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All Things Are Nothing to Me: The Unique Philosophy of Max Stirner (2018, Zero)

Stirner book cover

We think we have the measure of Stirner’s egoism: it is too tempting to dismiss it as a provocation whose political upshot is either reactionary libertarianism or infantile anarchism. Whether anarchist or libertarian in temper, Stirner’s egoism is assumed to be inimical to Marx’s communism. Jacob Blumenfeld’s dazzling reconstruction of Stirner’s philosophy overthrows this received wisdom. Blumenfeld does not just interpret Stirner’s thought; he appropriates it, thereby exemplifying its most radical injunction. In Blumenfeld’s memorable formulation, Stirner’s egoism is communism seen from the first person singular perspective. But the perspective of the singular is precisely what nullifies the bourgeois subject. Far from sanctifying the individual, Stirner seeks to unleash the nihilating power of the unique beyond the ego. This annihilating power follows from the unique’s productive consumption of every property, including itself. The point is not to replace the sovereignty of the state with that of the individual but to bring about a union of singularities capable of annulling “the thing-like quality of the world”, together with the phantoms of self, society, state, and God. Blumenfeld’s Stirner is the precursor of contemporary insurrectionists and secessionists, but one who refuses to subordinate insurrection to community or secession to identity. The result is an anarchist who subverts the elevation of groundlessness into another law and a separatist who destroys the ontological grounds of separation. What is generated through the union of the uncommon is communism as what Marx called the “fraternization of impossibilities.” – Ray Brassier, author of Nihil Unbound

Max Stirner is the bad boy, the black sheep of post-Hegelian philosophy. Often derided and dismissed, his philosophy of ‘egoism’ and his powerful critique of the ‘spooks’ of modernity have continued to resonate with those who are at odds with the world around them. In this brilliant book, Blumenfeld discovers that the ghosts of Stirner are alive and well, and that his message of nothingness and indifference speaks particularly to us today, living as we do at the end of history. Yet, as this book shows, rather than being the nihilist he is often characterised as, Stirner guides us along the path of a new ethical and political sensibility based on singularity rather than identity – something urgently needed today. Blumenfeld’s original and heretical reading shows Stirner’s undoubted contemporary relevance. – Saul Newman, Goldsmiths University

Max Stirner has been presented in many ways, but never as a punk rock philosopher. This is a refreshing take on a highly controversial thinker. – Gabriel Kuhn, author of Anarchismus und Revolution

Stirner argued that thoughts can and should be violently appropriated and made our own, if they are to be of any use. This is what Jacob Blumenfeld does in this book: provide an interpretation of Stirner’s philosophy that can make it truly our own. In doing so, not only does he illuminate neglected aspects of Stirner’s philosophy, but, most importantly, make it breath and palpitate for our times. – Chiara Bottici, New School for Social Research 

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Art and Religion (1842)

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Max Stirner, “Kunst und Religion”, this essay originally appeared in June 1842 in the radical newspaper “Rheinische Zeitung”, before Marx became its editor. Translated by Lawrence Stepelevich.

Hegel treats art before religion; art deserves this position, it deserves it even from the historical standpoint. Now, as soon as man suspects that he has another side of himself (Jenseits) within himself, and that he is not enough in his mere natural state, then he is driven on to divide himself into that which he actually is, and that which he should become. Just as the youth is the future of the boy, and the mature man the future of the innocent child, so that othersider (Jenseitiger) is the future man who must be expected on the other side of this present reality. Upon the awakening of that suspicion, man strives after and longs for the second other man of the future, and will not rest until he sees himself before the shape of this man from the other side. This shape fluctuates back and forth within him for a long time; he only feels it as a light in the innermost darkness of himself that would elevate itself, but as yet has no certain contour or fixed form. For a long time, along with other groping and dumb others in that darkness, the artistic genius seeks to express this presentiment. What no other succeeds in doing, he does, he presents the longing, the sought after form, and in finding its shape so creates the — Ideal. For what is then the perfect man, man’s proper character, from which all that is seen is but mere appearance if it be not the Ideal Man, the Human Ideal? The artist alone has finally discovered the right word, the right picture, the right expression of that being which all seek. He presents that presentiment — it is the Ideal. ‘Yes! that is it! that is the perfect shape, the appearance that we have longed for, the Good News — the Gospel. The one we sent forth so long ago with the question whose answer would satisfy the thirst of our spirit has returned!’ So hail the people that creation of genius, and then fall down — in adoration.

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The Right to be Greedy: Theses On The Practical Necessity Of Demanding Everything (For Ourselves, 1974)

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For Ourselves (1974)

The positive conception of egoism, the perspective of communist egoism, is the very heart and unity of our theoretical and practical coherence.

This perspective is the essence of what separates us from both the left and the right. We cannot allow its fundamental importance to be obscured, or ourselves to be mistaken for either the right or the left. We cannot allow any Leninist organization to get away with claiming that it is only ‘a little bit pregnant’ with state capitalism.

INTRODUCTION

1

Greed in its fullest sense is the only possible basis of communist society.

2

The present forms of greed lose out, in the end, because they turn out to be not greedy enough.

3

The repression of egoism can never totally succeed, except as the destruction of human subjectivity, the extinction of the human species itself, because egoism is an essential moment of human subjectivity. Its repression simply means that it returns in a hidden, duplicitous form. If it cannot show itself in the open market, it will find itself or create for itself a black market. If it is not tolerated in transparent n1 relations, the repressed self will split in two; into a represented self, a personal organization of appearances, a persona, and that which cringes and plots behind this character-armour n2. The repression of egoism, contrary to the dictates of every one of the so-called “Communists” (in opposition to Marx and Engels), from Lenin right down to Mao, can never be the basis of communist society.

Moreover, the repressive conception of “communism” misses precisely the whole point. It misses out on the validity of the egoistic moment. This is true even in the inverted form in which it emerges from an immanent critique of altruistic ideology: if I die, the world dies for me. Without life, I cannot love another. However, what it misses in “theory” – i.e., in its ideological representations – it nonetheless preserves in practice, and precisely with the help of that very ideology: its real basis is the egoism of the state-capitalist bureaucracy. This ideology of self-sacrifice serves admirably the task of extracting surplus-labour from the proletariat.
The actual negation of narrow egoism is a matter of transcendance (“aufhebung” n3), of the transition from a narrow to a qualitatively expanded form of egoism. The original self-expansion of egoism was identically the demise of the primitive community. But its further self-expansion will resolve itself into a community once again. It is only when greed itself at last (or rather, once again) beckons in the direction of community that that direction will be taken. Here the ancient Christian truth that no earthly force can withstand human greed rejoins us on our side of the barricades.

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