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Part I 


Entries on egoism from the Anarchist Encyclopedia (1934) 1 

by Wastiaux, Marestan, Odin, translated by de Acosta 
Philosophy of Egoism (1905) 9 

James L. Walker 

Anarchist Individualism in the Social Revolution 73 

Renzo Novatore 

Unbridled Freedom 77 

Enzo Martucci 

Egoism (1924) 81 

John Beverley Robinson 

Stirner, Marx and Fascism 85 

S.E. Parker (Enemies) 

Freedom and Solitude 91 

Marilisa Fiorina (Enemies) 

Part II 

The Unitary Triad: self-realisation, communication, participation 95 
Raoul Vaneigem 

Preface to The Right to be Greedy 129 

Bob Black 

The Union of Egoists 135 

Svein Olav Nyberg 

From Sovereign Self. 

A Letter to Lovers (#1) 139 

Indigenous Egoism (#5) 143 

From My Own: 

An Egoist Method (#3) 151 

What is an Individual (#1) 155 

Nameless: An Egoist Critique of Identity (#6) 159 



This book continues telling the story of egoism, a mostly neglect- 
ed tendency in anarchist thought, one that challenges anarchism as 
merely a historical story of old men with beautiful ideas and beautiful, 
noble failures 

Egoism and individualist anarchism is certainly not about losing. 
For those who pay attention, it tells stories about winning, defined in 
individual terms by those who lived life fully, and who were defined 
by their fight against the existing order — fights not against abstrac- 
tions, or Big Ideas, but to claim thier own authentic lives. 

Inspired by Stirner's The Ego and Its Own, egoists assert that the 
goal is not to compose a single better world (for everyone) but to 
resist the machinations of society, to resist how everything that we 
know and believe has been structured into a conformed, denatured 
shadow of what we could be. 

Individualist anarchists argue that anarchism is not about creat- 
ing a utopia as commonly understood, but about allowing for many 
possibilities. This has meant that they see anarchism in the actions that 
people make in their lives rather than in participation in the political 
bodies and formations that shape society. Egoists have robbed banks, 
practiced free love, and in their own eyes have won everything except 
those things worth nothing: history, politics, and social acceptance. 


If Egoism were as narrow in meaning as egoitistic, of course 
the question would have to be differently answered. But egotism 
bears the same relation to Egoism as the term selfishness, used 
with purpose in the derogatory syllable, bears to my newly coined 


term, selfness; hence we will set it down that some construc- 
tive use for the term altruistic is not of necessity excluded from 
Egoistic philosophy. But let it be observed that claims made for 
Altruism, based upon an ignorant or capricious limitation of the 
meaning of Egoism, and a glorification of the doctrine of devotion 
to others, intended to produce a habit of self-surrender, are held in 
our mode of thought to be pernicious, and attributed, in conclu- 
sions from our analysis, to defective observations and reasoning, 
and to the subtle workings of selfishness. 




part one 



Entries on Egoism 

from The Anarchist Encyclopedia 

. . . Without being a catechism or a gospel, this work will be a unique and 
complete collection, a sure and impartial guide, as well as a valuable index, 
that those who wish to instruct themselves and gather exact information can 
fruitfully and loyally consult in all circumstances. 

S. Faure 


EGOGM by L. Wastiaux 
from ego, I; 

the suffix ism designates the tendency 

The tendency to consider everything in relation to oneself. Current 
opinion: vice of one who relates everything to himself, due to an 
imperfection of the “heart” and the intelligence. It is opposed to al- 
truism, sacrifice, selflessness, all virtues “hearts” in the right place(see 
Altruism.) 

Each of us only has one brain and uses it as best he can to dis- 
cover a rule for his conduct. Whatever this rule may be, it is evident 
that it has its origin in the thinking subject: there is no man outside 
himself. The patriot defends the country he believes his own; the ex- 
ploiter, the status quo from which he profits; the individualist intends 
to preserve his little self, quarrels among States not being “his affair”; 
the artist feels “something” that brings him to express himself . . . they 
all act out of a need to act, to endure: out of egoism. However, the 
place publicly assigned to egoism shows a great imprudence, or an 
unpardonable cynicism. We want to be fooled, even consciously; on 
the village square, it is absolutely necessary for the charlatan to say 
that he has no other goal than to relieve poor humanity; no one is 
fooled, and yet, skipping over this formality of hypocrisy would come 


at a great cost. The tremendous progress of modern science has barely 
touched the prostrate mobs; in the interested wait for their salvation, 
they allow themselves to be relieved of all right to exist. It is there- 
fore not a question of partisans or adversaries of egoism; altruism 
is nothing but the disguise worn by the will to live, the instinct for 
self-preservation, to appear acceptable in a society held together by 
hypocrisy: man, who is a wolf for man, always finds it advantageous to 
play shepherd. So many people profit from the exploitation of their 
“noble feelings” and those of their fellows that it seems sacrilegious to 
cast them into doubt; and, since dupes generally prefer their innocent 
ignorance to the hassle of struggle, the rule of words seems far from 
its end. The worst of it is that heredity and adaptation to the envi- 
ronment seem to have embedded certain metaphysical notions so 
deeply into the human being that it is common to see educated and 
intelligent people making great efforts to rehabilitate morality, only 
because the alternative seems to them so horrible. And if those that 
profit from altruism have forged a conception of the world destined 
to reinforce their position, their victims have been equally conscien- 
tious, and, to avert their downfall, have manufactured moralities and 
theologies by the dozens, each rivaling the other in harassing mea- 
sures and subtleties. This imbroglio, this Chinese box puzzle capable 
of making the job of being a “thinker” so disgusting, made Nietzsche 
say: “First of all we hang the moralists!” 

Yet the reality is too clear for charlatanism to make it abdicate its 
rights. We have to retrace the history of philosophy to give an idea of 
these millenarian struggles. Ancient Greece had Aristippus as its pro- 
tagonist of pleasure; his theories, enlarged and modified, were bril- 
liantly expounded by Epicurus (432-270 BCE) (La morale d’Epicure, 
(Alcan), J.-M. Guyau.) The vigor of Epicurus’ thought confounds us 
with admiration, and it is not without melancholy that we measure 
the twenty-three centuries that separate us from him, when we see 
how few, even in our days, are those who have profited from his 
comforting wisdom. His system was mainly attacked by the Stoics, 


Z 


for virtue had no place in it; if he did what we by convention call 
“good”, it was because he wanted to; if he was sober, it was to con- 
serve his health, and also to be more free, having fewer needs. Even 
his adversaries were compelled to admire him, and took him up many 
times as an example: we can see that not all egoists are of the caliber 
of La Bruyere’s — he makes his a boor to render him despicable: 
Juice and sauces drip from his chin and beard; he licks his teeth, and 
continues to eat!” ( Characters ) 

Erasmus, Montaigne, and Pascal all considered the morality of 
happiness — egoism, epicureanism — as the only one that could be op- 
posed to the Christian morality of “abnegation”. La Rochefoucauld 
(1613-1683) recognized (with some regret, however) that egoism is 
everything: “Virtues are lost in interest as rivers are lost in the sea” 
(Maxims). With great effort. Gassendi reconstructed the system of 
Epicurus; Spinoza tried to bring together the two opposed theories, 
but soon enough, thanks to Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Adam Smith, 
the egoist theory returned to a place of honor. This resurrection, 
thanks to Helvetius above all, was greatly influential in the French 
Revolution. Closer to us, it is once again egoism — personal inter- 
est — that, with Bentham, Stuart Mill, and Spencer, is considered by 
English philosophy to be the sole lever that moves the human. Even 
though socialism, syndicalism, and anarchism are far from expressing 
themselves with the logic and clarity one might wish for, too often 
taking on the nebulous terminology of Christian metaphysics, they 
have no other foundation than individual or collective egoism. 

To live is the primary drive of the human being, the first and last 
motive of all its vital manifestations. To deny egoism is to deny 
life. There are no altruists; the word “altruism” is a synonym of 
egoism, and not its antonym. 

John Henry Mackay 

As an aside, let us note the line of demarcation — if there is a 
line — between anarcho-communists and individualist anarchists. The 


3 


latter do not have faith in the future (as the former do) to “inspire” 
each and everyone to an egoism in line with the general interest. J.- 
M. Guyau tries to reconcile individual and society: “Life can only be 
maintained on condition of spreading itself out,” he says. “There is a 
certain generosity which is inseparable from existence, and without 
which we die.” Need for generosity . . . egoist altruism (A Sketch of a 
Morality Without Obligation or Sanction; Alcan). 

Helped along by science, philosophy would have had an easy time 
opening eyes, if we did not prefer images to reality. We know that this 
unchangeability of stupidity provoked violent reactions, such as that 
of Max Stirner (1806-1856), and that of Nietzsche (1844-1900). 

How was one able so to transform these instincts that man 
thought valuable that which was directed against his self? When 
he sacrificed his self to another self. Oh the psychological 
wretchedness and mendaciousness that has hitherto laid down 
the law in the church and in church-infected philosophy! 

What task will I take up in this book? It will also be to “improve” 
humanity, but in another, opposed sense: I want to deliver it from 
morality, and above all moralists — from having had in its con- 
science the most dangerous ignorance . . . Recovery of human 
egoism! 

The Will to Power 

A crusade to recover egoism? Yes, it is urgent; only Epicurean 
therapy will rid us of contemporary incoherence and hypocrisy. The 
most advanced milieus are infested with Christianity; self-sacrifice, 
that species of egoism accidentally useful to others, remains the vir- 
tue par excellence; we forget that “duty” is relative to the aim that 
one sets for oneself, and that, renouncing the aim, one frees oneself 
at once of all obligation. I make propaganda because the misery and 
stupidity around me weigh on, menace, disfigure my life; I do not 
drink alcohol. . . because it destroys intelligence! Material pleasures 
for some, “refinement” for others; to each his own pleasure. . . 

4 


To lead the troublemakers to share one’s ambitions, to lead them 
to resolutions in line with one’s designs: this is called “making pro- 
paganda”. Does the crowd love the dependence that saves it from re- 
sponsibility? The anarchist loves freedom, to the point where, despite 
the repugnancy of so doing, he often tries to incite others to a libera- 
tory effort; he makes allies of his victims! Egoism? Altruism? — ’’First 
of all we hang the moralists!” 

To destroy the hypocrisy that cements it, — to show the inter- 
ested motives behind every action — maybe that is to irreparably dis- 
aggregate society. But so what? Whatever Le Dantec says, this global 
Malthusianism is better than “badly designed” societies. After hav- 
ing destroyed the logical value of metaphysical notions — God, Right, 
Law, etc. — simply by explaining them, this intellectual — Fear of the 
unknown? Unconscious vertigo? — this scholar justifies a “necessary 
hypocrisy” for the maintenance of society, with all its consequences. 
( L’Egoisme , Flammarion) . But why go on if the evil is without remedy? 

Nothing is less certain than that cynicism — egoism without a 
mask — will destroy society. It can barely spread there, only by a slow 
process, and who knows if society will not adapt in the long run. 
Life has time; its forms are innumerable and unforeseeable: let it ac- 
complish its destinies by itself. . . As for us, let us concern ourselves 
with our own; the “Future” will not thereby lose anything; the living 
enjoying their life — is that not a magnificent object lesson for future 
generations? 

Translator: Alejandro de Acosta 


EGOISM by Marestan 

Self-love. That is the etymological definition. Self-love is not a re- 
proachable feeling, but a necessary one. It is expressed in caring for 
our survival, the search for what is likely to make us happy and help 
us avoid pain, without, however, jeopardizing the right and ability 
of others to behave in the same way, to seek the same advantages. 

S' 


Without a minimum of care for our own person, the struggle for 
existence would lose its raison d’etre, associations would be devoid 
of purpose, and life itself would become contemptible. Viewed in 
this way, self-love — the will to live and to be happy among the 
happy — is profitable both to the individual and society, without 
damaging the latter. 

But it is no longer that way when the concern for preserving our 
life, and to provide sensual pleasures for ourselves, grows to such a 
point that it renders us indifferent to the sufferings and sorrows that it 
can cause around us. Far from promoting harmony between humans, 
such a deformation is highly destructive of mutual trust and solidarity. 
It often leads back to painful isolation or the death of the individual 
to whom all evils come. 

This demonstrates once more that the exaggeration of a qual- 
ity can result in a defect. Rendered excessive, self-love can engender 
vanity; thrift becomes avarice; goodness mutates into weakness; pru- 
dence into cowardice; calm into coldness. However, even though in 
each of these cases, language provides us with two clear words, one to 
designate the quality, the other to designate the corresponding defect, 
we should note that is not the case for what now concerns us. 

Is this because the Christian religion, preaching self-sacrifice, 
rendered the I despicable even in its most legitimate aspirations? Let 
us set aside the rarely used egotism, meaning almost the same thing as 
egoism. There is no synthetic word to designate positively that which, 
in self-love, represents a set of useful qualities, unopposed to rational 
morality, to wit: pride, desire to please, exaltation of the personality, 
the taste for independence, the refined cultivation of one’s own quali- 
ties, combativeness in defense of one’s rights. 

The word egoism, in contemporary usage, is only employed in a 
pejorative sense, that is to say, to designate the set of defects that re- 
sult from the exaggeration of the preceding characteristics. It means: 
the search for personal satisfactions without concern for the con- 
sequences to another. And, if it ceases to be available to designate 

( b 


this unpraiseworthy state of mind, we will have to invent another to 
replace it. 

This insufficiency of language is the cause of dangerous confu- 
sions. When one praises egoism as opposed to Christian resignation, 
people are justifiably scandalized because of the particular signifi- 
cance that this term is accorded. Others, persuaded that a portion of 
considered egoism is a rational thing, have come to make of it an 
exclusive system; without becoming aware of the limited meaning 
of words, they pass through the boundary that separates noble self- 
love from its shadow, or its caricature (anti-social egoism), and pursue 
something which fosters the law of the jungle as the means of union 
among men. 

If the word egoism is to remain the only one in our vocabulary 
to express at once something excellent and something less excellent, 
or even detestable, it will be necessary to distinguish between reason- 
able and inhuman egoism, between that which goes well with altru- 
ism — that search for personal happiness in the happiness of all — and 
that which wages war against it, at the very least so egoism does not 
use altruism as a seductive mask. 

Translator: Alejandro de Acosta 


EGOISM by Odin 

This word simply designates what relates to the I, the self. Egoism 
proceeds from the instinct for preservation. It is no more a vice than 
it is a virtue. It is a fact. Like gravity! 

Egoism is necessary to the smooth functioning of the individual 
as well as his physical organs. 

The exclusively pejorative sense that we give to this word is evi- 
dence enough of the degree of social hypocrisy. Conventions are based 
on such lies that this natural feeling is hypocritically repudiated as a 


7 


vice. And yet, egoism, in itself, is neither good nor bad. It. Simply. Is. 

Egoism is qualified by atavism, temperament, the environment 
and education of individuals. It produces violence in one person, 
greed in another, and in yet another, love. 

For example: In sight of Jean, Pierre, and Jacques, Paul is carried 
away by a wave! Immediately, Jean flees this dangerous place and 
seeks shelter; Pierre, whose clothing Paul had tried to hang on to, 
violently pushes him into the abyss so as not to be dragged in with 
him. At the same time, Jacques, unconcerned about the danger to 
himself, throws himself into the waves, fighting against their violence 
and brought Paul back to life. 

All three have committed an egoist act. 

These acts are different because each individual has a different 
sensibility. The sensibility of Jacques rendered his egoism healthy for 
Paul — that is undeniable; but just like Jean and Pierre, he was fleeing 
from suffering, his own suffering, reflexively echoing Paul’s suffering! 

Let us therefore cultivate our sensibility; let us educate it so that 
our egoism is more agreeable and beneficial to others. In this way we 
will mutually multiply the sum of our joys. But let us have the cynical 
honesty of confessing our egoism. 

The antonym of egoism is altruism and this word does not mean 
anything at all. 

Translator: Alejandro de Acosta 


8 


The Philosophy of Egoism 


James L. Walker 


I 

We seek understanding of facts for guidance in action, for avoidance 
of mistake and suffering, and even for resignation to the inevitable. 
This statement may cover the chief aims of mankind in intellectual 
discussion, ignoring now that which is merely a scholastic exercise. I 
am not in favor of argument in the style of the debating tarnished 
by a practice of which easily generates an evil habit, and there are, 
at least as yet, too many occasion in real life on which every person 
who loves to tell the truth and expose falsehood must consider time 
and circumstance lest he impale himself upon implacable prejudices. 
Consequently if duplicity have its uses there need be no fear that it 
will not be cultivated without concerted efforts thereto among those 
who are seeking intellectual light. 

I have placed resignation last, though it may be first in impor- 
tance for some individuals. I take it that the life forces are strong 
enough in most of my readers to exude in promptings to action 
which shall move things, in the liberal sympathy which would com- 
municate to others any discoverable means to reach conditions of 
greater harmony. 

