In Book 1 of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, there is a speech on the state (“Of the New Idol”) that is surrounded by a speech on war and the warrior prior to it and also a speech “On the Flies of the Marketplace” following it. All three speeches in a way need to be read together (not only in order but also juxtaposed in other ways) to be fully understood. Having said that, I want to bracket these other two sections off (keeping them in mind) while focusing solely on Zarathustra’s short discourse on the state. The speech begins:
There are still peoples and herds somewhere, but not with us, my brothers: here there are states.
The state? What is that? Well then! Now open your ears, for now I shall speak to you of the death of peoples.
The state is the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly, it lies, too; and this lie creeps from its mouth: ‘I, the state, am the people.’
It is a lie! It was creators who created peoples and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.
It is destroyers who set snares for many and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred desires over them.
There are several things to notice here. First, Nietzsche conceives of the state as a development that comes about abruptly, through violence and the ‘snares’ of an apparatus of capture. Imposed from the outside, the coherence of a people (considered to also be in flux) faces its ‘death’ through the domination of the destroyers that seize a population and order it through the imposition of forms and customs that force it to fragment under the weight of these new forces. On the other hand, the state’s ‘lie’ is a function of its attempt to erase or disguise its operation of seizure upon a populace by overcoding the identity of the state onto the social body: in other words, it falsifies the origin of the population by indebting it to the state that acts as the primal body or consistency of the group. And when Zarathustra mentions the “peoples or herds,” he is referring to the nomadic nature of primeval societies and the imposition of a sedentary state. The move from following the flows of animal packs to diverting flows of water into distributions of farmland are not only two ways of being but also two ways of organizing beings in the proximity of the vortex of capture.
Zarathustra goes on to claim that wherever the state exists, “the people do not understand the state and hate it as the evil eye and sin against custom and law.” Since every culture has an immanent set of laws and customs concerning good and evil, there can be no understanding of the neighbor’s ‘language of good and evil.” However, the state lies in all languages of good and evil, and “whatever it says, it lies–and whatever it has, it has stolen.” Because of this, Zarathustra proposes that the sign of the state is ultimately its confusion of the language of good and evil.
Although it may seem obvious, it is interesting to highlight Nietzsche’s extremely negative views of the state here (compare, for example, sections 16 and 17 of the Second Essay from The Genealogy of Morals. Here, instead of being called “destroyers,” Nietzsche refers to the state as a “pack of blond beasts of prey, a conqueror and master race which, organized for war and with the ability to organize, unhesitatingly lays its terrible claws upon a populace perhaps tremendously superior in numbers but still formless and nomad” (Section 17, Essay 2). Though this seems negative and isomorphic to what Zarathustra says, it is important to note that Nietzsche claims that “Their work is an instinctive creation and imposition of forms; they are the most involuntary, unconscious artists there are.” But again, on the other hand, Nietzsche uses the notion of this conqueror race to understand the development of the bad conscience, not through them, but through their expulsion of the “instinct for freedom (in my language: the will to power).” This will be dealt with at greater length later.) In any case, these are different aspects of negativity of the apparatus of capture–in Genealogy, a macro view oriented towards understanding the development of a symptomatic type (bad conscience); in Zarathustra, a negative principle that, as we will see, calls out to great individuals to increase the function of capture.
Returning to the text, how are we to interpret that the state confuses the language of good and evil (or is the confusion). If the state is the evil eye and sin against custom and law, does that mean that it seizes upon the nomadic aggregates and forces them not only into a new milieu and a new relationship with the milieu, but also forces the nomad into a different structure of values, a new way of evaluating and experiencing the world? As Nietzsche says in The Genealogy of Morals:
I regard the bad conscience as the serious illness that mas was bound to contract under the stress of the most fundamental change he ever experienced–that change which occurred when he found himself finally enclosed within the walls of society and of peace. The situation that faced sea animals when they were compelled to become land animals or perish was the same as that which faced these semi-animals, well adapted to the wilderness, to war, to prowling, to adventure: suddenly all their instincts were disvalued and ‘suspended.’ From now on they had to walk on their feet and ‘bear themselves’ whereas hitherto they had been borne by the water: a dreadful heaviness lay upon them. They felt unable to cope with the simplest undertakings; in this new world they no longer possessed their former guides, their regulating, unconscious and infallible drives: they were reduced to thinking, inferring, reckoning, co-ordinating cause and effect, these unfortunate creatures; they were reduced to their ‘consciousness,’ their weakest and most fallible organ! I believe there has never been such a feeling of misery on earth, such a leaden discomfort–and at the same time the old instincts had not suddenly ceased to make their usual demands! Only it was hardly or rarely possible to humor them: as a rule they had to seek new and, as it were, subterranean gratifications (Section 16, Essay 2).
