Can an egoist be ascetic

A true capitalist does not obey self-love

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The true egoist
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Nietzsche and Freud were convinced that justice understood as equality is based on envy - envy of the other who has something that we do not have. For Freud and Nietzsche it was clear: Behind the demand for justice there can be hidden the desire to diminish the excessive enjoyment of the other. The demand that emerges from this is of course called asceticism: Since one cannot prescribe the same enjoyment, the same prohibition is imposed on everyone as a substitute.

In our supposedly permissive society, this demand for asceticism takes on the paradoxical form of a command. Everywhere in advertising, the consumer is greeted with the command: "Enjoy! Enjoy!" What's the effect? We are prevented from enjoying ourselves. Just think of the yuppie realizing himself through ascetic jogging, eating healthy, and so on. The hedonistic asceticism of the yuppie - should that be the figure of the last human that Nietzsche had in mind?

In this situation we can learn a lot from Rousseau and once again recall his utilitarian egoism of "self-love". Take the example of ecology. We often hear that our ecological crisis is the result of our short-term selfish behavior: Because we chase after quick pleasure and fortune, it is said that we forget the common good. But this is wrong. A true capitalist does not obey self-love at all. Rather, he is someone who devotes himself with religious zeal to the mission of increasing his prosperity and who in return puts his health and happiness in life at risk.

In order to drive out supposedly capitalist egoism, we do not have to appeal to any superior morality or ecological ethics. Against the perverse fanatical devotion of the capitalist it suffices to bring up a fair amount of selfish and utilitarian motives. Or to put it with Rousseau: It is enough to give oneself back to natural self-love.

Translated from the English by Michael Adrian

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