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Philosophical Egoism: Review of Stirner's M/O.

From the archives of The Memory Hole

Philosophical Egoism: Book Review

The following is a review of a Rebel Press edition of Max Stirner's The Ego and Its [sic] Own published in the 10 October 1981 issue of Freedom.

Book Review: All things are nothing to me

TOTAL imperious and profound, Stirner's classic excites controversy and condemnation with every reprint. This time edition, published by Rebel Press, is just one in a series of reprints since Der Einzige und sein Eigentum first appeared in 1844. And it is a book which will be in demand as long as there is oppression of the individual.
Stirner has been called the 'father' of Individualist-Anarchism, but The Ego and Its Own was written well before Anarchism emerged as a force. It is a unique philosophy of the individual Rebel, rather than a philosophy of the Revolution. Thus Stirner could respect Jesus as a Rebel, whilst reserving a special contempt for organised Christianity. He is no spokesperson for Anarchism, for, as he puts it: 'Nothing is more to me than myself.'
Of course Stirner was a product of his times; he associated with the Berliners of Hegelian inspiration and tendencies. He was directly concerned with answering the works of Feuerbach and Bauer. But this book is far more than an historical oddity; his insight and clarity make it timeless. An illustration of this is that, despite Germany being in the grip of a fever of national unity at the time, Stirner wrote scornfully of this malaise. He saw a united Germany as a monster, far worse than the existing 38 statelets. We leave the FREEDOM letters page to decide whether he was right.
If Stirner was scathing about the nationalists, he was definitely testy when it came to the socialists. He was probably the first to note that communism would produce a State far more onerous than the royal, ecclesiastic or bourgeois models, which communists fulminated against.
Marx appreciated the force of The Ego and Its Own. In The German Ideology he tears into Stirner, not so much on an academic level, as at the level of a Daily Mail leader. People forget that Marx was a journalist before he became a prophet.
Marxists have tended to follow their mentor with some trite dismissal of Stirner: 'Social defence mechanism of a petty bourgeois soul,' indeed. What Marxists need is some jolts from someone who has actually read the book and noted its relevance to the century and half of circumstantial evidence which has followed.
No reviewer can do justice to Stirner's case; that can only be done by Stirner himself. Besides, I'm not sure that Stirner would have been in favour of reviews. The Ego and Its Own is not short, or simple, and it is not always easy to read. But for someone looking for more than comic-strip insight, it has an elegance and force that make it something special.
The Rebel Press edition has the virtue of being cheap for its size and it uses the corrected translation. There's a powerful introduction by S.E. Parker, which includes a nice 'knocking the Marxists' section.
The only criticism I have is about the cover, which seems a bit naff. It took me a quarter of an hour to work it out, so to me that makes it pseudy.
'The most revolutionary book ever written' is available from Box R, 84b Whitechapel High St, London E1. It costs 4.50 (including postage) and cheques should be made payable to Rebel Press. Offer subject to raids by the Anti-Terrorist Squad.

I've been trying to work out the cover for days without success.

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