This past winter, when I was walking around in Frankfurt, I pointed a building and asked if it was the Deutsche Bank building. My tour guide said, “Yes it is. But I prefer to call them the empire of evil.”
Going to Penn, it seems that most people end up working in finance, consulting, or tech. Within my immediate circle of friends, I don’t know a single person not working in these fields. Since I am friends with my friends, I tend to not see them as evil. Of course, there are issues with industries such as finance, but I don’t finance to be an “evil” industry. I wonder if it is because I surround myself with these circles of people that make me less capable of seeing finance as purely “evil”.
When I first started college, I wanted to go to medical school. Being a pre-med, I didn’t know that much about finance. And, considering my aesthetic association between finance and the financial crisis, I had extremely negative views towards finance. But then, after a couple of years of college, I started becoming friends with more and more people who were working in finance. When I started to learn about finance, I realized that the industry itself is amoral and that the financial crisis was a lot more complex than just blaming banks for bad risk management. I stopped seeing finance as a purely evil force in the world.
In The Geneology of Morals, Nietzsche postulated the concept of good as being positively defined through individuals describing themselves. In terms of the master-slave relation, the concept of good was invented by slaves in order to exact revenge on masters by describing themselves as good and describing the masters as evil. It was a way for them to “curse” the masters by condemning their lifestyle through culture. Given the inability for slaves to exact specific revenge on their masters, all they can resort to is a clever cultural reframing to privilege their own state of existence.
Explicit roles such as “master” and “slave” no longer exist in most developed countries, but class divisions are still drawn through wealth inequality. Industries such as finance, consulting, and tech become easy targets as the “master” label because of the sheer amount people in these industries are paid. In response, the popular tide of society as turned against these industries to label them as evil. Because of the exclusivity of these industries, people who don’t work in these industries leverage cultural authority to label them as evil.
Nietzsche said that people self-describe their lives as good lives. When asked, what qualifies as a good life, people describe their own lives. You can observe this in the spectrum of political ideology divided through class. Poor people view rich people as corrupt, greedy, and snobby, and rich people view poor people as lazy, dumb, and uncultured. Regardless of where individuals fall in the political spectrum, they label the lives they live as a good life and the lives others live as an evil life. Paired with a tribe mentality that prevents individuals from sympathizing with others who are unlike them, political ideology falls within the norm of self-identification.
As long as I continue to operate within the social class that works in finance, my morality will continue to operate within the ethics set forth by the master-slave morality dichotomy. In this way, Nietzsche’s claim on human nature would indicate that the cohesion of these moralities would be impossible. It is only through the divisions of master and slave morality can there exist ethics at all. And, because capitalist society is driven by the existence of classes, then there will always be resentment towards the priviledged classes of society, which translates into a new formulation of morality depending on the master-slave morality dichotomy.