Is it not a fact that there is a considerable amount of well wishing 
and at the same time and intricate series of reciprocal injuries practiced 
by mankind, such as in not discoverable in any other species on earth? 
Then, may we ask, what are the causes of evils in society, can they be 
generalized, and what is the nature or principle of an efficient remedy? 
If now the words laissez faire occur to the reader he will easily remem- 
ber that all animals except man practice according to that principle. Do 
we hear of fanaticism among them, of fighting within the species ex- 
cept in defense of their persons and property or on a matter of rivalry 


between the males? But what do we read in the history of mankind 
except woes, wars, persecutions and catastrophes beggaring description, 
and all related in some way to the determination of mankind to inter- 
fere with each others' actions, thoughts and feelings for the purpose of 
making people thing better and behave better as conceived? 

The theological Liberal is never tired of affirming that the greatest 
cruelties have been perpetrated by bigots action sincerely for religious 
right as they understood it; yet among the theological Liberals may be 
found prohibitionists and taxationists manifesting a holy horror of a 
man or woman who simply wants to be let alone while he or she lets 
others alone, and who refuses to join in any scheme or coercion. They 
insist that he cannot enjoy such liberty without detriment to society, 
and their ire rises on thinking that he is insensible to a moral principle, 
as they view the matter. They are bigots unknowing. 

But are there such people as I have alluded to, who practice the 
rule laissez faire? Certainly there are. (These words are French and 
mean “Let them do,” or “Let other people alone as far as you can.”) 
Properly understood and carried out in political science, as by Proud- 
hon, a rational system of Anarchy is evolved from the motto. Anarchy 
in its strict and proper philosophical sense means “no tyranny,” — the 
regulation of business altogether by voluntary and mutual contract. 

With some readers the perception of these relations as regards re- 
ligious belief and political institutions and this comparison of human 
intolerance with the better habit of other species, to mind their own 
business, will have suggested the fundamental thought to which I am 
coming. We are digging now for bottom facts; not trying to invent any 
artificial rule, but to find the wholesome reality in nature if there be 
any good there for us, and to find the mainspring of normal action at 
all events, leaving for after discussion if advisable whether or not any 
artificial substitute be possible or commendable. 

Now it is not my purpose to suggest that men should pattern 
after any other species of animal. We find the other animals acting 
naturally, seeking their own good, going each his own way and letting 


each other alone except under certain conditions which have caused 
a momentary conflict of individual interests. We find human life full 
of artificiality, perversion and misery, much of which can be directly 
traced to interference, the worst of this interference having no chance 
of perpetuation except through a certain belief in its social necessity, 
which belief arises from or is interlaced with beliefs as to details of 
conduct, such for example as that the propagation of the human spe- 
cies would not occur in good form unless officially supervised, and 
so forth. Drawing such comparisons the conclusion appears that man 
needs to become natural, not in the sense of abandoning the arts and 
material comforts of life, but in the treatment of individuals of the 
species by others and in their collective action. 

I may here anticipate an objection. Someone will ask whether I 
pretend that Egoism means the same as laissez faire. To this I say no, 
but the prevalence of Egoism will reduce interference, even by the 
ignorant, to the dimensions of their more undeniable interest in oth- 
ers' affairs, eliminating every motive of a fanatical character. Invasive 
developments of Egoism, no longer reinforced by the strength of the 
multitude under a spell of personal magnetism, will probably not be 
very hard to deal with; then for want of success such developments 
will be attenuated or abandoned within the species. Thus Egoism is 
demonstrably the seed-bed of the policy and habit of general toler- 
ance. And if vigilance be the price of liberty, who will deny that the 
tendency, within Egoistic limits, to vaporizing, non-Egoistic philoso- 
phers would place tolerance upon a cloud-bank foundation of senti- 
ment and attempt to recompense with fine words of praise the men 
who can be persuaded to forgo any advantage which they might take 
of others. Like the preachers who picture the pleasure of sin and urge 
people to refrain from it, their attempts are inevitably futile. 

II 

It is now time to meet the demand for definition of Egoism. The 
dictionaries must be resorted to for explanations of the meanings 


of most words, but in any science, art or philosophy there are some 
leading terms understood in a more precise manner than that general 
notion or mass of nearly related significations given in the dictionary 
under one term. The dictionary is like a map of the world, which 
shows where a country is with relation to all other countries. The 
definition of the dictionary is simply objective, not closely analytical. 
Its language is popular, as in the speaking of black and white as colors. 
All this is well enough. People need information which will be true 
to appearances, for practical purposes, and need so wide an extent of 
this in a moderate compass, that they are glad to get brief explana- 
tions or even hints at meanings, prepared by men skilled in classifying 
linguistic growths. Hence, however, they sometimes find the popular 
definitions as good but not better than to define cheese as condensed 
milk. The so-called synonyms have different shades of meaning, but 
disputants easily yield to the temptation to assume an identical im- 
port in two terms, an evil connotation which adheres to the other; 
and conversely the hearer is usually able to understand immediately 
whether the speaker, if sincere, is friendly or hostile towards an object, 
merely by noting the terms chosen in alluding to its existence. We 
rarely find many sentences together without a moral judgment being 
conveyed. Such judgments, from an Egoistic point of view, could be 
illustrated by representing a beggar extolling charity. 

The definition of the specialist, on the other hand, is like a map 
which shows the boundary between two countries, but does not at- 
tempt to show anything else. To the navigator land is that beneath his 
vessel which is not water. To the political economist a lake and a bed 
of coal are equally land. The two specialists are concerned with two 
different series of ideas, therefore with different aspects of the object. 

The best that can be said of Webster's dictionary definition of 
Egoism, is that a reader who already understands the term as it has 
been used in practical philosophy for more than forty years, may 
barely recognize the idea as one espies a diamond in a dust heap. 
“The habit of . . . .judging of everything by its relation to one's inter- 


ests or importance,” is Webster's nearest approach. In what sense can 
the individual and his interests be other than all-important to the 
individual? Only in the sense that, in order to reject Egoism, his in- 
terests are not to be understood as including his intellectual and sen- 
timental interests in objects, including other persons. But the Egoist 
will take the liberty to inquire how anyone can be engaged in judg- 
ing of anything without having taken an interest in it. Let us assume 
that a new dictionary maker inserts in his work a paragraph like this: 
EGOISM, n.The principle of self; the doctrine of individuality; 
self-interest; selfishness. 

Then I shall comment by saying that “the doctrine of individual- 
ity” is a happier expression than the single word individuality, for the 
latter is commonly used to convey the idea of distinctive, marked pe- 
culiarities of character. Self-interest is usually restricted to pecuniary 
interest and the like, ignoring what is reciprocal in the pleasures of 
companionship and what affords intellectual satisfaction. Selfishness 
is commonly used to indicate self-gratification in disregard of the 
feelings of others. All these words indicate Egoism, but they indicate 
it with special determinations. In the word selfish to termination ar- 
rests attention. It is generally disparaging; either connected with bad 
words or it gives them a contemptuous shade connected with bad 
words or it gives them a contemptuous shade of meaning, as knavish, 
thievish, foolish, mawkish, bookish, monkish, popish. Hence when a 
man acts in certain ways causing disgust in other people they declare 
his actions selfish, — not merely a manifestation of self, but one which 
they purpose castigating by adding the termination expressive of 
aversion and contempt. The linguistic instinct appears correct to this 
extent, however incorrect may be the popular judgment regarding 
certain actions which are thus stigmatized. For what of this thought 
some writers have laid the whole popular judgment, expressed in the 
reproach of selfishness, to the account of opposition to the principle 
of self. There is certainly a great deal of that. It is selfism, of course, 


13 


which protests, and selfishness which protests more against selfish- 
ness of others and against the principle of self in others. Selfishness 
argues that its pasture will be greener and richer in proportion as 
others yield in particular desires to the preaching of unselfishness and 
self-abnegation, however, in its fell sense, is evidently insanity, while 
unselfishness may be only selfism without any feature which can be 
calculated to arouse the antipathy of other individuals (that is, the 
unishness of the self) . This a new analysis and I do not pretend that 
users of the word unselfish are generally conscious of any force in 
the termination, to which the private prefix may apply, but I refer to 
Webster's definitions of selfishness and self-love respectively for sup- 
port as to the usage. 

Ill 

Egoism is (1) the theory of will as reaction of the self to a motive; 
(2) every such reaction in fact. This double definition is in accord 
with the usual latitude due to the imperfection of language, in conse- 
quence of which an identical term covers theory, individual fact and 
mass of facts. I apprehend that in making this fundamental defini- 
tion I shall have provoked the dissent of some readers well enough 
grounded in mental philosophy to perceive that on accepting the 
definition they must speedily consign any claim for an unegotistic 
philosophy to the realm of mental vagaries. They will accuse me of 
begging a question in the definition; but I cannot wish to lay down a 
definition less fundamental than that which will be found sufficiently 
comprehensive and exact in every relation of rational motive and 
resulting volition and action. When I shall have done justice to “Al- 
truism” it will be seen that there is here no begging of any question. 
The alternatives which the “Altruists” propose may accord with such 
of their own conceptions as they wish to term “Egoism,” with which, 
however, I have no complicity. 

By “motive” I mean any influence — sight, sound, pressure, 
thought or other energy — operating upon the self, and thereby caus- 


14 


ing a change in self, under which process it reacts to seize what con- 
tributes to its satisfaction or to repel or escape from what produces or 
threatens its discomfort or undesired destruction. 

If my definition be imperfect, the gap is in omitting to mention 
reflex action together with will. I regard reflex action as probably 
connected with a species of will in the nerve centers (and in other 
plastic matter in the lowest animals). However this may be, reflex 
actions are not subject to serious dispute in any speculative moral 
aspect. The omission, therefore, if any, would concern the exhaustive- 
ness of the definition, not its quality. But the merit of a definition is 
not in its exhaustiveness; it is in drawing the line at the right place. As 
I do not propose further defining “will,” I will just say that remains 
to be done in order to universalize, according to these views, the 
recognition of the Egoistic theory, is to establish all determinations 
to voluntary activity as reactions, plus consciousness in the brain, like 
reflex actions without it. Any controversy against the Egoist theory 
will range along the line of voluntary action; hence that part of the 
line of Egoism is all that is essential to be put into a definition. But 
if I have omitted reflex action in (1) the theory, I have not ignored it 
in (2) “such reactions in fact” for “such” refers to the self. Consulting 
convenience, I have written “the self” whether meaning apparently 
the whole co-ordenated energies of the self or the attracting and 
repelling of any organ or member thereof. Probably never were the 
whole energies of any animal exerted at once under the stimulus of 
any motive or combination of motives; hence the common expres- 
sion is an exaggeration. 

A course of reading in history, philosophy, and science, especially 
standard literature on evolution, together with personal observation 
of animal, including human life, will gradually convince any intel- 
ligent person that all voluntary acts, including a certain class of acts 
popular but erroneously called non-voluntary, are caused by motives 
acting upon the feeling and reason of the Ego, and that the reac- 
tion of the Ego to a motive occurs as surely according to the Ego's 


IS 


composition and the motive as does any chemical reaction; that the 
only difficulty for our understanding is in the complexity of motive 
influence (motives) and composition of the subject acted upon. To 
avoid this conclusion the dogmatists have spoken of motive as if it 
were something self-originating in the thoughts. Plainly, motive is 
any influence which causes movement. There must be a cause for 
every thought as well as every sensation. That cause must affect the 
Ego, and the Ego cannot but react if affected, — therefore according 
to the character of the motive and the manner and degree in which 
the Ego is affected in any of its parts, otherwise there would be no 
nature, no continuity of phenomena. In short, man in everything is 
within the domain of nature; that, the regular succession of apparently 
self-correlating phenomena. 

A motive planted in the Ego (that is to say in the self) may be 
compared to a seed planted in the ground. Assuming that it germi- 
nates, the commonly observed effect is an upward growth of stalk 
and fruit, analogous to voluntary action; but I have defined Egoism 
by reference to the spring of such action rather than by reference to 
the action as phenomenon, for a reason which will be understood 
by following out the analogy. Besides the upward growth there is a 
formation of root. The stalk of some plants may be repeatedly cut off, 
but while the root is alive there is the probability of another upward 
growth. This is most generally the case with young plants. Though 
mental analysis should reduce will to a mere abstract term of conve- 
nience for an imaginary link between motive and act, and whether or 
not volition becomes differentiated to bear a more precise and active 
sense, it is necessary to have a conception correlating renewed activi- 
ties with former ones, as perceived in repetition of in series, without 
the planting of new seed. This is found not in the simple and familiar 
illustration of seed lying without germinating for some time, but in 
the invisible growth beneath the surface, supplying energy and de- 
termination to forms which repeatedly appear and then take various 
directions accordingly as they encounter obstacles. 


IV 

Besides individuals we encounter groups variously cemented togeth- 
er by controlling ideas; such groups are families, tribes, states and 
churches. The more nearly a group approaches the condition of being 
held together by the interest of its members without constraint of 
one exercised over other members, the more nearly does the group 
approximate to the character of an Ego, in itself. Observation and 
reflection show that the group, or collectivity, never yet composed 
wholly of enlightened individuals joining and adhering in the group 
through individual accord, has always fallen short of the approxima- 
tion which is conceivable for the group to the independent Egoistic 
character. The family, tribe, state and church are all dominated physi- 
cally or mentally by some individuals therein. These groups, such as 
they have been known in all history, never could have existed with 
the disproportionate powers and influence of their members but for 
prevailing beliefs reducible to ignorance, awe and submission in the 
mass of the members. 

With this exploration and corresponding allowance, the group 
may be spoken of as approximately Egoistic in its character. Even 
when least swayed by individual members, the family, the nation and 
the church are thoroughly selfy. These composite individualities, as it 
is the fancy of some writers to consider them, are appealed to in vain 
to furnish an exception to the Egoistic principle. When Jack imposes 
upon the ignorance ofjill or upon habits acquired during mutual aid, 
and Jill is too trusting to trace the transaction back to fundamental el- 
ements and calculations of mutual benefit, the matter is readily laid to 
Jack's selfishness, which of course lauds its victim's welcome compli- 
ance; but when the family demands a heavy sacrifice of each member, 
attention is mostly drawn by Moralists to the advantage of the family 
and the need of such sacrifices, never to the phenomenon of a ruth- 
less form of Egoism in the family, imposing upon its members who 
have felt some of the advantages and then yield to pretentions which 


will not bear analysis, or tracing back in an actual account of loss and 
gain. Thus it is said to the man that he needs a wife, to the woman 
that she needs a husband, and to the children that they needed par- 
ents and will need obedience from their own children by and by. 
On the strength of these views various sacrifices of the happiness of 
man, woman and youth may be effected while they do not inquire 
precisely what they do need individually and how they can get it at 
least cost of unhappiness. 

The family, attempting to become an Ego, treats its members 
as an Ego naturally treats available organic or inorganic matter. The 
supine become raw material. The person has the power to resign self- 
care and allow himself to be seized upon and work up as material by 
any of the other real or would-be Egos that are in quest of nutriment 
and of bases of operation. The greater would-be Ego, the “social or- 
ganism,” reinforces the family demand with persuasion that hesitates 
at no fallacy, but first plies the individual with some general logic as 
to our need of each other then with flattery, how it will repay him for 
inconvenience by praise, external and internal, all the while exerting 
a moral terrorism over every mind weak enough to allow it, and all 
to subjugate the real Ego to the complex would-be but impossible 
Ego. For not the good of the family, but of itself, is the object of the 
state and of the “social organism.” The state prates of the sacredness 
of the family, but treats it with scant courtesy when its own interest 
conflicts with the family interest. The “social organism” reinforces 
the family against the individual and the state against the family, this 
already threatening the family, and obviously it will next threaten the 
state so far as this can be distinguished for the community; that is, the 
“social organism” will have no permanent use for separate nations. 

But in speaking thus we should not forget that the group, or col- 
lectivity, reflects the will of some master minds, or at the widest the 
will of a large number under the influence of certain beliefs. Either 
one or two or three horses may draw a plow, and its motions will be 
different. The complexity of motion from three horses is certainly 


18 


a phenomenon to be studied, but the way is not to disregard the 
elementary motive forces which form the result by their combina- 
tion; and so it is with society. Its phenomena will be according to 
conditions of information and to circumstances which determine 
the direction of personal desires. There certainty of desire and aver- 
sion as motives, founded in self-preservation, is found in the nature 
of organic as distinguished from inorganic existence. All desires and 
dislikes, acting and counteracting, make the so-called social will, — a 
more convenient than accurate abstraction. To make of it an entity 
is a metaphysical fancy. Unity of will is the sign of individuality. The 
semblance of a social self, apart from individuals, obviously arises 
from the general concurrence of wills. They could not do otherwise 
than run along parallel lines of least resistance, but the intellectual 
prism separates the blended social rays. 

