Hadrian's Reviews > The Ego and Its Own

The Ego and Its Own by Max Stirner
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's review
Aug 04, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: german, politics-and-foreign-policy, philosophy, nonfiction
Read in August, 2012

This is a work of unabashed egoism, the sort of unrestrained self-interest that makes Ayn Rand look like a 'pinko hippie'. It's fascinating, even if you want to hate Stirner's guts afterwards. He cites Ancient Greek and ecclesiastic history, and uses puns and quotations as much as logical arguments.

The Ego and Its Own starts with a polemic on all collective institutions, all dogmas, all beliefs, all religions, all political philosophies. One of his most astonishing (and perhaps correct) assertions is that modern ideologies take the place of what religion was in the ancient world - see Communism, Fascism setting themselves up as semi-divine cults of a fundamentalist nature. All dying for an idea, a spirit, a dogma - which he dismisses as 'spooks'. Spooks which alienate the person from themselves.

He even attacks the most basic of social customs - whether or not it is right to marry your sister, and praising the benefits of lying. It is the ethical code of either superhumans or sociopaths.

Marx and Engels devoted some 300 pages to refuting him in The German Ideology. Stirner remains relatively unknown, but influential, being the precursor to modern nihilism, existentialism

How exactly would interpersonal relationships and society exist in an entirely egoistic world? He tenderly submits a few suggestions on love based on mutual interest - a step above the quasi-rape fantasies of Atlas Shrugged. Although there is a nagging thought that anarcho-capitalism might work in the same way - a billion weasels trying to screw each other.

And so both anarchists and Marxists can consider him an influence. He's fascinating enough to grapple with, and thus worth your time.
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02/07 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Hadrian Stirner is a lot of fun to play with, even if you hate him. I prefer him over Rand any day.


Ietrio Surely comparison with Ms. Rand is just a joke.


Hadrian Of course it was a joke. Stirner is far more intellectually honest.


Warwick Stubbs Egoism works for society when everyone realises they can't be used by anybody else without intellectual consent. One of the main points was to be an absolute individual - something the modern age pushes. This means to be answerable to nobody but yourself. Mutual consent in whatever you do is what allows society to be an agreeable place and to develop harmoniously. The weasels are egoists just like anybody else, but if you refuse to be a part of the weasel world, then the weasels (Capitalists) won't get their way.


message 5: by B (new)

B The intellectual pedigree of the idea of a "union of egoists" (in Stirner's terms) or "amoral cooperation" (in today's scientific lingo) is substantial. It is at least as old as Diogenes and Crates, and in recent times its feasibility has been studied by scholars of economics, game theory, evolutionary theory, political science, and so on, the foremost of whom is Robert Axelrod (with many novel theoretical developments being made today by Curt Doolittle). It's hardly merely "a step above the quasi-rape fantasies of Atlas Shrugged".


Hadrian As I'd said earlier, I was being flippant with this review. I've read Axelrod as well, and some of the theoretical bases of the young Hegelians through Kolakowski. Stirner is interesting and original with his theoretical contributions, and his idea of 'spooks' is far more wide reaching than anybody gives him credit. You could of course trace his influence to the anarchists, but there's also 'social constructivism' which could be almost a copy of his 'spooks'.

This is much more than can be said about Rand's incoherence.


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