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Nietzsche's Philosophy of Conflict and the Logic of Organisational Struggle

A comprehensive analysis of Nietzsche's conception of conflict and the way in which relations of struggle condition the organisation of complex systems (with a specific focus on the human psyche and the body politic).

James Pearson
26 March 2018


Since as far back antiquity, philosophers have been inquiring into the nature of conflict. One of the most prominent ideas to have dominated this inquiry is that conflict represents an undesirable part of life, one that stands opposed to the ideals of harmony, co-operation and consensus. Nietzsche, however, rejects this position, proffering various arguments for why we ought to positively value conflict. Yet Nietzsche’s stance is by no means unambigious. Commentators sharply disagree regarding the specific form of conflict to which his endorsement refers. His “hard” readers present him as a warmonger, who predominantly advocates unmeasured, destructive types of struggle (e.g. war). Conversely, Nietzsche’s “soft” readers claim that he exclusively promotes a measured, agonal mode of struggle modelled on the non-violent contests (or agons) that pervaded ancient Greek culture. I contend that both of these readings are one-sided and require modification. Indeed, the thesis that this dissertation defends is that Nietzsche promotes both measured and unmeasured struggle in an entirely coherent manner. I further argue that commentators have neglected the most significant form of conflict in Nietzsche’s thought, which is characterised by a combination of measured and unmeasured conflict. This species of struggle is analogous to the biological process of digestion, which simultaneously involves 1) a measured struggle to incorporate that which is deemed serviceable to the organism, and 2) an unmeasured struggle to eliminate material deemed redundant or harmful. This dualistic struggle is what I term organisational conflict on account of the fact that both incorporation and exclusion form part of a single overarching impetus to establish healthy organisation.