Economy and Society in Nietzsche’s ‘Middle Period’ Works: Human, All Too Human, Assorted Opinions and Maxims, The Wanderer and His Shadow, Daybreak

  • Peter R. Sedgwick


The realms of politics and economics are spheres of concern from the time of Nietzsche’s early writings. Above all, texts like the Untimely Meditations demonstrate a deep concern with the relationship between mercantilism and culture. The latter is, through education, rendered an instrument for the furthering of mercantile interests and the profit motive. The third Meditation opposes both philosophy and the realm of nature to this. The economy of nature sows the philosophical seed at random — it is wasteful, extravagant and self-destructive. It operates at a loss. Nature and modernity are thus opposed. Scholarship is not immune to being co-opted into the social process. The increased mediocrity of the first is matched by increased profit of the second. Economic power, in other words, permeates modern society. It does so, Nietzsche notes, even to the extent of infiltrating his own language. The essay ‘On Truth and Lie’ can be cited as an early example of this kind of infiltration. In it, metaphysical ‘truths’ are envisaged as the conceptual perversions of unconscious economic behaviour.


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  1. 1.
    This point is made by Paul de Man in Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), p. 86.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’, trans. Daniel Breazeale, in The Nietzsche Reader, eds Keith Ansell Pearson and Duncan Large (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), p. 117.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Such conformity is what typifies the modern. See Robert B. Pippin, ‘Nietzsche’s Alleged Farewell: The Premodern, Modern, and Postmodern Nietzsche’, in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, eds Bernd Magnus and Kathleen M. Higgins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 270.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    This, as David Harvey notes, expresses ‘the collapse of space’ characteristic of modernity. The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), p. 273.Google Scholar

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© Peter R. Sedgwick 2007

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  • Peter R. Sedgwick

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