Nietzsche and Napoleon

Nietzsche and Napoleon: The Dionysian Conspiracy

Don Dombowsky
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    Nietzsche and Napoleon
    Book Description:

    This study demonstrates how Nietzsche’s political thought is an outgrowth of his reflections on Napoleon Bonaparte’s personality, political reign and method of governance.

    eISBN: 978-1-78316-097-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction: The Dionysian Conspiracy
    (pp. 1-5)

    The main goal of this study is to establish a definitive and comprehensively demonstrated link between Aristocratic Radicalism, a term that encapsulates Friedrich Nietzsche’s political thought, and Bonapartism, the political ideology associated with the regimes of Napoleon I and Napoleon III.

    This study is comprised of three chapters. In the first chapter I will discuss Nietzsche’s Bonapartist precursors (in particular, Goethe and Stendhal) and explain how their readings of Napoleon informed Nietzsche’s own. Nietzsche read extensively both Napoleonic and anti-Napoleonic literature (including that of de Rémusat and Taine) and on the basis of these sources formulated his ‘problem’of Napoleon as...

  6. 1 Sources, Cults and Criticism: Nietzsche’s Portrait of Napoleon
    (pp. 6-33)

    It has been suggested that Nietzsche represents the current in Napoleonic historiography that constitutes a cult of personality or genius, viewing ‘Napoleon as a sort of metaphysical force’.² It is not an empty assertion, as Nietzsche’s image of Napoleon was largely derived from his readings of theMemorial of St Helenaby Las Cases (1823),³ that ‘did much to establish the positive aspect of the “superman” image of Napoleon’,⁴ as well as Goethe’sTalks with Napoleon(1808) andConversations with Eckermann(1824). Goethe met Napoleon at the Congress of Erfurt, convened by Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I in the autumn...

  7. 2 Aristocratic Radicalism as a Species of Bonapartism
    (pp. 34-79)

    Nietzsche ceases his criticism of Napoleon between the autumns of 1885 and 1886 in his notebooks and after 1882 in his published writings.² Though prior to these years as a declared ‘free spirit’ he would unequivocally violate his own code of independence were he to follow Napoleon,³ he still expresses admiration and fascination for the emperor, ambivalence and contradiction, as expressed in the numerous ‘Napoleonic dicta and psychologica’ found in his notebooks:⁴ Napoleon ‘lacked . . . greatness of . . . soul (magnanimity)’,⁵ yet ‘in words and deeds paid tribute to the nobler drives and thus won for himself...

  8. 3 Napoleon III: ‘déshonneur’
    (pp. 80-117)

    Caesarism is a style of dictatorship based upon the regime type of Julius Caesar which accompanied the decline of republican institutions in ancient Rome. The term was specifically utilized in the nineteenth century to describe the authoritarian regime of Napoleon III as well as the regime of Otto von Bismarck in Germany, though not as pervasively.² The term was also employed retrospectively to describe the regime of Napoleon I. Thus Bonapartism is synonymous with Caesarism.

    The following definition of Caesarism comes from F. A. Brockhaus:

    Caesarism has come into use mainly to characterize the Napoleonic system. In this sense it...

  9. Conclusion: The Imperial European Future
    (pp. 118-123)

    According to Nietzsche, the future ‘will [or should] walk in the footsteps of Napoleon’, emulating his subversion of ‘public opinion’ (democracy and socialism) and parliamentary organization (liberalism). The regime of Napoleon I is the Nietzschean template for an imperial European future.² Through invoking Napoleon – a representative of pagan antiquity and Renaissancevirtù(and thus ofimmoralistic criminality) – Nietzsche is advocating a Caesaristic moral conspiracy;³ constructing, in the name of a new European ruling class, political alliances with the Victorien faction of the Bonapartist movement and certain royal houses of Europe such as the House of Savoy into which the Bonaparte...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 124-181)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 182-202)
  12. Index
    (pp. 203-209)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 210-210)