The church is an important group, under the theological belief. 
The primitive character of its dominant idea funds its complemen- 
tary expression in the simple and transparent Egoism of its immedi- 
ate motives. A personal ruler, judge, and rewarder existing in beliefs, 
commands and threatens. The person sacrifices part of his pleasure to 
propitiate this master because he fears his power. Habit supervenes 
and the investigative spirit is terrorized by both personal belief and 
the fear of other fear-stricken believers, watchful and intolerant. The 
hope of heaven and fear of punishment are of the simplest Egoism. 
Morality on the same plane includes the fear of man and hope of 
benefit from men, complicated with belief in reciprocal enforcement 
of ecclesiastical duties, and this as a duty. Becoming metaphysical it is 
doubtless more difficult of analysis, but this secondary or transitional 
stage of mind is already disposed of as a whole by philosophy, so that 
the evolutionist predicts the passage of its phenomena and their re- 
placement by positive ideas of processes. The metaphysical stage will 
pass away though its formulas be entirely neglected by the advancing 
opposition. In fact, spell-bound and mystified man is freed by cour- 
age to break off from the chain of phantasies which has succeeded to 


the chain of theological fear. In this progress example counts sugges- 
tively and even demonstratively, and new habits of positive, specific 
inquiry give the intellect mastery of itself and of the emotions which 
had enslaved it. 

To sum up this part of the subject, let those who preach anti- 
Egoistic doctrines in the name of deity, society or collective humanity, 
tell us of a deity who is not an Egoist autocrat, or who has worshipers 
who do not bow down to him because they think it wisest to sub- 
mit; of a family which sacrifices itself to the individuals and not the 
individuals' hopes and wishes to itself; of a community or political 
or social state which departs from the rule of self-defence and self- 
aggrandizement; of any aggregation, pretending to permanence, this 
is not for itself and against every individuality that would subtract 
from its power and influence; of a collective humanity that is not 
for itself, the collectivity, though it were necessary to discourage and 
suppress any individual freedom which the collectivity did not think 
to be well disposed toward the collectivity or at least certain to oper- 
ate to its ultimate benefit. Self is the thought and aim in all. Selfness 
is their common characteristic. Without it they would be elemental 
matter, unresisting food for other growths. 

V 

Can the altruistic be included in the Egoistic? According to a stan- 
dard definition, quoted and adopted in Webster's dictionary, from the 
Eclectic Review, the reply seems to be that it can. That definition reads 
as follows: 

ALTRUISTIC, a. [from Lat. Alter, other]. Regardful of others; 

proud of or devoted to others; opposed to egotistical. 

If Egoism were as narrow in meaning as egoitistic, of course the 
question would have to be differently answered. But egotism bears 
the same relation to Egoism as the term selfishness, used with pur- 
pose in the derogatory syllable, bears to my newly coined term, self- 


20 


ness; hence we will set it down that some constructive use for the 
term altruistic is not of necessity excluded from Egoistic philosophy. 
But let it be observed that claims made for Altruism, based upon an 
ignorant or capricious limitation of the meaning of Egoism, and a 
glorification of the doctrine of devotion to others, intended to pro- 
duce a habit of self-surrender, are held in our mode of thought to be 
pernicious, and attributed, in conclusions from our analysis, to defec- 
tive observations and reasoning, and to the subtle workings of selfish- 
ness. To be regardful of others within reason, is intelligent Egoism 
in the first place, but before we go far in this we draw a distinction 
between such others are worth regarding and such others as present 
no title to regard unless a barren and superstitious form of respect 
obtrudes itself and makes a claim for “others” because they are “oth- 
ers,” — makes a virtue of sinking self before that which is external to 
the self. This is the principle of worship, mental slavery, superstition, 
anti- Egoistic thought. To proud of others, of the right sort for us, is 
one form of Egoistic rejoicing. When reflection has done its work ef- 
ficiently the habit of care for others, of the right sort for us, continues 
until checked by some counter experience; but let the habit become 
strong, let the avenues to esteem be unguarded and the sentiment of 
worship usurp the place of good sense, then the Ego is undone. He 
is like the mariner who has set said and lashed his helm in a fixed 
position, fallen asleep and drifted into other current under changing 
winds. 

Some Altruistic writers remind me of the orthodox theologians. 
In face of the facts of physical science the theologian admits that ev- 
erything in this world proceeds according to an invariable order, but 
insists upon giving it a magical, ghostly origin. The Altruistic writers 
likewise admit that the immediate choice of action of each individual 
at each turn in his career is determined by causes with precision, but 
they plead for an Altruistic education, an Altruistic impulse now, so 
that hereafter the reaction of the individual to given causes may be this: 
that he will find his pleasure in the social welfare. I say that if he finds 


his pleasure in it, he Egoistically promotes it; and if those writers find 
their pleasure in planning a greater social welfare, their initial efforts in 
the matter are Egoistic. The reflecting person may perceive that there is 
room for mistakes as to what is the social welfare. The doctrine which 
demands that a person shall forego some pleasure without having a de- 
liberate conviction that by so doing he makes a wise individual choice, 
is responsible for a certain immediate lessening of welfare at one point. 
Beyond that it may be an illusion of ignorance. 

The belief which prevail at one time regarding what is for the 
social welfare are widely different from those which succeed them. 
Once it was deemed injurious to society to teach a slave to read, and 
consequently injurious to tolerate in a slaveholding commonwealth 
the presence of a free person who ventured to follow his liberal in- 
clination in this respect toward an intelligent slave of deserving char- 
acter and conduct. Those who yielded to this social belief which they 
shared, rather than make an exception by following personal incli- 
nation, yielded to what has since been generally pronounced to be 
a malefic error. At the present day the beliefs prevail that conjugal 
rights of person over person are contributory to the social welfare; that 
children owe allegiance to their parents, and blood relations peculiar 
obligations to each other; that citizens need to feel other bonds that 
their own interested calculations and spontaneous benevolence; and so 
I might proceed with an array of phantom claimants exacting duties of 
the individual believer, prescribing what he shall and shall not do to be 
a worthy promoter of the social welfare; whereas on the whole there 
never has been any social welfare understood or realized, but mean- 
while trumpery beliefs prevailing in the past and present have filled the 
world with individual miseries. 

Some of the Altruists contend that their ideal man is wiser than to 
serve the beliefs of society. He works for his own ideal with his own 
reason for his guide. They fear that if he were to lose the urging sense 
of duty to the ideal he would cease to labor for a better condition of 
things. Now this is on their part, when stated, an insidious even un- 


conscious challenge to us Egoists to show them that Egoism is a better 
Altruism than Altruism itself. The matter presents itself thus, that the 
Altruist want to inquire or discuss whether Egoism is “right,” best for 
society, and so forth. Perhaps it will break up all the societies that now 
exist, and constitute new moral worlds, making new ideals possible; 
perhaps liberality of mind will prompt to all and more than the most 
intelligent and enlightened Altruist expects from the sentiment of duty; 
but however this may be, we Egoists are not arguing for the right of 
Egoism to be tried. We are trying to explain that Egoism is the chief 
fact or organic existence — its universal characteristics. 

Let us analyze Altruism with reference to pursuits instead of con- 
fining all our attention to persons. A new acquaintance and a new 
thing are alike objects to the Ego. His aim is to make use of them. The 
Ego's mental caliber and his predilections, heredity, or habits with re- 
gard to association, distinguishing him as an individual, are exhibited 
in the appreciation which he shows for some objects which can be 
made use of as means to gain, or reduce to use, further objects. The 
less reflecting man finds grain and consumes it all, finds wood and 
uses all kinds alike for fuel. The more reasoning man saves some grain 
for seed, cultivates it and gets more, saves hard wood for some durable 
uses, makes tools of metal, and studies his future welfare by planning 
means to ends instead of living from hand to mouth. In so far as he, 
in dealing with either persons or things, keeps postponement or sur- 
render of immediate pleasure, he is clearly acting with Egoistic judg- 
ment. Even when, having tested a series of phenomena, he establishes 
a rule and allows habits to supervene, saving himself the trouble of 
constant repetition of verifications, he is still the same Egoist; but if he 
loses the normal control of his exertion with reference to objects and 
ends which at first were to him means to other ends, he becomes an 
idealistic Altruist in the sense in which Altruism is distinguished from 
Egoism. In other words he becomes irrational, or insane. As some in- 
dividuals have mind enough to be habitually careful of others accord- 
ing to their merits, some artisans are habitually careful of their tools 


and more systematic and steady in their methods of work than others. 
Does this argue that they are less selfy or does it simply argue that 
they are more theoretical and, with excellent reason at the foundation, 
exemplify the law of character by which a process of reasoning having 
been settled, the intermediate links in some chains of reasoning, be- 
come familiar, are passed over without self-consciousness? The selfness 
of a farmer who goes out in the cold to save his stock, at the cost to 
him of some discomfort only, is not less in quantity, but is connected 
with more intelligence, than that of one who avoids the cold and lets 
his stock suffer. But a farmer may have become so avaricious that he 
will get him limbs frozen in his craze to save a yearling for the sake of 
the few dollars it is worth to him. The love of money within reason is 
conspicuously an Egoistic manifestation, but when the passion gets the 
man, when money becomes his ideal, his god, we must class him as an 
Altruist. There is the characteristic of “devotion to another,” no matter 
that that other is neither a person nor the social welfare, nothing but 
the fascinating golden calf or a row of figures. We Egoists draw the 
line of distinction between the Egoist and the devotee. It is the same 
logically when a person becomes bewitched with another of the op- 
posite sex so as to lose judgment and self-control, though this species 
of fascination is usually curable by experience, while the miser's insan- 
ity cannot be reached. The love-sick man or woman has the illusion 
dispelled by contact with the particular person that caused it; but in 
certain cases absence or death prevent the remedy from being applied, 
and in some of these instances the mental malady is lifelong. “Devo- 
tion to others,” it will be observed, can be made from a text for other 
sermons than those emanating from the amiable Moralists who pride 
themselves upon the alleged superiority of an unreservedly Altruistic 
habit of thought. 

VI 

The man who has fifty or a hundred suits of cloths made for his 
imagined use, the woman who keeps a colony of cats, the man who 


2.4 


fills a private storehouse with all sorts of tools which he can never 
use, are equally illustrations of the subversions of reason and are to 
be classed as Altruists in the degree in which Altruism supplants a 
ration Egoism. Let us take up these cases and consider them in detail. 
To have more than one suit of cloths is mostly a wise provision for 
the future, hence the aim is Egoistic, but from the point at which the 
accumulator loses sight of the end for which his care and trouble are 
taken, and becomes a slave to the idea of cloths, he ceases to be intel- 
lectually his own master; he falls under the domination of a fixed idea 
and is in that respect like a fanatic. The difference between him and 
the fanatic is that his crotchet is merely a waste of time and means, 
whereas the fanatic's fixed idea is one impelling its slave to some sort 
of senseless interference with other people's conduct. The fanatic, too, 
is an idealistic Altruist. If his oppression of others were carried on in 
pursuance of a selfish calculation, he would not be a fanatic. 

The woman who keeps an absurd number of cats embodies the 
exaggeration of the originally rational idea that this is a useful course 
to have one or two cats about a house to keep the mice down. Care for 
the useful domestic cat, without reasoning this matter over continually, 
is just as altruistic and no more so than fair treatment of good neigh- 
bors or of neighbors who would probably be dangerous if unfairly 
treated. The craze for cats is the same kind of Altruism as that which 
dictates entire self-sacrifice for the imagined food of other people. 

One may need many appliances, but there is a rational limit to 
the accumulations of tools. It is quite clean that some men pass this 
limit and make collections of such things a hobby, not for exhibition 
and instruction, because they will eagerly accumulate a dozen or fifty 
articles of a kind, and nor for commerce. This mild form of insanity 
cannot well be classed otherwise than as a degeneration from rational 
Egoism, through the altruistic process, to supernal Altruism. 

I have dwelt upon these examples partly because it is sometimes 
assumed that professed Egoists should use neither foresight nor pru- 
dential self-denial. Critics who presume to argue in this way refer 


man to the improvident species of animals and forget even the squir- 
rel. It is quite consistent with Egoistic philosophy and practice that 
foresight should be used and specific pleasures relinquished, and that 
habits of prudential self-denial should be formed, subject to searching 
review and ready self-control, especially as we are admonished on ay 
change of surroundings. 

And now, having traced the degeneration of the limited altruistic 
phase of Egoism (the rational postponement of immediate ends to 
means of no value in themselves but only to reach Egoistic ends), 
in others words having viewed Egoism as partly a pursuit of means, 
and so a rational course, and Egoistically altruistic habits as a further 
rational economy of time, in place of endless minute examination 
and calculations of consequences, — having explained from the Ego- 
istic point of view how, when the Ego has in some instance pur- 
posely dismissed the immediate gratification of self, he may and does 
sometimes fail to return to it for want of landmarks, memory and 
reflection, I would inquire whether there be any better explanation 
of the origin of the insanity of self- abnegation; I mean in the real, 
extreme unegoistic sense of the word; a sacrifice without expecta- 
tion of Compensation to the individual. The limited altruistic phase 
of Egoism is inevitable for a complex being. It involves the peril 
described. He runs the risk of going into supernal Altruism, much as 
the sailor, deliberately going out of sight of land to reach other land, 
runs whatever risk there may be of forgetting the object with which 
he undertook the voyage or of losing his compass and never getting 
back; or as an orator, entering upon the Flowery path of illustrations, 
may become captivated with the images of his fancy and utterly for- 
get the logical conclusion which he intended only momentarily to 
postpone in order to reach it with greater effect. As hobbies, miserly 
habits, and so forth, do not seem to admit of any other explanation 
than the one presented, and as fanaticism with its cruel deeds ad- 
mittedly springs from concern for others, coupled with a belief that 
certain of their doctrines are errors, and is thus identified despite 


7-<b 


its deplorable characteristics, as being pronounced Altruism, and yet 
in consequence of these characteristics it will not be defended by 
professed Altruists, but will be admitted by them to originate in un- 
reason, I should not expect them to object in this way of accounting 
for all obviously evil forms of Altruism. But the obviously evil and 
the silly phases of Altruism are apparently as intense as those phases 
which are so much praised and expatiated upon by professed Altruists, 
and therefore presumably require an equal formative energy. Conse- 
quently until the contrary is shown, we shall be as thoroughly war- 
ranted in reason in assuming that if the one set have been accounted 
for by our theory of the development of the dominating power of 
ideas and sentiments, the other can be accounted for in the same way; 
precisely as we may say that if the physical development theory be 
admitted to account for the snake and the hawk, it will be taken to 
account for the sheep and the deer. And moreover, when a process 
of development is shown to hold good, the mute challenge of facts is 
not merely as to whether or not another and radically different sort 
of explanation can be supposed for correlative facts, but the presump- 
tion of a general unity of process is very strong. Let any considerable 
part of the foregoing reasoning be admitted and it is granted to us 
that the concrete good or seemingly good in Altruism is based in 
Egoism. Then it can safely be inferred that it must be subject to test 
by reference to the Egoistic reason for its existence; in each case of 
a development of altruistic motive the question will be: is it service- 
able projection, an indirect means of Egoistic attainment, or is it an 
irrational movement, an aberration, to which we have seen there is 
a constant tendency? Now, the reason why we need to speak with 
caution of the seeming good in Altruism is not founded in any doubt 
that rationally limited altruism is wise and a necessary part of human 
Egoism, but in the circumstance that Altruism appears to have been 
set up by some writers as a principle separate from and independent 
of Egoism, as if the latter were a preliminary ladder, passing from 
which they profess to reach their supernal structure, whereupon they 


2.7 


would kick the ladder from beneath them. At this point we Egoists 
decide that such Altruism, considered as a principle, is not a thing of 
parts more or less good, but is posited as a rival of antagonistic claim, 
and therefore from the Egoistic point of view, is wholly bad. Here 
for illustration we may take the analogy of what is called government. 
If we say that each individual needs protection from violence and 
combinations of violence, that therefore the honest people should 
combine to secure such protection, this is well; but if upon this basis a 
governmental power is built which proves to be oppressive, we deny 
that such government is good, whatever good acts it may perform. 

VII 

All the appetites and passions afford subjects for observation and study 
of the process traced in several of the preceding paragraphs, but it is 
not my purpose to give an exhaustive review of the various fixed 
ideas and fascinations, or forms of mental slavery. I would suggest, as 
a useful exercise to the student of this philosophy of the actual, that 
other forms of subserviency to fixed ideas be analyzed as instances 
present themselves. 

