To the extent that we worry about the future, we tend to do so with the apprehension that something may go terribly wrong. Nietzsche and Tocqueville on the Democratization of Humanity is animated more by the apprehension, what if everything should go terribly right? That foreboding indelibly colored the outlook of Friedrich Nietzsche and Alexis de Tocqueville—two thinkers seldom paired. As David A. Eisenberg argues, each in his own way envisaged the terminus toward which modernity speeds. Examining their thought allows us not only to glimpse the future that filled them with dread, but to survey a road that stretches back millennia to Athens and Jerusalem, when ideas about the primacy of reason and inborn equality of souls took root. Armed with such revolutionary teachings, a particular human type, namely the democratic, gained ascendancy. The reign of this human type portends to be so total that all other human types will be precluded in the democratic future, so that what mankind's democratization augurs is not the diversification of the species but its homogenization. The questions raised in Nietzsche and Tocqueville on the Democratization of Humanity are intended to broaden the horizons that history's democratizing forces conspire to contract.
David A. Eisenberg is associate professor of political science at Eureka College.
Note to the Reader
Chapter One: Homo(genized) Sapiens
Chapter Two: Aristocratic Man
Chapter Three: The Revolutions
Chapter Four: Democratic Man
About the Author
This is a detailed and careful study of Nietzsche, Tocqueville, and several of their predecessors. It examines thoughtfully and intelligently their understanding of the democratic soul, the democratic age, and the democratic future.
David Eisenberg’s Nietzsche and Tocqueville on the Democratization of Humanity is an exercise in thought. As such it is an open questioning of the dominant opinions of the day. Today’s dominant opinions are depicted by supporters as revolutionary. But as the dominant constellation of opinion, much that rules in the contemporary academy has transformed itself into a reactionary form of thinking complete with its own new inquisitions. Like any reactionary force, it attempts to insulate itself from critical reflection.
Intentionally iconoclastic, Eisenberg attempts to follow the real Nietzsche in being “untimely.” In this regard, Nietzsche breaks from the Hegel and Marx who asserted that philosophy is never more than its own time comprehended in thought. For Hegel and Marx, philosophy is never anything more than a justification of reigning “social constructs.” Eisenberg rightly grasps that untimeliness is of the real essence of philosophy as it has been for everyone from Socrates to Galileo to those who will not fall in line with the dominant pieties of the day.
Eisenberg uses hermeneutic analyses of the concerned but democratically supportive Tocqueville, and the far more appalled and polemically anti-democratic Nietzsche, to analyze the commitments and dangers of the core but increasingly hidden premises of a reductionist egalitarian and democratic age. Those premises threaten to undermine the best of the modern age’s own aspirations and accomplishments and thereby implode. Lurking in the now dominant radical and reductionist egalitarianism is the specter a never before seen suffocating, dehumanizing tyranny of body and soul. Beyond being a useful exercise in open-minded thought, the text constructs a thoughtful and insightful dialogue between two authors who in different ways signal concerns that should be part of the understanding of genuinely educated supporters of Modern Republicanism, constitutionalism, limited government and the rule of law in the 21st century.
David Eisenberg’s new book is a provocative, insightful, and much-needed return to genuine politicalanalysis and diagnosis in the twenty-first century as we still deal with the aftermath of 1789, 1945, and1991. While one might quibble over bits and pieces of the, at times, uncritical acceptance of Tocquevilleand Nietzsche as if they are perfect readers of the issue of democratization, the work is profoundlyimportant in the context of our contemporary malaise and political struggles.
David A. Eisenberg’s ambitious book, Nietzsche and Tocqueville on the Democratization of Humanity, is so welcome and needed. In it, he examines the grand democratizing sweep of Western history and its consequences for human life and thought.
Eisenberg’s heterodox study is bold, unflinching, arresting, and, most of all, refreshing. His thoughtful and well-written book will serve as a provocative challenge to our democratic faith. As Pierre Manent has reminded us, if we want to love democracy well, we must love it moderately. Eisenberg’s book helps us moderate our excessive love of democracy.