The Ego and Its Own

The Ego and Its Own

Infobox Book
name = The Ego and Its Own
title_orig = Der Einzige und sein Eigentum
translator = Steven T. Byington

image_caption = Cover of the 1993 Rebel Press edition
author = Max Stirner
illustrator =
cover_artist = Clifford Harper
country = Germany
language = German
series =
subject =
genre = Philosophy
publisher =
release_date =1844 (first ed.)
english_release_date =1907 (first ed.)
media_type =Hardcover, Paperback
pages =370 (Rebel Press ed.)
isbn =ISBN 0946061009 (Rebel Press ed.)
preceded_by =Art and Religion (1842)
followed_by =Stirner's Critics (1845)

"The Ego and Its Own" ( _de. Der Einzige und sein Eigentum; also translated as "The Individual and His Property"; a literal translation would read "The Sole One and His Property") is a philosophical work by German philosopher Max Stirner (1806-1856), first published in 1844.


According to Lawrence Stepelewich the book is largely modelled on the work "Phenomenology of Mind" by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who was a great source of inspiration and dispute among the Young Hegelians, a group of 19th-century Berlin intellectuals with whom Stirner associated.

The book portrays the life of a human individual as dominated by authoritarian concepts ('fixed ideas' or 'spooks'), which must be shaken and undermined by each individual in order for that person to act freely. These concepts include primarily religion and ideology, and the institutions claiming authority over the individual. The primary implication of undermining these concepts and institutions is, for Stirner, an ethical egoism, which can be said toOr|date=September 2007 transcend language. According to him, not only is God an alienating ideal, as Feuerbach had argued in "The Essence of Christianity" (1841), but so too are humanity itself, nationalism and all such ideologies. According to Stirner, individuals should only entertain temporary associations between themselves, agreeing in mutual aid and cooperation for a period of time, but only when in each individual's interest (perhaps anticipating cooperative games):

"In the time of spirits thoughts grew till they overtopped my head, whose offspring they yet were; they hovered about me and convulsed me like fever-phantasies -- an awful power. The thoughts had become corporeal on their own account, were ghosts, e. g. God, Emperor, Pope, Fatherland, etc. If I destroy their corporeity, then I take them back into mine, and say: "I alone am corporeal." And now I take the world as what it is to me, as mine, as my property; I refer all to myself." p.15


Stirner asserted his own "doctrine" of self-interest to be a universal truth or established viewpoint, and likens his book to a ladder you throw away after climbing, a sort of self-therapy. [The same mental image of a ladder to be thrown away after climbing is used by Ludwig Wittgenstein in section 6.54 of "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus", it has been claimedwho?|date=September 2007 that this phrase was originally coined by Arthur Schopenhauer in 1844:

Quotation|However, for the man who studies to gain "insight", books and studies are merely rungs of the ladder on which he climbs to the summit of knowledge. As soon as a rung has raised him up one step, he leaves it behind. On the other hand, the many who study in order to fill their memory do not use the rungs of the ladder for climbing, but take them off and load themselves with them to take away, rejoicing at the increasing weight of the burden. They remain below forever, because they bear what should have bourne them.|Arthur Schopenhauer| "The World as Will and Representation", Vol. II, Chapter VII]

Quotation|Do I write out of love to men? No, I write because I want to procure for my thoughts an existence in the world; and, even if I foresaw that these thoughts would deprive you of your rest and your peace, even if I saw the bloodiest wars and the fall of many generations springing up from this seed of thought — I would nevertheless scatter it. Do with it what you will and can, that is your affair and does not trouble me. You will perhaps have only trouble, combat, and death from it, very few will draw joy from it.

If your weal lay at my heart, I should act as the church did in withholding the Bible from the laity, or Christian governments, which make it a sacred duty for themselves to 'protect the common people from bad books'. But not only not for your sake, not even for truth's sake either do I speak out what I think. No —

I sing as the bird sings
That on the bough alights;
The song that from me springs
Is pay that well requites

I sing because — I am a singer. But I "use" you for it because I — need ears|Max Stirner|"The Ego and his Own", p.394


Stirner repeatedly quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Bruno Bauer assuming that readers will be familiar with their works. He also paraphrases and makes word-plays and in-jokes on formulations found in Hegel's works as well as in the works of his contemporaries such as Ludwig Feuerbach. This can make the book more demanding for contemporary readers.

