[Marxism] Re:Nietzsche's Corps(e)

Peter McLaren mclaren at gseis.ucla.edu
Mon Jan 2 12:55:33 MST 2006

On Jan 2, 2006, at 8:53 AM, Mark Lause wrote:

> Mark wrote:
> With all respect to Georg Lukacs (and many others) Friedrich Nietzsche
> has always had a decent following on the Left...and not the more "petty
> bourgeois" or marginal parts of the Left, either.  Nietzsche has been
> particularly popular among anarchists and socialists or communists
> friendly to anarchists.

Here is a short review by my colleague Doug Kellner on two important 
but strikingly different analyses of Nietzsche.  One is highly 
favorable to Nietzsche and one accusing Nietzsche of 'esoterrorism'.

> Review by Douglas Kellner (http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/)

> Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, Chicago, 
> University of Chicago Press,1998, xx + 282 pp.

> Geoff Waite, Nietzsche's Corpse/e. Durham, N.C.: Duke University 
> Press, 1996, xii + 564pp.

> The translation of Pierre Klossowski's Nietzsche and the Vicious 
> Circle finally providesan English-speaking audience with access to one 
> of the most influential texts in the French Nietzsche tradition. First 
> published in France in 1969, Klossowski's text consummated over 
> threedecades of intense work and discussion on Nietzsche's most 
> enigmatic and original ideas. Working with Bataille and the famous 
> College de Sociologie, Klossowski published a series ofimportant 
> studies of Nietzsche culminating in Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle 
> which Foucault described in a letter to Klossowski as "the greatest 
> book of philosophy I have read" in addition toNietzsche himself. 
> Deeply influencing Deleuze, Lyotard, and other major Nietzscheans, 
> Klossowski's work remains a seminal text of the contemporary French 
> reading of Nietzsche. Several major themes inform Klossowski's work. 
> The text opens with an original readingof Nietzsche's semiotic of 
> impulses, a theme that runs through his work and strongly influenced 
> Klossowski’s generation. Whereas Saussure's semiotic was an Apollinian 
> semiotic of languageinterpreted as a formal system of difference, 
> Klossowski's semiotic is a Dionysian one in which impulses break 
> through conventional forms of thought, reinscribe received ideas, and 
> generatenew, emancipatory perspectives. Klossowski interrogates the 
> relationship between impulses, ideas, memory, intellect, and other 
> categories, disclosing Nietzsche's unique philosophicalperspectives 
> and questioning of major philosophical categories which are displaced, 
> deconstructed, and in some cases demolished in relation to Nietzsche's 
> mediations on impulsesand related conceptions of instinct, drive, and 
> passion. Klossowski also relates Nietzsche's semiotic of impulses to 
> his own major philosophicalcategories. Klossowski's reads Nietzsche's 
> doctrine of the eternal recurrence as a translation into language of 
> his most profound experiences that further put in question major 
> philosophicalconcepts such as the self, life, fate, necessity, 
> casuality, and other key conceptions in the Western philosophical 
> tradition. Nietzsche emerges in this reading as both a major 
> deconstructivephilosopher whose work overturns previous philosophies, 
> as well as cultural forms like religion, morality, and politics, and a 
> highly original constructive philosopher who provides whollyunique and 
> explosive philosophical perspectives. Klossowski himself develops a 
> concept of the "vicious circle" to point to the scandal ofthe doctrine 
> of eternal recurrence, how it confounds rational and scientific 
> explanation, and how it forces one to become another self with another 
> vision of the world to accept it. Klossowskishows how the doctrine 
> causes tensions with other of Nietzsche's ideas and how it led 
> Nietzsche to question his own sanity and to seek scientific validation 
> of the concept. The inability, indeedimpossiblity, of such a proof led 
> Nietzsche, in Klossowski's interpretation, to henceforth develop two 
> opposing philosophical perspectives: an exoteric one based on his more 
> accessible ideassuch as self-overcoming, the transvaluation of values, 
> and his affirmative Dionysian philosophy,and a more esoteric one based 
> on literal acceptance of the eternal recurrence and thus the 
> viciouscircle, an idea that Nietzsche believed would divide humanity 
> into half, bifurcated along the lines of those who did and did not 
> accept this momentous idea. The esoteric teaching, in 
> Klossowski'sview, was for select individuals who would become "masters 
> of the earth" and produced Nietzsche cults who dwelled on and within 
> his most secret teachings. The esoteric doctrine was rooted in his 
> theory of impulses which would generatephantasms that could be 
> sublimated into ideas that would provide a remystification to heal the 
> demystification that the more radical and corrosive of Nietzsche's 
> critical ideas would produce.The remystification, Nietzsche's esoteric 
> philosophy, would in turn create new forms of life and creativity more 
> vital, healthy, and life affirming than traditional and modern values 
> andphilosophy. Throughout his study, Klossowski interrogates the 
> meaning of Nietzsche's illness,suffering, madness, and devastatingly 
> tragic life for his thought. His text intersperses long selections 
> from Nietzsche's works, especially the unpublished notebooks, his 
> letters, andKlossowski's extended philosophical commentary, woven into 
> a complex tapestry of explication and interpretation. The result is a 
> highly original reading of Nietzsche Klossowski's book can be 
> profitably read alongside Geoff Waite's Nietzsche's Corps/e,perhaps 
> the most interesting book on Nietzsche of the last decade.

