Safronov's Nietzsche's Political Economy is a pioneering appraisal of Nietzsche's critique of industrial culture and its unfolding crisis. The author contends that Nietzsche remains unique in conceptualizing the upheavals of modern political economy in terms of the crisis of its governing values. Nietzsche scrutinises the norms which, not only preside over the unfathomable build-up in debt, the proliferation of meaningless, impersonal slavery and the rise of increasingly repressive social control systems, but inevitably set these precarious tendencies of modern political economy on a collision course liable to culminate in an unprecedented human and environmental catastrophe. Safronov explores the core themes of Nietzsche's political economy-debt, slavery, and the division of labour-with reference to the influential views of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, as well as against the backdrop of the Long Depression (1873-1896), the first truly international crisis of industrial capitalism, during which most of Nietzsche's work was completed.
In Nietzsche's assessment, modern political economy is predicated on the valuations that diminish humankind's prospects and harm the planet's future by consistently enfeebling the present, as long as there is profit to be made from it. Nietzsche's critical insight, which challenges the most fundamental tenet of modern economics and finance, is that in order to build a stronger and intrinsically more valuable future in lieu of simply speculating on it, as though the liberal Promised Land could descend upon us like the manna from heaven at the wave of an invisible hand [of the market], it is necessary to walk from the future we dare to envisage resolutely back to the present we inhabit to determine what demands achieving such a vision would impose upon us, instead of embellishing the 'here and now' by cynically discounting the future to the [net] value of the present while disparaging, disowning and rewriting the past to unburden ourselves of its troubling legacy, as we continue to frivolously squander its capital to the alluring tunes of the 'sirens who in the marketplace sing to us of the future'. The enabling mechanism for changing our valuing perspectives, Nietzsche tells us, lies dormant in us and it must be unlocked before it is too late.
Dmitri G. Safronov, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.