From On the Genealogy of Morality, Essay 2, section 17 (translated by Ian Johnston):
“Inherent in this hypothesis about the origin of bad conscience is, firstly, the assumption that the change was not gradual or voluntary and did not manifest itself as an organic growth into new conditions, but as a break, a leap, something forced, an irrefutable disaster, against which there was no struggle nor even any ressentiment. Secondly, however, it assumes that the adaptation of a populace hitherto unchecked and shapeless into a fixed form, just as it was initiated by an act of violence, was carried to its conclusion by nothing but acts of violence—that consequently the oldest “State” emerged as a terrible tyranny, as an oppressive and inconsiderate machinery, and continued working until such raw materials of people and half-animals finally were not only thoroughly kneaded and submissive but also given a shape. I used the word “State”: it is self-evident who is meant by that term—some pack of blond predatory animals, a race of conquerors and masters, which, organized for war and with the power to organize, without thinking about it, sets its terrifying paws on a subordinate population which may perhaps be vast in numbers but is still without any form, is still wandering about. That is, in fact, the way the “State” begins on earth. I believe that fantasy has been done away with which sees the beginning of the state in a “contract.” The man who can command, who is by nature a “master,” who comes forward with violence in his actions and gestures—what has he to do with making contracts! We do not negotiate with such beings. They come like fate, without cause, reason, consideration, or pretext. They are present as lightning is present, too fearsome, too sudden, too convincing, too “different” even to become merely hated. Their work is the instinctive creation of forms, the imposition of forms. They are the most involuntary and most unconscious artists in existence:—where they appear something new is soon present, a power structure which lives, something in which the parts and functions are demarcated and coordinated, in which there is, in general, no place for anything which does not first derive its “meaning” from its relationship to the totality. These men, these born organizers, have no idea what guilt, responsibility, and consideration are. In them that fearsome egotism of the artist is in charge, which stares out like bronze and knows how to justify itself for all time in the “work,” just as a mother does in her child. They are not the ones in whom “bad conscience” grew—that point is obvious from the outset. But this hateful plant would not have grown without them. It would have failed if an immense amount of freedom had not been driven from the world under the pressure of their hammer blows, their artistic violence, or at least had not been driven from sight and, as it were, made latent. This powerful instinct for freedom, once made latent—we already understand how—this instinct for freedom driven back, repressed, imprisoned inside, and finally still able to discharge and direct itself only against itself—that and that alone is what bad conscience is in its beginning.”
In the translation of this text from Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen, and most other translations I am aware of, the “blond predatory animals” are referred to instead as the “blond beasts of prey.” These controversial passages are some of my favorite from Nietzsche. I enjoy the description of the “state” as a pack of blond beasts of prey colonizing all the nomadic peoples of the earth — a “warlike” “race of conquerors” whose work is an “instinctive creating of forms, impressing of forms.” The blond beasts of prey are the bureaucratic state workers, colonizers, capitalists, gentrifiers, and all the recuperators and among us. “They come like fate, without cause, reason, consideration, or pretext.” In this passage Nietzsche might appear to be writing some kind of anti-state, perhaps even anarchist, tract. But I have to take notice of this — Nietzsche is not an anarchist, but an aristocrat. This passage is interesting however, because Nietzsche slips in and out of voices. Here, talking about the “bad conscience” of oppressed peoples, there, talking about the “terrible tyranny” of the powerful elite.
Still, scholars and laypeople read into Nietzsche what they want to read into Nietzsche. A few years back I had the pleasure to listen to a lecture given by Maudemarie Clark, for example. She was speaking about Kant, refuting the categorical imperative, and invoking a heuristic device known as the principle of charity in her exegesis of Nietzsche. I don’t mean to suggest Clark’s vision of Nietzsche affected her ability to translate Nietzsche from the original German with integrity. Hers is one of the better translations out there. However, it was clear from her discussion of Nietzsche that Maudemarie Clark’s Nietzsche was made after an image of Maudemarie Clark: a person whom we could fit in the Western liberal tradition, and with whom a few twists and turns could make him into an upstanding, socially democratic citizen. Plenty of people are guilty here. It is more obvious that Nietzsche was an aristocrat, but even the standard definition of aristocracy (“rule of the best”) does not suffice in a discussion of Nietzsche.
But this is one of my favorite passages for a reason. It is here that Nietzsche shatters social contractarianism in a single breath, and with it the Western liberal “myth of the contract” from John Locke to John Rawls. Rawls, whose “Difference Principle” is so extremely often quoted today by the democrats who accept the fantasy of liberal theories of justice, is the modern day heir to Locke. Clark’s translation, Section 17:
“I think the flight of fancy that [the state] had its beginning with a “contract” has been abandoned. Whoever can give orders, whoever is “lord” by nature, whoever steps forth violently, in deed and gesture–what does he have to do with contracts!”