Humankind, the Measurer of All Things: Modernity and Primitive Economy in Human, All Too Human, Daybreak and The Gay Science

  • Peter R. Sedgwick


The impermanence and fluidity that characterises modern society permeates individual self-consciousness. Modern mercantile society is dominated by our tendency to role-play due to the pressures of commercial and social forces. We moderns are actors. As such, we have ceased to be the material upon which a society in the old sense can be built. Another way of putting this matter is in terms of exchange and sacrifice: we are no longer able to sacrifice the present in exchange for the future aspirations. Moderns find it hard to conceive in such terms since they live in a social world in which the transitory is emphasised at the expense of permanence.


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  1. 3.
    By way of comment on this, one can cite Duncan Large: ‘Nietzsche’s and Zarathustra’s today is a falling-off, an epigonal age unworthy of producing greatness and indeed incapable of doing so (Z iv, 5/2) for the modern period lacks decisiveness and resolution […]’. Duncan Large, Nietzsche and Proust: A Comparative Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), p. 217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 5.
    See Adam Smith, ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’, in The Essential Adam Smith, ed. Robert B. Heilbroner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 123.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    See Peter Sedgwick, ‘Violence, Economy and Temporality’. Plotting the Political Terrain of On the Genealogy of Morality’, Nietzsche-Studien, 34, 2005.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    One could note that this account has something in common with Hegel’s analysis of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit. See G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), para. 175.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    For a perceptive account of the exchange principle as it is manifest in the Genealogy see Derek Hillard, ‘History as Dual Process: Nietzsche on Exchange and Power’, Nietzsche-Studien, 31, 2002.Google Scholar

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© Peter R. Sedgwick 2007

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  • Peter R. Sedgwick

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