Sometimes it will be necessary to look beyond the individual 
experience of the subject. Indeed it is certain that heredity plays an 
important part in predisposing the individual to one or other craze, so 
that he falls into it when the inciting cause arises, or else in organiz- 
ing him with well-balanced powers so that he happens to be happily 
proof against their influence. For example it may be interesting to the 
reader to take up for himself the passion of revenge, study its origin 
in the facts of warring species, families and individuals, self-defense 
and precaution, habits of thought becoming fixed, the destructive 
propensity developed perhaps beyond the need of the individual in 
actual circumstances, while the sense of relation between means and 
ends is blunted or lost; consequently when some hurt is experienced 
or apprehended, — or it may be an insult to his “honor” or a bundle 
of Altruistic beliefs, -the person seeking self-protection or vindication 


Z2 


will act as if what has been destroyed were still to be preserved by an- 
nihilating the destroyer, or on a menace he will act with the energy 
of concentrated race experiences, and in sympathy with his family, 
nation or race will generalize an injury to someone as being precisely 
the same as an injury to another or himself, though in the case it may 
be really otherwise, as a cool judgment might determine. Thus what 
is primarily self-defence leads, under the influence of this passion, and 
perhaps quite as often or oftener than philanthropy, to the sacrifice of 
his own life by the subject. Such action has the mark of that supernal 
Altruism already abundantly illustrated and clearly distinguished from 
a rational altruism consonant with the reign of self-interest. 

We have now dealt with Altruism as fact, but we have yet to con- 
sider it as a preachment of duty. Before entering upon a consideration 
of the claims of the preachers of “moral duty” and showing what 
their alleged obligatory Altruism is, putting it to the test, whereupon I 
apprehend that it will be found to be easier for a man to pass through 
a needle's eye than to enter into the moral kingdom of heaven, I wish 
to anticipate an objection or criticism which some reader may have 
raised in his own mind while we were discussing the illustrations of 
fixed ideas. The miser took pleasure in hoarding gold, but because he 
was under a fixed idea I classified him as in the bad sense Altruistic; 
yet for an individual to act under the rule of pleasure is Egoistic. This 
is the seemingly difficult. It is resolved, of course, by disregarding 
verbal quibbles. The mesmerized subject seems to act as an individual 
but he is under foreign control. The miser seems likewise to act as an 
individual but he is intoxicated or mesmerized by the force of the 
idea which has obtained an ascendancy incompatible with the reign 
of individual reason. 

A further remark seems appropriate here, and I have brought this 
case up partly to explain how far the philosophy of Egoism differs 
from the logomachy of the Moralists, who, not content with dividing 
men into sheep and goats, would be glad to divide ideas of facts in the 
same way and on the lines of their own prejudices. With them the facts 


7-9 


must be opposites, absolute opposites all the way through, if there be 
opposition in them in some relation. They have right and wrong, good 
and evil, Altruism and Egoism in their brains as opposites. Though 
nothing in fact is simpler to sound reason than the conformity of the 
crazy man's conduct to the order of the sane man's conduct, barring 
the substitution of an abnormal motive which practically supplants in- 
dividual reason, the genuine Moralistic theorist does not want an anal- 
ysis of the facts. He is on the lookout for some peg whereon to hang 
a charge of inconsistency in argument. Verbiage is his stronghold for 
such occasions. He may be painfully Surprised to learn that we Egoists 
profess to find the Altruistic subject manifesting Egoistic modes of op- 
eration as nearly as the nature of the craze will allow, and that we find 
in this an expected corroboration of the central fact of organized, sen- 
sitive existence. A little shock or whirl of this kind will prepare the less 
fossilized among my Moralistic readers for the greater astonishment 
which they must undergo when they for the first time read of right 
and wrong as they will be treated in these pages, as conceptions having 
each a separate and independent origin and not logically requiring the 
usual forced moralistic treatment as if they were necessary and invari- 
able opposites. Just at this point, however, I need only say that modest 
altruism confesses its foundation and haughty Altruism is self-betrayed, 
as surely as there is method in madness. Altruism is conspicuously self- 
ish to make gains for Altruism. Method is a prime characteristic of 
sanity. There may be such madness as shows no method, but it is rare. 
The Altruism that contains no Egoistic alloy is still more rare if it exists 
at all. We have yet to look about and see whether it can be found and 
to examine whether or not it will appear to be a vain profession of 
self-deluded men who have never contemplated the sacrifices which it 
would involve if consistently and diligently carried into action. 

VIII 

To plead before a tribunal is generally understood to be an acknowl- 
edgment of its jurisdiction. The intelligent Egoist does not seek to 


30 


justify his views or conduct according to rules or principles of Mor- 
alism which works by awe, aping theology and religion, of which 
this Moralism is the ghost. Such words as morals, morality, right and 
wrong, duty and obligation have not lost their limited Egoistic mean- 
ings. The theoretical Egoist may be termed a moralist in so far as he 
thinks out a course of conduct in conformity with his observation 
and reason. If in a genial way he soars above business calculations 
then he “sings as the birds sing.” To him duties imply persons who 
have wants and make the non- satisfaction of those wants a source 
of discomfort to him. But supernal Moralism with its absolute Duty 
he apprehends as a claim of an essentially religious character fettering 
with ghostly terror or enthrallment all who yield to the mystic spell. 

Persons who have been reared in a religious belief find them- 
selves years after they have become disbelievers in the doctrines 
taught them in childhood still so far under the influence of religious 
sentiment that light remarks on the subject give them a shock, and 
apparently in the same way a generation that does not know God or 
ecclesiastical authority, a generation that does not know the sacred 
political State and the sacred authoritative family of its fathers, still re- 
tains some portion of the conscience that would fain subjugate Ego- 
istic reason. For thousands of years preachers in the service of rulers 
have been preaching Duty, humility, submission, piety to the people, 
and Egoism has been their unspeakable horror. In our day the results 
of criticism applied to religious belief are apparent in general scepti- 
cism regarding the foundation of their authority, of their dogmas. Still 
the heredity of preaching, exhorting and warning must find its outlet, 
to say nothing of calculations made by men whose wealth is insured 
by the system of belief and submission preached, and to say nothing 
of calculations by ex-preachers of theology whose prospect of an 
income seems limited to finding something on which to preach and 
by which to obtain contributions, and thus the relations of man with 
man, philanthropy for equity, sentiment for science, serve to continue 
the comedy-tragedy of preaching and servility. 


If Shylock does not go to church he takes a magazine and en- 
ables the publisher to pay a few dollars a page for essays on ethics, the 
purport of which is that Morality, Conscience, Duty reign where 
God formerly reigned and with much the same restraining effect; 
that all honorable men will agree that these forces are indispensable, 
ineradicable and necessary for the conservation of property, the fam- 
ily, government and social order, hence a proof of Moral Being in 
man, while self-interest as a principle would be subversive of Moral 
sentiment and ruinous to society; wherein it is assumed that society 
is about as it is desirable to keep it. By such process Shylock makes 
5000 per cent on his investment in Moralistic literature simply in 
the economic sphere, as he is protected by the State. He accepts any 
incidental assistance toward keeping women in a receptive and docile 
condition of mind as being so much clear profit, though really if the 
enterprise had to be sustained for this purpose alone he must be a 
miser only or else a free lover and not a “proper family man,” if he 
did not see the advisibility of paying out the few dollars even with 
this sole end in view. 

All reformers who are not intelligent Egoists or endowed with 
the genius of Egoism continually render themselves ridiculous by 
complaining of monopolists and tyrants. Thereby they proclaim their 
Moralistic superstition. Their method is abortive. It can at the best 
lead people from one form of trustful dependence to another. At the 
worst and often it causes people to commit acts of ill considered hos- 
tility and to indulge in sentimental declarations which enable cool 
and intelligent masters to incite stronger forces against the reformers. 
Reform, indeed, is a word for conservative mediocrity. Egoism when 
understood by the many means nothing less than a complete revolu- 
tion in the relations of mankind, for it is the exercise of the powers of 
individuals at their pleasure, and not a plea for their “rights.” 

The Moralists, or Altruists, come with a tale of Duty, or moral 
obligation. They say that I ought to love my neighbor as myself and 
to put aside my selfy pleasure. It is horrifying to them that I act on 


32 


consciousness of satisfaction, on genial impulse, on calculation of gain, 
and not in submission to the Moralistic judgment of “conscience.” I 
understand very well that it is their ignorant fear of an independent 
person that is at the bottom of their pleading. They are accustomed 
to think of a man as a dangerous animal unless controlled by “con- 
science.” Few of them have met one who does not profess to de- 
fer to such a “spiritual guide.” I however regard their “conscience” 
as identical with the superstition which impels Hindoos to throw 
themselves beneath the wheels of the sacred car and to allow sacred 
animals and sacred men to devour their substance. 

Are the Altruists, the Moralists, willing to examine the logic of 
their principle and carry it out to its consequence? Will they follow 
where it leads? Then we need not insist Upon the prominence of the 
oppressive idea of Duty and its degradation of the individual, but we 
may take their own favorite idea of pure, disinterested love expel- 
ling self-interest wherever the two conflict. Of course the intelligent 
Egoist will perceive that I am trying to accommodate the Altruists, 
to get as near their position as possible, but that nevertheless there 
is something of falsehood, of contradiction, in the idea that love can 
be other than a personal interest in the object when love overcomes 
other interests without a sentiment of sacrifice arising; and that if 
the consciousness of sacrifice be present the motive is Duty, not love. 
However, I am discussing an alleged possibility, a life of Altruistic 
devotion, -and I do not expect in the statement of the question to 
succeed better than the Moralists themselves in making the fanciful 
scheme appear wholly real. Apart from theology with its gross dog- 
matism about “souls” in men and the animals as “soulless” machines 
of flesh and blood, the dogma of Moralism, the duty of Jove to oth- 
ers, obviously bears a direct and essential relation to the capacity of 
others to enjoy and to suffer, and no radical distinction can be made 
between a human subject and any other animal. The anti-vivisection 
Moralists stand up to the logic of their principle in one particular 
when they insist that pain ought to be inflicted upon the inferior 


33 


animals for the advancement of science intended for the benefit of 
mankind and not for the species or individual animals operated upon. 

The consistent Moralist will now see what his principle requires 
of him. Though the animal, by reason of its inferior intelligence and 
want of speech and hands, cannot fully express its complaints, assert 
its “rights,” and maintain its liberty, he will neither use his superior 
ability to enslave it nor permit others to do such wrong if it be within 
his power to prevent them. The animal's inability to participate as 
an equal in social affairs is ground for certain exclusions, but not for 
usurpation, detention, subjugation, castration, enforced labor, shear- 
ing off the natural coat, robbery of the mother's milk and driving to 
the slaughter house. By what right does the Moralist shoot deer or 
crows, cut off the heads of chickens and turkeys, and cast his line or 
his net for fish? If by the authority of God, I reply that God is the 
archetype of personal despotism, Egoism without the balancing force 
of approximately equal powers in different individuals; and that there 
is no such authority. The philosophical Altruist has left that ground. I 
refuse to recognize the plea. I look to the Altruistic Moralist for a less 
barbarian answer. And let him remember the incapable of his species, 
the idiot, the maniac. Does he exploit them with a good conscience, 
as he tames and rides a horse? Does he refrain from fattening and 
killing them only because he thinks they are not good eating? Where 
and what is his conscience, then, as to other animals? 

Permit me to suggest that a man is safe in reflecting that he 
will never be a buffalo or a rat, unless he believes in transmigration, 
whereupon his unconfessed Egoism crops out, keenly self-regardful. 
Hence buffaloes and rats have no rights that a man even though a 
professed Moralist need respect, except the right of exemption from 
torture. (Torture is a bad example. It can be inflicted upon men as 
well as upon other animals and it does not minister to any demand 
of enlightened self-interest.) But what man may not be accused of 
feeble-mindedness or suffer some accident which will impair his 
mental powers? How then can self-concern be silent when one of 


34 


his species is ill treated? The other animals-indeed he is never to be 
one of them: what does it matter to him how you use them so that 
you do not cultivate cruelty in yourself? (The cruel man is dangerous 
to us and ours.) 

I call upon the Moralist to vindicate his doctrine by applying it 
consistently to the treatment of all animals. Confining it to our own 
species is too Egoistic to be deemed pure Moralism. I shall be very 
much surprised if any such practical response comes as to disprove 
my new version of scripture, which says that the Moral kingdom of 
heaven is inaccessible to men of ordinary sanity. Who will rejoice to 
see the grasshopper getting his fill, and keep sacrilegious hands out of 
the hen's nest? Who will feed the lambs and neither feed upon ~lamb 
nor wrap in woolen blankets, for conscience sake? One Moralist has 
one hobby and another has another hobby, but if there be one who 
proposes to live a life of self-denial for the happiness of all other sen- 
tient beings as far as they are capable of experiencing pleasure, to re- 
spect their liberty and embryonic offspring as conscientiously as any 
Moralist does those of his own species, I shall regard his appearance 
upon this scene as the exception which will very strikingly illustrate 
the rule in individual conduct, and I shall be glad to have an oppor- 
tunity of learning how he manages to live. 

IX 

If self-renunciation be a virtue, certainly it is the purer when the sac- 
rifice is made for individuals of another and widely different species. 
In caring for our own species we may obtain a return, and we can 
cherish the imagination thereof if it seems improbable; and so it is 
in caring for one of any other species between which and ourselves 
there is some communication of mutual intelligence and mutual 
sympathy; but if a man wants to show pure disinterestedness let him 
sacrifice his pleasure, his comfort and his life for other species that 
wilt neither understand nor return the manifestations of benevolence. 
Such a supernal Altruist will reject cleanliness as a sin, if convinced, 


as he must be by ordinary observation, that parasites thrive best on 
the human body when there is an entire avoidance of soap and wa- 
ter. Such a self-denying Moralist wm not dress a wound or purify 
his blood, for these practices mean death to animalcules. Here I am 
reminded of a story of the devout Hindoo who was horrified on 
looking at a drop of water through a powerful microscope. He found 
to his consternation that he could not drink without destroying life. 

Supernal Moralism should be viewed sometimes from the point 
of view of universal animal motives and conduct, excluding the idea 
of selflessness. If the survival of the fittest be not an empty phrase, 
supernal Moralism is an excessively silly insanity. The “sacredness” of 
the germs of human life is impressed upon the mind of the devotee 
of Moralism, and in some cases the result is that a child is born as the 
offspring of rape. The simple, pious people may wonder that “God” 
can assist in giving effect to crime. The supernal Moralist who prides 
himself on scientific acquirements may well feel confused when a 
hybrid form appears as a practical commentary upon the alleged “sa- 
credness.” 

Spiritual terror, the strangest, most melancholy phenomenon in 
human motive, is essentially the same influence, while it lasts, in the 
man or woman claiming to be emancipated from theological dogmas, 
as in the believer in those dogmas. It usually remains after its generally 
supposed root is destroyed, in the Agnostic, like an air-plant. This in- 
dicates that its foundation is not precisely where some antitheologi- 
cal writers suppose. Mere disbelief in Jehovah may leave the agnostic 
mind subject to fixed ideas of a most irrational character. The belief 
in Jehovah in the first place occupied an ignorant mind and when 
that belief is expelled neither ignorance nor fear is altogether ban- 
ished. There is some improvement in the prospect for positive Egois- 
tic thought and sentiment to occupy its own. There remain, however, 
numerous fixed ideas of Duty to Society, Duty to the State, Duty to 
Humanity, and such rubbish, which are fertile of intoxicating and 
paralyzing influences, and our talking Freethinkers in general still 


36 


shudder to contemplate a person uncontrolled by such “restraining 
influences .’’They imagine, after all, that he will go to the devil or run 
amuck without moral “restraint.”The triumph of sanity, then, lies not 
in the expulsion of anyone form of insanity, but in the acquisition of 
an Egoistic consciousness and self-control. 

X 

Under the head of Religion Webster's dictionary says: “As distin- 
guished from morality, religion denotes the influences and motives to 
human duty which are found in the character and will of God, while 
morality describes the duties to man, to which true religion always 
influences.” Granted belief in a personal ruler, submission to his will 
is prudence and prudence is Egoistic. With this conception the duty 
spoken of is not mysterious: it is service by a subject, -the slave's sub- 
mission to the power which he fears. He believes that the sovereign 
ruler has laid upon him special commands favoring his species and 
therefore he must treat men better than other animals. If this belief 
be an error, still there is no line to be drawn between the alleged 
duty and his interest. There is no disinterestedness or generosity in 
religious duty or moral duty, or say rather in duty to God or man, for 
both are ultimately duty to the supposed heavenly master. 

But Moralists, having gained some rational ideas of mutual rela- 
tion, while unhappily ignoring the fact that these ideas are the proper 
foundation of willingly assumed mutual duties, fancy that they have 
discovered the justice of the alleged divine command or will, which 
is nothing but a reflection of their own thoughts, and thenceforth 
they fall under the hallucination of mystic Duty, independent of ei- 
ther calculation or pleasure. It is one task of Egoistic philosophy to 
analyze this notion of theirs as a confusion of ideas. They go so far in 
some instances as to dismiss belief in a moral lawgiver of the universe 
and yet remain under the same fascination to Duty as if they had him, 
and his will were equitable, and their servility were swallowed up in 
admiration of his justice. What they lack is the insight to perceive that 


37 


conduct which makes for the good of the species is naturally agree- 
able to the feeling of each well developed individual, hence that the 
conception of Duty is scepticism as to spontaneity. The fixed idea of 
Duty unrelated to interest and not reducible to calculation, arises by 
abstraction and fascination like other aberrations reviewed in pre- 
ceding pages. It reaches clear insanity in self-sacrifice if this occur in 
unreasoning ecstasy. 

