During the early 1970s a ‘revival’ took place of the philosophy of Max Stirner, born Johann Caspar Schmidt (1806-1856), whose book Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum has been called a ‘revolutionary anarchist manual’, a ‘Banker’s Bible’, a ‘structural model of petit-bourgeois self-consciousness’ and other names since its appearance in 1844.
The revival produced the most comprehensive study of Stirner in English to that date, R. W. K. Paterson’s 1971 The Nihilistic Egoist: Max Stirner. While Paterson undertook to review Der Einzige as substantive philosophical discourse, paradoxically, and theologically, he would conclude that Stirner was doing metaphysics, to the point of a solipsistic frivolity.
This study examines the fascinating but ultimately unsuccessful, if not buffoonish, case against Stirner by Paterson. I conclude that we should rethink Stirner not as metaphysician but as social critic and educator, a “root”, ground-level or primal thinker, more relevant today than ever. And that his ideas and principles are ready to be spread and put to work now in criticism, current events and art.
In this revision my purpose is to de-trivialize Stirner, tweak the paradigm further and introduce new material, with a view to reviving Saint Max where he belongs - in the company of heretics such as Chamfort, Nietzsche, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, George Orwell, Joseph Heller and George Carlin, to name a few.