Hadrian's Reviews > The Ego and Its Own

The Ego and Its Own by Max Stirner
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Aug 04, 12

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


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