Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Neo-Neitzschean is a label applied to contemporary European philosophers who have 'rediscovered' Neitzsche.

explanatory context

The rediscovery shrugs off the 'misuse' of Neitzschean philosophy by the Fascists and concentrates on the radical questioning of Enlightenment philosophy in Neitzsche's work.


Crucially, these reconstructions and developments of Neitzsche concentrate on the concept of reflexivity. See Harvey 1985 review of Lawson Reflexivity: The Post-modern predicament


Neo-Neitzscheans tend to be concerned with social-political movements like the green movement, anti-nuclear politics, etc. They argue that post-capitalist/postmodernist society is only graspable through a radical reconception of philosophical frames, of which Neitzsche's reworking of reflexivity is fundamental. Neo-Neitzscheanism was a popular and legitimate philosophical development, particularly in France, among postmodernists at the end of the 20th Century. Among those who have been referred to as Neo-Neitzscheans are Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault and Lyotard.


In a lecture, Scott Lash referred to Habermas' concern about the fascist potential of neo-Neitzscheanism. This is rather borne out by the re-adoption of Neitzsche by the rar right in the 21st Century (see below).

analytical review

Drochon (2018), trying to explore why Nietzsche is closely aligned to far-right thinking writes:

Asked who the most overrated author was in a recent interview, Steven Pinker, Harvard psychologist-at-large extraordinaire, named Friedrich Nietzsche. He explained, "It's easy to see why his sociopathic ravings would have inspired so many repugnant movements of the 20th and 21st centuries, including fascism, Nazism, Bolshevism, the Ayn Randian fringe of libertarianism, and the American alt-right and neo-Nazi movements today." ....

Linking nihilism to Nietzsche is undoubtedly correct, but blaming Nietzsche for nihilism is like shooting the messenger: Nietzsche diagnosed its arrival, but he never endorsed it. His whole enterprise was about trying to find ways out of it. Linking Nietzsche to fascism, as both Pinker and Beiner do, is thus likely to backfire: the alt-right will seize on this as a way of giving their movement the intellectual heft it is missing, much like the Nazis and Mussolini tried to appropriate Nietzsche to legitimise themselves.

If Nietzsche is the diagnostician rather than the herald of nihilism, then perhaps the conceptual tools he forged for himself to make sense of the world he lived in might be the best way to use him today. Nietzsche, after all, was the philosopher of ressentiment, which seems to be driving much populist politics today.

Indeed his notion of "slave morality", marked by nationalism, xenophobia and fragmentation, seems like a good way to characterise a lot of the current politics of the far right. Bertrand Russell closed his chapter on Nietzsche in A History of Western Philosophy with the line: "His followers have had their innings, but we may hope that it is coming rapidly to an end." This is unlikely – not least because we are still grappling with the "death of God". The way out will not be through erecting another "good" or "bad" Nietzsche, but through confronting head-on what he was trying to teach us.


Illing (2018), trying to explore why Nietzsche is closely aligned to far-right thinking writes:

Nietzsche says the world is in constant flux, that there is no capital-T truth. He hated moral and social conventions because he thought they stifled the individual. In one of his most famous essays, The Genealogy of Morality, which Spencer [an supporter of the American extreme alt-right] credits with inspiring his awakening, Nietzsche tears down the intellectual justifications for Christian morality. He calls it a "slave morality" developed by peasants to subdue the strong. The experience of reading this was "shattering," Spencer told Wood. It upended his "moral universe."

There is, of course, much more to Nietzsche than this. As someone silly enough to have written a dissertation on Nietzsche, I've encountered many Spencer-like reactions to his thought. And I'm not surprised that the old German philosopher has become a lodestar for the burgeoning alt-right movement. There is something punk rock about his philosophy. You read it for the first time and you think, "Holy shit, how was I so blind for so long?!"


Diethe (2007, p. xxiv–xxxv), in the Introduction to the Historical Dictionary of Nietzscheanism explained how Neitzsche's work has been developed in a range of countries, including France, where it was reinstated after the Nazi appropriation of his work and prospered most: 1966, Jean Granier's substantial Le problème de la vérité dans la philosophie de Nietzsche appeared. It was precisely at that moment that a new generation of young philosophers and writers were undertaking research on Nietzsche, among them Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michel Serres.

The event that renewed French passion for Nietzsche and that stands out as a landmark in European Nietzscheanism was the conference held in Royeaumont, near Paris, in 1964. A second conference of great consequence for Nietzsche studies was held in Cérisy-la-Salle in 1972. The proceedings of this conference were gathered into the substantial Nietzsche aujourd'hui (1973); the list of contributors provides a "Who's Who" of the New Nietzsche, sometimes also referred to as the "French Nietzsche." Besides Derrida and Foucault, the list includes Gilles De- leuze, Sarah Kofman, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Eric Blondel, and Jean-François Lyotard. By the end of the 20th century, the experimental theories of "the French Nietzsche" had come to dominate Nietzsche scholarship not just in France but also in the English-speaking world, though not to the exclusion of other interpretations. Nevertheless, in France, the overwhelming pattern for at least two decades was for novelists and writers to be inspired by both deconstructive theories and by the postmodern ethos of the New Nietzsche; practitioners included Marguerite Duras and Michel Tournier, though the influence of Marx, Freud, and Jacques Lacan must be taken into account at all times. Lacan's pupil Luce Irigaray has engaged with Nietzsche at the level of feminist psychoanalysis. In France, in particular, Nietzscheanism is seldom "unadulterated." Current French Nietzsche scholars are looking to new fields, as in Laurent Cherlonneix's aesthetic interpretation Nietzsche: santé et maladie, l'art (2003), and critiques of individual works have recently appeared, such as Isabelle Wienand's Significations de la Mort de Dieu chez Nietzsche d "Humain, trop humain" à "Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra" (2006).

associated issues


related areas

See also





Diethe, C., 2007, in the Introduction to the Historical Dictionary of Nietzscheanism, second edition, Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements, No. 75, Lanham, Toronto and Plymouth UK, Scarecrow Press,

available at, accessed 11 June 2019.

Dochon, H., 2018, 'Why Nietzsche has once again become an inspiration to the far-right', New Statesman, 31 August 2018, available at, accessed 11 June 2019.

Illing, S., 2018, 'The alt-right is drunk on bad readings of Nietzsche. The Nazis were too', Vox website 30 December 2018, available at, accessed 11 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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