Nietzche's Criticism of Democracy
In section 203 of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche offers his criticism of the democratic movement that was then sweeping, and now dominates global ideologies. Nietzsche sees democracy as a movement in the wrong direction. He sees it as a step toward “mediocritizing” and “depreciation”. While this criticism may seem counter to all the values of modernity, it is certainly in line with Nietzsche’s over-all philosophy.
Democracy, like religion and morality, reflects what Nietzsche considers a “slave morality.” Democracy seeks to offer equal representation, and subvert the reality of human nature that some are meant to dominate and some to be inferior. Nietzsche views democracy and its inherent notions of equality as a force working against the “will to power” by forcing a leveled field. Through the rule of the “greatest number” rather than the “natural aristocrats” we are putting society at risk and surely not living out our true human potential.
Democracy, like religion and all embodiments of “slave morality”, is a threat to human potential. Nietzsche fears that these ideologies will tame us and drive humanity into mediocracy. Nietzsche believes that these thing will “dwarf man.” The establishment of forced equality is directly counter to Nietzsche’s understanding of the how the world should operate. All of his qualms with religion apply to democracy, but it is seemingly made more dangerous as this democratic ideal is imposed and enforced by the state, rather than accepted as faith.
The establishment of democracy would force humanity to live in denial of the will to power. By democratizing, we are living out a false sense of equality, one forced and created. The will to power is directly subverted, as all of humanity is then an equal in fact, upheld as such by the powers at be. We as humans would not only be forced equals, but forced to ignore our personal desires in favor of the greatest good for the greatest number. We are expected to work together to make life easier for our neighbor, rather than strive to achieve our personal best and secure our own wants and needs. The move toward democracy will work to eliminate the will to power. We will value mediocracy over exceptionalism and expect our needs to be met by society, rather than by our own work.
Nietzsche’s philosophy rests on the belief in the will to power. Democracy is one of the forces in conflict with this ideology. Democracy longs for peace, equality, and a simplified life. Nietzsche believes the struggle for individual exceptionalism is a good thing, which brings out the best in humans and separates the natural leaders from the natural followers. Democracy transforms humanity into an “animal of equal rights and equal pretensions”, which is something we are not. It forces us to be meek and to put the greater good before our own desires, which is something Nietzsche sees as a terrible way to live and as a “degeneracy of mankind.”
Democracy represents themes which undermine Nietzsche’s philosophical ideals. His critique of the democratic movement thereby dissects democracy and discusses why it is bad in relation to his ideals. Nietzsche’s criticism embodies his broad ideas and displays how democracy is in opposition to these thoughts. Section 203 of Beyond Good and Evil is a great reflection of Nietzsche’s broad philosophical understanding.
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