David Bentley Hart :: Nietzsche and the Market

In a book that I’ve enjoyed immensely, I came across what is likely the most ingenious footnote I’ve ever read. Hart is in the midst of an argument connecting the postmodern deconstructionist philosophers and the logic of capitalism, arguing that both reinforce the absolute freedom of choice for selves increasingly isolated and punctual. According to both, no power may be allowed to dominate the public space in such a way that choices are determined for the others—every identity is held in check by the inviolable “other-ness” of every other; thus, every self must be given the space to choose between all the possible identities available (all of them bound in place side by side as equivalent products on the shelf, each with a different wrapper). As Hart was dealing with Nietzsche in particular, he offered the footnote that delighted me at the tail end of this sentence: 

Nietzsche, however much he detested bourgeois values, perhaps knew not which god he served.

And here is the note itself: 

Nietzsche’s avowed god, Dionysus, is of course an endlessly protean and deceptive deity and a wearer of many masks. When he makes his unannounced appearance at the end of Beyond Good and Evil, as its secret protagonist, whose divine irony has occultly enlivened its pages, he exercises his uniquely divine gift, the numinous privilege of veiling and unveiling, concealment and manifestation; he is the patron deity, appropriately of the philosophical project of genealogy. But perhaps another veil remains to be lifted, and the god may be invited to step forth again, in his still more essential identity: Henry Ford. After all, Ford’s most concise and oracular pronouncement—“History is bunk!”—might be read as an exquisite condensation of the theme of the second of the Unzeitgemasse Betrachtungen (…). And there could scarcely be a more vibrant image of univocity’s perpetual beat of repetition—of eternal recurrence, the eternal return of the same—than the assembly line: difference here is certainly not analogical, but merely univocal, and the affirmation of one instance is an affirmation of the whole. It is moreover, well documented that Ford was a devotee of square dancing, which is clearly akin to (perhaps descended from) the dithyrambic choreia of the bacchantes; Ford was a god who danced. 

Hart’s argument is, of course, quite serious, but it is refreshing to see someone argue with such a wry smile visible between the lines. And one can hardly help but laugh at the picture of Nietzsche as the devotee of a square dancing magnate of the auto industry. 

David Bentley Hart,  The Beauty of the Infinite (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 435. 


4 Replies to “David Bentley Hart :: Nietzsche and the Market”

  1. Wow. I think you and Hart made me finally understand the implications of the univocity of being. Thanks for posting that. I need to muster up the discipline to make it through that book, its like trying to sprint a marathon while referencing a dictionary every 45 seconds, but as you said, it’s fascinating stuff.

  2. JT– Thanks.

    There are more flavors of univocity than one, and it’s a good thing to try to pin down in an author’s work. Hart uses the term with some frequency and fairly well. I’ve been frustrated, on the other hand, with the version of the concept attributed to John Duns Scotus by the Radical Orthodoxy crowd. I think that they underestimate just how much analogy there is within his notion of univocity (happily, Hart agrees on this point).

    Tim– Good to hear from you again! I should send you an email one of these days. I’d love to hear how your thoughts are settling out. I’d recommend Hart’s book highly (but keep a dictionary handy).

  3. Please check out these two related references on the tyranny of what we now call the “market”. That is the “market” created in the image of the dreadfully sane one-dimensional every-person of our day.



    The “market” which by the way is loudly championed by Hart’s friends at the Heritage Foundation, the AEI, and all the other “right” thinking think tanks.

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