The Great Economy

  • Peter R. Sedgwick


Nietzsche’s account of the emergence of human identity is developed in terms of his narrative account of prehistory. Central to this is his conception of the ‘internalization’ of humankind. This occurs through the violent colonisation of one primitive community by another. Subjugation provokes in the colonised the appearance of a sense of identity that becomes the self-consciousness characteristic of what we now call the human soul. This springs from what Nietzsche calls the ‘bad conscience’ and is an enforced reinterpretation of the economically determined relation between creditor and debtor that precedes it. This change is also marked by the formalisation of communal relationships. Community becomes society (replete with state structures, legality and the like). The self, in turn, emerges as a being at war with itself, capable of challenging and overcoming its own inclinations and habits. In the account of internalisation Nietzsche offers an account of human development that invokes the notions of instincts being channelled within a general economy of existence.


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  1. 4.
    Such passing would, following Foucault, announce ‘the disappearance of “man” as the standard bearer of an all-too-serious anthropocentrism […]’. Alan D. Schrift, ‘Nietzsche’s French Legacy’, in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, eds Bemd Magnus and Kathleen Higgins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 328.Google Scholar
  2. 17.
    See Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges van den Abeele (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), Sections 25ff.Google Scholar

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© Peter R. Sedgwick 2007

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  • Peter R. Sedgwick

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