Nietzsche and the Capture and Domestication of Peoples

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apparatus of capture / culture / custom / decay / democracy / genealogy / image of thought / individual / instrumentality / Nietzsche / nomad / overman / Politics / power / religion / society / sovereignty / state / unground / universal / universal politics / utopia / war / war machine / warrior / Zarathustra



“You shall obey—someone and for a long time: else you will perish and lose the last respect for yourself”—this appears to me to be the moral imperative of nature which, to be sure, is neither “categorical” as the old Kant would have it (hence the “else”) nor addressed to the individual (what do individuals matter to her?), but to peoples, races, ages, classes—but above all to the whole human animal, to man (Beyond Good and Evil, §188).

There is today perhaps no more firmly credited prejudice than this: that one knows what really constitutes the moral. Today is seems to do everyone good when they hear that society is on the way to adapting the individual to general requirements, and that the happiness and at the same time the sacrifice of the individual lies in feeling himself to be a useful member and instrument of the whole: except that one is at present very uncertain as to where this whole is to be sought, whether in an existing state or one still to be created, or in the nation, or in a brotherhood of peoples, or in new little economic communalities…What is wanted—whether this is admired or not—is nothing less than a fundamental remoulding, indeed weakening and abolition of the individual: one never tires of enumerating and indicting all that is evil and inimical, prodigal, costly, extravagant in the form individual existence has assumed hitherto, one hopes to manage more cheaply, more safely, more equitably, more uniformly if there exist only large bodies and their members. Everything that in any way corresponds to this body-and membership-building drive and its ancillary drives is felt to be good, this is the moral undercurrent of our age; individual empathy and social feeling here play into one another’s hands (Daybreak, §132).

If you spend yourself on power, on grandiose politics, on economics, world trade, parliaments, military interests—if you give away in this direction the quantity of understanding, seriousness, will and self-overcoming that you are, then this quantity isn’t available in the other direction. Culture and the state—let’s not fool ourselves about this—are antagonists: the “cultured state” is just a modern idea. One lives off the other, one prospers at the expense of the other. All the great ages of culture are ages of decline, politically speaking: what is great in the cultural sense has been unpolitical, even anti-political (Twilight of the Idols, “What the Germans Are Missing,” §4).

The individual is a chaos necessary to every political and social order, a chaos enveloped in a structural social machine. This chaos should be distinguished from a random distribution of intensities or an undifferentiated aggregate but instead should be thought of as overdetermined. From our point of view (against a flow of power that remains obscure in origin) this is precisely the problem that must be addressed according to the collective nature of the individual, including the individual’s own place in the social order at large.

From another point of view, it is the individual that poses the problem to the state—hence the horrifying solution of micromanagement wherein the individual-as-problem is solved according to algorithms that divide these ‘solutions’ to their respective function in the social body. And when we say body in this sense, we take the ‘solution-individual’ to mean precisely the transformation of the individual into a tool—the instrumental individual—that nevertheless, functions as a cell assigned to certain duties in relation to different organs (conceived as institutions directing molar quantities of power) linked to the Organism-State (the constituted Whole that literally exceeds its parts through its miraculation as surplus value, projecting a dominant image of repres(sive)entation). The problem with this view is at least twofold: first, the problematic of the individual cannot be solved from a hierarchical political position (without violence, even considered in terms of psychic/collective repression); and secondly, there are, as Nietzsche shows, no criteria upon which to decide where the Whole lies, because the Whole is precisely the illusion of the State as an entity or organism, when in fact the individual calls into question (if its problem is diagonally posed) the (de)stratification that a certain social body undergoes (through entropy and (planned) states of equilibrium).

The problem may not even be that of creating new values. It seems more appropriate to say that what is required is more like an ethics, which we conceive as the methods by which values are genetically traceable in their becoming and questioned in relation to what values can do—what their real effects (potential or actual) are and what types of environmental stresses or affects (social and physico-biological) combine to produce these values (values inherently related to nihilism, both negative and affirmative).

