Laruelle, François. Nietzsche contre Heidegger. Payot: Paris, 1977, p. 9-20.
Translated by Taylor Adkins
(For a paragraph-by-paragraph translator’s introduction and exegesis of the following text, go to this threadreaderapp readout)
1. THE TWO POLITICS OF NIETZSCHE
1. Thesis 1: Nietzsche is the revolutionary thinker who corresponds to the era of Imperialism in Capitalism, and more specifically to the era of Fascism in Imperialism.
Thesis 2: Nietzsche is, in a double sense, the thinker of fascism; he is, in a certain way, a thinker of fascism, but he is, above all, the thinker of the subversion of fascism. Nietzsche-thought is a complex political process with two contradictory poles (but without mediation), the relation of subordination of a secondary fascist pole (Mastery) to a principal revolutionary pole. Nietzsche makes himself fascist the better to overcome fascism. He has taken on the worst forms of Mastery to become its Rebel.
Thesis 3: We are all fascist readers of Nietzsche, we are all revolutionary readers of Nietzsche. Our unity is a contradictory relation (hierarchy without mediation), just as the unity of Nietzsche is a contradictory and “auto”-critical unity. Nietzsche puts the Master and the Rebel in a relation of duplicity rather than duality. He liquidates the opposition of monism (philosophy of the Master or of the Rebel) and dualism (mediated contradiction of the Master and the Rebel).
2. So, it’s hardly about you, since you, alas, are all divided. It is hardly about Nietzsche: the same brown and red thread passes within and without Nietzsche.
It’s about you or Nietzsche: as political subject, whom you have to become, split by the cause, Revolution or Fascism. What is a revolutionary in her relation to Revolution when she is affected by it as if by the fracture [coupure] of truth that breaks her in two. This is about your relation to Nietzsche and about what divides it twice: a first time according to the means and techniques that effectuate it, a second time according to the political tendency that it supposes or the fascistic or revolutionary pole whose primacy it indicates. Complex relation in four terms, something like a “quadripartition1.”
At the start, a scene that is both single and split, a scene of reading on your side, a scene of writing on Nietzsche’s side, two scenes which together make but one. Yet these terms are too ineffective, the relation slides away elsewhere: recto scene of expression, verso scene of signifying practice. Still too idealist: scene of signifying practice or textual Domination on the one hand and, on the other, atextual forces, forces which are intrisically political and of Resistance against textual mastery. The terms, as we see, seem to matter little. If not the second, which openly acknowledges its political meaning and will function as a pivot of the quadripartition, such that Nietzschean practice will imply both an intervention or a detachment of atextual forces, of anti-signifying powers in the signifying scene, and a primacy of the relation of the terms over the terms themselves.
This first relation is divided in turn according to an expressly political split that overdetermines it, but in an internal way, as if it were the relation, not its terms, that is divided: reading, writing, signifiying practice, or atextual forces can receive a fascistic usage (subordination of the revolutionary pole to the fascistic pole) or a revolutionary usage (inverse subordination).
We don’t know what to put under these words of force or of atextual power, nor under the categories of Fascism and Revolution, of Mastery and Rebellion, which, of course, no longer have their expected meaning. It doesn’t matter: let’s forget the terms, let’s attempt to move into the Quadripartition as relations-of-relation, let’s stretch out the political subject to the four corners of the chiasmus. It’s precisely the categories of Fascism, Mastery, Rebellion that will change their political meaning according to this complex apparatus: the fascistic pole will take on the meaning of an unlimited, planetary usage of the negation and production of technical, organizational effects of power and of mastery. For the revolutionary or the rebel, a certain usage of the affirmation and production of effects of active resistance to all the powers that be [pouvoirs dominants]. We do not yet know what meaning to give to these aforementioned categories, if not—this is too much or too little—that the singular logic of the quadripartition wills that Mastery and Rebellion in the Nietzschean sense be determined by specific criteria, that they not be confused with what traditionally circulates under these names, and that they not be historical phenomena given immediately, but the manner for certain forces or powers to go to the end of what they can do.
