chapter  25
3 Pages

Friedrich Nietzsche

ByROBIN DURIE

The possibility that the work of Friedrich Nietzsche could have a constructive influence on political and international relations theory was long undermined by his apparent endorsement of Aryan supremacism and antiSemitism, alongside the explicit appropriation of his writings by admirers such as Hitler and Mussolini. However, the biographical machinations by which these gross caricatures were allowed to develop have gradually been revealed by a succession of scholars beginning with Walter Kauffman, allowing for the emergence of a ‘new’ Nietzsche, whose thinking has, in turn, profoundly influenced the work of writers such as Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Klossowski and Blanchot. Trained in classical philology, Nietzsche was appointed to the Chair in

Classical Philology at Basel, Switzerland in 1869. Increasing mental and physical ill-health led to him resigning his appointment in 1879, after which he lived off a modest pension from the Swiss government. In 1889 Nietzsche finally succumbed to the mental ill-health that had been tormenting him for the previous decade. For the final 11 years of his life, he was ‘looked after’ by his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, and she it was who set about engendering a cult of Nietzsche through the founding of a Nietzsche Archive. It was through her work – notably an edited collection of his works, a two-volume biography, and an edition of Nietzsche’s working notes, published as The Will to Power – that Nietzsche came to be represented as a proto-Nazi, to the extent that the Führer himself attended a lavish state-sponsored funeral for Nietzsche in 1935. But Förster-Nietzsche’s work in fact consisted in a massive distortion of

Nietzsche’s thought. This was in part made possible by the remarkable nature of Nietzsche’s style. With a few notable exceptions, Nietzsche’s work was written in the form of aphorisms – often seemingly contradictory – culminating in the stunning Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in which Zarathustra seeks to teach a number of characters of the coming of the Übermensch [Overman]: the post-moral, post-theistic overcoming of humankind. But Zarathustra is consistently thwarted in his attempts, due, he believes, to the inability of his fellow-travellers to understand his teachings. He is thus led to experiment with ever-new forms of address in an attempt to enable his message to be heard and understood.