Of course one self-inflicted pain of some particular kind or even 
death is sometimes chosen in order to terminate anguish which none 
but the subject can appreciate. In such cases the action is Egoistic, 
though it may be of a terribly ignorant sort, as for example, when the 
cause of the pain is an imaginary object or such a real relation as is 
humiliating to the person's feeling only because of irrational notions 
about it. 

If morality be regarded from the point of view of the social utili- 
tarian, as that course of conduct which promotes the welfare of the 
species, it is only necessary to repeat that the species acts as Egoisti- 
cally as it can. It cheerfully sacrifices individuals to its own welfare. 
It has a subtle economy of means in planting Altruistic conceits in 
those that are willing to entertain them. When intelligence comes to 
recognize mutual interests this instinctive trickery of social influence 
will vanish, no longer seeming to be needed. 

As for the virtues, such as benevolence, every observing person 
knows that we seek to get rid of painful impressions. Such, usually, 
are those of suffering in others. Many writers have pointed out how 
pity is stirred by the sight of wasted bodies and hearing the cry of 
pain, and how much weaker it is when only an ordinary description 
is given of the occasion; also how much more ready the poor are to 
help other poor people than the rich are. What has perhaps not been 
so generally observed is the reason for this, viz., that the rich do not 
feel that they arc likely to need alms, while the poor are on the edge 
of such need. There is quite enough in the difference of circum- 
stances to make it instructive, although at the same time, personal 


38 


character varying in susceptibility, it is doubtless true also that those 
most inclined to benevolence are most likely to be poor in a society 
like ours, where money is supposed to grow by lending and profits 
are consolidated from the results of unpaid labor. 

XI 

The suggestion has been heard that if all acts are Egoistic this term 
has no distinctive meaning. The same thing has often been said as to 
“matter” when the Materialist has affirmed that there is no “spirit,”— 
no opposite of matter. Matter then becomes synonymous simply with 
existence. The Materialist replies that he is content with the conclu- 
sion that there is no alleged existence unrelated to other and known 
existence; none exempt from manifestation according to a regular 
order or subject to the inherent law of its being, to speak according 
to appearances. There is a regular order of succession of phenomena. 
The Spiritual theory asserts a break in what is popularly called “the 
reign of natural law,” Materialism denies such assertion and exists as a 
distinctive ism to deny and disprove it. This statement will indicate in 
part what is the proper reply when it is charged that Egoism is almost 
meaningless if it embraces all acts. It was believed that a man acted 
disinterestedly. Closer examination finds the motive and the form 
of their interest. Thus a parallel to the progress made from the time 
when men believed in miracles to the time when they have learned 
enough of natural law to expel the former belief. 

By referring to the definition already given of Egoism it will be 
seen that it covers a theory as well as facts. If every act of every ani- 
mal were perfectly Egoistic, nevertheless the demands of intelligence 
would not be satisfied without understanding the phenomena, which 
are explained according to natural law as reactions of individual will 
to motives presented in circumstances. To act Egoistically is universal, 
but to be in part ignorant of the fact seems to be also nearly universal. 
The theory of Egoism has its opposite in the theory of Altruism, evi- 
dently joined to Spiritualism by ignoring and denying the necessary 


sequence in phenomena. (I make no allusion to modern Spiritualism, 
which professes to be Materialistic.) 

But beyond this it can be firmly said that until the Egoistic the- 
ory is understood and has had its full influence upon character, those 
irrational actions will continue which are the fruit of error, illusion, 
fascination, fixed ideas, rendering the individual practically not an 
Ego, not in the possession of his faculties, hence there will be, as there 
are, actions not properly Egoistic, but insane, though not generally so 
understood. Thus the Egoistic theory has a practical purpose. The half 
insane, that is to say all worshipers, religious, political or personal, -are 
to come to consciousness of their individuality and become wholly 
sane. As to submissive actions performed simply under fear or hope, 
their Egoistic character is quite clear. 

XII 

The word right has the same fundamental meaning as straight. When 
no obstacle stands or lies between an animal and the object of its 
desire, the shortest way, which is a straight line, is the way the animal 
takes to reach the object; but when approach by a right line is im- 
practicable the nearest known path is chosen, all considerations such 
as safety being weighed according to intelligence. This is then the line 
of least resistance, -the one most approximating in convenience to a 
right line. The right hand is so named because usually the stronger 
and more serviceable. A man's right is his straight way to the satisfac- 
tion of his desires, and he takes no other way except under adverse 
circumstances or hallucination. 

It will be objected by Moralists that such an exposition of right 
reduces it to nothing but might. In this inference they are correct, but 
their objection does not disturb Egoistic philosophy, which regards 
their alleged supernal, sacred Right as a superstition. I have a right to 
do what I can take and openly keep, and another has a right to take 
it from me if he can. Those, however, who believe that a superior 
authority has laid down a rule to which they must conform, will take 


40 


up that rule or law as they understand it, and their idea of right will 
be that of conformity to the command of the authority. The Moralist 
is under an impression that instead of pursuing his own pleasure he 
has to fulfill a purpose which may be at variance with his pleasure. 
His conception of Right is not an Egoistic conception. He has sur- 
rendered himself, and with himself his Own right, and has begun 
to serve an abstraction. He is in the way to commit great folly and 
wrong to himself. To the Moralist Right and Wrong are two fixed 
ideas, forever in opposition in all senses. To the intelligent Egoist they 
are two words generally perverted from their meaning and used as 
scarecrows. There is a frequent clash between the right of one and 
the right of another, and they fight it out. It is settled by the triumph 
of one and the defeat of the other. Max Stirner in his matchless book, 
Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum (The Individual and his Property), 
says: 1st es mir recht, so ist es recht (If it suits me, it is right.) The Mor- 
alist would say: if it be right for me; thus implying that he is under 
some mysterious authority. The Egoist would not Use the the latter 
preposition except when recognizing some law or definite arrange- 
ment which prescribes certain rights. When I say: “if it be right for 
me-,” I admit an authority. Now in fact I must often admit one-, that 
is a power, but I admit it simply as a power, not at all as the Moralist 
admits it. I do not bow down to it in my thought or regard it as any- 
thing but an enemy to my freedom, and if it cease to assert its power 
and to compel me by penalty or the prospect of penalty, I assert my 
full power to do my own pleasure and nothing but my own pleasure. 
The Moralist consents to serve as his own jailer; not so the Egoist. As- 
sert your right, your power, your pleasure. I claim none of that, I assert 
my own. I appeal to no Moral law of the world. I recognize none. We 
shall find our interests coincide or we shall give each other battle or 
we shall steer clear of each other, according to circumstances. 

In words you can assert my right, but when you attempt to do 
so in deeds you succeed only in asserting your own right. I alone can 
prove my right by deeds. 


41 


The Moralist pretends to be under an obligation to respect the 
rights of others and never do them any wrong; but he defines their 
rights and does not allow them all their rights. He abdicates his own 
and cripples theirs and then flatters himself that the mutilation and 
effacement constitute superior Right. He protests against Egoism be- 
cause it wrongs his system. At times he imagines that the Egoist must 
talk in the language of Moralism and must mean that in acting with 
Egoistic right the Egoist would pretend not to do wrong to another; 
wherein the Moralist becomes absurd, for the Egoist does not pre- 
tend that he can always exercise his right without wrong to another. 
It is a matter of expediency with the Egoist what wrong to another 
he shall do. 

“Right wrongs no man,” exclaims the landlord, and drives the 
tenant out of a house. The inclement weather beats upon the unshel- 
tered, and their nerves are wrung. The landlord exercises his right, but 
lies moralistically. 

The word wrong is a variation upon the past participle of the 
verb to wring, to twist. Victor and vanquished are two, and the Mor- 
alist simply looks away from the facts of life when he preaches a uni- 
versal natural Right and ignores individuals with their various wants 
and powers and the probability that what is good to one may entail 
some ill upon another. 

But the species? The Moralist, driven from the former position of 
a divinity ordering all things in harmony in the world, or at least the 
conceit that his own species is favored at the expense of all below it, 
and this not by its intelligence but by a divine decree arbitrarily mak- 
ing the spoliation of the world and rule over inferior animals Right, 
takes refuge in a belief that the welfare of the species may give Moral 
law to the individual. Hence the dogma that the individual exists for 
the species. Were it so, the individual might insist upon existing at 
any cost, assuming that he is what he knows best of the species, and 
that his stubborn will might probably be a provision for the species. 
That is Right, says the Moralist, which best serves the species. And 


42 


what best serves the species? The Moralist will generally reply; “that 
which is Right,” thus completing a little circle in dogmatism. Nature, 
however, seems to say that species survive by the survival of their 
individuals. The Egoist will find in himself certain loves and aver- 
sions, and he may think that the species is taking care of itself just in 
proportion as he is following those paths which give him satisfaction. 

The Moralist, becoming more philosophical, suggests that the 
war of interests will cease as men understand their similar needs and 
the possibility of mutual benefit, hence wrongs in the species may 
become fewer or cease. With all our heart, say the Egoists, only you 
are not to begin by sacrificing us. If the later Moralism be merely a 
prophetic dream of a harmony of interests through wisdom, we are 
not without hope that at last the dreamers will recognize individual- 
ity as the condition precedent to the fulfillment of their hopes. The 
fellow feeling in the species is a certain fact. Let us take it for what 
we find it to be and not attempt to place it in antagonism to our in- 
dividualities. As these are developed the necessity will appear for each 
one to recognize somewhat the individuals of his species, and thus 
the “claims of the species” will be recognized. 

XIII 

Self-interest masks itself and says suavely “we seek the good of 
the species,” instead of saying bluntly, “we gladly pick up all that other 
individuals let slip from their grasp.” Are not we the species as con- 
tradistinguished from any individual? When we go so far as to urge 
sacrifices for the good of the species what are we but beggars and 
hypocrites? Persuasion is mingled freely with flattery administered 
to the vanity of the individual, and it is not to be ignored that the 
Moral philosopher flatters himself as he proceeds to render what he 
vainly imagines to be a service to his species. Assuming the point 
of view that he is spokesman for the species, the dictum that that is 
good conduct which promotes the interests of the species, is a subtle 
mendicancy or a veiled terror in the supposed interest of the crowd. 


43 


But assuming an individual point of view the question is differently 
shaped. It then becomes; what use can I make of the species, of the 
crowd? 

A summary of ethical teachings of Herbert Spencer says that 
postulating the desirability of the preservation and prosperity of the 
given species, there emerges the general conclusion that “in order 
of obligation the preservation of the species takes precedence of the 
preservation of the individual.” The species he admits, “has no exis- 
tence save as an aggregate of individuals,” and hence, “the welfare of 
the species is an end to be subserved only as subserving the welfare 
of individuals,” but, continues the summary, “since disappearance of 
the species involves absolute failure in achieving the end, whereas dis- 
appearance of individuals makes fulfillment simply somewhat more 
difficult, 'the preservation of the individual must be subordinated to 
the preservation of the species where the two conflict.' “ 

There are several features of sophistry in this. Let us, however, 
note first the admission that “the species” is simply a convenient term. 
Now, where confusion is possible the safe way is to lay aside the term. 
When this is done it will be found that in restating the foregoing 
propositions it becomes necessary to speak, instead, either of all the 
individuals concerned except one or of all the individuals concerned, 
without exception. But he has seemingly used the term species in 
both senses or else, with his “order of obligation,” he has affirmed an 
obligation to subordinate the preservation of one individual to that 
of another. As this is intelligible for the purpose of the crowd dealing 
with individuals but not for the individual acting for himself with 
himself as the victim, the immediate inference at this point is that 
Spencer is expounding the Egoistic logic of the crowd. 

If the welfare of others is subserved only as subserving my welfare, 
it can never be true that I must subordinate my preservation to that 
of others, for this is to divert the general rule, which applies while I 
am one of the crowd, to the exceptional case wherein I am set apart 
from the crowd. All conditions of benefit imply at least preservation. 


44 


When I am counted out for non-preservation, for the good of oth- 
ers, it must be the others, not I, who do the counting out. In the first 
premise Spencer speaks for the individual treating the crowd from his 
proper motive; but in the conclusion he speaks for the crowd or some 
of its preserved part contemplating the sacrifice of an individual, yet 
these shifting points of view are included in a syllogism. The welfare 
of the crowd a mediate end: that is reasonable to the individual. The 
preservation of the individual a mediate end to the crowd; that is 
reasonable from the crowd's point of view; but analysis of the diverse 
points of view is needed, not an attempt to link the two in a syllogism 
the conclusion of which is merely the crowd's conclusion. 

Now examine the second premise of the syllogism: “the disap- 
pearance of the species involves absolute failure in achieving the end.” 
Why, in fact? Because the disappearance of all others of the species 
but myself involves it? Not at all; but because the term species in- 
cludes myself. But as far as my existence is concerned it would be 
the same if I alone disappeared. Do you say: the preservation of the 
alphabet is of no use to A except as A combines with other letters; but 
the disappearance of the alphabet would involve the disappearance 
of A; hence the preservation of one letter (A) is less important than 
the preservation of all the other letters? The letter A answers: “Bosh!” 

Speaking for the individual, how does the doctrine of subordi- 
nation of the preservation of the individual accord with evolution- 
ary theory regarding the origin of species? Do species originate by 
individuals taking care of themselves under whatever circumstances, 
if possible, or by the contrary rule of their benevolence toward the 
pre- existing species? The reader can pursue this inquiry for himself; 
but I should like to suggest that what has been considered regarding 
the individual and the species can be paraphrased with reference to 
the species and the genus under which it is classified, thus: The wel- 
fare of the genus is to be sub served only as subserving the welfare of 
the species, but since the disappearance of the genus involves absolute 
failure, whereas disappearance of particular species makes fulfillment 


4S 


simply somewhat more difficult, therefore the preservation of the 
species must be subordinated to the preservation of the genus where 
the two conflict.. The fallacy of this sort of reasoning may appear 
without comment, inasmuch as the individual will easily maintain 
the point of view of the interested species, and will not practically 
allow himself to slide over to the position of the presuming genus. A 
supplementary remark may be indulged. The genus never licenses or 
encourages the origination of new species; but then the verbal soph- 
istry of the genus would not prove to be a preventive. 

I pass by the small occasion of confusion in the use of the word 
“end,” the second time, in the foregoing statement. Total failure may 
be assumed to refer to failure of the ultimate aim. 

XIV 

Duty is that which is due. I ought is I owe or lowed. Some du- 
ties I assume for duties assumed by others toward me. This is reci- 
procity. Some alleged duties the Moralist tells me that I ought to 
acknowledge and perform from a sense of Duty. If I then say that it 
is a superstition he perhaps severs himself for the moment from the 
superstitious crowd and claims that it is only a generalization, mean- 
ing fitness, saving tiresome repetition of analysis; it is my interest after 
all. He is somewhat disingenuous here, for if it be only my interest 
embodied in a thought-saving generalization, it will bear analysis and 
always come out as my interest. But he has the “social organism” in 
mind, to the preservation of which my individual welfare is to be 
subordinated, according to his idea. The “social organism” idea has 
captured him and he is using decoy argument to obtain from me a 
sacrifice of myself to his idol, his spiritual monster. 

A man is hired to do certain work, and that is then called his 
duty; or exchange of services grows into a mutual understanding; the 
debt is first on one side and then on the other, and what at any time 
is expected, to balance the account or turn the scale as usual and 
create another claim so as to continue the mutually advantageous ar- 


rangement or understanding, is also called one's duty. Where service 
is compulsory it is likewise called duty. 

Moralism, when it has gained enlightenment enough to reject 
slavery to a person, under the subjection of mind overawed by physi- 
cal force, denies that the slave's duty is Duty. But if the slave has 
yielded his mind to his master the phenomenon is clearly that of Duty. 
When the Egoist is conscripted he does not argue that his assigned 
duty is not Duty. It is servitude contrary to his interest, and this con- 
sideration is enough. The fact that some slaves are governed by a sense 
of Duty furnishes the plainest evidence that Duty is mental slavery. 

But the Moralist will claim for Duty that it is not always mental 
slavery. It is true that he can confuse the issue by using the word Duty 
to describe all those habitual actions in the doing of which no im- 
mediate benefit to self is thought of; but let us keep to the plain sense. 
Duty is what is due. The domination of a fixed idea begins when one 
admits something due and yet not due to any person or something 
due without benefit coming to one in return; and of course when a 
return benefit is calculated upon the idea is interest. 