3. Be that as it may, these four terms are indissociable, you compromise and you crucify just as they crucified Nietzsche. No possibility of taking refuge in a historicist and neutral reading, no possibility of fleeing into the labor of Nietzschean writing, without also having to enter contradictorily and without mediation into an intense scene of forces, drives [pulsions], relations of power that are no longer textual or signifying “in the last instance.” No possibility of denouncing, like Heidegger, the fascistic positions of Nietzsche (for this is indeed what he does: technical machination, global planification, planetary organization, exaltation of raw energy) without heaping onto the limits that affect them (without mediation) their own subversion, counter-tendency, or militant critique.
One does not enter into Nietzsche as though into a bourgeois institution, a Marxist apparatus, a historian’s corpus, or in the manner in which certain naive interpreters enter into the Eternal Return as though into a windmill. Nietzsche is not an individual, he is more so a psychologist, an artist, etc., he is more so complete works, a labor of writing, sufferings, several themes, sources, and premeditations. In the sense in which we talk about logical or mathematical machines, reading automata, calculators, infernal machines, there is a “Nietzsche Machine,” but with a manner of functioning that is specific to him, since this is an intrinsically political (rather than logical or mathematical) machine.
Machine here first means a set of relations (of power) without terms, criss-crossed in a chiasmus or a problematic. Afterwards, all its cogs are fluid relations, vanishing syntaxes. Whence the great (syntactic) rule that a political intervention in Nietzsche must oppose—with its limitless consequences—“readings” and their ideological prejudices: there are only relations to be produced, hierarchies, disjunctions, breaks, inclusions, reversals, re-inscriptions: there is no doctrine, since Nietzsche-thought is a question of immanent syntax and the fluid matter proper to this syntax. Ultimately, one piece of the machine is more visible than the others, and this piece serves as the machine’s surface of apprehension. A strange statement is inscribed there, which is neither its social reason in the manner of multinational businesses of imperialism (IBM, ITT), nor the name of its inventor (Turing machine), nor even the denomination of a Party machine (PCF, PS, UDR, etc.)2, but is instead the code name—one which is itself archaic as well as misleading—of a political conspiracy: ERS/WP (Eternal Return of the same, Will to power).
The possible type of opposed but complicit approaches are well known, among which are divided the interpreters of the history of philosophy, and among others the interpreters of Nietzsche: historicist reading of themes and signifieds, hermeneutic interpretation of meaning, deciphering of signifying scenes, of formal, rhetorical, and philological codes, lexicological quantification, discursive statements and non-discursive institutional formations, etc. Other apportionments, other oppositions are possible. It is not a question of massively repressing them, the techniques they make possible are necessary. But they are of varying degrees of abstraction and superficiality, according to whether they recognize or not, partially or systematically, not only the preceding syntactic rule, but the second great (materialist) rule of the study of his text posited by Nietzsche: “it is the Will to power that interprets.” According to whether they relate Nietzsche to himself and to this four-term layout [dispositif] based on this rule of recurrence, or according to whether they impose on him their merely technical criteria from outside, taken from already constituted theoretical fields.
The technical means must be tied together in the political quadripartition. Inversely, the political evaluation of Nietzsche is inseparable from these procedures and their technical apparatuses. There is neither—if not merely by abstraction of one term at the expense of the others—a uniformly fascist Nietzsche empowered or compromised by those who want to compromise him, nor a monolithically revolutionary Nietzsche. That “Nietzsche” functions implies that the abstract reduction of his thought, for example in the single signifying scene of the ERS, cannot fail to reconstitute a Nietzsche of the Master, a nihilistic and consequently fascistic Nietzsche. We must from the start relate the minimal units (signifying, rhetorical, thematic, etc.) to power relations, which are the agents of Nietzschean politics. Inversely, the massively fascistic or revolutionary images of Nietzsche that would not pass through a labor of the text, of the aphorism, be they textual forces related to atextual forces in the last instance, would remain ideological falsifications.
