Notes to “Twilight of the Idoloclast? On the Left’s recent anti-Nietzschean turn”

Notes to Twilight of the idoloclast? On the Left’s recent anti-Nietzschean turnMalcolm Christ, or the Anti-Nietzsche, Anti-Dühring and Anti-Christ: Marx, Engels, Nietzsche


[1] “Reading for victory is the way Nietzsche himself thought people ought to read.”  Bull, Malcolm.  Anti-Nietzsche.  (Verso Books.  New York, NY: 2011).
[2] As Domenico Losurdo blurbs on the back of his book, “Altman…adopts Nietzsche’s own aphoristic genre in order to use it against him.”  Altman himself explains: “[T]he whole point of writing in Nietzsche’s own style was to demonstrate how much power over his readers he gains by plunging him into the midst of what may be a pathless ocean, confusing them as to their destination.”  Altman, William.  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: The Philosopher of the Second Reich.  (Lexington Books.  New York, NY: 2012).  Pg. xi.  Later Altman admits, however, that “[t]his kind of writing presumes, of course, good readers.”  Ibid., pg. 181.
[3] Dombrowsky, Don.  Nietzsche’s Machiavellian Politics.  (Palgrave MacMillan.  New York, NY: 2004).  Pg. 134.
[4] Conway, Daniel.  Nietzsche and the Political.  (Routledge.  New York, NY: 1997).  Pg. 119.
[5] Appel, Fredrick.  Nietzsche Contra Democracy.  (Cornell University Press.  Ithaca, NY: 1999).  Pg. 120.
[6] “[I]n uncovering Nietzsche’s rhetorical strategy [they] reuse it.”  Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 32.
[7] Ibid., pg. 33.
[8] Ibid., passim, pgs. 35-38, 42, 47-48, 51, 74-76, 98, 100, 135, 139, 143.
……Indeed, Bull’s call to “read like a loser” grants to the essays in Anti-Nietzsche their hermeneutic integrity.  This formulation has since gone on to become one of the book’s most celebrated phrases, as well, charming reviewers from New Inquiry’s David Winters to Costica Bardigan of the Times Higher Education. Winters, David.  “Reading Like a Loser.”  New Inquiry.  (February 14, 2012).  Bardigan, Costica.  “Review of Malcolm Bull’s Anti-Nietzsche.”  Times Higher Education.  (January 29, 2012).  Even longtime admirers of Nietzsche like T.J. Clark admit its interpretive power: “[N]o other critique of Nietzsche, and there have been many, conjures up the actual reader of Daybreak and The Case of Wagner so unnervingly.”  Clark, T.J.  “My Unknown Friends: A Response to Malcolm Bull.”  Nietzsche’s Negative Ecologies.  (University of California Press.  Berkeley, CA: 2009).  Pg. 79.
[9] Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pgs. 135-136.
[10] The philistine: ibid., pgs. 1-26, 38-40, 43, 46-48, 53, 151; the subhuman: ibid., pgs. 40-43, 46-48, 91, 101-102, 123-124; the herd: ibid., pg. 41-42, 67, 72, 74-76, 138, 146, 160-162.
[11] Ibid., pg. 37.
[12] These together comprise what Bull calls “the history of negation.”  Ibid., pgs. 7-13.
[13] Ibid., pgs. 39-40.
[14] Ibid., pg. 39.
[15] Ibid., pgs. 13-16, 18-19.
[16] “Measures like those taken on Odysseus’s ship in face of the Sirens are a prescient allegory of the dialectic of enlightenment.”  Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max.  Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments.  Translated by Edmund Jephcott.  (Stanford University Press.  Stanford, CA: 2002).  Pg. 27.
…….This runs counter to the prevailing interpretation of this work, as scholars tend to place Nietzsche’s influence chiefly in its second excursus, on “Juliette, or Enlightenment and morality.”  Ibid., pgs. 63-93.
[17] Ibid., pg. 19, and further, pgs. 20-22.
[18] Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.  Pgs. 25-27.
