In Nietzsche's Political Skepticism Ms. Shaw offers a detailed, nuanced and focused reading of Nietzsche's political philosophy, bringing into relief the irreconcilable tension the dynamics at play thereby evidenced. Grounding Nietzsche's work within the depths of 19th century debates on political theory she exposes with disciplined authority his skepticism regarding politics. Shaw defines Nietzsche as a political skeptic given how his philosophy markedly intensifies an unavoidable conflict between the demands of political legitimacy and those of a requisite genuine normative authority. Nietzsche, according to Shaw, was skeptical that with the demise of religion it would be possible to achieve a practically effective normative consensus necessary for the state to establish the required hegemonic sway upon which its legitimacy depends.
In her book Shaw surveys the extent scholarship on the subject and its disparate renditions of Nietzsche's philosophy: she admirably rehearses her conclusion while proceeding to adopt arguments from across the various vantage points endeavoring to allow for a convergence to reiterate the same skeptical stance - irrespective of the interpretation espoused. Shaw cogently evinces the rationale which problematizes any political prescription Nietzsche might have subscribed to, and she explains away any lasting vestige that Nietzsche might be "apolitical", and any selective construal that he is indirectly championing either a democratic or a radical aristocratic ethos.
Appropriations of Nietzsche, from right and left of the political spectrum, have benefitted from the absence of any conspicuous overt exposition on political philosophy in Nietzsche's oeuvre, not to mention the characterization of an early and a late Nietzsche which proffers interpretive license to scholars deliberately engaged to claim his genius under their stripes of preference. In this work Dr. Shaw breaks this spell by orienting the reader to the schism that persists and the correlative aporetic restrictions which his ethics invariably assumes (be it fully in accordance with a full-fledged metaethics or a latent naturalism, a realist or an ant-realist characterization).
Shaw demonstrates that Nietzsche believed that a stable political authority is irreconcilable with his commitment to an independent source of normative authority. This is especially the case when reading Nietzsche's ethical philosophy as antirealist, for "the antirealist cannot coherently recommend that others arrive at value-judgments independently and at the same time recommend the imposition of political values that would require their subordination." Yet, "states and governance requires normative convergence", therefore he can envisage no way in which a genuine and independent form of normative authority can serve as a foundation of political life."
Here again it is the demise of religion which inspires this skepticism, and this is all the more entrenched given his dismissal of any hope to found a secular religion which might "harness the nonrational, persuasive power of art in the service of philosophical insight". Shaw impressively squares Nietzsche's relationship to his contemporary German intellectual milieu (specifically Jacob Burckhardt and Friedrich Albert Lange) yet she fails to give its due to the formative influence his association and exchange with Paul Rée, Lou Salomé and Helene Druskowitz had: this is unfortunate since it would have charted an intellectual stress in consonance with her study's claim, thereby bringing to a more pronounced prominence Nietzsche's political predicament.
At present this is, by far, the single best book on Nietzsche political philosophy. In nuce Shaw's efforts disclose how Nietzsche's revaluative ambitions entailed his implicit subscription to skepticism within the theoretical conceits of political science. As Nietzsche reminds us, every star is born of chaos, and Shaw's book, like a comet, streaks through the scholarship and gives us a stark vision of how all other readings pale in comparison, and then leaves in its wake the darkness of a political skepticism which is, should we be faithful to Nietzsche's oeuvre, exactly how and what he said on the subject.
Although hardly in the same league, other US published book-length studies on the topic include:
Tracy Strong; Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration
Bruce Detwiler; Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism
Leslie Paul Thiele: Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul
Daniel Conway; Nietzsche and the Political
Lawrence Hatab: Nietzsche's Defence of Democracy
David Owen: Nietzsche, Politics and Modernity
Lester Hunt; Nietzsche and the Origin of Virtue
Mark Warren, Nietzsche and Political Thought
Brian Leiter: Nietzsche Moral and Political Philosopher
Keith Ansell Pearson, Nietzsche Contra Rousseau