4. It is still necessary to posit—in conformity with the internal criteria of the quadripartition or of Nietzschean auto-critique, i.e. in a non-idealist way—the first relation with which everything begins. Not to posit it in a manner external to Nietzsche: relation of a reading to a writing, of an expressivity to a labor of the signifier, of a history of themes to the articulation of the metaphorical scenes of the ERS. All these oppositions still define—despite themselves but relative to Nietzsche-thought—criteria from outside. This is nothing but a subordination, which does not hang over it or mutilate it: this involves a subordination of textual-linguistic codes (signifier/signified), or hermeneutic codes (signification/meaning, or statements/institution) to “forces,” i.e. to what we call partial organs of power, over which properly political relations (fascisization/subversion, Mastery/Rebellion) will be articulated. The first relation goes from codes to power relations, and this is because it is already political due to its principal and not linguistic (signified/signifier) or hermeneutic (signification/meaning) end, because it can then be overdetermined by the tension of a fascistic pole of condensation and by a subversive and critical pole of dissemination.
From the Nietzschean point of view, and thus also from the auto-critical political point of view of Nietzsche’s text, the classical codes that fulfill linguistic or hermeneutic functions are unintelligible outside their essence: force as drive and power. Abstracted from this political process or from these complex power relations that make them produce their own effects, these codes induce readings that are not immediately political or are political by delegation and secondary effect. Inversely, it is also all abstracted from plating the massive fascism/revolution opposition onto the themes exracted from the text or even onto a simple labor of the signifier. The four ends of the chain must be taken, and each of the four terms must be related—starting with what can obviously always be recomposed from the ideological and falsified “Nietzsches”—to the complex unity of this problematic.
This is an intrinsically political problematic because it solely introduces power relations. For Nietzsche, how is the signifier as well as the signified a specified force or a specified drive whose functional properties the writer and the thinker (but also the reader) have become capable of exploiting? Whether they are capable of exploiting them is primarily a problem of power [pouvoir], then a problem of the fascistic or revolutionary use of this power. Whether they know it or not, and whether they make a fascistic or subversive usage of Nietzsche, the relation to Nietzsche is a political relation from the start. Politics in this new sense is always unavoidable in the relation to any author whatsoever, but the specifics of the relation to Nietzsche is that politics is announced or designated there as constitutive of this relation. Nietzsche is the only thinker for whom, even more so than for Marx, politics is what’s at stake (as cause of the fascistic or rebellious subject), i.e. a production both of the dominant power and of anti-power or of resistance to dominant forces: each going to the end of what it can do, fascism or revolution.
5. Nevertheless, we still have not known the full extent of the Quadripartition. It is important that from the start Nietzsche politically invest the necessary means for reading him or reading whichever author, that he relate the signifying or hermeneutic arrangements of the text to power relations. But what derives from this is even more important: this new relation which overdetermines the first, which is thoroughly political, and which contains a double usage of power relations or two possible political worlds. We shall not explicate this new relation and its unity with the first here, albeit this essay develops some of their effects. In what form? If this complex relation is regularly amputated and mutilated by interpreters, this is precisely because it accounts for the formula by which Nietzsche has a priori posited the internal possibility of the falsification of his thought, a constitutive falsification, in this sense “willed” by him, and yet willed against his interpreters rather than against him, forcing him to perish with them as with adversaries. This is what he calls: “the most dangerous misunderstandings3”. This is the formula for the repression in which his interpreters are therefore interested. The reason for the greatest misunderstanding will develop in the co-belonging of fascism and its revolutionary critique, of Mastery and Rebellion, a co-belonging which is specific to Nietzsche and is the object of a veritable historical break in our knowledge of politics. This essay has no other object: to systematically explain the possibility of a misunderstanding about the politics of Nietzsche, a misunderstanding which is itself of political origin: how do interpreters, friends, or adversaries allow themselves to be caught in Nietzsche’s fascist appearance and reduce his hidden aspect—rebel, let us say provisionally, to all “visibility”—to the “visible” part? What is visible (dominant) of power is always mastery. Nietzsche thus accepts the madness of the Antichrist, and this is more than a reversal of the madness of Christ dying for humanity’s sins: to assume fascism in history the better to vanquish it.