[19] “If it is weakness of will that allows the philistine to resist the beautiful, might it lead us to reconsider our understanding of Odysseus and the Sirens? In Adorno and Horkheimer’s reworking of the myth, Odysseus hears the music and would have responded to its call to primordial unity had he not been constrained from doing so.  He is an example of disinterest triumphing over the passions, in which the disinterested contemplation of the song is actually a form of self-interest.  It is because he knows he lacks the strength of will to resist the beauty of the Sirens’ song that he has himself tied to the mast.  This is weakness as incontinence, but it is self-interest, not incontinence, that turns Odysseus into a philistine.  The weakness of Socrates takes another form, closer to that which Aristotle calls softness.  Knowing he ought to appreciate the music of the Sirens, he is nevertheless unable to do so.  He does not hear the beauty of the song; he may not even hear the song as a song.”  Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 152.
[20] Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.  Pgs. 26-27.
[21] Ibid., pg. 27.
[22] Marcuse, Herbert.  The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics.  Translated and revised by Herbert Marcuse and Erica Sherover.  (Beacon Press.  Boston, MA: 1978).  Pgs. 56-57.
[23] “Nietzsche never uses the word, but the form of this revaluation of valuing is perhaps most accurately described as ecological, not because Nietzsche exhibited any particular concern for the natural environment, but on account of the unprecedented conjunction of two ideas: the recognition of the interdependence of values, and the evaluation of value in biological terms.”  Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 44.
[24] Ibid., pg. 47.
[25] Ibid., pgs. 87-88.
[26] Ibid., pg. 102.
[27] Ibid., pg. 123.
[28] Ibid., pgs. 90-92, 94-100.
[29] Nietzsche here addresses “the problem of…good as thought up by the man of ressentiment, demands its solution. — There is nothing strange about the fact that lambs bear a grudge towards large birds of prey: but that is no reason to blame the large birds of prey for carrying off the little lambs.  And if the lambs say to each other, ‘These birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey and most like its opposite, a lamb, — is good, isn’t he?’, then there is no reason to raise objections to this setting-up of an ideal beyond the fact that the birds of prey will view it somewhat derisively, and will perhaps say: ‘We don’t bear any grudge at all towards these good lambs, in fact we love them, nothing is tastier than a tender lamb.’ — It is just as absurd to ask strength not to express itself as strength, not to be a desire to overthrow, crush, become master, to be a thirst for enemies, resistance and triumphs, as it is to ask weakness to express itself as strength.”  Nietzsche, Friedrich.  On the Genealogy of Morality.  Translated by Carol Diethe.  (Cambridge University Press.  New York, NY: 2006).  Pgs. 25-26.
[30] Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 42.
[31] Marx, Karl.  Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1.  Translated by Benjamin Fowkes.  (Penguin Books.  New York, NY: 1982).  Pg. 143.
[32] Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 46.
[33] Ibid., pg. 43.
[34] Ibid., pg. 47.
[35] Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future.  Translated by Judith Norman.  (Cambridge University Press.  New York, NY: 2002).  Pg. 91, §203.
[36] Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pgs. 117-120.
[37] “Wagner wrote the essay shortly after the failure of the 1848 revolution; it represents an attempt to achieve the political aims of the 1848 uprising through aesthetic means.”  Groys, Boris.  “A Genealogy of Participatory Art.”  Translated by David Fernbach.  Introduction to Antiphilosophy.  (Verso Books.  New York, NY: 2012).  Pg. 201.
[38] Wagner, Richard.  “Art and Revolution.”  Translated by William Ashton Ellis.  Prose Works, Volume 1.  (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd.  London, England: 1895).  Pg. 53.
[39] Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 153.
[40] Ibid., pg. 162.
[41] Marx, Karl.  Critique of the Gotha Program.  Translated by Peter and Betty Ross.  Collected Works, Volume 24: Marx and Engels, 1874-1883.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 1989).  Pg. 86.
[42] “As Bakunin noted, Marx conspicuously excluded from the agents of revolution the Lumpenproletariat…In contrast, Bakunin advocated ‘the emancipation and widest possible expansion of social life.’”  Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 158.
[43] Trotsky, Leon.  The Permanent Revolution.  Translated by John G. Wright and Brian Pearce.  (Pathfinder Press.  New York, NY: 1978).  Pg. 70.
……..“Trotsky’s reformulation of the idea of permanent revolution picks up both of Bakunin’s objections.”  Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 158.
[44] Ibid., pg. 171.
[45] Ibid., pg. 175.
