits of slavery over wage labor (“I declared recently that slaves had been happier than the present-day proletariat”), which was one of the main defenses of slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War in the South. Though the relationship between Wagner and Nietzsche was, in 1878, on the brink of a permanent […]

Nietzsche on the Situation in Greece

On the Genealogy of Morals: The debtor made a contract with the creditor and pledged that if he should fail to repay he would substitute something else that he “possessed,” something he had control over; for example, his body, his wife, his freedom… Let us be clear as to the logic of this form of compensation: it is strange enough. An equivalence is provided by the creditor’s receiving, in place of a literal compensation for an injury (thus in place of money, land, possessions of any kind), a recompense in the form of a kind of pleasure—the pleasure of being allowed to vent his power freely upon one who is powerless, the voluptuous pleasure “de faire le mal pour le plaisir […]

Readings for Passover: Rousseau on Moses and the Jews

As we head into the Passover season, I’m on the lookout for readings. This past weekend in shul, I was struck by the following passage from Jeremiah 22 (I tend to read around the prayerbooks): Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages; and giveth him not for his work. I was struck not only by the passage’s sense that injustice, in the form of uncompensated labor, is a wrong for which one will be punished but that one will be punished because it is a wrong sown into the building, the very foundation, of one’s construction. It’s that sense of the inseparability, the inseverability and indivisibility, of an edifice […]

Tyler Cowen is one of Nietzsche’s Marginal Children

Tyler Cowen reviews Thomas Piketty: Piketty fears the stasis and sluggishness of the rentier, but what might appear to be static blocks of wealth have done a great deal to boost dynamic productivity. Piketty’s own book was published by the Belknap Press imprint of Harvard University Press, which received its initial funding in the form of a 1949 bequest from Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr., an architect and art historian who inherited a good deal of money from his father, a vice president of Bankers Trust. (The imprint’s funds were later supplemented by a grant from Belknap’s mother.) And consider Piketty’s native France, where the scores of artists who relied on bequests or family support to further their careers included painters […]

Talking about Nietzsche and the Austrians

On Bloggingheads, Mike Konczal and I talk about Nietzsche, the Austrians, and neoliberalism. I explain the weird ways in which Hayek’s view of judging mirrors America’s belated feudalism, how my thinking about the Austrians has changed, why academic theorists and leftists wrongly elevate Strauss and Schmitt above Hayek and Mises, and how we might think about neoliberalism differently. Unfortunately I can’t seem to embed the video here, so you’ll have to click on the link and watch it over at the BH site.

Nietzsche, Hayek, and the Austrians: A Reply to My Critics

My article “Nietzsche’s Marginal Children” has provoked much criticism, some of it quite hostile. (Here’s a complete list of the responses I’ve received.) The criticism focuses on four issues: the connection between Nietzsche and Austrian economists such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek; the question of Hayek’s elitism; the relationship between economic and non-economic value; and the relationship between Hayek and Pinochet. I address three of these criticisms here—a separate post on Hayek and Pinochet follows—but first let me restate the argument of the piece and explain why I wrote it. “Nietzsche’s Marginal Children” juxtaposes Nietzsche’s critique of the idea of objective value with the turn to subjective theories of value in economics, first among the early marginalists […]

The Leopold and Loeb of Modern Libertarianism

“Nathan Leopold is not the only boy who has read Nietzsche.” So said Clarence Darrow at the trial of Leopold and Loeb, the two University of Chicago law students who had murdered young Bobby Franks for no other reason than to prove that they were Nietzschean Supermen who could. When I’m feeling mischievous, I think of using that line as an epigraph for an essay on Nietzsche and libertarianism. How many teenage boys, after all, have found their way into the free market via Nietzsche? None, one insider tells me; a lot, says another. My impression is that the latter is right, but good data is hard to come by. Every ten years, Liberty Magazine polls its readers about their […]

