Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 25 November 2011

Structuralist Neo-Nietzscheans - Pre, Post, and Pre-Posterous

C. Structuralist Neo-Nietzscheans - Pre, Post, and Pre-Posterous

“A fetishism! Consciousness and its cultural creations are fetishistic!” the postmodernists cry out: “Here is Nietzsche’s equivalent of Marx’s and Hegel’s ‘false consciousness’, the ‘royaume des ombres’ – in the double sense of ‘idolatrous’ (kingdom) and ‘mystifying’ (shadows) like the Hades of Antiquity.” But they are sorely mistaken, as we have shown! Hegel and Marx insisted on the innate, phylogenetic human ability for “reflection”, for self-consciousness, of which “false consciousness” was only a historical product in the course of human interaction with the World (including other human beings), - a dis-tortion and per-version, an alienation of the “inter-esse” of being human. Nietzsche by contrast reduces “consciousness” to a historically specific human praxis (from religion to metaphysics to “science”), as a “communal and  gregarious utility”, therefore as an “instrumentality” and ultimately - through language, logic and science - as expression of the Will to Power, the “rationalization of the world” - thus relegating this most intrinsically human, all too human of faculties in all its manifestations to the status of  “the perspective of the herd”, of Ohn-Macht, of “power-lessness”. - But not “inauthenticity” (as Heidegger [man, Un-eigentlichkeit] and Sartre [mauvaise foi] will do later). Recall, in this regard, Sartre’s inability to maintain his promise to define “authenticity” just as Heidegger could describe it in extremis only as “being-before-death” (cf. Negri’s critique in Spinoza essays), precisely because of the “impossibility” of these ontologies to understand human reality as anything other than “condition humaine” (see Lowith’s ‘Heidegger’)!  By contrast, as Cacciari notes with superb critical acumen and as we will discuss soon, Nietzsche’s and Weber’s concept of Rationalisierung is light years more advanced in its “political” application and alertness to the antagonistic reality and needs of capitalist society (Cacciari, ‘PNeR’, p.72).

For the philosopher from Rocken, as we shall see in great detail, whilst science remains inevitably a narrow corner of human experience, it remains a “practice” that can take many forms and directions once we “be-aware” of its possible “uses” and “deep sources” and also of its purely “instrumental” relation with the “tools” of logico-mathematics and remember to keep these separate from all velleities of “mathesis universalis”. Again, there is no “Zerstorung der Vernunft” precisely because - therefore (!) - there is no “salvation” from Rationalisierung and Entseelung, as every “idealistic” Vergeistigung like Lukacs’s Hegelian Marxism or, the other face of the coin, post-modernist readings of Nietzsche, wish to reassure us. The former pounds Nietzsche with the idealist bludgeon of “Reason”, and the latter sanctify him with the equally stultified late-romantic “Grand Refusal” of “subjective liberation from (instrumental or technological) Reason” (a “straw man” for Nietzsche if ever he imagined one!) – what Cacciari (‘K’, p.66) rightfully mocks as “tardo-romantiche, geniali ‘creativita’”.

This Marcusean link between Foucault first and then, as a “radicalization” of his approach, people like Deleuze, is sharply drawn by JG Merquior in his delightful “stroncatura” [Umberto Eco’s word for critical “truncation”] of Foucault’s inveterate charlatanry in an erudite work titled ‘Foucault’ (at pp.100-101). But Merquior fails to distinguish, as we are vigourously attempting to do here, between Nietzsche’s own uncompromising “eristic” denial of anything resembling a “common humanity” or of ludicrous notions such as “the irreducible variety of human nature” - let alone Marx’s species-conscious being! - and the absurd post-structuralist parody of his work in just such an “emancipatory” light.

