“We have an edge because we live near the airport.”

Kids in Guinea Study Under Airport Lamps
by Rukmini Callimachi

The sun has set in one of the world’s poorest nations and as the floodlights come on at G’bessi International Airport, the parking lot begins filling with children. The long stretch of pavement has the feel of a hushed library, each student sitting quietly, some moving their lips as their eyes traverse their French-language notes. It’s exam season in Guinea, ranked 160th out of 177 countries on the United Nations’ development index, and schoolchildren flock to the airport every night because it’s among the only places where they’ll always find the lights on. Groups of elementary and high school students begin heading to the airport at dusk, hoping to reserve a coveted spot under the oval light cast by one of a dozen lampposts in the parking lot. Some come from over an hour’s walk away. The lot is teeming with girls and boys by the time Air France Flight 767 rounds the Gulf of Guinea at an hour-and-a-half before midnight. They hardly look up from their notes as the Boeing jet begins its spiraling descent over the dark city, or as the newly arrived passengers come out, shoving luggage carts over the cracked pavement. “I used to study by candlelight at home but that hurt my eyes. So I prefer to come here. We’re used to it,” says 18-year-old Mohamed Sharif, who sat under the fluorescent beam memorizing notes on the terrain of Mongolia for the geography portion of his college entrance test.

Only about a fifth of Guinea’s 10 million people have access to electricity and even those that do experience frequent power cuts. With few families able to afford generators, students long ago discovered the airport. Parents require girls to be chaperoned to the airport by an older brother or a trusted male friend. Even young children are allowed to stay out late under the fluorescent bulbs, so long as they return in groups. “My parents don’t worry about me because they know I’m here to seek my future,” says 10-year-old Ali Mara, busy studying a diagram of the cephalothorax, the body of an insect. They sit by age group with 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds on a curb in a traffic island and teenagers on the concrete pilings flanking the national and international terminals. There are few cars to disturb their studies. Most are working on memorizing their notes, struggling to commit to memory entire paragraphs dictated by their teachers on the history of Marxism, or the unraveling of colonial Africa, or the geology of Siberia. Tests are largely feats of memorization, a relic from Guinea’s French colonial rulers. According to U.N. data, the average Guinean consumes 89 kilowatt-hours per year – the equivalent to keeping a 60-watt light bulb burning for two months – while the typical American burns up about 158 times that much. The students at the airport consider themselves lucky. Those living farther away study at gas stations and come home smelling of gasoline. Others sit on the curbs outside the homes of affluent families, picking up the crumbs of light falling out of their illuminated living rooms. “We have an edge because we live near the airport,” says 22-year-old Ismael Diallo, a university student.

It’s an edge in preparing for an exam in a country where unemployment is rampant, inflation has pushed the price of a large bag of rice to $30 and a typical government functionary earns around $60 a month. The lack of electricity is “a geological scandal,” says Michael McGovern, a political anthropologist at Yale University, quoting a phrase first used by a colonial administrator to describe Guinea’s untapped natural wealth. The Oregon-sized territory has rivers which if properly harnessed could electrify the region, McGovern says. It has gold, diamonds, iron and half the world’s reserves of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum. For 23 years, the former French colony has been under the grip of Lansana Conte, a reclusive and temperamental army general who grabbed the presidency in a 1984 coup. Suffering from a heart ailment, Conte has repeatedly traveled abroad for medical treatment. Mass demonstrations earlier this year called for his resignation because of his health and the deteriorating economy, but he instead declared martial law. Eighteen-year-old Ousman Conde admits that sitting on the concrete piling is not comfortable, but says passing his upcoming exam could open doors. “It hurts,” he says, looking up from his notes on Karl Marx for the politics portion of the test. “But we prefer this hurt to the hurt of not doing well in our exams.”





The Will to Power (German: “Der Wille zur Macht”) is a prominent concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

The term first appeared in the posthumous fragment 23 [63] of 1876-1877, and has been read by Heidegger in relation to the Übermensch and the thought of eternal recurrence – although this reading itself has been criticized by Mazzino Montinari as a “macroscopic Nietzsche” [1]

The Will to Power is also the title of a work that Nietzsche planned to write, as well as the title given to a book of selections from his notebooks (or Nachlass). The first rendition of this collection was released with other unpublished writings in 1901, edited by Heinrich Köselitz, Ernst Horneffer, and August Horneffer, but under the pressure and influence of Nietzsche’s anti-Semitic sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. This version has been judged more than dubious[2], and later editions are considered more subtle in their presentation of Nietzsche’s intent.[citation needed] Walter Kaufmann’s English edition is divided into four major parts: “European Nihilism”, “Critique of the Highest Values Hitherto”, “Principles of a New Evaluation”, and “Discipline and Breeding”.

Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli, who edited the complete edition of Nietzsche’s posthumous fragments from the manuscripts themselves, have called The Will to Power a “historic forgery” artificially assembled by Nietzsche’s sister and Peter Gast. Although Nietzsche had in 1886 announced (at the end of Beyond Good and Evil) a new work with the title, The Will to Power: Essay of a Transvaluation of all Values, this project was finally abandoned and its draft materials used to compose The Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist (both written in 1888).[3] The Will to Power, which Elisabeth Förster called Nietzsche’s unedited magnum opus, was in fact abandoned as a book by Nietzsche himself. Nevertheless, the concept remains, and has, since the reading of Karl Löwith, been identified as a key component of Nietzsche’s philosophy. So The Will to Power was not written by Nietzsche. But the concept of “will to power” is certainly in itself a major motif of Nietzsche’s philosophy, so much so that Heidegger, under Löwith’s influence, considered it to form, with the thought of the eternal recurrence, the basis of his thought.

The concept
The concept of the “will to power” in Nietzsche’s thought has had many interpretations, most notoriously its misappropriation by the Nazis, which amounts to its characterization as a “desire for and of power” (“power” here specifically denoting the more limited concept of “dominance”). Some Nazis (Alfred Bäumler, etc.) also upheld a biological interpretation of the Wille zur Macht, making it equivalent with some kind of social Darwinism, although Nietzsche explicitly criticized the latter in his works (For further information, see Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche#Nietzsche’s criticisms of anti-Semitism and nationalism.)

This misreading was criticized by Martin Heidegger himself in his 1930s courses on Nietzsche. By Wille zur Macht, Nietzsche did not have raw physical or political power in mind. He didn’t mean “Will to power”, but rather “will-to-power”: one particular and inedit concept, rather than the union of two different concepts, “will” and “power”. Opposed to a biological and voluntary conception of the Wille zur Macht, Heidegger and Deleuze both argued that the will to power and eternal recurrence are to be considered together. The concept must first be contrasted with Arthur Schopenhauer’s “will to live”: one must first of all take into account Nietzsche’s background and criticism of Schopenhauer.

Schopenhauer posited a “will to live,” in which living things were motivated by sustaining and developing their own lives. Nietzsche instead posited a will to power, a significant point of contrast to Schopenhauer’s ideation, in which living things are not just driven by the mere need to stay alive, but in fact by a greater need to wield and use power, to grow, to expend their strength, and, possibly, to subsume other “wills” in the process. Thus, Nietzsche regarded such a “will to live” as secondary to the primary “will to power”, and more generally there are varied manifestations of it, two prominent distinctions by Nietzsche are: a “life-denying” modality and a life-“enhancing” or -“affirming” one. Henceforth, he opposed himself to social Darwinism, as he contested the validity of the concept of “adaptation”, which he considered a narrow and weak “will to live”.[4]

Another particular standpoint of the will to power is that it is a process of expansion and venting of creative energy that Nietzsche argued was the underlying – the “most fundamental fact” – “inner” force of nature. “I do not speak to the weak: they want to obey and generally lapse into slavery quickly. In the face of merciless nature, let us still feel ourselves as merciless nature! But I have found strength where one does not look for it: in simple, mild, and pleasant people, without the least desire to rule-and, conversely, the desire to rule has often appeared to me a sign of inward weakness: they fear their own slave soul and shroud it in a royal cloak (in the end, they still become the slaves of their followers, their fame, etc.) The powerful natures dominate, it is a necessity, they need not lift one finger. Even if, during their lifetime, they bury themselves in a garden house!”

