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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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How the Stirner Eats Gods
by Alejandro de Acosta
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:
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.
is his philosophical nickname, the signatureo an unknown visage
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.
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
, secret, covert, and concealed egoism.”
Yes,the real question is (and do please be kind enough to laughat this): who will
? We need better examples, arstranger examples; we need to nally meet or at least envi-sion
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
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=
is dened in opposition to the Cause.Cause, or, in German,
: 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
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
The Ego and its Own
, 316, 149. All other reerences inparentheses in the essay.
Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed
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
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.
So, through a more circuitousroute, the same dierence. None. A paradoxical question: i all o these Causes-Subjects are imaginary, am
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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,
, 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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