Who is Max Stirner? First reading: a young Hegelian, the ultimate culmination of Hegel’s philosophy, his disciple and destroyer. How is he both disciple and destroyer? /…/
Dialectical dialectics, in other words, critical critique would produce… nothing, absolutely nothing. /…/
First negation: the left, young Hegelians. /…/
Second negation: Max Stirner. /…/
New trajectory: Marx, who turns Hegel the right side up, is the third term which opens up a new positive phase in the process, only made possible by the previous negations.
In this drama, Stirner occupies a mediating role as the catalyst who caused a paradigm shift in Hegel’s wake. This shift allowed Marx to make a conceptual breakthrough towards “historical materialism”. That is one story, but problems are easy to note. First off, why would this process remain dialectical?
Second try: who is Max Stirner? Nothing more than an expression of the petty bourgeoisie. /…/ That is the classic communist reading of Stirner and – for that matter – of all the anarchists of the 19th (and 20th) century by Marx, Engels and their followers. /…/
This ad hominem refrain, which reduces one’s ideas to the ideological expressions of one’s material conditions, has been repeated throughout history against the anarchists. It does not really amount to anything more than the fear of losing one’s political hegemony to other radical positions.
Try again, who is Max Stirner? Third reading: solipsist. /…/ that Stirner’s egoism is nothing but a radicalized Fichtean philosophy, one which works through tautology (I am I! You are you!)
Once more, who is Max Stirner? Fourth reading: nihilist. /…/
Deleuze bestows high praise on Stirner for being the “dialectician who reveals nihilism as the truth of the dialectic”. By taking the dialectic to the extreme, Stirner pushed it until the essence of dialectic was revealed: a pure I which, in the end, is nothingness itself. /…/ For Deleuze, this was a powerful move, but one which Nietzsche ultimately surpassed with his quest for affirmation outside of any discussion of “property”.
Who is Max Stirner? Fifth reading: not the last Hegelian but the first poststructuralist.
More? Sixth, existentialist. Seventh: individualist anarchist. Eight, proto-right-wing libertarian. Ninth, fascist. Tenth, insane. Eleventh, twelfth… Man, your head is spooked! How many more can we fit in here?
Excerpts from chapter 1 of Jacob Blumenfeld, All things are nothing to me. The unique philosophy of Max Stirner (Zero Books, 2018)