By James Kwak
I feel like I should have something deep and original to say about Corey Robin’s fascinating article on nineteenth-century European culture, Nietzsche, and the economic philosophy of Friedrich Hayek. In addition to the things I’m better known for, I studied European intellectual history at Berkeley, with Martin Jay no less, and I’m pretty sure Nietzsche figured somewhat prominently in my orals. But Robin has far surpassed my understanding of Nietzsche, which is almost twenty years old, anyway.
The story, in very simplified form, goes like this. For Nietzsche, and for other cultural elitists of late-nineteenth-century Europe, both the rise of the bourgeoisie and the specter of the working class were bad things—the former for its mindless materialism, the latter for its egalitarian ideals, which threatened to drown the exceptional man among the masses. One set of Nietzsche’s descendants was the political theorists like Carl Schmitt, who “imagined political artists of great novelty and originality forcing their way through or past the filtering constraints of everyday life.” Another, which Robin focuses on in this article, is the “Austrian” school of economics led by Friedrich Hayek.