There are, in fact, a number of different ways of approaching the ‘problem’ of the individual. As Gilles Deleuze reminds us in his essay “Nomad Thought,” Nietzsche’s philosophy has (especially in France where the two strands are dominant) ceaselessly been synthesized with Freudianism and Marxism (for better or worse) [1]. Deleuze argues that unlike Freudianism and Marxism (more their strands than the thinkers of Freud and Marx themselves), Nietzsche has opposed the ‘recoding’ of individuals into a framework beneficial to the state. For Freudianism, this involves trapping the individual into representations of the family (drama), and for Marxism, the ‘illness’ of the individual—caused by the state—is to be cured by the state (betraying behind the political (revolutionary) process the real goal of political (fascizing) normalization). Unlike these strands, Nietzsche’s type of philosophy encourages a ‘decoding’ of the individual in relation to society, one that is a ‘decoding’ in the absolute sense, for we have not been deterritorialized enough—or, as Nietzsche would say, decay (in both the individual and society) is an irreversible process that cannot be sidestepped but must be accelerated and augmented through a reevaluation of the coding (legal, contractual, institutional) process.

This train of thought can be traced through Nietzsche’s texts to approach the prospect of a Nietzschean politics through an engagement with the questions of state formations. Institutions and cultural guarantors (the state) must be injected with a little death instinct, i.e. political formations must always be mortal, or, in another sense, must guarantee the renunciation of their will to power (understood as the will to erect a stable being, reproduced through the molecular individuals that come to take on and be identified with the social roles and instrumental values through which the state guarantees itself). The questions this paper will raise particularly address the questions of the evolution of the State apparatus through its mode of capturing a populace and rendering it manageable; only through this genealogy wherein the advent of the state is enlightened can we begin to reorganize the problem of the individual along different dimensions that call into question the self-organizing principle of the state itself. Finally, if possible, the means by which this death instinct can be instilled into the state will be used as the criteria upon which we weigh how effective these conceptual investigations are in the last instance.

Chemistry of Culture: Physics of the State

From the start of Human All Too Human, Nietzsche not only raises the challenge to philosophy to become thoroughly historical and historicizing, but also challenges science to develop “a chemistry of the moral, religious and aesthetic conceptions and sensations, likewise of all the agitations we experience within ourselves in cultural and social intercourse, and indeed even when we are alone” (12). This chemistry and history would be directed especially toward the way in which reason and imagination function together to produce metaphysical images that overcode the natural world. In other words, Nietzsche argues that because we impose moral, aesthetic and religious demands on the world, we have recreated it in light of these demands—this happens insofar as “it is the human intellect that has made appearance appear and transported its erroneous basic conceptions into things” (20).

This not only applies for these three specific overcodings. Even mathematics produces metaphysical illusions insofar as number imposes a false unity with arbitrary units of measure; however, it is only because these units are imposed with constancy that pure multiplicity can be subsumed under a number or set as a unity and still retain any utility. An example of an illusory unity is custom, defined as “the union of the pleasant and the useful” (52). This plurality exists as a unity insofar as custom is grounded in habit, which produces pleasant sensations because they integrate us within a collective. Custom takes on its power through the investments and productions of herd pleasure. It acts as a sort of arbitrary unifier—it forms a set of the multiple ways in which the social field produces a rhythm that corresponds with habits that legitimate themselves as useful. However, we can unfold or disentangle utility and any criteria relating to pleasure if we are able to create truly vital thought experiments that construct new ways of grouping together different values of the useful and pleasurable—maybe to the detriment of one or the other for the developing cultural forms that this sort of experimentation may produce. The question of the chemistry of social groups would consequently be concerned with the large molar aggregates of custom (representation) and the selection of the molecular flows of pleasure and utility that (de)compose custom and culture at large.

This is one path for this potential chemistry, but it is insufficient by itself because it presupposes a macropolitical view of situations and thus already relates our criteria to a pre-existing social body already pervaded with a dominant culture. On the micropolitical level, we could ask how to create along with this chemistry a physics of mortal and transient customs. Nietzsche sets this task for the free spirits to come so that they may continue the process of the auto-liberation of thought. As he reminds us, “The less men are bound by tradition, the greater is the fermentation of motivations within them, and the greater in consequence their outward restlessness, their mingling together with one another, the polyphony of their endeavours” (24). Nietzsche believes that to create this polyphony, we will have to move “beyond the self-enclosed original national cultures” (24). Nietzsche proposes a historicizing philosophy linked to the natural sciences that can analyze standards for a generic culture, along with the political situations that they entail, and that can act as a constructive milieu for thought. In fact, he challenges us to discover “knowledge of the preconditions of culture as a scientific standard for ecumenical goals. Herein lies the tremendous task facing the great spirits of the coming century” (25). Ecumenical has (at least) two significant meanings here: general and universal on the one hand, mixed and motley on the other. With this we can tease out a physics along with this socio-historical chemistry. For if we couple Nietzsche’s proposal for a chemistry of aesthetic, religious and moral concepts and sensations with his injunction to discover the preconditions of culture from a universal point of view, then we start to connect a series of thoughts that point toward a social science that can address the question of generic and universal cultural construction that grounds itself in a physics of the interaction between molecular beliefs and desires (affects) and the corresponding cultural formations (custom) that result from the bindings of the former to a metaphysical image. The historicizing process, then, must deal with the evolution of habit and the institutions of the state that stratify custom within the social field.

Science, Language, Art: Subterranean Universality

In sections 4 and 5 of Human All Too Human, Nietzsche develops a non-linear train of thought that attempts to analyze and reconstruct the experiences and concepts of religion, art and science. There are developmental factors and connections among these three, for “art raises its head when religion relaxes its hold,” and the “scientific man is the further evolution of the artistic” (150; 223). Poets, for example, construct bridges to distant ages and dying religions, creating metaphysical alleviations that only serve to quell the truly revolutionary energy flowing beneath the surface of the social body (148). Also, artists are the notorious “glorifiers of the religious and philosophical errors of mankind,” and even though this has granted us the signification of a beautiful world, we have to ask ourselves the question: if Nietzsche tells of the death throes of art and religion, what does science inherit from these projects and how can their insights and creations be carried on in an affirmative project for the creation of necessary rings of a universal culture of free spirits (220)?

Art’s expansion transforms religious sensations and expressions, lending them profundity and an increased capacity for articulating these sensations—and science (the Enlightenment) is responsible for the dispersion of religious feelings into other areas, even politics (150). But if art is dying, then we must posit that the transformations of these metaphysical and religious sensations through art must also become invested into a new sphere, namely science. This is true because, when one organ of culture has weakened, another organ “has to discharge not only its own function but another as well” (231). Science inherits from art its ability to “look upon life in any of its forms with interest and pleasure, and to educate our sensibilities so far that we at last cry: ‘life, however it may be, is good!’” and has even made this affirmation “an almighty requirement of knowledge” (222). Thus, we can give up art without losing the capacity and sensibility that art and religion has prepared for us.

Science has to cultivate these capacities and seize upon its true calling as the project of achieving an objective by the appropriate means (256). Nietzsche’s science, gifted with the premonition of the Eternal Return, will assert that “every action performed by a human being becomes in some way the cause of other actions, decisions, thoughts, that everything that happens is inextricably knotted to everything that will happen,” that motion is enveloped in an immortality that is the total union of all being (208). Science also must recognize that everyone is “determined by such systems and representatives of different cultures” in a necessary but alterable fashion (274). This power to alter our cultural “determinations” means that we are responsible for our experiences and life experiments, that these are to be fused into a “goal without remainder” that has as its aim the will to distinguish ourselves as forming “a necessary chain of rings of culture and from this necessity to recognize the necessity inherent in the course of culture in general” (292). We are cultural artifacts composing necessary links to a universal culture that, even if it exists only potentially, must be achieved by the labor of free spirits, the kind that seem “to be the opposite of that which is profitable to their country or class” (227). Of course, the dominant culture and the established authority will resist the required degeneration of its stability, but the development of a de-centered, non-hierarchical, universal culture can only begin through the process of weakening the fetters of state culture. This will allow for the generation of lines of flight for new social organizations and/or assemblages.