When interest is sublimated so as to lose sight of self it assumes 
the form of love in the absence of oppression. Evidently the pres- 
ence of fear in the causative circumstances corrupts the sublimating 
process and results in the oppressive sense of Duty. It is possible for 
the Moralist, finding a series of admirable actions which are well- 
nigh perfect love or gratitude, to call these Duty, on an examination 
which will show that were the doer to study his conduct he could 
find in it the elements which would serve to construct a wise scheme 
of reciprocal duties. If the Moralist talks of Duty when the fact is 
spontaneity,- whether gratitude, love, overflowing pride or generos- 
ity advancing to aid all that is seen to make for our good, he talks at 
random. His system of thought has predicated that men need to be 
controlled by a sense of Duty. Let him stick to that or leave it. We 
duty it. The doctrine of hell-fire was long upheld under the same idea 
that it was needed to control men. Moralistic Duty is the hardened 


47 


dregs of fear. Generosity is the overflowing fullness of a successful, 
satisfied and hopeful individuality. 

“I ought” is no stumbling block to the intelligent Egoist. Two per- 
sons are playing at draughts and a bystander says of one: “He ought 
to have captured the man to the left, not the one to the right.” There 
is no sense of moral obligation conveyed in the remark. It is assumed 
that each player is trying to win, and the words “he ought” introduce 
a suggestion of what was wanting to produce the result. A pirate en- 
deavoring to capture a merchantman and taking the wrong course 
would say: “I ought to have sailed on the other tack.” To whom was 
the obligation? To himself. So men speak of their duty to themselves, 
meaning the attending to supplying what is lacking to their welfare. 

These words duty and ought are not words to be rejected. They 
are in constant correct use in everyday life, and it is not the use of the 
Moralist, but it can be observed that every humbug politician harps 
on the “sacred duty” of the citizens to do this or that, something that 
he and his party are interested in and that he cannot readily prove to 
be to the interest of the citizens addressed, or he would do so instead 
of trying to get them with him on an appeal to “sacred duty.” 

XV 

The supposed inward monitor which warns the Moralist against 
breaking the sacred law of Right, as it admonishes the believer against 
offending God, is that which “doth make cowards of us all,” in the 
language of the dramatist. That is conscience. One thinks he knows his 
Duty and with this thought come vague fear and selfreproach for not 
having obeyed the Moral law; not simple fear in the Moralist, rather 
a confused feeling, but a feeling as clearly distinguishable from the 
simple fear of consequences as Moralism is distinguishable from a cal- 
culation of interest. The dread is as undefined as the Authority or the 
reach of consequences, or both, are indefinite and dimly apprehended. 

The fact that the dictates of conscience are the result of so-called 
“education” (really indoctrination) is established by the strongest 


48 


proof on every hand. Every religion has its commandments and how- 
ever absurd they may appear to others than the believers, conscience 
enforces their observance. Moralism continues in a general way the 
religious terror, making humanity or it may be more broadly animal 
life the sacred object. 

Egoism, on the contrary, regards conscience as superstition. It is 
true that by a simple analysis of the word, which yields con, with, and 
science, knowledge, we can have the definition: the sensation, senti- 
ment or reflection regarding ourselves which accompanies knowl- 
edge of our voluntary action. But as an Egoist has simply either sat- 
isfaction or regret and does not judge himself by reference to any 
standard of Duty, he cannot have a guilty conscience. 

It is most to the purpose, therefore, of Egoistic philosophy to 
look into the means of destroying the superstition habit, for it is a no- 
torious fact that self condemnation continues somewhat after reason 
has assured the subject of the error of the doctrine which claimed 
his allegiance. 

A silly conscience is to be extinguished, like other inconvenient 
habits, by resolute action. I have known a compositor who seemingly 
could not place a letter in line without first making an unnecessary 
motion with it against the side of his composing stick; a statesman 
who could not or dared not go to bed without first placing his boots 
as he Wore them; a youth whose reason rejected the orthodox Chris- 
tian doctrines in which he had been reared but who had qualms, 
which surprised him, about studying on Sunday; an infidel who had 
killed a man but had nothing to fear from the law, who nevertheless 
had the horrors in his dreams, and several persons with freelove ideas 
but inconsistent in practice in a way that showed the rule of their 
old conscience. Some of these things will strike everyone as being 
ridiculous. Of the instances cited only one did not admit of correc- 
tion by Emerson's rule of doing the thing you fear to do. I firmly 
believe that if the man who had a life on his conscience had taken the 
rational method of doing all else which he knew to be sensible, his 


mind would have been much strengthened to overcome his trouble 
of blood-guiltiness. The Sunday school young man realized that his 
conscience was awry, or the habit of a superstitious belief, and in a 
moderate time he overcame it. Others have had similar experiences as 
to books and conversation of a “blasphemous” character and breaches 
of the so-called law of morality in the sexual relation. Reasoning is 
well in its place, but action is necessary to make a free man or woman 
when one has been trained to have a conscience in any particular. I 
mean only action which combines pleasure with safety. It is no part 
of philosophic Egoism to pay more for advancement than it is worth. 

XVI 

The origin of the guilty conscience may be in mishaps, such as defeat, 
capture and slavery. When men from exercising mastery and even 
cruelty, are subjected to the rule of the stronger and more warlike, 
their energies are turned inward in bitterness against themselves. 
Upon this gnawing of ill humor comes the suggestion from religious 
belief, that these uncomfortable feelings are sent by the tribal god 
as a warning. This is readily believed by people who already believe 
that defeat and misfortune are punishments for some lapse of duty to 
their deity. The checking of an active career and humbling of the van- 
quished produces a bilious temper and morbid spirit, ready for ascetic 
rites on misdirection, because ever ready to attribute misfortunes to 
something other than their simple natural causes. 

The guilty conscience precedes the good conscience. The latter is 
nothing but the consciousness of the guilty conscience removed-by 
expiation, atonement or however beliefs run. 

Before the guilty conscience there was the spontaneity of the free 
savage. After the guilty and the good conscience there is the seren- 
ity of the self-conscious, sovereign, intelligent Ego. For convenience 
I will hereafter speak of him simply as the Egoist. While all men are 
Egoists in so far as they are not visionaries or madmen, nearly all men 
are in fact partly blinded, ashamed of themselves, not fully possessed 


50 


of themselves. They do things for conscience sake -Egoistic method 
in madness;-they reject religious doctrine, but have a “sense of sin;” 
they have a horror of certain acts because condemned by a “moral 
standard,” and so forth. They do not even understand that they can- 
not be “sinners” except by admitting a religious standard of “righ- 
teousness;” that they cannot be “immoral,” wicked, without thinking 
as saints and Moralists think of “guilt,” “disobedience” in natural acts. 
They cannot even call themselves Egoists to their satisfaction because 
the religious world has branded every natural impulse as vile and 
“unsanctified;” consequently Egoism — self-direction — as the sum of 
all villainy, and they are hampered by accepting their language from 
the religious world. 

The real Egoist is not even he who has merely seen through the 
cheat of Moralism, but he who has outgrown its habitual sway, bro- 
ken its scepter, desecrated every shrine of superstition in his heart or 
else been more happily born and reared than one in ten thousand of 
those who live today or ever lived. 

XVII 

The Egoist hears voices saying: “Forgive us Our sins.” His thoughts 
take a humorous turn and he asks: Why do not the idiots think of 
forgiving themselves each one his own sins? Why cannot they be like 
the father? If “I and my father are one,” I can do the acts of the father 
and forgive my own sin. He who dares not say: “I do most cheerfully 
forgive myself all sins and misdeeds I have ever committed or shall 
ever care to commit,” is certainly not an Egoist. 

Moralists propound the question: “Does the end justify the 
means?” He who argues on either side of it, shows not the quality 
of Egoism. It is a question for Moralists, to be answered by reference 
to their standards of duty. The Egoist will ask whether the game is 
worth the powder and in this sense he could use the very words 
quoted in the question; meaning, however, only a particular applica- 
tion of means to a particular end-a question of expenditure or risk 


and probability of gain. Every case being decided on the principle of 
economy or of strategy, the general moral question disappears. The 
Moralist is left to answer his own question as to whether or not he 
will venture to break a “moral law” in order to accomplish what he 
considers a moral good. 

Another way of putting our criticism is that the question can be 
parodied: “Does the evidence warrant the verdict?” But then, you say, 
we must know what verdict and what evidence are referred to. Quite 
so; and the question: “Does the end justify the means?” is equally void 
of meaning unless we learn what end is sought and what means are 
proposed. 

But suppose we become more specific and ask: “Is the killing of a 
heretic justified by the probability of saving one thousand souls from 
perdition?” To this I say it concerns the Moralist, not the Egoist. In 
order to kill, no justification before the tribunal of conscience is nec- 
essary to, say, the Egoistic statesman; for that is a piece of superstition. 
In this respect “all things are lawful” for him, “but all things are not 
expedient.” The heretic has to thank the thousand other heretics for 
his immunity from being killed for heresy. A common interest unites 
them in some measures for self-protection. Their danger is but the 
greater because fanatics exist who in addition to the brutal instincts 
of mankind are possessed with the idea of a moral pardoning power 
encouraging men to do violence as a service, not to themselves but to 
a creed of church or society. The Egoist wastes no breath to persuade 
the fanatic that the end would not justify the means. He knows that 
the wish was father to the thought. The doctrine of exceptional justi- 
fication was the inevitable excuse, like the wolfs brief remarks to the 
lamb at the stream. That wolf was not a natural wolf, but a moralizing 
wolf; still, altogether a wolf in fact. The moralizing man is less frank 
and more cunning than the wolf. He would paralyze his enemies by 
teaching that not all courses are “justifiable;” then when they spare 
him and he gets them in his power he does not spare them. The end 
never justifies the means when a Moralist is being hurt; always when 


a Moralist is getting the best of the fight by unusual artifice and usur- 
pation. The idea of injustice 

XVIII 

The idea of justice precedes that of justice. Dr. Maurice de Fleury 
in his book, L' Ame du Criniinel, says: Assuming the legend of Cain 
and Abel to be true, the brothers had a quarrel and when Cain struck 
Abel, the latter struck back. The fight continued for some time. Just 
when Abel was directing a blow, his arm was struck and fell helpless 
by his side. The impulse to deliver the blow returned to the brain as 
consciousness of purpose frustrated and this was the first sense of that 
want of correspondence which is called injustice. 

If at such a juncture a tree or rock should happen to fall upon 
the victor or a lion make him his prey, and the vanquished escape, the 
latter would thank a supposed providential interference, build an altar 
and found a worship. 

Out of a great number of cases of hurts-injustice-the sufferers 
build such theory of justice as corresponds with their idea of the 
satisfaction of their demands. 

“Just right” is what fits a place or case. Adjustment and even justi- 
fication are words used in a mechanical sense. Justice, however, cannot 
be predicated till we come to relations between persons. It is evident 
that in the notion or sentiment of justice there are present two ele- 
ments: first, fitness in general, as in common with accuracy; secondly 
a recognition of something more, which may be the sentient nature 
of the object. We do not speak of injustice save where there is a pos- 
sibility of suffering. 

There are a great many applications of the term justice, but in all 
of them it has some relation to sentient beings and to fitness. The dif- 
ferences apparently spring from different standards of authority, rules 
of privilege, right, immunity, etc. Every uproar among men is a proof 
of injustice, in the same way as the creaking or screeching of a ma- 
chine is an evidence of parts ill adjusted. 


The loudest advocates of justice complacently overlook the fact 
that nobody extends justice to the inferior animals. 

The adjustment of relations between man and man will probably 
be best where each one is alive to his own interests and convenience. 
In the absence of this condition justice is the warcry in quixotic cam- 
paigns, the success of which in any instance serves to destroy some 
privilege and emancipate some ignorant, helpless folk to become tools 
of fanatics and victims of speculators. The free are those who free 
themselves. These and these only can or will do themselves justice 
and they are prevented from doing themselves and each other justice 
most of all by the prevailing belief in justice as a “ruling principle.” 
The motto: “Let justice be done though the heavens fall,” is a perfect 
example of fanaticism, equal to insisting on some one performance, 
though any amount of loss and suffering results. But the very men 
who harp on justice are the ones who delegate the trial and execu- 
tion to functionaries chosen haphazard, and make a religious duty 
of submitting to injustice whenever these functionaries are ignorant, 
corrupt, prejudiced or mistaken in their judgment. The idea that any 
person might do himself justice, though no doubt existed that the 
act were justice, is horrifying to the good socialists, because the ex- 
ecutioner was not appointed by society. Justice, then, is a prerogative 
of society, a favor rather than a right, in their view. They become in- 
volved in perplexities. The heavens may fall, but not the dignity of the 
state. They deny justice to save respect for its mechanism. An unjust 
law is enforced by the same authority which enforces a just law. It is 
enforced all knowing that it is unjust, and because it is unjust, to the 
end that it may be repealed. Somebody is made a victim of injustice in 
order that by forcible wrong, thus done by authority, another branch 
of authority may be induced to alter a decree and issue another decree 
(which will be certain to accomplish another wrong to somebody). 

Revenge is not justice, but simply the impulse to do hurt for hurt. 
It lacks measure, balance. It is at most a propensity which makes for 
the extermination or humbling of aggressors. 


54 - 


The Egoist does not worship justice. He recognizes the impos- 
sibility of its existing as a donation. The ruler or the society which 
decrees justice is the shepherd who manages his flock, not for the 
sake of the flock, but for his interest in it. The Egoist aims at the 
accommodation of interests according to the capacity of the con- 
tracting parties. Egoist with Egoist must recognize, and on reflection 
will rejoice at the prospect of a rule of not trespassing where-he had 
better not. From this he can arrive at a position of comfort in having 
allies of great value to him, through their not being afflicted with any 
superstition. They multiply his power and he adds to theirs. 

As to justice in the sense of meting out punishment to persons 
according to their alleged moral delinquencies, the idea gives place 
to that of protecting ourselves and serving our convenience. We may 
suppress a dangerous madman and a dangerous sane man as a measure 
of prevention, not having the old Moralistic horror of responsibility 
in the case of ourselves dealing with the madman, and not having 
the Moralistic furor against the sane offender. We need not therefore 
resort to casuistry in case of slight doubt if we are determined that 
it is unsafe to risk permitting either to live. Thus Egoists will not let 
an offender off on technicalities or scruples if they deem it necessary 
to expel him or kill him, and thus, too, if one has killed another the 
inquiry will be as to whether or not the slayer merely anticipated an 
intelligent verdict by a jury. 

Let us beware of the craze for justice. It is the mask of social 
tyranny. It demands a delegated authority and a prerogative in this au- 
thority. Thus it builds a citadel of injustice; so that the man who does 
himself justice is declared by the law to be guilty of a crime against it, 
the monopoly of administration of justice. 

XIX 

What of equal liberty! Egoism is interior liberty, which of course 
makes for equal liberty of Egoists. But this is on the basis of their 
common ability, whereas democracy and aristocracy have a common 


principle in the affirmation of birthright: In democracy liberty is the 
sacred birthright of every man. In aristocracy liberty and privilege 
are the right of those born or admitted to aristocratic rank. The spirit 
of democracy is, to fashion each individual on its model, and endow 
him with political equality in contradistinction to class privileges, but 
as a member of the democracy into which his passport is his human- 
ity, not his personal assertion and demonstration of his power and 
will to command equal liberty. Aristocracy commands its members to 
maintain their rank. Democracy commands its members to maintain 
an equal status for all. Egoism awaits the coming of the free, who will 
recognize each other, but not by virtue of any birthright. 

Contrasts between men as lions and lambs, eagles and doves, are 
fanciful and overdrawn. Nature has not endowed them with such ex- 
treme and transmissible differences of organism. When they shake off 
old beliefs and indoctrination and realize their powers as individuals, 
equal liberty follows from the practically equal assertion of similar 
physical powers in self-conscious Egoism. When each of us has de- 
termined to be as free as he can, to yield only to effective force in 
restraint of the liberty he wills to exercise, there will be more liberty 
and substantially equal liberty for us if we be numerous, even while 
far from a majority. 

The idea of liberty for man as Man, as something to be respected 
for its own sake, though the man be a slavish animal, the sacredness of 
Man, is a different notion altogether. While I am, indeed, an example of 
man in general, I base my claim to consideration at the hands of Ego- 
ists on the fact of my being this man who can be known to be neither 
tyrant whom they must combat nor slave incapable of requiting their 
aid. I will be a useful ally for certain purposes. I will not spend my 
strength in contending for equal guardianship, miscalled equal liberty, 
but I will seek allies like-minded. Not knowing whether I shall find 
one yonder in a born aristocrat or there in a toiling plebeian, I will put 
out the sign of equal liberty to exist among allies and of a readiness to 
take allies for equal liberty as a working rule, not as a religion. 


