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Nietzsche's Critique of Democracy (1870—1886)

H. W. Siemens
Journal of Nietzsche Studies
No. 38 (FALL 2009), pp. 20-37
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717973
Page Count: 18
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Nietzsche's Critique of Democracy (1870—1886)
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Abstract

This article reconstructs Nietzsche's shifting views on democracy in the period 1870—86 with reference to his enduring preoccupation with tyrannical concentrations of power and the conviction that radical pluralism offers the only effective form of resistance. As long as he identifies democracy with pluralism (Human, All Too Human), he sympathizes with it as a site of resistance and emancipation. From around 1880 on, however, Nietzsche increasingly links it with tyranny, in the form of popular sovereignty, and with the promotion of uniformity, to the exclusion of genuine pluralism. Democracy's emancipatory claims are reinterpreted as "misarchism," or hatred of authority, and Nietzsche looks to the "exceptional beings" excluded by democracy for sources of resistance to the "autonomous herd" and "mob rule." Against elitist readings of this move, it is argued that Nietzsche opposes the domination of the herd type under democracy from a standpoint in human diversity and a generic concern with the future of humankind. Exceptional individuals are conceived in pluralistic, agonal terms, as a community of legislators engaged in a process of transvaluation that serves the interests not of one or a few but of all of us: "the self-overcoming of the human."

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