Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for our times by Patrick West
|Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for our times by Patrick West|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Megan Kenny|
|Summary: Get Over Yourself is a confusing meditation on modern society through the muddled gaze of West's understanding of Nietzsche's approach to life. Unfortunately it appears to be a pedestrian and rather boring outlet for West's ire about equality, identity politics and 'snowflake' students.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? No|
|Pages: 130||Date: August 2017|
Get Over Yourself considers Nietzsche's imagined perceptions of modern society and uses our society to explain his philosophy. I'm sorry if that sounds vague but it's the best I can do from the blurb on the back. After reading Get Over Yourself from cover to cover, I am still none the wiser about the purpose of this book. It appears to be a series of personal opinions held together with quotes, which don't always appear relevant, from Nietzsche, Chumbawumba and newspaper articles.
First to the positives, a comprehensive overview of Nietzsche's life and work is provided at the start of this book. This provides context and definition to the work and allows readers to see the progression of Nietzsche's philosophy in line with his life, as apparently traumatic and depressing as it was. Nietzsche did have some useful points to make about happiness and how the striving for continual contentment makes us miserable and these are summarised by West in an accessible way, as are many of Nietzsche's key thoughts on self-development and the importance of individuality. The conclusion provided is a useful summation of the abject tedium of the preceding pages and essentially advises the reader to disregard Nietzsche, as that would be his wish. Consider it done, at least in line with West's explanation of his interpretation of modern living.
Now, to the rest of Get Over Yourself, which can only be described as a humdrum rant against all the groups West finds offensive in society. Hellfire and brimstone are reserved for students here, who are pathetic for wanting safe spaces and for protesting against offensive speakers, actions he defines as being somehow indicative of a brittle personhood when instead, apparently, we should not care whether our identity is respected. Apparently, the only way to develop under Nietzschean philosophy, according to West, is to subject ourselves to the most offensive, horrible and unpleasant ramblings which is why safe spaces and trigger warnings are so unnecessary and worthy of criticism. It appears that West has attempted to use Nietzsche's philosophy as a stick to beat those whom he perceives as 'snowflakes' (a tired and uninspiring label trotted out whenever behaviour is challenged). This is where, for me, this book became unpleasant. From his overuse of the ever-condescending quotation marks around everything from 'feminism' to 'identity politics', it appears that Nietzsche has had the misfortune to be used as a fascia for West's own issues with liberal society. Whilst at times, it appears West is trying to affirm that he is somehow on the side of those he so clearly derides, this can only be perceived as a falsehood. Everything from his condescending tone to his barely contained derision of those groups screams of someone who hasn't made the effort to understand the debate and as someone apparently fortunate enough not to have his existence debated, doesn't see the point of it.
But the biggest sin of all is that Get Over Yourself is boringly unoriginal. It's the same old arguments read across blogs, message boards and newspaper columns, castigating the desire for equality. It is also inherently obvious that Nietzsche was essentially cyclic and this is highlighted in the cyclic nature of West's writing- to be concerned with your own image, personality or sense of self is narcissism and yet Nietzsche himself proclaimed This is what I am; this is what I want; you can go to hell! and constantly lamented the fact that his 'genius' was not recognised during his lifetime. The tone here is often childish and ranting and it is never quite clear what point is being made. It is also difficult to identify how Nietzsche can be perceived as culturally relevant and thus worthy of casting opinions on matters of identity, safe spaces and social media. I picked up this book hoping to find an insightful reimagining of Nietzsche's philosophy in light of the huge cultural shifts experienced since his work was published but was left disappointed.
It is difficult to ascertain who the intended reader is here. Even after acknowledging that Superman is a poor translation of Übermensch, West continues to use it because the average English monoglot would struggle to differentiate between that and Untermensch. Quite why he should display apparent disdain for the readers of his work is unclear, nor is his assumption that someone reading a book about Nietzsche would be unable to grasp the clear difference between the two terms. Given the content, it is clear that this is a book that will only appeal to a certain type of reader. I am not that reader but cannot ascertain who is, apart from someone who shares the views of West and Nietzsche. If open derision of other's experiences of the world around them, with tenuous links to Nietzsche is your idea of a good time then this is the book for you.
It is important to stress my disappointment at having to write such a negative review. I have had an interest in Nietzsche and his philosophy for some time and am always interested in commentary on society and our interaction with the world around us which is why I was so keen to review this book. Unfortunately, I cannot escape the monotony of West's approach nor the dreary regurgitation of a thousand Daily Mail columns about the curse of equality within the worn out neoliberal discourse that permeates our society- if you work hard enough you don't need equality.
For those interested in the flip side of this coin, you could try The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
You can read more book reviews or buy Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for our times by Patrick West at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for our times by Patrick West at Amazon.com.
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