Hugo Drochon is a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century political thought and a postdoctoral research fellow at CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, at the University of Cambridge.
His new book is Nietzsche's Great Politics.
From Drochon's Q&A with Sean Illing at Vox.com:
Sean Illing: You don’t really write about Trump in the book, but you’ve suggested elsewhere that he’s a sort of caricature of Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch (often mistranslated at “superman”). Is that right?The Page 99 Test: Nietzsche's Great Politics.
Hugo Drochon: Well I've heard it said that Trump may represent some approximation of Nietzsche's ubermensch, and I think that's deeply mistaken. But the reasons why it's mistaken can help us think about what Trump actually is. First, it's wrong because Trump represents everything Nietzsche hated. The philistinism, the mediocrity, the worshipping of money for its own sake — this is exactly the opposite of what Nietzsche advocated. By ubermensch, Nietzsche meant someone who could live beyond good and evil, beyond conventional values, who refused to appeal to herd instincts.
There's a passage in Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra in which he talks about the ubermensch, and I think it's quite relevant. Zarathustra, the protagonist, comes down from his mountain retreat and tells the people in the town square that he's going to teach them about the ubermensch, about what mankind should become, and the people are having none of it. They don't want to hear that they’ve stopped believing in God; that life is chaos; that nothing lasts; that they’re living in illusion.
Zarathustra realizes the people are too decadent to hear this and so he decides instead to teach them about the "Last Man." And the “Last Man” is the kind of person who doesn't want to think, who fears progress, who is risk-averse and desirous of comfort, who just wants everything to stay the same. Of course, the people erupt in joy when they hear this because this is what they really want.
This is what Trump is to me. This is what he represents. He's a kind of "Last Man" demagogue, telling the people that he's going make things great again, which is to say simple and how they once were — and they love him for it.
For Nietzsche, the celebration of a man like Trump was the inevitable result of...[read on]