Friedrich Nietzsche on Wage Slavery

Doreen’s Notes: This is the third (see here and here) time we’ve heard from Nietzsche on the site. I found this gem while going through Walter Kaufmann’s wonderful The Portable Nietzsche which I am still reading. Citing this doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with all of it, but it’s certainly an anti-work/work-critical quote I enjoy.
The impossible class. Poor, happy and independent! these things can go together; poor, happy and a slave! these things can also go together and I can think of no better news I could give to our factory slaves: provided, that is, they do not feel it to be in general a disgrace to be thus used, and used up, as a part of a machine and as it were a stopgap to fill a hole in human inventiveness!
 
To the devil with the belief that higher payment could lift from them the essence of their miserable condition I mean their impersonal enslavement!
 
To the devil with the idea of being persuaded that an enhancement of this impersonality within the mechanical operation of a new society could transform the disgrace of slavery into a virtue!
 
To the devil with setting a price on oneself in exchange for which one ceases to be a person and becomes a part of a machine!
 
Are you accomplices in the current folly of the nations the folly of wanting above all to produce as much as possible and to become as rich as possible? What you ought to do, rather, is to hold up to them the counter-reckoning: how great a sum of inner value is thrown away in pursuit of this external goal!
 
But where is your inner value if you no longer know what it is to breathe freely? if you no longer possess the slightest power over yourselves? if you all too often grow weary of yourselves like a drink that has been left too long standing? if you pay heed to the newspapers and look askance at your wealthy neighbour, made covetous by the rapid rise and fall of power, money and opinions? if you no longer believe in philosophy that wears rags, in the free-heartedness of him without needs?
 
if voluntary poverty and freedom from profession and marriage, such as would very well suit the more spiritual among you, have become to you things to laugh at? If, on the other hand, you have always in your ears the flutings of the Socialist pied-pipers whose design is to enflame you with wild hopes?
which bid you to be prepared and nothing further, prepared day upon day, so that you wait and wait for something to happen from outside and in all other respects go on living as you have always lived until this waiting turns to hunger and thirst and fever and madness, and at last the day of the bestia triumphans dawns in all its glory?
 
In contrast to all this, everyone ought to say to himself: ‘better to go abroad, to seek to become master in new and savage regions of the world and above all master over myself; to keep moving from place to place for just as long as any sign of slavery seems to threaten me; to shun neither adventure nor war and, if the worst should come to the worst, to be prepared for death: all this rather than further to endure this indecent servitude, rather than to go on becoming soured and malicious and conspiratorial!’
 
This would be the right attitude of mind: the workers of Europe ought henceforth to declare themselves as a class a human impossibility and not, as usually happens, only a somewhat harsh and inappropriate social arrangement; they ought to inaugurate within the European beehive an age of a great swarming-out such as has never been seen before, and through this act of free emigration in the grand manner to protest against the machine, against capital, and against the choice now threatening them of being compelled to become either the slave of the state or the slave of a party of disruption.
 
Let Europe be relieved of a fourth part of its inhabitants!
 
 
Outside of Europe the virtues of Europe will go on their wanderings with these workers; and that which was at home beginning to degenerate into dangerous illhumour and inclination for crime will, once abroad, acquire a wild beautiful naturalness and be called heroism.
 
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn (89-91, The Portable Nietzsche, text not exact as it’s taken from a slightly different translation)
Share on FacebookShare on RedditTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on Tumblr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *