5 March 2015

The Dignity of Labour

Henri Lichtenberger, The Gospel of Superman, tr. J. M. Kennedy (New York: Macmillan, 1912), pp. 62-63:
The European of the present day who, in his artless rationalism, fancies that science leads to happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the final end of all civilisation, attempts to deny the misery of the people of slaves which is the sine qua non of modern society, he would deceive the galley-slaves of work as to their real condition by extolling the "dignity of labour," and gloss over the bankruptcy of science by declaring that it is more honourable to earn one's bread by the sweat of one's brow than to live in idleness. A poor sophism, this, and one which no more deceives anybody today — neither the proletariats, who are socialists; nor the rich, who no longer have any faith in their sole right to enjoyment. Let us then frankly acknowledge that slavery is the shameful and lamentable reverse side of all civilisation. We may mitigate it, make it less painful; we may render it easy for the serf to accept his fate — from this point of view the middle ages, with their feudal organisation had a great advantage over modern times. But so long as society exists, there will also exist powerful and privileged men who will found their splendour upon the misery of a multitude of creatures oppressed and exploited for their benefit.
Original French: La philosophie de Nietzsche (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1901)