- Nietzsche nella Rivoluzione conservatrice ed. by Francesco Cattaneo, Carlo Gentili, and Stefano Marino
Genova: Il Melangolo, 2015. 320pp. isbn: 978-88-7018-990-2. Paper, €20.
Analyzing the reception of Nietzsche’s work in the years following World War I is a delicate and important task, one that Nietzsche nella Rivoluzione conservatrice seeks to accomplish by focusing on the so-called Conservative Revolutionary movement and the prominent intellectuals who orbited it. The book is a rich summary of the eponymous congress held in Bologna (May 10–13, 2013), promoted by the University of Bologna and the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna, and it contains fifteen essays from both young and established scholars, including the editors of the volume, preceded by a short yet informative introduction.
“Conservative Revolutionary” is an almost paradoxical expression, chosen by Armin Mohler in 1950 to define major philosophical, political, and cultural currents in Germany between the end of World War I and the rise of the Nazi regime. Like every definition, Mohler’s has clear limits, but it succeeds in identifying the core of this movement: Nourished by the crisis of the early part of the century, the movement aimed to create a revolutionary alternative to the French Revolution and the more recent Soviet Revolution, by preserving German culture from the threat of modernity. The movement had an ambiguous and intense relationship both with Nietzsche, toward whom it acknowledged its debt, and with National Socialism, which tried to claim intellectual support from the movement, sometimes with collusion from the movement itself. The main merit of this volume is its ability to preserve the uniqueness of every figure involved, at different levels, with the Conservative Revolution, so that the reader is pushed to avoid generalizations, which are useless, if not dangerous, when dealing with such an obscure period of human history and the vexata quaestio of the contribution of Nietzsche’s intellectual legacy to National Socialism. The consequent depth of analysis demands a certain degree of expertise from the reader—who may have to find his own way in the tangle of names, facts, works, and arguments that fill the volume—and may provide an impetus to further study.
The first four contributions present Nietzsche’s reception during the Third Reich from different points of view. In “Nichilismi a [End Page 304] confronto: Nietzsche e Schmitt,” Carlo Galli traces in the nihilism of their “negative thought” a deep connection between the apolitical attitude of Nietzsche and the “hyper-political” attitude of Schmitt. Although the latter considered Nietzsche’s reflections on morality to be the “ground zero” of a passive nihilism that is unable to address the problem of politics, it is the theoretical path opened by Nietzsche, according to Galli, that Schmitt takes against (and, indeed, beyond) Nietzsche himself. Galli thus points out the ambiguity of this relationship, referring in particular to Schmitt’s estimation of the Übermensch as an unsuccessful answer to the challenge of modernity and his assimilation of Nietzsche’s conceptions of history and space to his own.
In the next essay, “Alfred Baumler e la produzione di un Nietzsche compatibile con il nazismo,” Gilbert Merlio treats the question of Nietzsche’s Nazification more directly through the interpretation of Alfred Baumler. This rich analysis covers all phases of Baumler’s thought and shows the development of his approach to Nietzsche: from a limited critique of his philosophy in the first part of the twenties to a positive evaluation of his agonal morality in the later part of the same decade, and from the “popular” interpretation of him as “philosopher and politician” in 1932 to the more radical presentation as Hitler’s prophet in 1934, until the late conception of an apolitical Nietzsche after World War II. Merlio succeeds in revealing the depth of Baumler’s relationship to Nietzsche, providing tools for understanding the genesis and content of one element of Nietzsche’s Nazification, and thus offering one of the best defenses against it: “Nietzschean man is defined by his destination, not his origin—and that should be enough to exonerate Nietzsche from any responsibility for fascist or racist exploitations...