There are three possible factors for the birth of a global culture: absolute music, the scientific analysis of symbolic gestures, and a new language for all. The first two are closely linked, and they require an understanding of how poetry produces a superimposition of immediate feelings in music to the point where the music itself is rendered immediately symbolic for our internal life (215). The development of absolute music for the social ear means that music’s symbolism is understood without further assistance—likewise, the science of cultural tones in vocal patterns that are indicative of mood, feelings and expressions will be necessary to uncovering the vastness of operations at work in unconscious modifications of body and voice. Furthermore, linguistics and philology, as the two dominant sciences of language, can then dedicate their study of the laws of individual languages to the forms of non-verbal thought in a synthesis that has as its goal the creation of a “new language for all—first as a commercial language, then as the language of intellectual intercourse in general” (267). Given that this is merely a preliminary overview of an undercurrent in Human All Too Human, the next step in continuing this line of thought has to navigate the role of the state, the relations of states among themselves, and the relations among the responsibilities that we all bare to our composition of immortal vibrations in the links of a universal cultural chain.

Modern Formations of the State: the Fate of European Nations

In January of 1872, less than a year after Germany officially becomes a nation, Nietzsche gives a series of five lectures at the University of Basel on the future of our educational/cultural institutions. Six years later in section 8 of Human All Too Human we find Nietzsche discussing the future of political institutions and the fate of European nations. One of the questions that Nietzsche asks in his analysis of socialism, nationalism and democracy is whether or not these political orientations are strong enough for an affirmative investment in the development of cultural forces­, investments that one day will lead to institutions that address the true needs of all of humanity (476). Nietzsche always comments on different state organizations in terms of their speeds of evolution and lifespan.

Since all institutions are mortal, the relations of power between the citizens among themselves address a problem of the measurement of forces behind the repetition of a set of customs that guarantees the dominance of a state through the rigid adherence to one particular mode of cultural development (474). Arguing against sudden revolutionary change, Nietzsche proposes a slow evolution through inquiries utilizing the political concept of force along with a cultural program for the “gradual transformation of the mind” (452). Nietzsche insists that to begin to create the foundation for a politics of universal address, “the sense of justice must grow greater in everyone, the instinct for violence weaker” (452). In opposition to the passionate revolution of Rousseau, the task for free spirits will be one of moderation. Moderation is the becoming-decisive of thought and inquiry, and the free-spirit cultivates this quality by drawing potential energy to the promotion of spiritual objectives (464).

What may be even more complex for our examination is the fact that Nietzsche depicts socialism, nationalism and democracy to all have close affiliations and family resemblances. Socialism shows the dangers of the absolute state: it demands complete subservience of the individual through segmenting them as an organ of the community (473). It only appears in short reactionary bursts of terrorism because it has a short and violent lifespan. Nationalism is no better than socialism on this point, even if it has a mechanism to guarantee its duration. Nationalism imposes through education an unconscious reverence for the patria and its customs, and if it can instill a fiery conscience with honor, it can more easily ensure its reproduction in the following generation. The question of the benefits of nationalism and socialism must always be related back to the question of how strong these forms of government are internally and how much force they are capable of deploying for the affirmation of new goals, or as Nietzsche writes: “Whenever a great force exists­ even though it be the most dangerous ­mankind has to consider how to make of it an instrument for the attainment of its objectives” (446). If it is a question of justice, a socialist revolution will require a minor population ­the new generation ­to enter into a struggle with the dominant political state. Only after such a struggle can the two parties articulate a calculation of forces. Based on this measurement, the existing state will either be able to reincorporate the reactive forces into a new totality or will be forced to create a new compact to prevent mutual losses through violent struggle. Finally, this compact will be able to guarantee the rights for a new social order, rights that may have the potential to satisfy an axiom of justice [use Nietzsche’s criticism here].

Democracy adds another element that disrupts the previous theorization. For both socialism and nationalism presuppose a dominant set of customs that “distinguish between government and people as though there were here two distinct spheres of power, a stronger and higher and a weaker and lower” (450). Democracy, however, puts forth the idea that the government is merely an organ of the people who embody the state’s power in their essence. It is important to realize that this essence constitutes the way in which the relationship between people and government reflects the organizations of other cultural relationships (teacher-pupil, general-soldier, etc.) (450). However, Nietzsche also thinks that “modern democracy is the historical form of the decay of the state,” a decay that is in itself an affirmative process (472). Democracy eats away at the layers of the state and the stratified cultural relations that they entail. This decay allows for the free spirit to collect potential energy for the invention of different institutions that will provide for the prudence and self-interests of all men.