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachlass, Fall 1880 6[206]

This supplements his assertion that the fundamental causal power in the world (“cause” not in the sense of a kind of “initial cause”, but rather as the interplay of forces within the process of becoming itself, which does not lend itself to the “cause and effect” theory, for Nietzsche denied its ontological status as only useful for “describing events”), the driving force of all natural phenomena and the dynamic to which all other causal powers could be reduced. Indeed, the will to power can be understood anthropologically (as relates to others’ drives), but this view is also a part of a more all-inclusive perspective. That is, Nietzsche in part argued for the will to power as a merited idea providing the most elemental foundations for explanations of everything from whole societies, to individual organisms, down to mere lumps of matter.[citation needed]

Nietzsche perhaps developed the will to power concept furthest with regard to living organisms, and it is there that the concept is perhaps more inviting to understand by way of analogy. There the will to power is taken as an animal’s most fundamental instinct or drive, even more fundamental than the act of self-preservation; the latter is but an epiphenomenon of the former. According to Nietzsche, the will to power is the basic means through which “interpretation” or interaction with the world becomes, and, in this sense, the “world is the will to power — and nothing besides!”[5] “Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength – life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results.”

– trans. Walter Kaufmann, Beyond Good and Evil

The will to power is something like the desire to exert one’s will in self-overcoming, although this “willing” may be unconscious, for all things “desire to grow”. Indeed, it is unconscious in all non-human beings; it was the frustration of this will that initially caused man to become conscious. The philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto says that “aggression” is at least sometimes an approximate synonym. [citation needed] However, Nietzsche’s ideas of aggression are almost always meant as aggression toward oneself, as the energy a person motivates toward self-mastery. In any case, since the will to power is fundamental, any other drives are to be reduced to it; the “will to survive” (i.e. the survival instinct) that biologists (at least in Nietzsche’s day) thought to be fundamental, for example, was in this light a manifestation of the will to power. “My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (-its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement (“union”) with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on.”

– trans. Walter Kaufmann, The Will to Power, §636

Thus, rather than a conscious intention to ‘dominate over others,’ the “will to power” is better understood as the tenuous equilibrium in a system of forces’ relations to each other. While a rock, for instance, does not have a conscious (or unconscious) “will,” it nevertheless acts as a site of resistance within the “will to power” dynamic. Moreover, rather than ‘dominating over others’ (a misinterpretation by Deleuze et al.), “will to power” is more accurately positioned in relation to the subject (a mere synecdoche, both fictitious and necessary, for there is “no doer behind the deed,” [see On the Genealogy of Morals] and is an idea behind the statement words are “seductions”) within the process of self-mastery and self-overcoming. The “will to power” is thus a “cosmic” inner force acting in and through both animate and inanimate objects, but it may also take on many forms that could perhaps involve such mastery but in a “life-denying” modality. Not just instincts but also higher level behaviors (even in humans) were to be reduced to the will to power. In fact, Nietzsche considered consciousness itself to be a form of instinct. This includes both such apparently harmful acts as physical violence, lying, and domination, on one hand, and such apparently non-harmful acts as gift-giving, love, and praise on the other – though its manifestations can be altered significantly, such as through art and aesthetic experience. In Beyond Good and Evil, he claims that philosophers’ “will to truth” (i.e., their apparent desire to dispassionately seek objective, absolute truth) is actually nothing more than a manifestation of their will to power; this will can be life-affirming or a manifestation of nihilism, but it is the will to power all the same. “[Anything which] is a living and not a dying body… will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant – not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power… ‘Exploitation’… belongs to the essence of what lives, as a basic organic function; it is a consequence of the will to power, which is
after all the will to life.”

– trans. Walter Kaufmann, Beyond Good and Evil, §259

As indicated above, the will to power is meant to explain more than just the behavior of an individual person or animal. It is not psychological, nor intentional or subjective. The will to power lends itself more to the view, though it be homogeneous in expression, its transformations are heterogeneous, based on the altering organizations of “quanta of power”.

The Will to Power manuscript
After returning from Paraguay, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche founded the Nietzsche-Archiv in Naumburg in 1894 (after Nietzsche’s mental breakdown), which she would later transfer to Weimar. The culmination of this organization was the publishing, in Leipzig between 1894 and 1926, of the Großoktavausgabe edition. It was first edited by C. G. Naumann, then by Kröner. In these 20 volumes, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche included part of Nietzsche’s posthumous fragments, which she gathered together and entitled The Will To Power. With Peter Gast, she claimed that Nietzsche had died before completing his magnum opus, which he allegedly wanted to name “The Will to Power, in Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values”. This compilation of Nietzsche’s posthumous fragments, selected and ordered under his sister’s authority, led to the book commonly known as The Will to Power. Until Colli & Montinari’s edition, this would form the basis for all successive editions, including the 1922 Musarion edition, often commonly used even today.