Why this appearance, this semblance of mastery? Given the fluidity of the internal relations of the Quadripartition, it is impossible to organize them and to master them, if not by appearance, starting from one of the four terms. No doubt, one term is more important, namely the only one that can affirm the Quadripartition as relations: it constitutes the knot in which are subsumed all these relations that break the subject of power in two. But if it is important, this is not due to its mastery over the others (although the main term of the opposition, it is rather dominated by the secondary) but instead due to its resistance to the others, its own manner of unsettling their systemic organization. Something in “Nietzsche” resists the historian’s codes, the rhetorician’s formal methods, the fascist’s prophetic ravings, the clumsy apparatus of the classical revolutionary, something that no longer returns with the religious belch of the Christo-leftist. In this quadrature, what is it that resists in this way and, through its resistance, makes text and thought move in a circle of Eternal return? This is the subversive pole of Nietzsche-thought: never given in the surface of the text, no longer localizable by a labor of the signifier, never decipherable by the Marxist political grid, never interpretable as historical meaning. It will however no longer be said, in the manner of modern structuralists, that this revolutionary pole, both the part and “whole” of the ERS/WP, is absent or excluded, that it is effective due to its absence, its repression, its invisibility. This pole actively resists (i.e. without representing the adversary in an image or a law), this pole forces the whole remainder of the Nietzschean layout [dispositif] to move precisely because it resists the latter. It is starting from this resistance that its active absence must be rethought and rewritten as absance (why not?), as in?visibility, etc4. Nietzsche invents a new concept of revolution as active resistance to the powers that be: the politics, if it can be called this, of the resistant quarter rather than that of the excluded quarter.
The consequence of this is that the whole remainder of Nietzsche-thought, all of it that becomes visible according to traditional criteria—i.e. nearly “all” of the “doctrine”—is elevated to the state of ideological, relatively (for the revolutionary pole) necessary and objective appearance (thus from the point of view of the Quadripartition and its criteria, not from that of the traditional interpreters). The other consequence is that this political objective appearance can only be that of Mastery, namely that of its extreme historical form, Fascism. We never stop saying—with and more so against those who more or less overtly consider that Nietzsche is compromised with fascism and not just compromised by it—that his revolutionary power is to have succeeded in elevating fascism to the state of transcendental objective appearance, to have been able to turn Mastery into an ideological and ultimately positive appearance and to turn the ideological appearance into a radically materialist usage.
The possibility of this understanding must be grasped in the functioning of Nietzsche-thought in general and via the case of Heidegger’s interpretation, which conjugates the greatest proximity to the truth of Nietzsche and necessarily its greatest, most ingenious falsification5.
No psychological, historicist, ethical, or political critique (in the banal sense) of the interpretation and thought of Heidegger. The Heidegger case is valid due to the geniality in the political exploitation of Nietzschean understanding, it marks the gathering together of the essence of this misunderstanding and consequently the point of possible transmutation of the relation of falsification to Nietzsche into a relation of authentication, starting from which a turn-about (Gegen-Kehre) of Heidegger can begin toward Nietzsche. The turn-about then designates a complex operation that consists on the one hand in reversing (Um-kehre) the Heideggerian interpretation, in subordinating ontologico-existential thought to the Nietzschean Break (which is formulated later on as “politico-libidinal”), and, on the other hand but simultaneously, in re-inscribing (Uber-kehre) this Nietzsche-thought in its veritable space, which is that of a politics of Rebellion or of Resistance.
Why is our complex political conjuncture, which is criss-crossed by a continuous line of fascisization and an otherwise continuous line of subversion, interested in Nietzsche-thought? Because Nietzsche’s specificity is to bind—more intimately, more irremediably than Marx knew how for reasons pertaining to the insufficient historical development of capitalism—this process of fascisization (which is henceforth manifest as our horizon) and the political and material conditions of its subversion. A little nearer to fascism, a little further from fascism, in a relation of dangerous but authentic co-belonging, Nietzsche had to incur the risk of having to embrace the adversary in order to smother him. Nietzsche’s interpreters are the blind victims of this risk, more so than he himself, since he is its consenting victim. Few have understood the meaning of the greatest misunderstandings, namely that Nietzsche prefers to flow with the adversary, provided that the adversary drown: the messenger dies in his message, this is the message of Zarathustra. All these historians, these Marxist or Christian critics who accept the shameful task of making him die again, don’t they merely account for the fact that they are cruelly trapped by their victim? This is what is cheerful in the sleepwalking of the Christians and Marxists, the enormous psychodrama that they play out before us by believing to put Nietzsche on trial, and where they only expose how little yet they have overcome the fascism in themselves.