(As with Deleuze, we shall not trouble with Giorgio Agamben’s delirious nonsense either. Utterly ludicrous is his maladroit and “gauche” [even before it is “gauchiste”!] attempt at the critique of capitalism in his ‘What Is An Apparatus?’’ which takes up Foucault’s original confabulatory notion of “dispositif”. One cannot but laugh at the pathetic manner in which all these “philosophes” seek to depict themselves as opponents of capitalism without having even the slightest clue as to what “capitalism” actually “is”! One can only imagine the loud laughter bellowing out of Westminster and Whitehall or Montecitorio and Palazzo Chigi by the representatives of the European bourgeoisie if indeed the insurgent forces in Europe had only the ideas of people such as these with which to oppose the capitalist Leviathan! By contrast, Antonio Negri’s own peccadillos [with the lamentable Michael Hardt] in this regard need quite deservedly to be excused in light of the vital political support he received from the Parisian neo-Nietzschean and Althusserian academic circles in his terrifyng fight to avoid a lifetime jail sentence in Italy – something to which I was witness in a Paris encounter with Negri in July 1988. Negri’s own independent efforts before his exile and, after his return to Italy, his studies on Spinoza, deserve far greater credit and will be reviewed in our study on Marx’s ‘Grundrisse’.)

Merquior is right to point out that paradoxically the very post-structuralist “de-construction” of the Subject (mirroring and extending the earlier structuralist ob-literation of it in reified “structures” or “semiology”) ends up re-introducing all the nauseous nonsense about “the liberation of man” and the absurd dilution of “power” to a meaningless ubi-quity (“power under the table”, I once dubbed it, but see Merquior’s devastating critique of Foucault’s vapid vapourisation of the concept in Ch.8 of his study). Justly poking as much fun as he can at these laughable notions, Merquior, quoting Hayden White, speaks of “the subjectification of objectification”!

“Alienating history, therefore, works as a full prop of the Foucauldian purpose: the critical grasp of modernity as a mode of existence. [Hayden] White puts Foucault in a structuralist wing which he labels ‘dispersive’ because it glories in the ‘mystery’ of the ‘irreducible variety of human nature’. Instead of integrating differences into a common humanitas, ‘dispersive’ structuralists rejoice in cultural heterogeneity, in the social dispersal and differentiation of man,” (p.72).

It is precisely such a generic (necessarily and paradoxically “humanistic” – whence “the subjectification of objectification”) notion of “man” that Nietzsche would have condemned fiercely! Just how little Foucault understood Nietzsche – and how much he distorted his philosophy – can be discerned from one of his early essays (1964, a contribution to the well-known Cahier de Royaumont on Nietzsche) encyclopaedically titled ‘Nietzsche, Freud, Marx’ (surely an allusion to the Master, Henri Lefebvre’s ‘Hegel-Marx-Nietzsche’?) in which, writes Merquior,

“Foucault attributes to the trio a position which in fact belongs eminently to Nietzsche. The position consists in holding that every interpretandum is already an interpretation. The death of interpretation, says Foucault, is the belief that there are signs of something, that is to say, some hidden essence waiting for us at the end of our interpretive journeys; ‘the life of interpretation is, on the contrary, to believe that there are only interpretations,” (p.74).

Yet we know very well from our present study – and again it is a distinction that Merquior fails to draw - that even Nietzsche (let alone Marx, in whose regard Foucault’s comments are simply laughable) does believe that there are “signs”, and “symptoms” and “symbols” aplenty that can be “interpreted” pragmatically in history! Nietzsche, to say it once more, was far too penetrating and serious a thinker not to see that “elephants all the way down” (Lukacs’s derisive reference in ‘GuK’ to “the critical mind” that when told how “the earth rests on the back of an elephant” queries on what the elephant rests and is satisfied with the answer that the elephant stands on the back of another elephant!) is nothing on which to build a philosophy, let alone a life, as he did! True it is, as Merquior cites Foucault, that for Nietzsche “interpretation has become an infinite task”: – but this must be read in the context of “the Eternal Return” and its precise ontological context in which “interpretations” belong in the “intra-temporal” and “intra-mundane” (or “ontic”) sphere of life and the world which is, in turn, en-compassed by Nietzsche’s entirely original vision of the Will to Power as the new Weltprincip: “It is our needs that interpret the world; our instincts and their impulses for and against,” (Aph.481, ‘Will To Power’).