Nietzsche’s utopia would consist in a dissemination of labor throughout the population by means of measuring how much suffering a group of tasks would cause the sensibility of different types of people (462). This cannot be achieved realistically insofar as we lack the instruments to measure the differences of degree and the capacity that people have for enduring different forms of labor. But the idea is a beginning. It offers a vision of a compact that assures the rights of everyone through the development of a form of life that affirms in a radical way the transformative energy behind individual suffering. This minimizes the individual’s suffering and promotes a strong sense of self-worth along with the promotion of a contribution to society. It is with this type of society that individuals are able to exist on a level plane of power: each individual is capable of the same amount of value in his or her production of force, and so each individual is judged according to an immanent set of criteria that does not negate their individuality. This is the true foundation for justice, insofar as Nietzsche believes that only among equals can the sense of justice begin to develop.

Ungrounding Morality: Affirming the Joyous Denial

We should take Nietzsche seriously when he asserts that Daybreak is the work of the subterranean man, one who constantly undermines the foundations of our belief by illuminating the mixed origins from which those beliefs emerge (Preface 1). While Nietzsche indicates briefly that it is the scientist who best represents this figure, the subterranean thinker could stand in general for anyone who conducts thought experiments that examine and dismantle our faith in morality. The active decay of morality also forces us to overcome degenerate artists—like Wagner—who are always trying to persuade us to worship where we no longer believe (Preface 4). Beyond the philosophical pessimisms of Kant, Schopenhauer, and Hegel, Nietzsche aspires in Daybreak to construct a train of thought that affirms a sophisticated immorality through the cultivation of the ability to deny joyously an outworn set of customs.

Why is morality unproductive? First of all, Nietzsche asserts that the concept of morality entails nothing other than obedience to customs, and we obey these customs insofar as a higher authority commands us, not because we derive utility from them (9). In fact, every potential activity in an individual’s social life has moral implications and significations that push and pull them to more readily assimilate into a social collective. The emphasis here is on group cohesion, for the individual’s actions are to be performed in accordance with a set of customs. An individual that acts in accordance with cultural laws develops the mark of morality. This mark is necessary so that the community can guarantee its protection by ensuring the individual’s strict adherence to a regimented and segmented mode of life. If the individual fails to gain the mark of morality, he or she jeopardizes the entire community, for the supposed or real injustice of the individual is held to affect the social whole negatively. Primitive society does not only take responsibility for the individual’s punishment, it also lays claim to their guilt as well. Thus society has a deep interest in cementing a specific set of customs to ensure its security along with the individual. Nietzsche’s analyses develop strength here: if the individual is motivated to repeat customs that are not necessarily beneficial in themselves, how can we explain originality in any area of life without understanding how innovation of any kind seems to acquire a bad conscience (9)?

Above all, this seems like a problem that addresses the ways in which a society educates its constituents. A re-education of humanity would take away the concept of punishment by showing how it was punishment in the first place that “robbed of its innocence the whole purely chance character of events” (13). In fact, any “evil chance event” that befalls that community arouses a suspicion whether or not custom has been offended. Instead of promoting scientific interest into the natural phenomena of the world, this type of reaction sees value in reality only “insofar as it is capable of being a symbol” (33). Turning the world into a realm of symbolic coordinates is the beginning of nihilism because it degrades the value of this earthly world. It posits a higher and imaginary world that is in control of the events that befall a community; therefore, any good or evil that happens is interpreted as either a divine or diabolical intervention. Before understanding how punishment can be removed from culture, we must understand the long evolution of the ability to calculate external forces and measure them in relation to a society’s strength. Only through this detour can we understand a society’s will to security along with the critical concepts that can give value back to reality without the recourse to a divine order.

We have discussed the way that primitive society interprets and reacts to chance events along with the disciplinary actions taken on the individual. The customs of a society gain a strong protection from criticism because the individual can never guarantee the ability to perform a ritual correctly (21). Thus, even if the individual obeys the performance of custom, no blame can ever be attributed to the custom because it is above all the individual’s weakness that is forced to take the blame. This supposed incompetence of the individual further decreases the feeling of self-worth and self-confidence that the free spirit needs in order to distance him/herself from a set of customs. Nietzsche goes further and argues that our cultural education instills a sense for custom which makes the fact that we have customs in general a matter that can not be discussed without a negative reaction. It is the sense for custom along with the idea that customs can never be perfectly performed that causes the individual a great distress in facing one set of repetitive laws for living within a primitive community.