6. Thus, to think the possibility of subversion, not of mastery in general, but of mastery specified as fascism, the possibility of Revolution, it takes no less than four terms organized into two worlds—or rather, into two poles or two tendencies.
The whole problem is not to think with bricks: this is to posit Mastery and Rebellion as two worlds transcendent to one another in the gnostic and Manichean manner6. Mastery and Rebellion, Fascism and Resistance form the figure of a chiasmus and only involve relations-of-relation. This is why they have to become worlds, there is a becoming-world of fascism, which is produced, never given, or which forms a process. For example, the affinity between the signifier and Mastery does not become a “world”, that of Mastery, except when the former is taken in hand, as is the case in psychoanalysis, by the nihilistic power that leads signifying mastery to the end of what it can do and makes it enter into a process of fascisization. In the same way, there is merely an affinity, not identity, between what Nietzsche calls “forces” as such (which are non-signifying elements, indeed anti-signifying agents) and the only affirmative tendency capable of making them go to the end of what they can do: to constitute a revolutionary “world,” to become an “autonomous” process of rebellion.
Perhaps it will be necessary to avoid speaking of “world” to designate the two poles, processes, or tendencies that co-belong within the Quadripartition and to find another word to designate the universal moment that they contain in every way7. Be that as it may, the reason for Nietzschean revolutionary power [puissance] begins to appear: Rebellion and Mastery are merely in a relation of positive disjunction, without mediating negativity: the opposites of contradiction are front against front. They are not above all exclusive to one another, they have nothing to do with closed entities, essences transcendent to one another in the onto-theo-logical or gnostico-Christian manner: their relation of co-belonging is a relation of duplicity rather than duality.
Thought is here on the precipice where everything can be lost or gained.
On the one hand, Nietzsche does not give himself terms, he produces flowing functions susceptible to destruction, he liquidates monism (philosophy of mastery, even when it is a question of the master-proletariat), for example that of the signifier, he gives himself a relation, a duality, if it can be grasped, but of forces or of powers, that which reduces every quality to duplicity (even the signifier is reduced to the state of force or of power [pouvoir]). What is important here? What’s important is that it thereby straightaway cleaves Mastery or puts it into a relation of exteriority, of contradiction without mediation, to a force of resistance, to an agent of rebellion. In a first time, it is therefore, if you will, “dualistic,” and dualism is the point of view of the agent of resistance. If the Master is monistic and attempts to internalize the Rebel in the image or representation that is made of her (this image is his mastery, thus his lie, what Nietzsche calls his falsification of the adversary), the Rebel is conflated or identified with her imageless repulsion of the Master. Rebellion is not a term, an essence, or a world transcendent to the Master and indifferent (like the Master himself is) to this relation of transcendence: the Rebel is nothing but this relation of repulsion or resistance to Mastery. By definition, the Rebel neither internalizes, reflects, nor mediates the Master—all operations which define mastery (every image or generality is a dominant power).
On the other hand, Nietzsche liquidates everything else, one comes to see simple dualism indirectly, complicit with monism and Mastery: because the being of the Rebel is confused with its relation of active resistance (of différance) to the Master, it is not exterior to this relation of exteriority, it is this contradictory exteriority exerting itself [s’exercant] or insisting “itself” [“s’”insistant] without mediation8. Nietzsche overcomes dualism, simple reaction to Mastery, through a relation of duplicity: the agents of rebellion are differential or nothing but relations. The history of humanity is at the same time, in the same gesture, a single and split history, duplicitous rather than dualistic: history(ies) of the oppressed and/or the oppressors.
