Why We Are Not Nietzscheans

In This Review

Why We Are Not Nietzscheans

Edited by Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut
University of Chicago Press, 1997
235 pp. $45.00
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Interpreting Nietzsche has always been difficult: he was simultaneously the greatest philosopher of late modernity and also, in the naive but accurate judgment of many of his contemporaries, a bad man whose ideas had evil consequences. Not only was he the father of modern relativism, but a hater of democracy, equality, and modern science, since the latter demonstrated the false claims of existing human hierarchies. It is thus particularly ironic that Nietzsche's thought has been put in the service of left-wing causes by a series of French writers like Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and, particularly, Michel Foucault.

While French Nietzscheanism, under the rubric of deconstructionism and postmodernism, went on in the United States to become the highbrow justification for the more extreme forms of multiculturalism, feminism, and gay studies, it has been under steady attack in its native country. The current book, published in France seven years ago, is edited by two academics who are key figures in this ongoing French revisionism. It argues, of course, against the dishonest interpreters of Nietzsche who tried to synthesize him with Marx and Freud. But in the end, the contributors to this volume pin the blame on Nietzsche himself for contributing to many of the illiberal and antidemocratic trends of the times, while still respecting him as a seminal figure in modern thought. This book should be required reading for those who continue to believe that there are no facts, only interpretations.