Friedrich Nietzsche was on the cutting edge of sociological and philosophical theory when he lived in the latter part of the Nineteenth century. His ideas and theories about the world around him inspired some of the most recognized schools of thought in the modern world(or post-modern as it is seen). His post-humous work The Will to Power is the culmination of his life's work and allows for all who read it to understand the genius behind one of the greatest thinkers of all time. In The Will to Power, Nietzsche explains how the will is the controlling device each of us, and that the true will should only be used on oneself and not to take advantage of or injure another. Nietzsche seeks all who read it to understand how this is the true exercise of will and how the world has been run down by people using their will in the wrong way.
In order to understand Nietzsche's sociological perspectives, it will help to be familiar with his background. Born in 1844 in Germany, he was the son of two generations of Lutheran priests. His father died when he was five, leaving young Friedrich to be raised by a family of women: his mother, sister, grandmother, and two aunts. At fourteen he was sent to boarding school and began his long academic career. He went to two "graduate schools" and received a teaching post when he finished at his second. He taught from 1869 to 1879, when he became to physically ill to continue teaching there. He managed to recover from his illness and actually produced the bulk of his work over the next decade, but his later years drew him so deeply into his philosophical theory that he lost his sanity.
Nietzsche's The Will to Power is really a collection of his personal notes from 1883 to 1888. They were published in 1901 by his sister only a year after he died. During the period of time from which the notes are taken, Nietzsche wrote the bulk of his work including parts of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, On the Geneology of Morals, The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, Ecce Homo, and Nietzsche Contra Wagner. Nietzsche's The Will to Power covers many various arguments, most of which are represented by one of these separate books.
The Will to Power is divided into four books; each delving into a different debate. Individually they attempt to cover specific aspects of Nietzsche's theory, but as the whole is truly based on his notebooks, many of his ideas cross books and interlace to help demonstrate his main hypothesis of the will to power. The books are: European Nihilism; Critique of the Highest Values Hitherto; Principles of a New Evaluation; and Discipline and Breeding.
Nietzsche begins the book with his coming to a nihilistic state about his life. Nihilism is the belief that any and all traditional morals, beliefs, and values are baseless. He then explains the step by step process that the modern world has gone through to reach the state where one comes to a belief in nihilism. He details every stage and the unfoundedness of the beliefs in each. He deftly illustrates the fault with each vehicle of hope that people have attempted to grasp onto. He discounts every movement from spiritual enlightenment to music and the arts to "progress" with incredible validity.
Nietzsche's next section is an attack on the morals that the world has adopted, specifically the Christian values. He begins with a critical analysis of where religion comes from, sighting the need of priests to exercise their will over others and the denial of the self-knowledge of the will by projecting it as "God." He continues with an analysis of the coming of Christianity and it's appeal to the masses. He further points out the major problems with Christianity including the paradoxical views it projects. He discusses the "herd" mentality which religion grasps onto. He deconstructs those specific "moral judgements" that are popularly accepted. He then supplants them with his ideas for what mankind should uphold.
"My first solution: Dionysian wisdom. Joy in the destruction of the most noble and at the sight of its progressive ruin: in reality joy in what is coming and lies in the future, which triumphs over existing things, however good."(Nietzsche 224)
Nietzsche aspires to have each person follow their own true instincts.
Nietzsche attacks the morality the world has adopted on the basis of perspectivism. He firmly states that everything that one has an opinion on is from a specific perspective, and is therefor askew to each person's own idiosyncracies.
"An attempt to think about morality without falling under its spell, mistrustful of the seductiveness of its beautiful gestures and glances. A world we can revere, that is adequate to our drive to worship-that continually proves itself--by providing guidance in the particular and the general--: this is the Christian viewpoint in which we have all grown up." (Nietzsche 146)
With this opinion of rationality, there is therefor no actual "reality," since noone actually has a clear vision of it.
Nietzsche's "will to power" is the human spirit. According to Nietzsche, each of us has the same level of will power, but it is how we choose to utilize that makes the difference. The will to power can be used for evil doings to control and injure others… but the truly powerful do not need to prove themselves to anyone and are comfortable just being.
The next section of the book deals with how the "will to power" will apply to all aspects of life. It covers everything from metaphysics and science to reactions to nature's rewards. Nietzsche basically states that there is a balance in this coming world where there is a "Basic principle: only individuals feel themselves responsible."
Nietzsche goes on to discuss his empirical view that each person is responsible for doing what they can. This is an empirical view because he discusses how some can do more than others and are therefor of higher ranking. He has very specific opinions of what makes one higher than another and what should be done concerning ranks. He actually states that who can and cannot reproduce should be regulated. Many people find offence with this and believe in equality for all. This is one of the debated faults in the work.
There is also a flaw in Nietzsche's theories when looked at from a sociological point of view. Nietzsche held up his ideal for the way in which people should behave… but he took down all forms of social order in doing so and left an idealistic plan for how to continue a society with his ubermensch. Without some greater form of social construct, the likelihood that mankind would be able to support his principles does not seem likely. His argument would be that no one would fall out of line. However, his argument would be better supported should he have given a plan for social order with his liberated people.
Despite it's shortcomings though, Nietzsche's theories seem firmly embedded in history. The concepts that he proposed allowed a number of great movements to follow. His theories on the Dionysian and Apollonian instincts opened up the deep psycho-analysis field to Freud, in addition to inspiring the existentialist movement. Unfortunately, his work was adopted and used to support the Third Reich when it was attempting to take over the world, and for a while no one would give his work any credit. Justly his work has recently been given the credit it is due, as well as all of his theories becoming again highly discussed, debated, and lamented over.
The theory behind The Will to Power is incredibly well supported despite the fact that it is simply a collection of notes from Nietzsche's later years. It is a wonderful compilation of the premise behind all of his other works and the summary of their individual points. The most amazing aspect of the book and the philosophy is the incredible validity of it even now, over a hundred years after it was written. The social order of his new world needed to be addressed more, but the principles proposed stand sturdily on their own two feet confident in their own will to power.