“Needs” inter-pret the world, that is, stand between us and the world – certainly not “values” or “interpretations”! This is the vice of all neo-Nietzschean readings of Nietzsche – that they ignore completely the “physiology” of his ontology, the “materiality” of his Entwurf, and therefore the “pragmatism” of his “Semeiotik” or “Symptomatologie” (remember that CS Peirce, one of the founders of “semeiotics”, was also a “pragmatist”). Alain Badiou is yet another paragon of this appalling mis-interpretation (see his L’ Anti-philosophie de Nietzsche):

Il faut donc l’entendre au sens fort: lorsque Nietzsche dit «ce qui a besoin d’être prouvé ne vaut pas grand-chose », c’est un jugement essentiel, parce que, bien entendu, le valoir, l’évaluation est justement l’opération clé chez Nietzsche, car … la philosophie nietzschéenne est fondamentalement une philosophie de l’évaluation, de la transvaluation et, en tant que ses 2 opérations sont les 2 opérations clé de cette pensée, elle s’adresse à ce qui vaut de manière essentielle ou elle interroge tout ce qui est en tant qu’il vaut,” (pp4-5).

But Badiou clearly contradicts himself in mid-sentence! Because if “Nietzsche’s philosophy addresses all that has essential value or it interrogates whatever is to the extent that it has value”, then it is as clear as daylight that Nietzsche’s philosophy goes well beyond “values” because “it addresses… essential value” and “it interrogates whatever is” – which is to say that it is far more than “a philosophy of evaluation”, a mere “critique of values”, but aims instead at an ontological yet pragmatic de-finition of life and the world by way of a “trans-valuation of all values”!

When finally Badiou confronts the question of Da-sein (“il y a”), he acknowledges that this “being there” is “inevaluable” (ineffable), and that all attempts to name it, to assign a “value” to being, amount to assertions of power (the infamous Foucauldian “enonce’”). Charlatanry of this magnitude never ceases to amaze and stupefy, nor should it! The entire “problem” of course, is precisely not to “value” the “inevaluable” or to name the “ineffable” – just as one should not try to stop the unstoppable force! -, but to delineate pragmatically the manifestations and forms of being, of life and the world, so that philosophy may suggest a way of life! Contrasted to Badiou’s and Deleuze’s cretinously delirious sophistry, Nietzsche’s “ontogeny of thought” is a paradigm of incisive sociological acumen that these pathetic epigones can only dimly perceive, let alone comprehend!

(Just to exemplify the bizarre stupidity of Badiou, he pretends to show that Nietzsche was not a “counter-revolutionary” by arguing that he chastised past revolutionaries only because “they were failed revolutionaries”! [See the section on “l’interpretation heidegerienne”.] Mystifyingly, Badiou, hoping perhaps for the next succes de scandale, devotes nearly his entire study to a serious analysis of Nietzsche’s writings, letters and notes dated 1888, a year when sadly the philosopher of Rocken had already succumbed to mental illness! Faced with such nonsense, one begins to understand why French philosophes cut so miserable a figure vis-a-vis the majesty of their German counterparts. Badiou’s discussion of the motley collection on Nietzsche that goes under the title of Cahier de Royaumont [under the title “acte et nihilisme”, see also reference above to Foucault’s contribution discussed by Merquior, which Badiou also treats next under the title “Nietzsche par Foucault”], and particularly the absurd praise he heaps on Deleuze’s utterly insensate concluding remarks [which he quotes at length!] must rank among the most bathetic exercises in sycophancy in the history of philosophy!)   