[46] “The skilled Danish critic [Georg Brandes (a Jew and liberal critic, discoverer of the German philosopher’s ‘aristocratic radicalism’)] did not take Nietzsche’s barbarism seriously, not at face value, [but] understood it cum grano salis, in which he was very right.”  Mann, Thomas.  “Nietzsche’s Philosophy in Light of Recent Events.”  Addresses Delivered at the Library of Congress, 1942-1949.  (Wildside Press LLC.  Washington, DC: 2008).  Pg. 99.
[47] Bull, Anti-Nietzsche.  Pg. 42.
[48] See especially chapters five and six, “The Clash of Abstractions: Revisiting Marx on Religion” and “The Cold War and the Messiah: On Political Religion.”  Toscano, Alberto.  Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea.  (Verso Books.  New York, NY: 2010).  Pgs. 172-202, 203-247.
[49] Losurdo, Domenico.  “What is Fundamentalism?” Translated by Hanne Gidora.  Nature, Society, Thought.  (Vol. 17, № 1: 2004).  Pgs. 5-46.
[50] Boer, Roland.  Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology I.  (Brill.  Boston, MA: 2007).
………Boer, Roland.  Criticism of Religion: On Marxism and Theology II.  (Brill.  Boston, MA: 2009).
………Boer, Roland.  Criticism of Theology: On Marxism and Theology III.  (Brill.  Boston, MA: 2011).
[51] Thomas, Peter D.  “Overman and Commune.”  New Left Review.  Pg. 141.
[52] Robin, Corey.  The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.  (Oxford University Press.  New York, NY: 2011).  Pg. 93.
……..Despite his passing disavowal of political psychology (“My concern is with ideas and argument rather than character or psychology,” pg. 218), only a couple pages later he lets fly this existential gem: “So many doors of the psyche open onto this space of inertial gloom we might well conclude that it lurks not at the edge, but at the center of the human condition.”  Ibid., pg. 220.
[53] Landa, Ishay.  “Aroma and Shadow: Marx vs. Nietzsche on Religion.”  Nature, Society, Thought.  Pgs.
[54] “Losurdo…questions Mehring’s argument that Nietzsche was referring solely to an early romantic period of the socialist movement, thereby missing the new object of ‘scientific socialism.’”  Rehmann, Jan.  “Re-Reading Nietzsche with Domenico Losurdo’s Intellectual Biography.”  Historical Materialism.  Pg. 8.
[55] Franz Mehring quoted in Waite, Geoffrey.  “The Politics of Reading Formations: The Case of Nietzsche in Imperial Germany (1870-1919.”  New German Critique.  (№ 29: Spring-Summer 1983).  Pg. 191.
[56] Lukács, Georg.  The Destruction of Reason.  Translated by Peter Palmer.  (Merlin Press.  London, England: 1981).  Pg. 318.
[57] Brobjer, Thomas H.  “Nietzsche’s Knowledge of Marx and Marxism.” Nietzsche-Studien.  (№ 31: 2002).  Pgs. 298-313.
[58] “It is commonly assumed that…what little [Nietzsche knew about socialism] was at best based on readings of the anti-semitic socialist Eugen Dühring, whom Engels and Marx had criticized so severely in the book Anti-Dühring (1878).”  Ibid., pg. 298.  Of course, Engels had authored this book on his own, so Brobjer is mistaken.
[59] Montinari, Mazzino.  “Nietzsche between Bäumler and Lukács.”  Translated by Greg Whitlock.  Reading Nietzsche.  (University of Illinois Press.  Chicago, IL: 2003).  Pg. 164.
[60] Brobjer, “Nietzsche’s Knowledge of Marx and Marxism.”  Pg. 310.
[61] Engels, Friedrich.  Anti-Dühring.  Pgs. 83-84.  My emphases.
[62] Ibid., pg. 90.
[63] Ibid., pgs. 91-92.
[64] Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality.  Pg. 91.  My emphases.
[65] Ibid., pg. 48.
[66] “The two opposing values ‘good and bad’ [noble values], ‘good and evil’ [servile values] have fought a terrible battle for thousands of years on earth.”  Ibid., pg. 31.
[67] Engels, Anti-Dühring.  Pg. 86.
[68] Ibid., pg. 87.