Dualism is always a reaction, a passive flight from the Master, the philosophy of those who have not been able to become or have not succeeded in becoming Masters, the politics of those who recognize themselves as defeated. Duplicity is the thought of the active defeated, of the active Rebel who thinks the history of humanity as chiasmus and her own history as the impossible quadrature in which the circular history of mastery is inscribed. Duplicity then designates a type of universal relation formulable as inclusive disjunction (contradiction without mediation): the Master assimilates the Rebel, appropriates or includes her by law and grace united, but the active Rebel distinguishes herself from the Master, refuses to be recognized as defeated or posits an image of herself, because she does not recognize herself—this is her activity—and because her representation of herself alone would suffice to make her reenter under the law and make her become…dualistic.
The politics of the Rebel as resistant excludes the overly massive disjunctions of dualism, i.e. that which remains the synthesis through which mastery includes the adversary. Having supposed, through paralogism, that desire is confused with given sex, Revolution with rebellion, identities which found the eternity of mastery, dualism must then massively cut, abstractly and transcendently separate sex and desire (there will be a specific desire of the Rebel that will not be sexual), sex and rebellion (rebellion without relation to sexuality, contrary to “discourses of liberation”). Sometimes the whole of desire will be the Master’s, sometimes there will be a desire that will escape from the Master. Sometimes every discourse will be the Master’s, sometimes there will be an autonomous discourse of the Rebel. Sometimes discourse and desire will be assimilated, sometimes they will be distinguished: the whole of desire to the Master, but not the whole of discourse. The Rebel as resistant leaves the dualist to his prophesies and his hesitations, she contents herself with fleeing straightaway from the disjunctions, clefts, re-splits—but without negativity, thus excluding the signifying re-split—in the closures of mastery. She refines all the dualist’s transcendent and barely guaranteed disjunctions, such that her Rebel part is confused with a simple partition but without negativity, thus without elementary or minimal term, and therefore inaccessible to the law of the signifier, which it thwarts or against which it resists: having in some way defeated signifying mastery on its own terrain…from a completely different terrain.
1[Translator’s note: this term is in quotation marks because the word in French is “quadriparti”, and the word “parti” means both political party and course of action.]
2[Translator’s note: ITT is the name for the former International Telephone and Telegraph Inc.; PCF is the name for the French Communist Party; PS is the name for the French Socialist Party; UDR is the name for the Union of Democrats for the Republic.]
3Title of a text cited by Pierre Klossowski in Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (trans. Daniel W. Smith. U of Chicago P: Chicago, 1997, p. 85-86).
4[Translator’s note: this is a neologism modeled after Derrida’s différance, capturing the silent difference of the a/e in French in the simple graphic shift of e—a. The coinage of “in?visibility” may be an allusion to Deleuze’s ?-being in Difference and Repetition.]
5 We haven’t finished exploring anti-Niezschean farce. It arises from a shred of courage enriched by Lacanian teaching: L’Ange (Lardreau and Jambet). Anti-Nietzscheanism inspires fairly dissimilar literatures (albeit not without communication, if we consider the role played by Heidegger in Lacanism): on the one hand, systematic, grandiose misinterpretations, along with Heidegger’s memorial faithfulness; on the other hand, aggressive stupidity, the bowels abounding in insults, which make L’Ange into an anthology of traditional misinterpretations (which are sublated, merely sublated or idealized misinterpretations of Lacanism) perpetrated on Nietzsche and which prove—big surprise, this is furthermore what Nietzsche wanted, among others, to prove—that the angel thinks basely.
The theses stated here for Nietzschean politics are partly destined to reestablish its truth, i.e. to unmask, up to and including Heidegger, the empirical forms of the most dangerous misunderstanding.
6 Cf. L’Ange.
7This will be the term full Body, or Body-of-the-Other, or political Continent, etc. The second section examines several terms for this single function. [Translator’s note: The word “full” here is spelled plain instead of plein, which both indicates the spelling of Middle French and another Derridean silent shift, thus forcing the reader to see and discern a silent but written difference from the notion of “full Body (without Organs)” elaborated by Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus.]
8The s’ here obviously designates the political subject, re-split by the Revolution as cause, subordinated to the subversive pole. [Translator’s note: the se-formulation of verbs in French indicates either a passive construction, a particularly intransitive construction, or a reflexive construction depending on the context, and the French reader and speaker will read and hear each of these simultaneously: here, the context makes clear that it is a reflexive construction, which is why the “itself”-formulation has been used in English.]