> Waite argues that Nietzsche provides the dominant 
> ideological-philosophical-cultural matrix of the twentieth century 
> whoseonly contender is communism and urges all Marxists and 
> progressives to beware of Nietzsche's influence which Waite believes 
> to be pernicious. Defending Althusser against Nietzsche (andHeidegger 
> who Waite sees as the most consequent and dangerous Nietzschen), he 
> pursues to the limit Bataille's bon mot that "Nietzsche's is the only 
> one outside of communism." Wishing to free the Left from the taint of 
> Nietzscheism, or what he calls a "Nietzschoid"Leftism, Waite argues 
> that Left-Nietzscheism is a contradiction in terms, an impossible 
> synthesis of warring antagonists. Wishing to free the Troika of 
> Marx-Freud-Nietzsche from the influence,indeed hegemony, of Nietzsche, 
> Waite sets out to raise questions concerning both Nietzsche's thought 
> and influence. The result is a highly original and extremely 
> provocative reading ofNietzsche and his influence full of exhilarating 
> critique, spirited polemic, surprising connections, and highly 
> original insights. While one might be put off by Waite's highly 
> tendacious political reading, the text is astupendous work of 
> scholarship, surpassing by far the many books on Nietzsche's 
> influence. Indeed, this book is unlike any in the highly academic and 
> often pedantic ranks of Nietzsche-scholarship. Containing almost as 
> many footnotes as text, the book provides an excursion into a 
> multiplicity of competing readings of Nietzsche, citing his manifold 
> effects, and the ways thatNietzsche's corpse, his life and body of 
> texts, produces a Nietzschen corps that does ideological battle in the 
> service of his ideas, or are passively, and perhaps subliminally 
> shaped by Nietzsche'sideas to think and act in ways programmed by 
> Nietzsche himself. Like Klossowski, Waite wants to distinguish between 
> an esoteric and exoteric Nietzsche,but unlike his French predecessor 
> wishes to polemicize against the esoteric Nietzsche. He claims that 
> Nietzsche devised multiple rhetorical and literary strategies to 
> promote his secret teachings,hid or sugar-coated the more pernicious 
> aspects of his thought such as his defense of slavery, eugenics, 
> euthanasia, or misogyny, and programmed his future reception into the 
> writing of histexts. After a long rambling preamble where Waite lays 
> his hermeneutical and political cardson the table and spells out the 
> parameters and goals of his project, Waite takes on some leading 
> Nietzsche interpretations, showing how readers on both the Right and 
> Left fail to see Nietzsche'sesoteric philosophy and cunning strategies 
> to make himself the fate of the twentieth century, systematically 
> occlude the more disturbing elements of Nietzsche's thought, 
> underestimate theimportance of Nietzsche's unpublished notes and 
> manuscripts for his esoteric teachings, and ignore or are ignorant of 
> the more pernicious effects and consequences of Nietzsche's 
> teaching.In the most substantive sections of his highly eccentric but 
> lucid text, Waite takes on the readings of Bataille, Derrida, and 
> Klossowski, appreciating their insights, but criticizing theirfailures 
> to show how Nietzsche's texts actually work and to ignore, or 
> misrepresent, the esoteric teachings. In a long essay on "Esoteric 
> Semiotics," Waite provides his most extensive reading ofNietzsche's 
> writing strategy and program, while his concluding study on 
> "Trasformismo from Gramsci to Dick, or, The Spectacular Technoculture 
> of everyday life" makes a fascinating casefor the continued relevance 
> of Nietzsche's writing in the high tech and cybernetic age of the 
> present.Books by both Nietzsche's defenders and critics show the 
> extent to which his thought remains lively and relevant to the present 
> age. Nietzsche remains one of the more provocative andcontroversial 
> thinkers and to some extent Waite is correct that we all philosophize 
> and act in the ambience of Nietzsche's thought. It is 
> well-acknowledged by now that there are a tremendousdiversity of 
> Nietzsches, that every distinct reading provides another Nietzsche, 
> and that Nietzsche both promoted and facilitated such a fecund 
> reception through his literary strategiesand talents. As we enter the 
> next millennium, it continues to be important to read and position 
> oneself in relation to Nietzsche and one of the major challenges of 
> the coming century will be theproblem of what to do with this highly 
> explosive and provocative thinker.
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