While researching materials for the Italian translation of Nietzsche’s complete works in the 1960s, philologists Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari decided to go to the Archives in Leipzig to work with the original documents. From their work emerged the first complete and chronological edition of Nietzsche’s posthumous fragments, which Förster-Nietzsche had cut up, mixed and paste together, according to her own antisemitic views (which were a bone of contention between her and Nietzsche himself). The complete works comprise 5,000 pages, compared to the 3,500 pages of the Großoktavausgabe. In 1964, during the International Colloquium on Nietzsche in Paris, Colli and Montinari met Karl Löwith, who would put them in contact with Heinz Wenzel, editor for Walter de Gruyter’s publishing house. Heinz Wenzel would buy the rights of the complete works of Colli and Montinari (33 volumes in German) after the French Gallimard edition and the Italian Adelphi editions.

Before Colli and Montinari’s philological work, the previous editions led readers to believe that Nietzsche had organized all his work toward a final structured opus called The Will to Power. In fact, if Nietzsche did consider producing such a book, he had abandoned such plans before his collapse. The title of The Will to Power, which appears for the first time at the end of the summer of 1885, was replaced by another plan at the end of August 1888. This new plan was titled “Project for a reversion of all values”, and ordered the multiple fragments in a completely different way than the one chosen by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. In fact, according to Montinari, the earlier editions, which all depended on the Großoktavausgabe, are technically nonsense, as Nietzsche’s fragments were cut up in various places and ordered according to his sister’s will; and are a case of revisionism, as it was left to his sister to artificially combine Nietzsche’s fragments into a unified opus magnum (which very concept is alien to Nietzsche’s philosophy and style of writing), whose meaning was distorted according to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche’s anti-semitic and Germanist biases. Gilles Deleuze himself saluted Montinari’s work declaring: “As long as it was not possible for the most serious researcher to accede to the whole of Nietzsche’s manuscripts, we knew only in a loose way that the Will to Power did not exist as such (…) We wish only now that the new dawn brought on by this previously unpublished work will be the sign of a return to Nietzsche” [6] Not only did this critical philological work, a milestone in Nietzsche studies, prove case-by-case the distortions accomplished by Nietzsche’s sister on his posthumous fragments, it also called into question the very conception of a Nietzschean magnum opus, given his style of writing and thinking. [7]

1. ^ Mazzino Montinari, Friedrich Nietzsche (1974; transl. in German in 1991, Friedrich Nietzsche. Eine Einführung., Berlin-New York, De Gruyter; and in French, Friedrich Nietzsche, PUF, 2001, p.121 chapter “Nietzsche and the consequences”
2. ^ Martin Heidegger already criticized this unauthorized publishing in his 1930s courses on Nietzsche (see, for ex., beginning of Nietzsche II) (parts of which have been published under the name Nietzsche I (1936-1939), ed. B. Schillbach, 1996, XIV, 596p. and Nietzsche II (1939-1946), ed. B. Schillbach, 1997, VIII, 454p. – note that these publications are not the exact transcription of the 1930s courses, but were done post-war)
3. ^ See Mazzino Montinari, 1974.
4. ^ Barbara Stiegler, Nietzsche et la biologie, PUF, 2001. ISBN 2-13-050742-5
5. ^ The Will To Power, Kaufmann-Hollingdale trans., 1067
6. ^ Deleuze: “Tant qu’il ne fut pas possible aux chercheurs les plus sérieux d’accéder à l’ensemble des manuscrits de Nietzsche, on savait seulement de façon vague que La Volonté de puissance n’existait pas comme telle (…) Nous souhaitons que le jour nouveau, apporté par les inédits, soit celui du retour à Nietzsche in Mazzino Montinari and Paolo d’Iorio, “‘The Will to Power’ does not exist” Centro Montinari (Italian)
7. ^ Mazzino Montinari and Paolo d’Iorio, “‘The Will to Power’ does not exist” Centro Montinari (Italian)

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