The Professor Doth Protest Too Much

“Finally, one may wonder about the class and gender dimensions of Nietzsche’s conception [of excellence]. Though the ancient and medieval martial figures are all to some extent associated with ‘noble birth’ (though in Napoleon, this seems to not matter much, given the low tier of nobility Napoleon’s family occupied, and the likely social disadvantages of being a Corsican in France) all of the modern non-martial figures are middle class. To be sure, Nietzsche does not simply identify attitudes with class origins, allowing that sublimated attitudes can become disengaged from their sociological matrix. But his emphasis, in the Genealogy of Morals, on the importance of the experiences of social superiority and inferiority in shaping fundamental attitudes, makes the pervasiveness of bourgeois origins in his most praiseworthy people curious. Indeed, it is far from clear to me that ambition of the consuming sort Nietzsche finds praiseworthy is not more a trait of the precarious middle classes than it is of those confident in their inherited advantages (and the considerable social constraints and required conformity that typically attend them). And while self-conscious condescension does not seem to characterize the people Nietzsche celebrates, it seems a trait one more readily associates with a bourgeoisie that has ‘arrived’ than with a stably dominate social group. When we turn to Nietzsche’s account of the ‘ignoble’ one wonders whether condescension is not just the flip side of ressentiment, a trait more likely found among the ‘not yet arrived’ bourgeoisie whose expectations have outstripped society’s ability to deliver than among a stable ‘peasantry.’” — Nietzsche: A Guide For The Perplexed


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