Date of Award
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Jack Donnelly, Ph.D.
Haider A. Khan
Daniel W. Conway
EU, European Union, Globality, Globalization, Good Europeans, Nietzsche, European integration, Politics
This dissertation takes up Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of ‘good Europeanism’ and his related idea of Europe to show how the former disposition may be cultivated to achieve the latter—a reinvigorated culture on the continent. It does so by applying his vitalist politics and power ontology (will to power hypothesis and theory of decadence) to critique European integration in the broader context of globalization. The analysis enables me to theorize how “healthy” individuals might exploit opportunities in the present to become 'good Europeans', with the aim of realizing Nietzsche’s quasi-cosmopolitan idea of Europe. It is my primary contention that Nietzsche’s diagnosis of Europe’s ailment remains relevant, as does his strategy, via a radically Dionysian affirmation of life, for overcoming the international order it has spawned.
In doing so I utilize Nietzsche’s related perspectivalist epistemological stance and hermeneutical framework to build on Nietzsche's genealogy of morality. This shows the West’s present “slave moral” regime to be a further intensified development of secularized Christian–Platonic values. It arose through the fusing of liberal-optimism (belief in equality, emancipation, enfranchisement, etc.) with modernity’s doctrines of universalism, humanism, secularism, progressivism and rationalism. It also coextends with the positivistic orientation of scientism to transmit a secular faith in truth, and unparadoxically an injurious relativism and cynical worldview. It is through Nietzsche’s vitalist perspectivalism that I understand the psychological-historical origins and current operation of the axiomatic narratives promulgated via the meta-discourse of ultra-liberal-modernity.
The same critical framework is applied to a doxagraphical survey of theories of European integration. These theories are understood as differing perspectives conceived within and informed by the same values matrix, and critiqued in chronological order of their appearance to reflect the evolution of the field. Problems of evaluation, indeterminacy and bias, and the form of reasoning privileged by the positivistic orientation conferred by scientism are examined in terms of how they inform the conduct of social science and conceptualizations and uses of fact. Acts of theorizing are understood as indicative of a will-to-truth which can positively augment life or negatively hamper it. I consider how the mainstream of the field has tended to reiterate the ideological presuppositions of ultra-liberal-modernity. Notable exceptions include recent constructivist approaches and discourse analysis critiques. These critical perspectives are productively broadening and potentially subverting the dominant conventions of the field. This raises the possibility that good Europeans may influence the future development of the EU as counter-theorizers of it.
The EU is understood as a crucial locus of the globalization complex, a primarily reactive power constellation comprised of myriad institutions, processes and forces. A ressentiment-driven project, the globalization complex functions as an ideological juggernaut to universalize ultra-liberal-modern values. It affectively implements a negative will to nothingness as nihilistic power which culminates in a hyper-decadent condition typified by resignation to its prerogatives. Its values are politically instantiated throughout the world via democratization and hegemonic capital process.
I examine the spectacularized existential meanings and simulated ontological purpose provided by the globalization complex. These engage and automatize the masses by means of commercially generated, media promoted desires and an ethos of consumerism. These sustain a philistinic culture of conformity by means of which its ideological proponents, ascetic-consumerist priests of ressentiment, justify and naturalize their authority. Their influence extends a spirit of revenge against life’s radical contingency and temporality. It privileges homogenizing and ossifying modes of being to inhibit authentic becoming.
However, the globalization complex cannot contain all the affective capacities its shrinking and simultaneous acceleration of the world generates. The increased interconnectivity between people that it facilitates and the reactive values matrix it imposes give rise to a changed mentality or consciousness. Life in within the globalization complex provides a few with a philosophical education that endows them with a broadened perspective on the differences between human types. They gain a profound appreciation of the need for the divergent worldviews that distinguish disparate cultures—forms of life imperiled by conventional globalization. This nurtures a reflective, historical consciousness and an acceptance of difference (entwined with their love of fate) that augments their emerging sense of globality and occasionally manifests itself in ways that escape capture. Among a few, globality fosters the skeptical-ironic disposition toward truth claims and craftiness characteristic of ‘good Europeans’. Such iconoclastic individuals may creatively challenge the legitimacy of ultra-liberal-modern values, their distinctive striving symptomatic of a positive will to creative destruction as generative power and authentic becoming-other.
To foster the development of the skeptical-ironic disposition, or Weltironie, of good Europeanism I suggest a six-fold skeptical praxis. This is based on the classical Pyrrhonean skeptical notions of akatalepsia (recognition of the impossibility of certain knowledge), epoche (the suspension of belief due to the contingency of truth), ataraxia (the ancient skeptic and stoic doctrine of disciplined withdrawal toward becoming what one is), apangelia (an avowal not involving a commitment to truth or falsity), adoxastos (the disciplined effort to avoid forming convictions and feigning agreement with prevailing value standards when necessary, which corresponds with the strategic use of masks), and finally, from the ancient cynics, the concept of parrhesia (fearless speech in mocking ascetic values). These practices support the necessary perspectivalist stance toward all truth claims to radically affirm the chaos of becoming. The adherents of such an anti-essentialist discipline revel in the fundamental contingency of life.
According to Nietzsche’s vision, I consider how ‘good Europeans’ might achieve their aims in light of the prevailing values of our globalizing world. Acting as comedians of ascetic ideals they engage in kynical acts that may utilize the new technologies and enhanced communications provided by science and industry (key components of the globalization complex), to lampoon the anti-human decadence and nihilism of our age. Their inherently political mockery of the prevailing social discourses arouses the passion of other healthy types. They are spurred to similarly creative experiments and life-affirming acts of defiance, and the ethos of ‘good Europeanism’ gradually spreads, thereby. Through their striving such ‘good Europeans’ (who, in our globalizing age, may appear in any geographical locale) become capable of recognizing and exploiting unanticipated, abstract potentials of globality.
Afflicted with the decadence of our age, they are not the Übermenschen Nietzsche anticipated, but prevenient to them. More likely to be perceived as buffoons than as great leaders, they are neither conventional revolutionaries nor “improvers of humankind”; they endeavor to discredit the ultra-liberal-modern order instantiated through the globalization complex. By prompting it to reactively assert its prerogatives and intensify itself, they make its contradictoriness, antagonistic impetus and hostility to difference more apparent. However gradually, this will erode its legitimacy, as good Europeans exploit its vulnerabilities.
According to Nietzsche’s vision, I consider the ways in which ‘good Europeans’ would likely employ the democratic, egalitarian and populist sensibilities of the globalized masses, and how the EU could be hijacked to augment their aim. This could include the crafty use of human rights, artificial intelligence and bio-engineering to hasten our enervated epoch to its expiration. Efforts to challenge the reigning ascetic-consumerist ideals are conditioning the possibility for the appearance of Übermenschlich individuals to (nomothetically) legislate an agonistic socio-political milieu predicated on a natural rank order of types. It is the hope of ‘good Europeans’ that such Übermenschen will one day inaugurate a transhuman future and create a higher culture for the flourishing of greatness that secondarily edifies the multitude with the meaning and purpose great works provide.
I conclude that if humankind succeeds in transfiguring itself through the going-down of our ultra-liberal-modern epoch (the most pervasive and decadent socio-political order in recorded history) these Übermenschen, the progeny of contemporary ‘good Europeans’, will focus on the rehabilitation of the environment and preservation of the earth.
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McNeal, Michael J., "Becoming Good Europeans? Globality, the EU and the Potential to Realize Nietzsche's Idea of Europe" (2009). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 423.
Received from ProQuest
Michael J. McNeal
International law, Philosophy