The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

By Daniel Bell | Go to book overview

Introduction/ The Disjunction of Realms: A Statement of Themes

IN THE SPRING of 1888, Friedrich Nietzsche sketched the Preface of his last book, The Will to Power, which he planned to be his magnum opus, as follows:

What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism. This history can be related even now; for necessity itself is at work here. This future speaks even now in a hundred signs. . . . For some time now our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.1

The source of this nihilism for Nietzsche was rationalism and calculation, a temper of life whose intention was to destroy "unreflective spontaneity." If there was a single symbol for him which summed up the force of nihilism, it was modern science.2

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1
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, ed. Walter Kaufmann ( New York: Random House, 1967), p. 3. Italics in the original.
2
This is the theme, too, but in a positive sense, of Bazarov, the character of Turgenev's who proclaimed himself the first nihilist. The source of nihilism for him was the "skeptical conscience of modern Science . . . whose watchword is Reality, and not negation." The characterization is Edward Garnett's, in his 1895 introduction to Fathers and Children. Garnett writes: "What, then, is Bazarov? . . . Representing the creed which has produced the militant type of Revolutionist in every capital of Europe, he is the bare mind of Science first applied to Politics. His own

-3-

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