How Two Can Make One: Nietzsche on Truth, Mises on Value, and Arendt on Judgment

Nietzsche, The Gay Science: Multiplication table. —One is always wrong, but with two, truth begins. —One cannot prove his case, but two are irrefutable. (§260) Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: Computation demands units. And there can be no unit of the subjective use-value of commodities. Marginal utility provides no unit of value…. In an exchange economy, the objective exchange value of commodities becomes the unit of calculation….We are able to take as the basis of calculation the valuation of all individuals participating in trade. The subjective valuation of one individual is not directly comparable with the subjective valuation of others. It only becomes so as an exchange value arising from the interplay of the subjective valuations of all who take part […]

The Idle Rich and the Working Stiff: Nietzche von Hayek on Capital v. Labor

Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: Culture and caste.—A higher culture can come into existence only when there are two different castes in society: that of the workers and that of the idle, of those capable of true leisure; or, expressed more vigorously: the caste compelled to work and the caste that works if it wants to….the caste of the idle is the more capable of suffering and suffers more, its enjoyment of existence is less, its task heavier. (§439) … My utopia.—In a better ordering of society the heavy work and exigencies of life will be apportioned to him who suffers least as a consequence of them, that is to say to the most insensible, and thus step by step […]

Nietzsche and the Marginals, again

Menger, Principles of Economics: Utility is the capacity of a thing to serve for the satisfaction of human needs…Our needs, at any rate in part, at least as concerns their origins, depend upon our wills or on our habits. (119) Nietzsche, The Gay Science: Need.—Need is considered the cause why something came to be; but in truth it is often merely an effect of what has come to be. (§205, p. 207) For earlier posts on the connections between Nietzsche and marginalism, and the philosophical dimensions of economic things more generally, see this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.

Market Morals: Nietzsche on the Media, Adam Smith and the Blacklist

On self-censorship in the media: Making use of petty dishonesty.—The power of the press resides in the fact that the individual who works for it feels very little sense of duty or obligation. Usually he expresses his opinion, but sometimes, in the service of his party or the policy of his country or in the service of himself, he does not express it. Such little lapses into dishonesty, or perhaps merely a dishonest reticence, are not hard for the individual to bear, but their consequences are extraordinary because these little lapses on the part of many are perpetrated simultaneously. Each of them says to himself: ‘In exchange for such slight services I shall have a better time of it; if […]

Brian Leiter on Nietzsche and Ressentiment

In his excellent book Nietzsche on Morality, which I highly recommend to everyone, Brian Leiter has one of those lovely little footnotes, which you so rarely find in academic scholarship, that clears up a confusion I’ve long had in my head. Bittner (1994: 128) points out that, “The German word [ressentiment]…needs to be distinguished from the French word spelled and pronounced alike, which is also its source. The words need to be distinguished because they differ in sense…[B]oth ‘to resent’ in English and ‘ressentir‘ in French suggest a more straightforward annoyance, less of a grudge than the German word does.” Bittner’s point is confirmed by the fact that in the German, Nietzsche does not italicize “ressentiment” except for occasional emphasis: Nietzsche […]

Nietzsche, the Jews, and other obsessions

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I now have a Tumblr, where I post the short and sweet. Some themes seem to be emerging there, so I thought I might share them here.  One has to do with Nietzsche, the other with all things Jewish (Israel, the Holocaust, etc.) On Nietzsche, I’ve pursued my ongoing obsession with the relationship between his critique of value and the rise of marginal economics, particularly the Austrian School. One of my underlying questions is how does Nietzsche relate to libertarianism (beyond the fact that an inordinate number of adolescents seem to have cut their teeth on both topics simultaneously), a subject I’m writing about now and hope to be publishing in the near […]

Isn’t It Romantic? Burke, Maistre, and Conservatism

  Over at The American Conservative, political theorist Sam Goldman offers a thoughtful response to The Reactionary Mind. Among its many virtues, Goldman’s post manages to get my argument right. As we’ve seen, that can be something of a challenge for some reviewers. Goldman also agrees with me on some fundamentals. Conservatism, he says, is a reactionary ideology. It is a defense of hierarchy against emancipatory movements from below. It’s not a disposition or an attitude; it’s not a philosophy of liberty or even of limited government.  (It supports the idea of limited government, Goldman says, but that’s a consequence, not a premise, of the theory.)  It is first and foremost a coherent set of ideas about inequality that gets […]