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How the Stirner Eats Gods

How the Stirner Eats Gods

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Published by b6188882
From Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed 67.
From Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed 67.

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Published by: b6188882 on Feb 04, 2012
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10/28/2013

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How the Stirner Eats Gods
by Alejandro de Acosta
 
29
Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed
 About his philosophical nickname
The author o the ne book
The Ego and its Own
was aman whose orehead sprouted a name:
Stirner
reers to hisgreat brow. There is something charming about the act thatthis book was signed with a pseudonym – this book that in-sists to the death on irreducible, irreparable uniqueness. Asi one’s proper name is never remarkable enough, and everyEgo requires the artice o a nickname to become a Uniquesignature.
Stirner
is his philosophical nickname, the signatureo an unknown visage
1
who dedicates his book to his sweet-heart, then passes it to us in all ambiguity and says:
use it.
 About his allergy to the Cause
I have previously taken the liberty o calling Max Stirneran anarchist.
2
In the context o that discussion, as perhapswith most discussions o 
The Ego and its Own
, I supposethat it worked. I do not doubt that he belongs to our ge-nealogy. In the long run, however – in the name o a trulyperspectival theory – I think one might understand Stirneras an anarchist and as something else as well. For there isno doubt that, or many, Anarchism is a Cause. What I haveto say here is a git to those who wish to betray that Cause.To put Stirner in dialogue with our present, we have toget past a certain caricature o his thought (a caricature orwhich he is partly responsible, due mostly to his excessiveprose style). Should you care to read the usually short sec-tion on Stirner to be ound in introductory books on anar-chism, you will nd more or less this: Stirner, writing be-ore Marx and Nietzsche, made a radical vindication o thereedom o the individual against all powers: the church,the state, all orms o authority. He did so in a way that wasinspiring or many but at the same time could go no artherthan a parodic exaggeration o liberal individualism. Whatyou get is a vague, almost mythical, image, o someone whois completely out or him- or hersel, and whose relationsto all others are conditional on their own benet. Benet isunderstood in a typical capitalist, economic way: propertyand individual sovereignty. In a way that simultaneouslyincludes and excludes Stirner’s aberrant claim to ownness,
1 It is additionally appropriate that there are no paintingsor photographs o Stirner. There is, o course, that delightully crudesketch made by Engels rom memory – nostalgic, perhaps, or thecompany o the Free.2 “Two Styles o Anti-Statist Subjectivity.”
this an imaginary that associatively gathers around it; it isdubbed “individualism.” Naturally, this image presupposesthe individual sel (as psyche and as body) as a metaphysi-cal given. Modern-day, ree-market libertarian, anarcho-capitalist types seem to be inspired directly or indirectly bythis caricature.Now, I would not say that there is nothing in Stirner thatopens onto such a caricature. Ater all, there are many cari-catures in
The Ego and its Own
. And to each Ego her Own!I I set it all aside, though, and try to summon or mysel hisintuition in all its vertiginous danger, it seems to me that hemust have had something rather dierent in mind than thestultiying conclusion that the greatest example o an egoistwould be something like a Wall Street banker. As i he orshe who is only out or themselves and wants to appropri-ate everything is exemplied by one o our great privatizers,those who attempt to turn as much o the world as possibleinto private property. O course those little men and womenare egoists. But so is everyone else: “Unconsciously and in-voluntarily we all strive towards ownness.” “All your doingsare
unconessed
, secret, covert, and concealed egoism.”
3
Yes,the real question is (and do please be kind enough to laughat this): who will
coness
? We need better examples, arstranger examples; we need to nally meet or at least envi-sion
conessed
egoists. We need, in all, another perspective.This second perspective sets out rom a considerationo the Ego as a kind o cipher or variable, something un-damentally unknown. The rst thing we know o it is itsallergy to any Cause that can be resolved into an Ism. Itscharacteristic activity—in Stirner’s time, in our own, per-haps or all time—is the
schism
in which one breaks withthe Cause. I will have to come back, and soon, to this in-adequately adequate denomination, Ego. For the momentlet us play a provisional dialectical game, and suppose thatEgo=
 x
is dened in opposition to the Cause.Cause, or, in German,
Sache
: either has one o those amus-ingly long dictionary entries which might make us laugh atthe game o denition. Playing this game or a moment, wemight read under
Sache
thing, object, article, cause, action,legal case… and so we might learn what game Stirner wasplaying. These are all things that, though they may seem to
3
The Ego and its Own
, 316, 149. All other reerences inparentheses in the essay.
 
Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed
30
be objects o the subject that I am, are eminently marks orsigns o my subordination to a greater subject. We knowthat it is a subject because that is how it appears in ourspeech. It is greater than me inasmuch as it is imagined astranscendent or eternal. It seems to constitute me in medi-ate relation to things and actions, by means o constitutingme in immediate relation to itsel, to its Cause.I will rehearse the enumeration o causes in the delightulopening rant o the book, entitled “All Things are Nothingto Me.” Stirner opens
The Ego and its Own
in the rst per-son: “What is not supposed to be my concern!” (5). Whatollows is a list o Causes that I am asked to accept as myown: the Cause o God, the Cause o Humanity, the Causeo the State, etc, etc. In each case I am asked to identiywith a Cause alien to my interest. The terms o this oerare hardly delicate. Stirner observes: what we can say aboutGod is that God is God’s main concern. What we can sayabout Humanity is that Humanity is Humanity’s main con-cern. What we can say about the State is that the State isthe State’s main concern. But inexplicably I nd mysel inthis statement: “I mysel am my concern” (7). My Causewill be my own. I note with interest that Stirner gives
noexplanation
as to how he or any o us might come to makesuch a claim. Now please read those statements again andobserve or yoursel. The relation o 
being its own main con-cern
is said o an entity that is totally hypothetical. Moreprecisely: imaginary. Stirner never gives us any reason tobelieve that there is God or Humanity beyond the quasi-existence that constellations o xed ideas in the imagina-tion might be said to have. As or the State, according to adenition that ought to be amiliar to anarchists, it can beclearly shown to be the modes o behavior o those wholive in accord with that prooundly inadequate constella-tion o ideas, that Cause.
4
So, through a more circuitousroute, the same dierence. None. A paradoxical question: i all o these Causes-Subjects are imaginary, am
I
imaginary? What was I beore this constitutive event, beore this pro-cess began? What am I once I break with the Cause? Was Iever, can I ever be again, its orphan and its atheist?
5
4 I am alluding, o course, to Landauer’s amous descrip-tion: “The State is a condition, a certain relationship between humanbeings, a mode o human behavior; we destroy it by contractingother relationships, by behaving dierently.” Cited in Buber,
Paths inUtopia
, 46. Goldman and many others have given similar accounts.
In the sacred and sacricial logic o every Cause exceptperhaps my own, the imaginary greater subject (God, Hu-manity, the State, etc, etc.), the one that denes me, orciblyconstitutes me in mediate relation, not only to things and ac-tions, but above all to mysel. One could say, as Debord did,that its operation is separation, the introduction o a “scis-sion within human beings.”
6
But that cannot be the wholestory. I agree with Stirner that there is no Man: Humanityis another Cause. Scission or separation within what, then? Just this cipher we call the Ego, this variable that names notgeneric humanity but individual human bodies. Individu-als? Humans? I will come back to individuals and humans.
The imagination does not speak.
Someone
has spoken. Heor she is a representative o the Cause, or wants you to thinkso. He does not speak in his own name. She says she speaksor the Cause. He shares, without invitation, his imagina-tion. She insists that you accept her git o words, sometimeseven o organs.
7
As David Hume once put it: “In vain, bypompous phrase and passionate expression, each recom-mends his own pursuit, and invites the credulous hearers toan imitation o his lie and manners.”
8
 
Someone
says (usuallyrepeats) to you that you must take this Cause as your own;that without it, your lie is meaningless. “Every man musthave something that is more to him than himsel” (254).Stirner implies that, in such moments, you might accept,even embrace, the possibility o meaninglessness. He doesnot assume that, now that the God Cause, the State Cause,etc, etc, is no longer my own, I immediately know what Iam doing, or what to do next. To assume my Cause as myown does not mean that I know what I am or what I want todo.
9
I can say that I will make my Cause my own, but I maynot know what that means. I might trip up in my imagi-nary sel-constitution. Not knowing is not only possible butprobable. Someone sure o the next step has probably justswitched Causes. Sometimes that is called progress.
5 As has been said o a person ree o myth, or o the un-conscious. Deleuze and Guattari,
 Anti-Oedipus
, 58.6
Society o the Spectacle
, § 20, translation modied.Debord’s concept o spectacle useully illustrates the social machinesthrough which such imaginary subjects come to appear real.7 The idea o a git o organs was suggested in a dierentcontext by Jean-François Lyotard. I am thinking o all o the non-verbal ways in which we are invited or seduced to join a Cause.8 “The Platonist,” 92.9 The event o breaking with the Cause is not itsel a Cause;however, it is common enough that instances o such breaks areeventually memorialized as part o a new Cause.

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