Again, returning to Merquior, he cunningly cites Max Weber’s allusion to Nietzsche, “history enjoys eternal youth”, explaining that “it amounts to a permanent creation, knowing neither causal law nor final goal” (p.72). As a “negative” description of Nietzsche’s vision of history and time, this is in perfect harmony with our interpretation. But it leaves out the most important part – the “positive” part (in ontological terms) about the role of the Wille zur Macht and (in terms of social analysis) its “embodiment” (or Entseelung) as Rationalisierung in the “Entwicklung” of life and the world, in the Eternal Return which is, as we expounded earlier, neither a “cosmological” (exact) nor a “historical” (cyclical) re-currence of historical events.

Merquior is entirely right to warn that with Nietzsche “truth is overpowered by wanton will – and history as a former knowledge becomes just a free-for-all for warring perspectives,” (p.74). Yet, and this may be taken to be the entire rationale of our work, such “humanistic” protestations, however “admirable” and “principled”, are easily countered and dismissed as sheer Wille zur Ohnmacht not just “theoretically” by Nietzsche or even by us, but worse still by the very crushing “reality” of the historical record itself (one may wish to recall here James Joyce’s devastating vision of history in Ulysses as “a nightmare from which I am yet to awake”), and worst of all by present forces, still horrifyingly active and real (those that instill “the worst fear that can ever be hurled, […] threatening my baby, unborn and unnamed”, Bob Dylan in Masters of War) and for whom Nietzsche’s philosophy is a veritable “operation manual” on how to rule the world! Much more than humanistic shibboleths are needed to counter Nietzsche’s challenge – for in Nietzsche the negatives Denken finds that unity of theory and practice that Marx may be said to have sketched for the party of human emancipation and that Gramsci called “the philosophy of praxis”.

Squarely on this point, one where Merquior again hits the mark, is his derisively contemptuous and sardonic “stroncatura” of the Foucauldian well-nigh meaningless concept of “discourse” (and “statement”, enonce’) and its “neo-Nietzschean” per-version of Nietzsche’s valiant and astonishingly insightful description of “the Will to Truth”:

“In no time the leader of the growing legion of neo-Nietzscheans would salute in Foucault ‘the conquistador of this terra incognita where a literary form, a scientific proposition, a daily sentence, a schizophrenic nonsense, etc. are equally statements, despite their lack of a common measure. As Deleuze explains in the same breath, the flaw in Bachelard is that he still insisted on separating science from poetry. Nobody runs such a risk with neo-Nietzscheans,” [!] (pp.83-4).

(One is reminded here of Althusser’s analogous literally extravagant claim that Marx had discovered “a new continent of knowledge” – which he proceeded to substantiate [one should say, “excoriate”!] with the most appalling “structuralist” charlatanry [cf. his ‘Reading Capital].)

We can only characterize as “inqualifiable” Deleuze’s insistence in Nietzsche et la Philosophie that Nietzsche’s philosophy is not about “struggle” – supported (would you believe?) by a solitary allusion to the German philosopher’s saying that he was “much too well-bred to struggle”! To prove that we are not making this up and to illustrate Deleuze’s “temerary” imbecility, we can do no more than quote him in full:

“One cannot overemphasise the extent to which the notions of struggle, war, rivalry or even comparison are foreign to Nietzsche and to his conception of the will to power, (p.82, Deleuze’s emphasis!)

In his stultified attempt to shield Nietzsche from the consequences of his eristic philosophy, Deleuze’s “beautiful soul” conveniently forgets (something that Nietzsche would view with contempt) that struggle, strife and conflict are the very essence of the negatives Denken (from Schopenhauer onwards) and of Nietzsche’s “ontogeny of thought”, that in Nietzsche’s unforgettable words (already quoted earlier, but re-proposed here to dismiss Deleuze’s charlatanry once and for all): -

259…[L]ife itself is essentially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation [Ausbeutung]; -- but why should one for ever use precisely these words on which for ages a disparaging purpose has been stamped? Even the organisation within which, as was previously supposed, the individuals treat each other as equal--it takes place in every healthy aristocracy -- must itself, if it be a living and not a dying organisation, do all that towards other bodies, which the individuals within it refrain from doing to each other: it will have to be the incarnated Will to Power, it will endeavour to grow, to gain ground, attract to itself and acquire ascendancy - not owing to any morality or immorality, but because it lives, and because life is precisely Will to Power. (BGE)

We refuse adamantly to fathom the oceanic depths of execrable stupidity that Deleuze’s work has “inspired” in his acolytes and epigones (from Nancy to Agamben to Hardt).

