Sunday, October 7, 2018

In the rising far-right, philosophers are seeing a return of the 'bad' Nietzsche

books education fascism Nazi youth alt-right

If any author in the Western canon demands a trigger warning these days, it is Friedrich Nietzsche.

A growing chorus of worriers has lately made this point about the 19th century German philosopher. They warn that the often ignored “bad” Nietzsche, the “godfather of fascism,” has returned as an inspiration for current politics. They point, for example, to the American white nationalist Richard Spencer, who has said Nietzsche “red-pilled” him, or opened his eyes to the hidden structure of the world.

More ominous is Steve Bannon, the former Donald Trump advisor and leading thinker of the alt-right, whose explicit goal of destroying the modern liberal egalitarian order with a kind of cleansing chaos is nothing if not Nietzschean.

But what to do about this in the classroom is a matter of debate. Some, like the psychologist Steven Pinker, have suggested the more extreme no-platforming solution of blacklisting Nietzsche and his “repellent” writings, as was also done to Bannon at the recent New Yorker ideas festival, leading to similar calls to cancel his November Munk Debate in Toronto. Others prefer more subtle warnings and contextualizations.

Regardless, there is broad agreement that universities cannot simply keep teaching Nietzsche as they traditionally have, as the forerunner of postmodernism and, therefore, an intellectual ally of the progressive left. He is not that and never was, according to Ronald Beiner, chair of political science at the University of Toronto Mississauga and author of the new book Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right.  (more...)

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