Nietzsche's critique of civilization has some affinities with Schiller's, but is coloured not only by Schopenhauer's philosophy of life and the will, but also by a more pessimistic attitude. His critique and rejection of civilization are based on an anthropological motif and premise - for him, humans are the 'sick animal', made sick by the brutality and sanctions that are required to civilize them.

Nietzsche's vehemence towards civilization is directed at the two millennia of the history of the West from Socrates to the Enlightenment. According to him, the moral revolutions in manners and civility during the eighteenth century especially had resulted in a deadly combination of sentimentality, conscience and utility, which had also shaped the contemporary political landscape. Social democratization, bureaucratization, and the ethics of utility, none of which can be divorced from the others, says Nietzsche, simply produce a modern nihilistic culture of mediocrity.

On the Genealogy of Morals explores the formation of this modern civilization, and in it two of the images of civilization - the positive transformations of human nature and society - find their most impassioned critique. In response to civilization, Nietzsche argues that culture must only be grounded in a creativity that surpasses morals and even art. In Nietzsche's view, creativity follows its own energy and value - life.