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263 12 Nietzsche and the Fascist Dimension: The Case of Ernst Jünger David Ohana The Nietzschean Revolution: From Ethics to Aesthetics What was the nature of the intellectual revolution instigated by Friedrich Nietzsche in the late nineteenth century? Why were both left-wing and right-wing groups inspired by this revolution? Why does it still continue to disturb so many people? It is impossible to separate out any one element of Nietzsche’s thought as the answer to these questions— the death of God, the critique of morality and religion, the “Overman” or the will to power. It is rather the revolutionary combination of the consciousness of nihilism and the will to power that brings Nietzsche so close to us at the beginning of a new century: When the “new Man” rebelled against the burden of the past and rejected the contents of Western history, he became the midwife of his own world. Thus the nihilistic revolution is necessarily linked with the aesthetic one: Nietzschean nihilism1 —having gone beyond the traditional criteria of good and evil, truth and falsity—led to the new creative principle of the will to power. Traditional ethics was replaced by a new aesthetics. Nietzsche made use of a philosophy of unmasking that attempted to dig down to the root of things and eliminate the disguises worn by Western culture throughout history. But his critique itself led to a historicism that examines concepts along the continuum of time. This method 264 䡲 david ohana became a nihilistic unmasking that undermined the origins of traditional values. Even the basic notions behind what is generally considered Nietzsche’s positive philosophy—self-overcoming, eternal recurrence , the “Overman,” the will to power—expose the Janus-faced aspect of Nietzsche’s method: on the one hand, the compulsory nihilism of the notion of “the eternal recurrence of things,” yet on the other, the love of fate (amor fati) and the total affirmation of life as the implication of the Overman’s will to power. The primacy of nothingness and the primacy of life are mutually linked. Walter Kaufmann’s Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist played a vital part in the essential task of clearly separating Nietzsche from Nazism.2 Yet this influential book left Nietzsche without teeth and deprived him of his philosophical hammer. He was given a place of honor among other humanist thinkers. But we must not ignore the fact that in the twentieth century fascist thinkers seized upon different aspects of Nietzsche’s nihilism, painting it with their own political colors. Nietzsche’s philosophical radicalism presaged various forms of political radicalism.3 Those thinkers, culture critics, and artists who were close to fascism seized upon various elements in the existentialist approach of the Nietzschean school, but added a political dimension. This approach repudiated historical and romantic assumptions just as it rejected the philosophy of progress and Enlightenment. While historicism was guided by the past, the Enlightenment stressed the openness of the future, from which it derived the concept of progress. In contrast, the fascist intellectuals ignored both the guidance of the past and the open future in favor of the dynamic present. This led to the rejection of the concept of progress , since historical continuity, in either the open rationalist sense or the rigid determinist one, was broken, and the dynamic present was detached from the cultural context with its centuries of accretions. The existentialist approach is centered around the Nietzschean assumption that the enhanced concept of humanity can be given a variety of interpretations, and is continually developing and self-creating. The historical, romantic, determinist and progress-minded approaches described the individual as a culture-dependent and tradition-dependent historical entity; Nietzsche, however, created an original, unique anthropological image of the individual as affirming his fate (amor fati), yet also shaping it with his own hands by using the will to power as a creative principle.4 No longer must the individual blindly follow the heritage of the past; from now on the continually evolving world is identi- fied with the continually evolving self, as the essence of the existentialist idea. Since the world is dynamic and self-creating, the individual must not remain fixed, but rather identify with the world’s rhythm. The existentialist approach to history thus served as a revolutionary the case of ernst jünger 䡲 265 turning-point by rebelling against the Judeo-Christian ethic and the classical tradition, and adopting the notion that the (nonrational) self must shape aesthetically the...


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