Confusion of the censors

When this work was published by Otto Wigand in 1844, its frank espousal of radical views "led to the not unexpected announcement in the newspapers of Saxony that the book had been immediately confiscated in Leipzig. Anxious not to be outdone, where usually they were so far ahead, Prussia banned the book. Then, Berlin received more accurate news: the book had not been banned in Saxony at all. In fact, the book's farfetched overstatement was regarded at Dresden as its own best antidote. The small states of Germany fell into line, on one side or the other, often with considerable difficulty owing to the scarcity of copies to examine first." ["He who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe", an exhibition of books which have survived Fire, the Sword and the Censors, University of Kansas Library 1955, quotation taken from the catalog of the exhibition posted online at the University of Kansas website.]

Publication history

First edition (1844)

* The original German edition appeared in October 1844 in Leipzig.

First editions in other languages (chronologically):

* French ("L'unique et sa propriété", 1900),
* Danish ("Den Eneste og hans Ejendom", 1901),
* Spanish ("El único y su propriedad", 1901),
* Italian ("L'unico e la sua proprietà", 1902),
* Russian ("Edinstvennyj i ego dostojanie", 1906),
* Dutch ("De Eenige en z'n Eigendom", 1907),
* Swedish ("Den ende och hans egendom", 1910),
* Japanese ("Yuiitsusha to sono shoyû", 1920),
* Catalan ("L'únic i la seva propietat", 1986).
* Greek ("O μοναδικός και το δικό του", 2002),
* Portuguese ("O Único e a sua propriedade", 2004).

English editions

First edition (1907)

* The first English Language Edition appeared in 1907; it was a translation by the American individualist anarchist, Steven T. Byington with an introduction by James L. Walker. The publisher was Benjamin R. Tucker, New York. This edition was reprinted several times by several publishers in New York and London up to 1931.

Libertarian Book Club edition (1963)

* The 1963 Libertarian Book Club edition is a re-print of the 1907 Byington translation. Edited by James J. Martin and with a cover by the son of Rudolf Rocker, the edition revived interest in Stirner as an influence on anarchism and related ideologies and brought Max Stirner to a wider audience in the English-speaking world. This edition was reprinted several times by several publishers in the United States and United Kingdom up to 1993, sometimes with a preface by Sidney E. Parker.

Harper & Row - Readings in Fascist, Racist and Elitist Ideology (1971)

* An abridged English edition of the Byington translation revised, selected and annotated by John Carroll. New York / London: Harper & Row 1971. 266 pp. The book appeared in a series "Roots of the Right. Readings in Fascist, Racist and Elitist Ideology", together with writings by Gobineau, Rosenberg, de Maistre, Maurras. The text consists of a mix of about a hundred quotations from "The Ego" (and some from Stirner's minor writings), reducing the volume by about a half.

Rebel Press edition (1993)

* The 1993 Rebel Press, London edition is an unabridged republication of the 1963 re-print of the 1907 Byington translation by the Libertarian Book Club. The Rebel Press, London edition has a cover design from anarchist artist and cartoonist, Clifford Harper and a preface by Sidney E. Parker.

Cambridge University press edition (1995)

* The Cambridge University press edition (ed. David Leopold, 1995) is a revised version of the original 1907 Byington translation with a new introduction by David Leopold. Leopold changed the title (His to Its) "not out of ahistorical considerations of 'political correctness' but because Stirner clearly identifies the egoistic subject as prior to gender" (p. xl). While Leopold accepted the Byington translation as "an heroic attempt to convey the readable yet idiosyncratic prose of Stirner's original", he "made a number of amendments, such as removing infelicities and archaisms, replacing the occasional missing sentence, and restoring some of the original paragraph and sections breaks." (p. xxxix)

Online editions

* [ PDF File of "Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum"] , original German, from [ the Egoist Archive] .
* [ PDF File of "The Ego and Its Own"] , Byington translation, from [ the Egoist Archive] .
* [ Electronic text versions of the book]
* [ "The Ego and Its Own"] HTML version
* [ Stirner's Critics] - Stirner's reply to his critics, bilingual (addendum to "The Ego")

ee also

* Geschichte des Materialismus



* R W K Paterson: "The Nihilistic Egoist Max Stirner". London: Oxford UP 1971, reprint 1993 (Part Two)
* Ernie Thomson: "The Discovery of the Materialist Conception of History in the Writings of the Young Karl Marx". 2004
* [ Bernd A Laska: "Nietzsche's initial crisis"] 2002

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