A Socialist Reading of Nietzsche’s “Genealogy of Morals”

There’s a lot that any socialist would want to reject in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche; but there is also much that they might find useful. In this post I want to take a famous work of his, the first third of The Genealogy of Morals, and offer an internal critique of it; even accepting its main claims, it contains resources for attacking and even reversing its own conclusions.

Awesome Tache

Awesome 'Tache

This work can be be quite easily summarised: morality as it has come down to us from history displays two quite different and opposed origins.

The first, expressed in the words ‘good and bad’, stems from warrior-aristocrats identifying themselves and everything strong, beautiful, and happy as ‘good’ and the lower classes, everything ugly, weak, and miserable, as ‘bad’. After Nietzsche this has come to be called ‘master-morality’. The second, expressed in the words ‘good and evil‘, stems from priests and ‘the herd’ identifying those first warrior-aristocrats, and everything destructive, overpowering, and happy as ‘evil’, and then by contrast identifying themselves, and everything weak, humble, patient, and passive as ‘good’. This has come to be called ‘slave-morality’.

Now this work is a bit crazy at times, and also contains a lot of casual racism, an identification of the tendencies he discusses with ‘noble races’ and ‘slave races’. There’s a focus on Judaism/Christianity as the historical representative of ‘slave morality’ which is both Eurocentric and bordering on anti-Semitic. And Nietzsche is, in political terms, essentially someone who thinks there aren’t enough joyfully-butchering dictators around, imposing their mighty penises wills onto the world – and endlessly critical of democracy, socialism, egalitarianism and humanitarianism.

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