Republicans think they abolished the community of plebeians 
when they abolished aristocratic rank. Far from it. They reduced the 
aristocrats to the plebeian level before the law and set up an aristoc- 
racy of office-holders and of wealth, which traffics in the making and 
administration of the laws. Equal liberty remains entirely unknown, 
because liberty is unknown as an objective reality. There can be no 
liberty of action till it is understood that each of us finds his law in 
his will and pleasure and that wherein our wills and pleasures agree 
we make our law, which we enforce on others who come into our 
domain, because we must or it is our convenience so to do, Thus only, 
liberty and law are synonymous, Be not unequally yoked together 
with non-Egoists.They cannot maintain your liberty. Your right and 
liberty, apart from what you can do for yourself, is that part of your 
will and pleasure which receives the support of allies lending you the 
aid of their power, as their right and liberty has the same extension 
by recognition and aid from you and others. The Egoist does not 
commit the mistake of battling for emancipation and endowment 
with power, misnamed equal liberty, of a herd of human cattle. More 
precious to me than ten thousand of these is one person capable of 
asserting all attainable liberty, Still, I came from the herd and by this 
and like signs I know that the herd contains my precious allies in the 
making, I send, among those who can hear, the word of awakening. 
Come to me and I will recognize in you equal liberty; I will give my- 
self, if you will, a duty toward you, to be performed on pain of losing 
your esteem and support. I have already the pleasure of seeking and 
the hope of finding you. Life is worth less without you than it will 
be with you, Your precious force is my strength from the moment 
that you understand that I have no greater hope than in your fullest 
assertion of your liberty. We will not allow the world to wait for the 
overman. We are the overmen. 

Aristocracy has not that fascination for me that it has for F. Ni- 
etzsche. Whatever pleasure a man may feel in wielding power in as- 
sociation with bold and strong companions, a reflecting man must 


57 


despise an hereditary system which is subject to the following defects: 
that in order to transmit power to one of his sons he must consent to 
place his other sons in an inferior position; that he must aid in main- 
taining a special prerogative for the degenerate sons of his original 
colleagues; that he must give his daughters to such inferior scions to 
be their marital slaves; that to support the system he must aid in em- 
ploying those vermin, the priests; that to keep down the plebeians he 
must slay many a brave and intelligent fellow of plebeian birth. 

XX 

One can feign a selfish motive to obtain opportunity to do an act of 
personal kindness; that is, one feigns other self-interested purpose in 
order to accomplish another self-interested purpose — to overcome 
the pride of independence in another person. A number of the most 
delightful stories have this point. The generosity which thus disguises 
itself differs fundamentally from abstract philanthropy or theoretical 
Altruism. The reader perceives in every such story how thoroughly 
the generous heart enjoys its success in aiding particular persons of 
merit who have attracted its good will. But one never feigns a selfish 
interest in order to do a disinterested act. On the other hand, how 
well mankind know that hypocrites profess disinterestedness while 
their aims are selfish. 

In the generous act there is spontaneous, personal motive; no 
dread duty; no bending before a master power. Do you say the mas- 
ter power is there? Well, it comes through the doer's organism as a 
genial impulse, interesting him, and so is Egoistic. Do you complain 
that thus we make of Egoism what you call selfishness and what you 
call unselfishness? We show you that there is a common element of 
genuine personality, even of pleasurable action, in both. Opposite are 
the acts in which the person yields his will, subjugated by an ideal, 
the powers of which arc awe, dread and lashing duty. I do not care to 
quarrel about a word with those whose idea is beckoning-duty. If it 
comes through my sense of what is worthy of me, due to fulfill my 


52 


honor and dignity, that too is distilled in 'my consciousness or sub- 
consciousness and is of my aliment and flowering and of the fruitage 
of my sentiment, intellect and will-is Egoistic. 

XXI 

Since the publication of these chapters began, I have seen in libertar- 
ian papers several flippant remarks and attempted refutations. We hear 
that Egoism is a very old thing, which is true; but that is one cause 
why the sour critics have missed understanding it, for they have gone 
to old books in which they found the idea of Egoism as viewed in the 
light of the science, philosophy and politics of past ages; or they have 
gathered opinions from superficial writings. Many show absolutely 
no understanding of Egoism. It is an affair of objective classification 
of acts, they suppose. Thus if I have an apple and eat it, that is Egoism, 
they suppose. If I give the apple to my friend, that is Altruism, they 
suppose. How simple! Then I, being an Egoist and liking to see some 
of my friends eat my apples, must not indulge in this pleasure unless I 
can stand certain persons' charges of inconsistency. Let me give them 
a point: I select my friends. My apples are not for everybody to help 
himself. Let me give them another point. The man who eats his own 
apple, not because he likes it, but because he thinks it is Egoistic to 
eat it, not to talk of duty, is only a deluded Egoist, by which I mean 
that he has missed being an Egoist in the definite sense in which I am 
using the word in these closing chapters. 

One correspondent demolishes Egoism thus: that Egoism is He- 
donism or Eudemonism, the pursuit of pleasure; that it is absurd to 
say that the pleasure of professing Christianity outweighed the pain 
of being burned at the stake; that hence it is not true that the pursuit 
of pleasure is the greatest motive. 

“The pursuit of pleasure,” is an expression which has conveyed 
to many persons the idea that Egoism consists for all men in satiat- 
ing certain appetites; but the truth is that philosophically “pleasure” 
stands for sovereignty-is used in contradistinction to servitude. 


Egoists do not accept the state of mind of a Christian martyr as 
being normal. He believed that a crown of glory awaited those faith- 
ful to death; that exclusion from the presence of the Lord awaited 
the “apostate.” Qualified by these beliefs undoubtingly held, how 
can we deny the martyr's (deluded) Egoism? The apostolic “fishers 
for men” baited their hooks with promises and threats addressed to 
self-interest and repeated: “Fear not them that kill the body,” etc. Are 
only those who secure good bargains to be credited with the inten- 
tion to secure them? 

The critic makes a ludicrously false comparison when he sets the 
physical pain of burning against the mental pain of apostasy. At the 
moment when the Christian martyr made a choice of constancy to 
his religion and a crown of glory, he had not felt the physical agony 
of having his flesh consumed by fire. As much as possible he fixed his 
thought on the promised heaven and thus lessened the anticipation 
of pain. Whatever pain there was in the expectation of burning it was 
not the pain of actual burning. We do not know what the final suf- 
fering was nor what the final thoughts were. We read of one on the 
cross, when too late, exclaiming: “My God, my God! Why hast thou 
forsaken me?” and we read that the servant shall not be above his lord. 
Moreover if the Christian martyr could be supposed to fully appreci- 
ate the pain of death that awaited him, he must also be supposed to 
appreciate as fully the hell which awaited the apostate and endless 
death in the lake of fire. How then must such a terrified believer de- 
cide on the Egoistic principle as distorted by his faith? To us there is 
no more difficulty in his case than there is in the principle of gravita- 
tion illustrated by a ball rolling down an inclined plane when that is 
the nearest approach it can make to perpendicular descent. 

But while we may suppose a martyr possibly logical in his course, 
given his absurd belief, we feel warranted in thinking that the major- 
ity of those who sought martyrdom were excited beyond the control 
of reason, as in the case with men acting under the dominion of pas- 
sion in the commission of certain offences. Craziness is essentially an 


GO 


inability to weigh conditions and apprehend consequences. 

Another thinks that Egoism kills sympathy and thus, he thinks, 
hinders the care of children. 

The prevailing opinion that general betterment depends upon 
increased sympathy is one which I am more and more decided to 
pronounce a stupendous error. Sympathy diverts energy from one 
channel to turn it into another. An illustration showing the ruin 
caused by an irrational excess of grief may cause some to re-examine 
their opinion. B was married three years ago. Lately his wife died, 
leaving a child a year old. B was so much affected by the death of his 
wife that he went to the cemetery day after day and lay down on the 
ground crying. There he contracted an infectious disease and he also 
died, thus leaving the child an orphan. 

Another is shocked at Egoism, as it has no reverence for anything 
sacred, not even for Feuerbach's jugglery that “love is divine” and 
“man is godlike” or can be by thinking himself so. Also that Egoism 
puts no premium on “courage”, but rather on cowardice. 

It is well to be shocked in default of any other way of getting 
intelligence awakened. Be sure that Egoism has nothing sacred, and 
therefore accepts no imposture or hallucination and remember that it 
requires courage to be a coward and appear a coward. Where “cour- 
age” is folly, it is Egoistic to be a “coward.” Certainly it is only Ego- 
ism that can ridicule sacred things of man as well as of God: I mean 
ridicule in action as well as iu word. Pecksniff, even if an Atheist in 
woman's clothes, should be snubbed, and the Egoist will snub him, 
without regard to his or her sex. 

XXII 

What is good? What is evil? These words express only appreciations. 
A good fighter is a “good man,” or a “bad man,” both words express- 
ing the same idea of ability, but from different points of view. To the 
beggar a generous giver is a good man. To the master a servant is 
good when he cheerfully slaves for the master. A good subject is one 


obedient to his prince. A good citizen is one who gives no trouble to 
the state, but contributes to its revenues and stability. Evil is only what 
we do not find to our good, but what we have to combat. A horse 
is not good because strong and swift if he be “vicious;” that is, if we 
find him hard to tame. A breed of dogs is good if readily susceptible of 
training to hunt all day or watch all night for the benefit of the owner. 
A wife is “good” if she will not be good to any man but her husband. 

Why do the lion and the eagle enjoy such a reputation? The eagle 
attacks nobody except babes. The lion is a large animal, deliberate in 
his movements and reputed to give a man a chance to get away.There 
are “worse” animals. 

In all varieties of Moralism obedience is the cardinal virtue, 
which is wholly on the principle of procuring “good” subjects for 
those who have the effrontery to set up as rulers over fools and sim- 
pletons. “Be good and you will be happy.” “Virtue is its own reward.” 
These proverbs are an appeal to self-interest beguiled to accept some 
current teaching as to what is “good” conduct, “virtue.” What if one 
be happy and healthy and the same believers in these maxims tell 
him that his happiness is not good? They show that their idea of 
goodness is obedience to certain commands or rules. But the Egoist 
will prove most things and hold fast to that which he finds to be 
good for him. That which he finds to be “its own reward” he holds 
to be virtue enough. The positions are opposites. The Moralist says: 
“This course is virtue; believe it and follow instructions, and you will 
find happiness in the thought of doing right.” The Egoist perceives 
that such instruction is a trap for credulity. The experience of man- 
kind is all very well, but most of the time your Moralist deprecates 
experiment. It is remarkable that in “the most important relation in 
life” two persons must have a legal contract for permanent union 
before they have any knowledge of each other in the relation; then 
bear it if they dislike it, and this is regarded as virtue. I do not say 
that all Moralists teach such doctrine, but all Moralists have some 
doctrine which they enforce by sentiment demanding individual 


62 


sacrifice, absolutely and not merely as individually expedient. 

XXIII 

Truth, the agreement between thinking and thing, -between thought 
and that, -is as desirable as seeing and hearing without illusion or 
confusion. Truth, the agreement between thinking and expression, is 
made a duty by Moralists, yet generally with reservations. Maya man 
lie to assassins to save his life, or to robbers to save treasure committed 
to his care, or to a sick person to conceal news which would be a seri- 
ous shock? The gravity with which such questions are argued points 
to something further,- that Truth, like Right and Justice, is erected 
into a deity and men go crazy or pretend to go crazy over the worship 
thereof. This is the hypocrite's opportunity. So people bind themselves 
with an oath and lend a spurious importance to words spoken by men 
who care only for immunity, but who are shrewd enough not to pro- 
fess what they think and how independent they feel. 

How curious that men generally feel it “right” to cut and hack 
natural forms, but not to take any liberty with “truth” even in the 
verbal representation of such forms! 

But on the other hand they say: “All's fair in love and war.” Now 
everything that is not love can be viewed as war (and the “love” here 
spoken of is war too). This maxim is more often used to excuse lying 
than for any other purpose. Lying is a very common practice and I 
perceive no reason to expect its abatement unless individuals in large 
numbers (1) cease to pretend to exact from others action which is 
inconvenient, when they cannot or do not really exact it; (2) make it 
to the interest of others to tell them the truth or leave others alone 
as to telling anything about matters on which they now tell lies. So 
there might be less “war.” 

To the Egoist truth is an economy, where practicable. The chief 
condition is mutual intelligence. 

Honesty, -truth in action, -is commonly said to be “the best pol- 
icy,” and perhaps as commonly disbelieved to be unconditionally so. 


63 


Where honesty is reciprocal, it brings that mutual advantage which 
attaches to truthfulness, but honest conduct in an individual in deal- 
ing with dishonest persons, is too simple. Honesty is a pleasure, often 
a luxury. 

XXIV 

Moralism reaches its acme in the craze for a supposed perfection 
the opposite way from individuality. Even when philosophy has pro- 
nounced that its aim is to lead man to find himself, the spirit of 
perversion is such that it takes Man, the general idea of the species, 
as an ideal for the individual and teaches individuals to torture their 
personal mind in order to conform to the idea formed about the 
species. Thus it is said our “mission” is to be true men, more perfect 
men, more perfect women. This notion prompts to imitation of what 
has been exemplified in others, not to development of that which is 
most genuinely myself or yourself. If I am to be a conforming man, 
striving to be something set before me, I cannot be I. As Stirner re- 
marks, “every man who is not deformed is a true or perfect man, but 
each one is more than this. He is this unique man.” What he is that 
another is not, we cannot say in advance of knowing him. Egoism is 
this: that this man acts out himself. Every woman may be assumed to 
be a true or perfect woman, and she is cheated if taught to assume 
otherwise. That is not the aim; that is the starting point with us Ego- 
ists. Be easy about perfection of Man. The individual needs first to 
be free from any yoke or assigned task, in order to normally possess, 
enjoy, develop and exhibit himself or herself. I shall develop the spe- 
cies, if I have nothing more distinctive to develop. A woman will be 
merely a “true and perfect woman” if she has nothing of her own, 
only the species. The very moment, however, that she knows herself 
to be already a “true and perfect woman,” as the zero or horizon of 
individuality, that moment is the individual energy set free to work 
out whatever it takes pleasure in, — or as free as conscious reflection 
can make us while old habits and affections persist in some degree. 


To come to ourselves, to find ourselves, is to know that what we have 
of the species is ours, so far as it suits us to keep it and that we have 
neither obligation nor mission but what each one may give himself. 

XXV 

A woman is possibly an Egoist. Apart from this possibility she is- 
simply a female. If an Egoist, she will determine her actions with 
precisely that interior freedom possessed by the male Egoist. 

Marriage, whether as polygamy or monogamy, is an agreement 
among men in a given state to respect each other's property in one 
or more women, according to the law of the tribe or state. It depends 
upon deluded Egoism. The supposed happiness of exclusive posses- 
sion as a right to be enforced is resolvable into several factors such as 
(1) The certain immediate desire for possession; (2) The notion that 
the person possessed is passive and a constant quantity; (3) The seem- 
ing accumulation of happiness by monopolizing that which others 
would use if permitted, the defeating of their desire being supposed 
to be the securing of one's own. Some men, however, marry because 
they see that the desired woman will be married by another and 
hence lost to them unless they take her on the customary contract. 

Men flatter themselves that they can perpetuate themselves and 
not merely the race; a simple error, for if we allow half the effect to 
each parent, the result is that A's offspring is half A; his grandchild 
is one-fourth A; his great-grandchild is one-eighth A; the next gen- 
eration one-sixteenth A, and thus his descendents will have nothing 
more in common with hint than any of the individuals of his race. 

Some learned men argue that while men are naturally polyga- 
mous, women are naturally monogamous; but their discourse soon 
turns into censure of any woman who does not come up to the mark, 
as being a perverted creature. Are they blind to the vast amount of 
fear, reserve and duplicity in women? Can the subjugation of woman 
through all past time have failed to make her seem and act as though 
her nature were different from man's? Is not the watch kept upon 


<bS 


her a proof that the preachers have no deep faith in her nature being 
different from their own? But what would be the fate of an author 
who should terrify society by assimilating the nature of the two sexes, 
while affirming man's polygamous instinct? He would be accused of 
a tendency to corrupt virtuous womanhood. 

All agree that jealousy is a cruel and tormenting passion. Is it not, 
then, self- evidently a sign of perverted Egoism? The temper which 
is not jealous, which can love and let love, and enjoy the love that is 
spontaneously given because attracted, is undoubtedly happier than 
the jealous disposition. Such a temper will be willing to let the na- 
ture of woman display itself in freedom, and not until more of such 
a temper is shown is it to be expected that men will be privileged to 
know from women what women really are. 

The wife enjoys a status. To forfeit it is to forfeit reputation. The 
husband is judged differently. It looks as if the modern woman, for 
the present, were mostly contenting herself with keeping her reputa- 
tion and using the status in which man has placed her, for what there 
is in it. Liberty is not hers, but some power she can wield. Such power 
cannot fail to be a curtailing of the husband's resources, liberty or 
convenience, honesty, growth; and if he is fool enough to presume 
too far on his prerogative, he is sure in many instances to be deceived, 
for woman's wit has been forced in the direction of deception as 
much as to submission. The latter implies the former. 

With the discovery by men that the perpetuation of their individ- 
uality is an illusion, that the expectation of happiness by the exercise 
of authority over woman is a gross mistake, that the person possessed 
is not a constant quantity but a variable one, a good to be elicited by 
wise treatment and not by rule of thumb, Egoism comes into the rela- 
tion of the sexes, without delusion. The woman will have her way in 
the matter of procreation and will have the control of her children till 
they are wise enough to assert the control of themselves . 1 What have 
we onlookers to do with the relations of mother and infant? Nothing. 

