The Pedigree of Genealogy

“Genealogy” is popular in some academic circles; its pedigree comes out of Nietzsche via Foucault.

What is it?

Well, it aims at lowering the standing, prestige, or legitimacy of whatever is the target of genealogy. Its means of doing this are characteristically: to claim that its subject had diverse origins, among which were at least some that were disreputable; to claim that the line of succession has been full of breaks, which gives the impression that some future shift could arise; and to claim that the current situation is one of collapse, crisis, or some other low-status situation ripe for overthrow.

It makes me wonder: has anyone ever done a genealogy of genealogy?

(I have learned much from the essay “Nietzsche and Genealogy” by Raymond Guess in his book Morality, Culture, and History [Cambridge, 1999].)


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