The individual’s distress or indisposition, too, is attributed to a divine origin. But the process here is more complex. In order to remove these negative feelings, the individual will at first make other people suffer in order to become conscious of the power that the former possesses (15). Nietzsche is very quick to generalize this type of action as cruelty, but we should not interpret this as a simply evil or sadistic action. As Nietzsche will say elsewhere, cruelty is the movement of culture upon bodies, and so we might ask ourselves what sort of unconscious cruelty we impose on other individuals and on ourselves in order to better assimilate ourselves into a group mentality. I think the most important point about cruelty here, though, is the way in which we train ourselves to incorporate a lot of the social repression that we experience through cruelty and turn it on ourselves in the form of psychic repression.

Indeed, this is the second stage of the individual’s mode of measuring force where every bad feeling or misfortune is interpreted as our own well deserved punishment, a little dose of personal karma (15). Against Job’s method, we interpret our misfortunes as a punishment; by doing so we invent a way for atoning for our personal guilt (with respect to the community) and the means to free ourselves from that which we imagine will result from any supposed or real evil deeds that we may commit. This is the second stage in enjoying suffering, one that gives the individual a large advantage insofar as he can sharpen his or her capability for the measurement of forces. And as Nietzsche so boldly suggests, is this not the ability that we are most subtle in? I’m referring to the feeling of power, the judgment of forces, internal and external, that has always remained a fascination for the individual and the society. In fact, Nietzsche argues that “the means discovered for creating this feeling almost constitute the history of culture” (23). We free spirits who can examine the history of culture recognize all too well the customs of cruelty that stunt us and divert us from trekking out on other paths. Or do we?—is this not only half the battle?

Zarathustra and the State: The Apparatus of Capture and Its Limits

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).

It is important to note that there is a striking continuity between the these two texts that I have quoted at length. 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.

Domestication of the Human: Kings and Conquerors Are Always Barbarians


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1 Comment

  1. Excellent post. I especially love the very effective use of parentheses. A point, though: I’d like to defend Marxism (Marx’s thought especially) a little bit, and stress that theoretical Marxism is, first, at a certain remove from actual “Marxist” (i.e. Communist) political systems (esp. given that actual “Marxist” political systems, e.g. the Soviet Union, rely on Lenin’s interpretation of Marx and, later on, Stalin’s execution of Lenin’s interpretation of Marxism . . .), and that secondly, point out that (from what I remember) Marx hardly talks about the state (stressing more the “free development of the individual), and that if he does so, he refers to Communism as a social field in which this “free development of men” is possible. So this thing that Marx calls Communism, we can interpret, is really less a state (that repre(ssive)senting strata, as you point out, a concrete body that tries to “solve” the problem of the individual through micro-management, etc.) than an idea, utopian perhaps, not unlike, I would argue, or at least compatible with, the New Earth that Deleuze and Guattari envisioned (and so vaguely delineated; just like Marx when it comes to describing this “free development of the individual”).

    So I would be wary of statements like, “For Marxism, the ‘illness’ of the individual—caused by the state—is to be cured by the state (betraying behind the political (revolutionary) process the real goal of political (fascizing) normalization).” I think that while we can say that, yes, so far, all systems that tried to execute Marxism do betray some fascisizing tendency, (including Communist political parties, like in France), I do NOT think that Marxism in itself necessarily (inevitably) leads to this, that Marxism inherently desires a state that exploits our fascist desires. I don’t think that it is the intention of Marxists to present a progressive surface (the revolutionary goals) when in fact, just lurking underneath, they’re really fascists (intending to normalize). There is a way, I think, in which Marx and Nietzsche’s visions (where there is “a ‘decoding’ of the individual in relation to society,” as you say) can be reconciled–which is, in fact, what I would argue Deleuze and Guattari try to accomplish.

    The question is: how does the Marxist ideal of this Communist “state” get exploited by certain subordinating groups, like the Communist party, such that what is liberating at first is turned into something fascicizing, exploits the fascist desires inherent in all of us such that, hoping for a social system in which there is the most decoding, the most deterritorialization, we instead end up with a state even more repressing/oppressing than the one we replaced?

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