Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right 

This study seems to suggest (I haven’t read the book) some kind of engagement with a rightist version of modern philosophy. Why so? Should we engage with Hitler and Trump. The sources here are in the end cardboard figures, Nietzsche and Heidegger. We can make short work of anyone who gets their armament from these two. That does not mean a pied piper army of dumbhead followers can’t do a lot of damage on their way to a rout.

It is hard to believe that Nietzsche and Heidegger could pose a threat to anyone: they both have a key weakness: they are second rate. Nietzsche appeals because he looks like a genius and then reduces the complexity of German classical philosophy to a cute literary style that masks the reality that he hasn’t mastered his sources. Nietzche is confusing because he is really a follower of Oscar Lange and reducing the innovation of transcendental idealism a la Kant back to scientism with Hegel ambiguously in the middle. That makes him also appealing to those who want a science basis and think that requires a tough realism dressed up in Nietzschean savagery. But that has backfired. Nietzsche’s attack on modernity is a head scratcher, he sounds ridiculous in this gesture. We can see that in his degenerate version of Schopenhauer as the ‘will in nature’, a bold and controversial but cogent insight, becomes the will to power, etc… That’s just putrid, pastiche. An army of followers of this mishmash will soon prove reverse Don Quijotes. Heidegger is not far behind in this ‘degeneration’, that strange thematic of the end of the nineteenth century. We don’t engage such figures but fight them to the finish and, like Hitler, their initial success will dissipate and collapse. That such thinking should animate the likes of Trump’s base is a joke. But such stupidity indicates some manipulation from behind the scenes. What’s really going on in the hidden realm of esoteric fascists?

Over and over again we have suggested that instead of obsessive focus on the Enlightenment one look at the modern transition as a whole from 1500 to 1800: does the alt right wish to undo liberal democracy or the French Revolution? Let them undo the modern transition! That’s impossible. Like a ratchet the result is a one-way passage. And that has no intrinsic connection to the limits of the ‘liberal democratic’ order, one hand dealt from the deck of the modern transition, and whose failures are more due to botched realization. We can’t debate the issue of equality at this point. The historical reign of inequality has failed in every case. To undo equalization requires the further dismantling of the christian legacy and the kind of sadism we see in b movies of roman gladiators. The modern transition animates an immense potential of which the enlightenment is but one aspect. The outcome failed to produce real equality and democracy so the attacks are egregious. The critique of liberalism emerged on the left and our path would be to a reconstructed liberal socialism and/or communism that can really construct a just social order. One must suspect that the reactionary phase of regression is more like the retreat of waters before a tidal wave, in this case from the left. The failure of the liberal order is a staple of the left that pointed to the effect of capitalism on democracy. Nietzsche is the fan idol of college sophmores. His appeal to the idiots of the alt right is more gallows humor than serious politics. Strange irony, Nietzsche the champion of the ubermensch is beset with an army of poor white trash, talk about inequality, riffraff! This isn’t the path to the ubermensch.

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