05 April 2010

Article: Nietzsche's Anti-democratic Liberalism

Béla Egyed's article "Nietzsche's Anti-democratic Liberalism" was published in Slovakia's "Kritika & Kontext: Journal of Critical Thinking" (35, 2007 [2]: pp. 100-13).

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "The title of this paper reflects my view that, 'liberalism' and 'democracy' denote related but separable concepts. [...] Nietzsche was a sworn enemy of populism and egalitarianism, [...] a liberal but not a democrat. [...] In what sense is his liberalism 'anti-democratic'? My short answer to this question is that Nietzsche was, indeed, an 'aristocratic radical' [...], and his general criticism of 'the democratic idea' was motivated mostly by his mistrust of the 'new idols', political imposters seeking to take the place left vacant by the death of God. [...] What he is opposed to is the democratic ideology which he attacks relentlessly for its promoting mediocrity and the basest of human instincts. [...]

"It is a mistake to construe Nietzsche's elitism of the spirit as an advocacy of a rigid political hierarchy. His 'higher type' does not denote a political category: it refers to those who possess the aristocratic instincts as a countervailing force against the instinctive hatred of any form of distinction on the part of the 'democratic herd'. [...] These higher types need to understand, but keep their distance from, the herd and its values. [...] Nietzsche has, in fact, two politics: the one is a perfunctory endorsement of existing institutions he considers essential, inevitable and contemptible, the other is a proto-politics of para-personal drives and intensities, practiced by genealogists and critics of existing values and institutions. [...] Let me give the last word to Nietzsche: 'Liberal institutions immediately cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: subsequently there is nothing more harmful to freedom than liberal institutions [...]'."

Hungarian-born Béla Egyed is Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Carleton University and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Concordia University, Canada.

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