On 26.4 I gave a lecture on slave morality and political correctness at the XXVII MEETING OF THE JUNGEN FORUM RECHTSPHILOSOPHIE on THE CRISIS OF THE DEMOCRATIC STATE OF LAW IN THE 21st CENTRURY in Salzburg. The audio recording of the discussion can be found here for download as mp3 and on Youtube.


Political correctness’ is one of the most important controversial concepts of our time. In fact, struggles for ‘political correctness’ played a central role in the election wins of right-wing populist parties in the Western world in the late 2010s. In a long struggle for cultural hegemony, the right-wing movement succeeded in establishing the concept of ‘political correctness’ in mainstream discourse. The concept essentially contains a critique of emancipatory political and ethical projects that attempt to impose new political and social norms in order to break existing power structures, compensate for injustices and facilitate equal participation. Such emancipatory developments of new norms lead to the resistance of those who were privileged by the old norms. The Right, however, managed to generalize such a position of defense and privilege protection by establishing the concept of “political correctness,” claiming that emancipative political projects installed a repressive regime of discursive restrictions in which left-wing “priests” were able to judge which political expressions and actions were correct or wrong. This strategy has worked remarkably well, and today the term ‘political correctness’, along with its right-wing or conservative concept, is used in mainstream media as a neutral or technical term.

Some commentators have described and criticized ‘political correctness’ with Nietzsche’s concept of slave morality. In the lecture I will show that this interconnection of Nietzsche’s slave morality and ‘political correctness’ is correct and helpful. By underpinning Nietzsche’s theory of power and subject, one learns more about the criticized repression of ‘political correctness’ - assuming one interprets Nietzsche conservatively. At the same time, this opens up the possibility of a deeper critique of the debate about ‘political correctness’ that goes beyond merely showing that ‘political correctness’ is a strategic right-wing campaign that erroneously invokes freedom of expression arguments. For Nietzsche’s critique of subjects and power does not have to be understood conservatively; it can also be interpreted progressively. Such a - more plausible - interpretation of Nietzsche’s theory of power and subject also results in a different description of ‘political correctness’ and its effects. Politics is therefore always a struggle for power and claims, the political space and its discourses are always regulated and are always a distribution system for resources and privileges. Therefore, it makes sense for a progressive position to critically question the established norms and to support political projects which they want to describe emancipatively. The contrast between the two Nietzsche readings - conservative and progressive - does not make sense because it would form a bulwark against right-wing populists. They will reject the premise of progressive politics and, in the sense of the (progressively and conservatively divided) focus on Nietzsche’s theory of power, try to assert their position in power politics. Rather, the distinction is relevant for leftists and liberals, who basically identify with progressive goals, but nevertheless share the ‘political correctness’ criticism that today is widespread far beyond right-wing and conservative discourses. This contrast can be used to make it plausible to them that emancipative projects can also be worth supporting if at first glance they appear to be an individual restriction to freedom.

The Conference


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