Inconsistent Anti-Semitisms

| | Comments (3)

It occurred to me while teaching Nietzsche yesterday that the use of Nietzsche to motivate antisemitism by the Nazi regime is pretty much the opposite of contemporary antisemitism, at least in one key respect. Hitler's use of Nietzsche capitalized on the idea of Jewish inferiority. If it's perfectly fine for the strong to trample the weak, then all it takes is finding a group that can be taken to be weak, and then you can trample away.

The problem Nietzsche would have is that you can't really demonstrate that Jews are the weak. In fact, the history of Jews in the United States seems to demonstrate otherwise. Before Hitler's time, Jews in the United States tended to do worse on IQ tests than the majority population. After WWII, they tended to do noticeably higher than average. The best explanation for that seems to be that Jews were sidelined more often and had become mainstreamed in a way that allowed them to develop the cognitive skills that they already had potential for but hadn't been developing as strongly. Even with the problems in using IQ tests to identify intelligence plain-and-simple, it's certainly true that there are skills that IQ tests measure, and the Nazis would have been happy to accept IQ scores anyway. So it seems as if the facts are just against their claim.

Contemporary antisemitism has to take a different stance. Not only is it ludicrous to take Jews to be inferior in terms of any important skill set for success in life, but Jews have in fact been much more successful in most of the ways people who make such judgments would actually care about than the average for the non-Jewish population. So the narrative is no longer that Jews are inferior and thus need to be trampled because of some Nietzschean mission to lift oneself up by taking advantage of the weak. Now it's almost a reversal. Jews have assumed control of society in some massive conspiracy, and the rest of us are the victims who need to resist the collective strength of the Jewish conspiracy.

Now I guess the two views are compatible. Someone could think that Jewish success is merely due to conspiratorial measures implemented by idiots who succeed only because a few of the relatively smart ones have gotten enough Jews into influential positions to prevent anyone from overcoming their collective strength. But I don't think the idea of Jewish inferiority among such conspiracy theorists is really about intellectual inferiority anymore. It's not clear to me exactly what kind of inferiority it's supposed to be, though. It clearly has some normative element, but I'm not sure it's even thought-out enough for there to be a real answer to that question.

3 Comments

To what extent was Hitler's reasoning about Jews actually based on Nietzsche's arguments? I'm not exactly widely read here, but I'm only aware that Nietzsche provided a rationalization for German nationalism in general, which in turn rationalized antisemitism.

The German "triumph of the will" would have been, in Nietzschean terms as I understand them, more an authentication than a privilege of German national superiority. It was by the very act of willing to triumph that Germany was supposed to become superior, or at least attain to its latent superiority. Only as part of that process of dominating would Nietzschean theory justify antisemitism on the part of Germans. The act of racial superiority, that exercise of the will, would be self-justifying (unless, I suppose, the Jews immediately matched it with a similar feat of domination); it would not depend on a prior demonstration of Jewish inferiority.

I could be wrong, though.

I guess Hitler himself saw the problem with Jews as something other than genetic. His problem was with what he called Jewish ideas, whatever that's supposed to mean. But I was under the impression that various Nazis did use Nietzsche more in the way I was discussing in the post, and that Hitler was more of a pragmatist in his willingness to rely on that for its political usefulness.

Also, I thought the version of one of Nietzsche's works that was reworked by his sister to get it as support for the Nazi regime was explicitly the kind of antisemitism I had in mind. I'm pretty sure that's what her husband held to. But I'm no expert on any of this.

Also, if Hitler's only argument was to rely on Jews' insufficient views as justifying the way he treated them, how is it all that inappropriate a conclusion to draw from his actual views? Experts insist that the Nazis misapplied Nietzsche. I thought that misapplication was in misjudging the factual question of inferiority. If that's not the problem with their use of his views, what was the problem? As you describe it, it seems that their views really aren't a serious misapplication of what he said.

Leave a comment

Contact

    The Parablemen are: , , and .

Archives

Archives

Books I'm Reading

Fiction I've Finished Recently

Non-Fiction I've Finished Recently

Books I've Been Referring To

I've Been Listening To

Games I've Been Playing

Other Stuff

    jolly_good_blogger

    thinking blogger
    thinking blogger

    Dr. Seuss Pro

    Search or read the Bible


    Example: John 1 or love one another (ESV)





  • Link Policy
Powered by Movable Type 5.04