This is where, between the transversals of Zarathustra and the Genealogy, we can start to approach questions of the illness of bad conscience in relation to the subversion or undergoing of values (again, in this aspect, an affirmative process–even if it is associated with the suffering of the “feeling of misery on earth”–that commences the auto-subversion of morality that the Subterranean Man, in Daybreak, asserts is the project of joyous denial).
When the state claims to be the people, Zarathustra says “It was creators who created peoples and hung a faith and a lover over them: thus they served life.” The state lies, but its lying has to be promoted by real effects of capture. “It is destoyers who set snares for many [my emphasis] and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred desires over them.” On the one hand, the use of force and deterrence, and on the other, the production of desire. This is why I said earlier that the sections on the warrior and the market surrounding this one are illuminated especially through this section. For the state needs both the warrior and the market to capture the many. As Zarathustra says:
Many too many are born: the state was invented for the superfluous!…Ah, it whispers its dismal lies to you too, you great souls!… Ah, it divines the abundant hearts that like to squander themselves!…Yes, it divines you too, you conquerors of the old God! You grew weary in battle and now your weariness serves the new idol!…It would like to range heroes and honourable men about it, this new idol! [my emphasis] It likes to sun itself in the sunshine of good consciences–this cold monster! It will give you everything you want if you worship it, this new idol: thus it buys for itself the lustre of your virtures and the glance of your proud eyes. It wants to use you to lure the many-too-many. Yes, a cunning device of Hell has here been devised, a horse of death jingling with the trappings of divine honours! Yes, a death for many has here been devised that glorifies itself as life: truly, a heart-felt service to all preachers of death!
The state honors its priests and its warriors, its great men, for they are the strongest machines of capture. Though they do not come simultaneously, as Nietzsche loves to satirize through the historical scenario of the adoption of Christianity by the Roman state prior to its downfall. Many of Nietzsche’s sections on Christianity and religion can be illuminated by understanding them as genealogical thoughts tracing the capture of the religion by the state, and thus its dissemination (I’m thinking particularly of his sections on the three Jews, Peter, Paul, and Jesus, or section 68 on Paul, “The first Christian” in Daybreak). The warrior is also seduced by the state and, afterwards, turns into a soldier (celebrated by the state with its badges and ranks): “I see many soldiers: if only I could see many warriors! What they wear is called uniform: may what they conceal with it not be uniform too!” (“Of War and Warriors”). The soldier “hero” is to ensure not only the capture, but the maintenance of boundaries, protectors of the city walls, guardians of the social seizure. They are to guard the superfluous from an atavism of nomadism–they guarantee (ceaselessly) the count of the many.
