My understanding of Nietzsche is still quite rudimentary but something I keep thinking about while reading his texts, is whether he would approve of the concept of dictatorships.

N is fine with dominating others if youre doing it while achieving your goals but a)is there any limit to that and b) is dominating for the sake of dominating others permitted?

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    I wonder if the most pointed criticism of Nietzsche's ambiguous attitude to morality, is Alex in Clockwork Orange, with his love of music, and dedication to destruction. The recent US political situation has me thinking again about Fight Club, and how that seemed to presage a future culture in a similar way to Clockwork Orange before it. When reform of the spirit/imagination becomes impossible, perhaps destruction becomes inevitable. Society cannot, or should not allow the emergence of such willed self-destruction. So reimagining society must be made possible, but cannot be unlimited..
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 23:36

2 Answers 2


We should not overlook Nietzsche's attitude to Napoleon, the kind of ultimate dictator of the 19th century. Here's a useful reflection on Nietzsche's view of Napoleon:

The French Revolution exemplifies for Nietzsche the idealism that rejects the reality of nature and human nature. Declaring his hatred for "Rousseau in the French Revolution" and the "doctrine of equality," Nietzsche praises a "return to nature" at odds with the primitive equality Rousseau offers (TI [Twilight of the Idols], Skirmishes 48). Napoleon thus marks a "return to nature" understood as an "ascent - up into the high, free, even terrible nature and naturalness where great tasks are something one plays with" (TI, Skirmishes 48). The reality of a return to nature, of throwing off conventional distinctions, is not the egalitarian beginnings of the French Revolution, but rather Napoleon's dictatorship, which seizes power under such conditions. The emergence of such a singular figure is the natural and realistic outcome of democratic revolution. Only idealistic falsifiers, Nietzsche argues, would see it otherwise. (Paul E. Kirkland, 'Nietzsche's Tragic Realism', The Review of Politics, Winter 2010, Vol. 72, No. 1, pp. 55-78: 62-3.)

Yet Nietzsche takes matters further and views Napoleon and other dictators from another angle which alters his perspective and represents them as in the end tragic figures:

As Nietzsche opposes the revolutionary spirit and takes a realist's view of the likely unintended consequences of ideological hopes, it is an obvious understatement that he is also no conservative. He addresses conservatives with a whisper: "But no one is free to be a crab. Nothing avails: one must go forward - step by step further into decadence" (TI, Skirmishes 43). He does not have high hopes for the immediate future, but denies that any course can avoid the progress of decay. With this, Nietzsche's praise for Napoleonic dictators and his expectations of ensuing tyranny can be seen in a new light. Nietzsche may see a form of human greatness in such figures, in their capacity to master situations presented to them, but this does not lead to the conclusion that Nietzsche simply endorses tyrannical subversion of free politics. Rather, for him, the inevitability of such decay is part of his realist politics. His praise for those like Napoleon, Caesar, and Alcibiades may include admiration of their realistic recognition of decay and their capacities to take advantage of the situation, but all of them are for Nietzsche, ultimately, tragic figure. (Kirkland: 71.)


Paul E. Kirkland, 'Nietzsche's Tragic Realism', The Review of Politics, Winter 2010, Vol. 72, No. 1, pp. 55-78.

F. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1889 : tr. Walter Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Vintage, 1954).


I would say Nietzsche was ahead of the game on politics. He castigated Bizmarck for his backwards-looking appeals to racism & jingoistic nationalism. He ended his friendship with Wagner over the latters antisemitism.

I would describe Nietzsche not as a nihilist, but as responding to the crisis he foresaw of the loss of a shared model of the justificacio of a life, by faith expressed in works. Nietzsche recognised this, correctly, as not simply as an existential personal challenge, but a challenge to social cohesion. I see this as chiming with foundational sociologist Durkheim, and his framing of the social-decohesion from personal anomie, and that the holding and sharing of sacred values is what binds communities - not simply narrowly concieved Abrahamic sacred, but sacred like habeus corpus is in the UK (& the many parliaments who adopted the Magna Carta into their founding), or free speech in the USA, or scientific method & peer review to the scientific community.

Nietzsche anticipated the attempt to form new metanarratives, new politico-religions, of Marxism and Nazism. And the threat of anomie of having no real meaning to narratives at all, that we might identify with postmodernism, for instance Kuhn's denial that science ever really progresses. He spent relatively little time on politics though, and far more on art, morality, and culture. For me his philosophy, his diagnosis for humanity escaping this need to have one shared meranarrative, is summed up when he said

"Man's maturity: to have regained the seriousness that he had as a child at play."

In his 'three metamorphoses' on the spiritual path, he has the camel with a solitary separating nature, and picks a load to bear. The lion stage comes after having truly found your domain, mastering it, and so being able to assert your will against others, from this place of knowing. There's no doubt Nietzsche was happy for people to be forced to allow space for art, for creativity, to create a culture with space for those with such introspective power to assert their own picture of what justifies a life. But the child stage is greater still, beyond being reactive, the child stage:

"is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a Sacred Yes"

I would say then a) yes, boredom. Don't be boring, it cannot stand the challenge of imagining eternal recurrence. Whoever opposes greatness in others acts like 'the last man', to whom everything superhuman 'appears as madness and illness'. b) no. Paternalism only, dominating for the greater good, to champion art, and creativity, play, and the path toward angel-hood. But far better to lead by example, as a champion, a hero, a visionary.

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