[69] Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future.  Translated by Judith Norman.  (Cambridge University Press.  New York, NY: 2002).  Pg. 91, §203.
[70] Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality.  Pg. 60.
[71] Marx, Karl.  The Civil War in France.  Translated by Friedrich Engels.  Collected Works, Volume 22: Marx and Engels, 1870-1871.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 1986).  Pg. 335.
[72] Nietzsche, Friedrich.  The Gay Science.  Translated by Josefine Nauckhoff.  (Cambridge University Press.  New York, NY: 2007).  Pg. 235, §370.
[73] Ibid., pg. 152, §270.
[74] Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Ecce Homo, or How to Become What You Are.  Translated by Judith Norman.  (Cambridge University Press.  New York, NY: 2005).  Pgs. 109-110.
[75] Engels, Friedrich.  Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy.  Translated by Emile Burns.  Collected Works, Volume 26: 1882-1889.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 1990).  Pg. 359.
[76] Marx, Karl.  Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy.  Translated by Martin Nicolaus.  (Penguin Books.  New York, NY: 1993).  Pgs. 460-461.
[77] Ibid., pgs. 487-488.
[78] “Losurdo demonstrates that the theoretical structure of [anti-Semitism] had an abiding influence on his thought — as amply evidenced in the call by the late Nietzsche, the prophet of the innocence of becoming, for the extermination of the weak and ill-born.”  Thomas, “Overman and the Commune.”  Pg. 141.
[79] Dombowsky, Nietzsche’s Machiavellian Politics.  Pgs. 12, 16, 74-75.
[80] Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich.  Introduction to the Lectures on the Philosophy of History.  Translated by H.B. Nisbet.  (Cambridge University Press.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 69.
[81] Nietzsche, Friedrich.  The Will to Power.  Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale.  (Vintage Books.  New York, NY: 1968).  Pg. 413, §786.
[82] “Was geht den Träger des individuellen Bewußtseins das Schicksal der Welt an! Die sympathischen Affekte sind die Vermittler. Ohne den Gedanken einer gewissen Solidarität ist keine Befriedigung, keine Versöhnung möglich. (ego: Das ist halb und halb Redensart; kein Mensch kann das Schicksal der Menschheit ganz empfinden, es ist ein sehr vages Übergreifen aus dem Individuellen ins Allgemeine, welches hier Versöhnung bringt.  Ein stärkeres würde das Individuum ganz niederwerfen.  Die Engigkeit von Kopf und Herz macht das Dasein erträglich!) Selbstsüchtige Isolirung ist Entartung des Menschlichen. Der furchtbarste Peiniger ist der Gedanke der Verlassenheit und des Preisgegebenseins. Die Menschen machen sich im Glauben an die bessere menschliche Natur gegenseitig irre, aus Eitelkeit, aus dem Kitzel, sich besonders verschlagen und unnatürlich zu zeigen.  Es ist nur ein Schein, wenn der Egoismus als herrschende Regel des menschlichen Verkehrs gilt.  (Hier fällt Dühring in’s Kindische.  Ich wollte, er machte mir hier nichts vor! Eigentlich hört hier jede Verständigung auf: glaubt er ernsthaft an seinen Satz, so darf er für alle Socialismen von Herzen hoffen).“
[83] Marx, Karl.  The German Ideology.  Translated by C.P. Magill.  Collected Works, Volume 5: 1845-1847.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 247.
[84] Marx, Karl.  Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.  Translated by Jack Cohen. Collected Works, Volume 3: 1843-1844.  (International Publishers.  New York, NY: 2005).  Pg. 295.
[85] Engels, Anti-Dühring.  Pg. 286.

Igor Stramignoni’s “Book Review: Anti-Nietzsche (London School of Economics)
C. Derick Varn’s “Review: Anti-Nietzsche (The Loyal Opposition to Modernity)
Costica Bradatan’s Anti-Nietzsche (Times Higher Education)
Decca Muldowney’s “‘Reading like a loser’ — Costica Bradatan reviews Anti-Nietzsche” (Verso Books)
David Winter’s “Reading Like a Loser” (The New Inquiry)
Keith Ansell-Pearson’s “The Future is Subhuman” (Radical Philosophy)

3 thoughts on “Notes to “Twilight of the Idoloclast? On the Left’s recent anti-Nietzschean turn”

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