Here the distinction between peoples, prior to capture by the state, and the many, post-capture, incorporated in the state, becomes apparent. The peoples hate the state, while the many are forced to undergo themselves in the capture of the social machine. “I call it the state where everyone, good and bad, is a poison-drinker: the state where everyone, good and bad, loses himself: the state whose universal slow suicide is called–life.” This is what Nietzsche might call “degeneration” or the product of nihilism in the negative sense. For Zarathustra, almost, the dissipation of the state–or the removal of oneself from the proximity of the state–is the best action to get away from this bad odor: “Only there, where the state ceases, does the man who is not superfluous begin: does the song of the necessary man, the unique and irreplaceable melody, begin. There, where the state ceases–look there, my brothers. Do you not see it: the rainbow and the bridges to the Superman?” This passage, as cryptic as it appears, must, in my view, immediately be juxtaposed with a quote from the Genealogy:
All instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn inward–this is what I call the internalization of man: thus it was that man first developed what was later called his ‘soul.’ The entire inner world…expanded and extended itself, acquired depth, breadth, and height, in the same measure as outward discharge was inhibited. Those fearful bulwarks with which the political organizations protected itself against the old instincts of freedom–punishments belong among these bulwarks–brought about that all those instincts of wild, free, prowling man turned backward against man himself…But thus began the gravest and uncanniest illness, this from which humanity has not yet recovered, man’s suffering of man, of himself–the result of a forcible sundering from his animal past, as it were a leap and a plunge into new surroundings and conditions of existence, a declaration of war against the old instincts upon which his strength, joy, and terribleness had rested hitherto…Let us add at once that, on the other hand, the existence of an animal soul turned against itself, taking sides against itself, was something so new, profound, unheard of, enigmatic, contradictory, and pregnant with a future that the aspect of the earth was essentially altered. Indeed, divine spectators were needed to do justice to the spectacle thus began and the end of which is not yet in sight–a spectacle too subtle, too marvelous, too paradoxical to be played senselessly unobserved on some ludicrous planet! From now on, man is included among the most unexpected and exciting lucky throws in the dice game of Heraclitus’ “great child,” be he called Zeus or chance; he gives rise to an interest, a tension, a hope, almost a certainty, as if with him something were announcing and preparing itself, as if man were not a goal but only a way, an episode, a bridge, a great promise.— (Section 16, Essay 2).
To conclude (for now), I only want to note that there is a striking continuity between the these two texts that I have quoted at length. There are many different directions that still need to be explored and extended, and those lines will be exciting to trace. But the question we may ask is: how is Zarathustra and Nietzsche in the Genealogy strikingly different, though very continuous in content? Zarathustra, of course, speaks in a very specific style: compared to the style in the Genealogy (arguably one of Nietzsche’s most systematic works), Zarathustra sounds cryptic at times. The exhortations coming from Zarathustra paint the state in the worst way possible. Where is Nietzsche’s Archimedean point in this text? i.e. can we detect a literary rival that Zarathustra is addressing? In many of the speeches in section one, there is an obvious recurrence of biblical references and allusions to Jesus (and explicit references), but the voice I’m thinking of is Plato. Doesn’t Zarathustra, in the end, seem like a frantic anti-philosopher-king–instead of preaching to a tyrant, preaching against all tyrants and all states as tyrannical machines. Which then could give a new meaning to Zarathustra’s assemblage of texts as a whole: instead of dialogues, Zarathustra discourses are monologues, staged through a different performance, functioning through a subversive methodology that opposes the perfection of the republic and the philosopher-king, to a dispersion from the boundaries of the territory, or, if failing that, to digging beneath captured culture to at least tend the compost of decay whose going under fertilizes the soil for the growth of the overman.
“It is a fight for an idea – a Weltanschanung: and in the forefront stands a fundamental principle: Men do not exist for the State, the State exists for men. First and far above all else stands the idea of the people: the State is a form of organization of this people, and the meaning and the purpose of the State are through this form of organization to assure the life of the people. And from this there arises a new mode of thought and thus necessarily a new political method.
We say: a new mode of thought. Today our whole official political outlook is rooted in the view that the State must be maintained because the State in itself is the essential thing; we, on the other hand, maintain that the State in its form has a definite purpose to fulfill and the moment that it fails to fulfill its purpose the form stands condemned. Above everything stands the purpose to maintain the nation’s life – that is the essential thing and one should not speak of a law for the protection of the State but for the protection of the nation: it is of this protection that one must think…. In the place of this rigid formal organization – the State – must be set the living organism – the people. Then all action is given a new untrammelled freedom: all the formal fetters which can today be imposed on men become immoral directly they fail to maintain the people, because that is the highest purpose in life and the aim of all reasonable thought and action.”