As this study is hopefully making clear, and will do so more emphatically and precisely in the pages that follow, for Nietzsche “the rationalization of the world”, its dis-enchantment and de-spiritualisation are an ineluctable “destiny” within the “logic of the Wille zur Macht” (see Part Two) dictated by the “need-necessity” of the “ontology of thought” that we have traced out. Far from crudely denying the scientific process as an illusory figment or imaginary fabrication or a mere “discourse” or “statement”, we will show how Nietzsche identified the frightful “effectiveness” of mathesis as an instrument of the Will to Power. Nietzsche draws no distinction between “consciousness” as an inevitable aspect of “socialization”, as a “distancing” of thinking from “the body”, from the “instincts” as a consequence of social interaction – inevitable because of “need-necessity” -, and, at the same time, the “Cultur” (the mirror-imaging) to which this “socialization” gives rise and that provides the fertile soil on which the “bad conscience” of ressentiment and the nihilistic-rationalistic Entseelung will flourish. But this latter development still leaves room “effectively” for “resolve” (Gewissen) which is the Will exercising its Power in the “distance of Pathos” whereby the “instincts” manifest their affirmation of their “freedom”, intended as domination and overpowering and “overcoming”.

Thus, consciousness (whence Schopenhauer’s con-scientia and sym-pathy are derived) must be distinguished from resolve (Gewissen - Nietzsche’s “distance of Pathos” or “competence to promise”) not as states of “false consciousness” and “authenticity”, respectively, as all the romantic idealists from Lukacs to Foucault would have them. Although ideally, so to speak, Nietzsche hankered for that “forgetful” and “blame-less” state of the herd in the fields, for the “mimesis” with “nature” (“naturalism of morality”) where the Will to Power still presides and rules but without the “reflective distancing”, the “mirroring”, the “out-of-body” experience of consciousness, - he never lost sight of the “reality of the Rationalisierung” – of its “effectiveness”! – as the imposition of the Will to Power. In Heidegger’s languorous words (Nietzsche, Vol 2 p.148), “at the end of Nietzsche’s metaphysics stands the statement: ‘Homo est brutum bestiale’”.

It is this resolve (or conscience) that makes possible the terrifying state of mind of the Wanderer (to be discussed later in Part Two). And in this lies the fundamental importance of “tragedy” for Nietzsche, namely, in the fact that this consciousness and this Cultur with its Rationalisierung disguised first, in its ascendant phase, as Vergeistigung (the pro-gress of the Spirit in the world as Hegel’s “ruse of reason” or Weltweisheit) and then, in its “bureaucratic and technological” phase, as Entseelung (Weber’s dis-enchantment, alienation), becomes the necessary instrument and vehicle (Trager) of the social and cultural affirmation of the Will to Power by “those who know” and who do not “misunderstand the body” – by the Ubermenschen of the grosse Politik! The greatness of Nietzsche is to have theorised this inextricable double aspect (Doppelcharakter) of “Cultur and Zivilisation”, as Ver-geistigung (the ascetic-idealistic aspect of “interiorisation” [Verinnerlichung]) and Ent-seelung (the institutional “iron cage” [stahlhartes Gehause] of Weberian fame), where his confused neo-Nietzschean hagiographers, from Lefebvre to Klossowski and Agamben, champion him as the romantic opponent of the latter and the humanist messiah of a “biopolitical” version of the former!

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