Those who are in the married state sometimes pretend that if 


they were single they would remain single. They are not to be be- 
lieved because they say so. Marriage to very many is a sacred thing 
in some aspect or the demon of deluded selfishness is stronger than 
they confess. What if we say to them: Please for a moment regard 
your marriage as the marriage of a pair of doves or canaries. When so 
regarded what is there to talk about in the question whether you are 
married or not, apart from bare legal powers ? 2 

Related to this is the idea that crimes of jealousy, even outside 
of marital relations, can be traced to the idea of marital rights. The 
man and woman who have cohabited have talked or thought of mar- 
riage and come to regard their connection as a marriage without the 
ceremony. Marriage and the possibility of marriage are in this way 
responsible for those crimes which simulate marital vengeance. 

Some people contrast love with selfishness. They surely cannot 
mean sexual love. Te quiero is translated either “I love thee” or “I 
want thee.” By common understanding love that is not selfish enough 
to break some law in order to satisfy a personal want, is not strong 
enough to hold a spirited mate. 

Others find in sex an argument against Egoism. They say you 
cannot be an independent individual, because you are incomplete 
without one of the opposite sex, We may reply that a man is very 
much sooner done for if deprived of food or water than if unable to 
meet with an agreeable woman; consequently if there were anything 
in the above argument it would lead to the conclusion that the hav- 
ing any physical requirements militates against Egoism. But, on the 
contrary, we find they all afford scope for Egoism. We are likely to 
find in our surroundings the objects essential to our existence, and 
this comes out with regard to companionship just as with regard to 
materials for food, clothing and shelter. Egoism lies entirely in our 
attitude toward objects, not in our being constituted to have no need 
of them. We cannot fly, and we are subject to hunger and other ap- 
petites. Our needs serve to awaken our powers to activity and gives 
various occasions for converting threatened suffering into enjoyment, 


67 


if we meet everything in a thoroughly intrepid, Egoistic spirit. Even 
our need of social conversation is no derogation from Egoism. The 
man who uses and appropriates to himself the benefits of intercourse 
with others — of his choosing — is an intelligent Egoist, whereas the 
shrinking, solitary man is weaker: he attaches too much importance 
to something and he permits it to drive him from the field of activity 
and enyoument. 

Theoretically and practically the position of a married woman is 
in all essential respects the opposite of that which an Egoist would 
choose. Still, there is no position in which one may accieentally find 
oneself (short of actual imprisonment) that can make any difference 
to the individual comparable in effect to the difference between Ego- 
ism (mental liberty) and non-Egoism (mental slavery) . 

If a woman had sold herself into chattel slavery which the law 
forbids, she would feel no hesitation in repudiating the bargain. What 
is the difference in marriage? The difference lies in the social sanction. 
The victims await emancipation by social opinion. This is not Egoism, 
but its opposite. 

XXVI 

Reared in Evangelical Christianity I [assed, between the ages of 15 
and 18, through the stages of Biblical criticism and disbelief in Provi- 
dence, on the ground of the supremacy of natural law, to Athesim. 

As my religion had been an undoubting faith in and obedience 
to an ideal Ego — God — when I unbound myself from the web of 
theology, I fell heir to the sovereign attributes, — the liberty ad the 
benevolence, — of the God who then became a myth. I did not cheat 
myself a day with Moral commandments without a Moral Lawgiver. 
Yet I felt and foresaw that what was gained by the intellect would not 
be easily translated into feeling and action for many years to come, 
such was the Moral susceptibility and force of habits, from early in- 
doctrination. I said to myself as a youth: “I feel that not unitil I am 40 
years of age shall I be able to act in all things as my judgment decides 


68 


for my own interest.” It was even so. 

Thus in the first half of the sixtyies I was an Atheist and self- 
conscious Egoist. I associated with Atheists and took part in their pro- 
paganda before I was 20 and for years after. But I found a false note 
among the Atheists, that theirs was the religion of Humanity with a 
Morality not less impressive upon the conscience than that connected 
with theology, purer because freed from superstition. They challeng- 
hed comparison as to the Morality of their leaders and members with 
Christians, — the Christian standard being usually implied as to what 
constituted Morality. There were among them men impressed with 
the philosophy of Epicurus, of Hobbes, of D'Holbach and Spinoza, 
self-love as the foundation and sum of morals, but the drift of their 
discourses was that good morals would grow out of self-love, and still 
the morals were Christian morals. When an Atheist ceased to take an 
interest in the iconoclastic propaganda, he usually settled down into a 
selfish individual, a nonentity of ordinary morals, His Egoism was after 
the current ideas of rudimentary Egoism which orthodox Moralists 
propagate and his former associates simply regretted that he was no 
longer militant or contributory to the Atheistic church. 

From the first of my mental independence, or Atheism, I repudi- 
ated conscience and a Moral standard; and I was equally dissatisfied 
with the attempted limitation of self-love, to grubbing for advantages 
over other people; certain that it was purely my pleasure or prudence 
which impelled me to any act, I declared in print, prior to 1870, that 
when an Atheist acts honestly toward another person it is because it 
is his pleasure to do so. This aroused a critic who affirmed the “sense 
of justice” governing Atheists. A pretty term, but when we have ar- 
rived at a “sense of justice” why do we inconvenience ourselves for 
it? I affirm a pleasure, a sentiment of good will and of art. There is no 
“must” about it with the Egoist. But with my Atheistic critic there was 
a spice of dictation, as who should say “you must yield to a sense of 
Duty to Humanity.” Hard by lurks bigotry. 

Feuerbach's inversion of theology, turning “God is love,” into 


“love is divine,” did not fascinate me. I saw in it a play on words, In 
my infancy God was a stern fact and when he became a myth, why, 
love was — love, not divine; goodness was what we find to make for 
our good; that is to say there was nothing divine; no such thing as 
goodness or badness except as relative to our welfare and no better 
reason why I should not be a cruel man than that I took no pleasure 
in cruelty, found no sense in it. 

I have always rather pitied those who run passionately after the 
so-called good things which Christians and Moralists generally sup- 
pose must be the sole aim of Egoists. What fools are the fretful lusters 
after power, men covetous of others' goods, toilsome accumulators of 
what they cannot enjoy! Deluded Egoists! 3 

During the period I have mentioned and until the spring of 1872 
I had no knowledge of Max Stirner's work, Der Einzige und sein Ei- 
genthum (The Individual and his Property). But believe me that I de- 
voured it so soon as I got hold of it. There for the first time I saw most 
plainly stated, my own thought, borne out by illustrations that will 
test the nerve of every professed Egoist. Who but Stirner has dared to 
suggest that the tie of blood is a superstition? Were it not that we have 
assurance of the speedy appearance of an English translation of his 
great work, I would here give something of a summary of its contents; 
but now, under the pleasing expectation, I may confine myself to a 
mention of one feature of that wonderful book. The author shows us 
the world divided into three epochs: first, Antiquity, in which men 
were terrorized by the forces of nature. Second, Christendom. Christ 
introduces the rule of the spirit, which destroys the fear of material 
things, but establishes the tyranny of the Idea. There is now a spook in 
every object. Third, the Unit, by the might of his own understanding 
and will, dismisses the spirits, the spooks; the rule of Ideas is broken. 
The Unit, — the Ego, — is not an abstract I. He is you, yourself, just as 
you are in flesh and blood, become simply sovereign, disdainful of all 
rule of Ideas, as Christ was of all rule of material powers. 

Of the author's character as shown by his actions I will emphasize 


70 


only one feature. He recognized in the woman the individual, as free 
as she cares to be, precisely as he did in the man. When we read of 
another German author as Stirner's disciple, who differs from him so 
radically in this, we may think that author somewhat of a plagiarist, 
perhaps, but certainly not a disciple, as alleged. 

Others again are springing up to classify the Ego and Egoism 
in philosophy. The Unit of Stirner is — yourself, if you like. You, as a 
person of flesh and blood, will not be successfully classified in “phi- 
losophy,” I think, if you grasp the idea and act on it. The old so-called 
philosophic Egoism was a disquisition on the common characteris- 
tics of men, a sort of generality. The real living Egoism is the fact of 
untrammeled mind in this or that person and the actions resulting, 
the end of the tyranny of general ideas. 

NOTES 

1 Will the Union of Egoist legislate on the “debt” of grown children to 
their mother? Our Union will be based simply on our common interests. 
The interest must be clear to each Unit in order to command support for 
any rule. Only a minority can have a pecuniary interest in the above sug- 
gested claim. We may first eliminate all the men, as the children belong 
only to the mothers. We can also leave out all the women who have no 
children that are under our jurisdiction or likely to come under it, and 
those mothers who are content with the unrestricted control of their 
infant children to train and impress them as they will; content to blame 
themselves if a child proves ungrateful after ten or fifteen years of such 
opportunity to form its disposition. To my thinking the policy of award- 
ing compensation in after years, would imply the policy of interfering 
with the mother’s absolute control over the child during infancy, for in 
this control lies the making or spoiling of the child's character. I prefer 
to trust her entirely and leave her to face the results of her training of 
her child. 

2 You say certain birds are monogamous and that this argues that man 
may be so. Accept the assurance that Egoists will be content to see the 
question resolved by the free play of instinct in the species, as you suggest. 
But the action of mankind, by legislation and social censure on the mat- 
ter, looks very like a confession that they regard themselves as naturally 
constituted with an inclination to variety in love and needing a deal of 

m 


dragooning to make them good monogamists or passable counterfeits 
thereof. 

3 A dwarfed, stunted conception of Egoism finds expression in the 
remark: “I do not believe in self-interest. I would not take another man's 
job.” Indeed, sir, if you have a determination not to take it I am sure you 
will not take it-unless some stronger interest of yours comes into play. We 
will wait and see what you do. Professions are cheap. 


72 


Anarchist Individualism in the Social Revolution 

Renzo Novatore 

1 

Anarchist individualism as we understand it — and I say we because a 
substantial handful of friends think this like me — is hostile to every 
school and every party, every churchly and dogmatic moral, as well as 
every more or less academic imbecility. Every form of discipline, rule, 
and pedantry is repulsive to the sincere nobility of our vagabond and 
rebellious restlessness! 

Individualism is, for us, creative force, immortal youth, exalting 
beauty, redemptive and fruitful war. It is the marvelous apotheosis of 
the flesh and the tragic epic of the spirit. Our logic is that of not hav- 
ing any. Our ideal is the categorical negation of all other ideals for the 
greatest and supreme triumph of the actual, real, instinctive, reckless, 
and merry life! For us perfection is not a dream, an ideal, a riddle, a 
mystery, a sphinx, but a vigorous and powerful, luminous and throb- 
bing reality. All human beings are perfect in themselves. All they lack 
is the heroic courage of their perfection. Since the time that human 
beings first believed that life was a duty, a calling, a mission, it has 
meant shame for their power of being, and in following phantoms, 
they have denied themselves and distanced themselves from the real. 
When Christ said to human beings: “be yourselves, perfection is in 
you!” he launched a superb phrase that is the supreme synthesis of life. 

It is useless that the bigots, theologians, and philosophers do their 
utmost with deceitful and dialectical sophisms to give a false interpre- 
tation to Christ’s words. But when Christ speaks this way to human 
beings, he disavows his entire calling to renunciation, to a mission, and 
to faith, and all the rest of his doctrine collapses miserably in the mud, 
knocked down by he himself. And here, and here alone, is Christ’s 
great tragedy. Let human beings open their misty eyes in the blinding 
sun of this truth, and they will find themselves face to face with their 
true and laughing redemption. 

This is the ethical part of individualism, neither romantically 


73 


mystical nor idealistically monastic, neither moral nor immoral, but 
amoral, wild, furious, and warlike, that keeps its luminous roots vo- 
luptuously rooted in the phosphorescent perianth of pagan nature, 
and its verdant foliage resting on the purple mouth of virgin life. 

2 

To every form of human Society that would try to impose renuncia- 
tions and artificial sorrow on our anarchic and rebellious I, thirsting 
for free and exulting expansion, we will respond with a roaring and 
sacrilegious howl of dynamite. 

To all those demogogues of politics and of philosophy that carry 
in their pockets a beautiful system made by mortgaging a corner of 
the future, we respond with Bakunin: Oafs and weaklings! Every duty 
that they would like to impose on us we will furiously trample under 
our sacrilegious feet. Every shady phantom that they would place 
before our eyes, greedy for light, we will angrily rip up with our dar- 
ingly profaning hands. Christ was ashamed of his own doctrine and 
he broke it first. Friedrich Nietzsche was afraid of his overhuman and 
made it die in the midst of his agonizing animals, asking pity of the 
higher man. But we are neither afraid nor ashamed of the liberated 
Human Being. 

We exalt Prometheus, the sacrilegious thief who stole the eternal 
spark from Jove’s heaven to animate the man of clay, and we glorify 
Hercules, the powerful, liberating hero. 

3 

Pagan nature has placed a Prometheus in the mind of every mortal 
human being, and a Hercules in the brain of every thinker. But moral- 
ity, that disgusting enchantress of philosophers, peoples, and humanity, 
has glorified and sanctified the vulture exalting it as divine justice, and 
divine justice, which Comte humanized, has condemned the Hero. 

The Plowman and the thinker have trembled before this baleful 
phantom and courage has remained defeated under the enormous 


74 


weight of fear. 

But anarchist individualism is a brilliant and fatal torch that casts 
light into the darkness in the realm of fear and puts to flight the 
phantoms of divine justice that Comte humanized. 

Individualism is the free and unconstrained song that reconnects 
the individual to the eternal and universal pan-dynamism, that is nei- 
ther moral nor immoral, but that is everything: Nature and Life! What 
is Life? Depths and peaks, instinct and reason, light and darkness, mud 
and beauty, joy and sorrow. Disavowal of the past, domination of the 
present, longing and yearning for the future. 

Life is all this. And all this is also individualism. Who seeks to 
escape Life? Who dares to deny it? 

4 

The Social Revolution is the sudden awakening of Prometheus after 
a fall into a faint of sorrow caused by the foul vulture that rips his 
heart to shreds. It is an attempt at self-liberation. But the chains with 
which the sinister god Jove had him chained on the Caucasus by 
the repugnant servant Vulcan cannot be broken except by the Titanic 
rebel Hero, son of Jove himself. 

We rebel children of this putrid humanity that has chained hu- 
man beings in the dogmatic mud of social superstitions will never 
miss bringing our tremendous axe blow down on the rusty links of 
this hateful chain. 

Yes, we anarchist individualists are for Social Revolution, but in 
our way, it’s understood! 

5 

The revolt of the individual against society is not given by that of the 
masses against governments. Even when the masses submit to govern- 
ments, living in the sacred and shameful peace of their resignation, 
the anarchist individual lives against society because he is in a never- 
ending and irreconcilable war with it, but when, at a historical turning 


75 


point, he comes together with the masses in revolt, he raises his black 
flag with them and throws his dynamite with them. 

The anarchist individualist is in the Social Revolution, not as a 
demagogue, but as a inciting element, not as an apostle, but as a living, 
effective, destructive force. . . 

All past revolutions were, in the end, bourgeois and conservative. 
That which flashes on the red horizon of our magnificently tragic 
time will have for its aim the fierce socialist humanism. We, anarchist 
individualists, will enter into the revolution for an exclusive need of 
our own to set fire to and incite spirits. To make sure that, as Stirner 
says, it is not a new revolution that approaches, but rather an immense, 
proud, reckless, shameless, conscienceless crime that rumbles with the 
lightning on the horizon, and beneath which the sky, swollen with 
foreboding, grows dark and silent. And Ibsen: There's only one revolution 
I recognize — that was truly, thoroughly radical — . . . I’m referring to the ancient 
Flood! That one alone was truly serious. But even then the devil lost his due: 
you know Noah took up the dictatorship. Let’s make this revolution again, but 
more thoroughly. It requires real men as well as orators. So you bring on the 
roaring waters, I’ll supply the powder keg to blow up the ark. 

Now since dictatorship will be — alas! — inevitable in the somber 
global revolution that sends its bleak glow from the east over our black 
cowardice, the ultimate task of we anarchist individualists will be that 
of blowing up the final ark with bomb explosions and the final dictator 
with Browning shots. The new society established, we will return to its 
margins to live our lives dangerously as noble criminals and audacious 
sinners! Because the anarchist individualist still means eternal renewal, 
in the field of art, thought, and action. 

Anarchist individuahsm still means eternal revolt against eternal 
sorrow, the eternal search for new springs of life, joy and beauty. And 
we will still be such in Anarchy. 

written under the name of Mario Ferrento 

II Libertario 


76 


Unbridled Freedom 

Enzo Martucci 

Stirner and Nietzsche were undoubtedly right. It is not true that my 
freedom ends where that of others begins. By nature my freedom has 
its end where my strength stops. If it disgusts me to attack human be- 
ings or even if I consider it to be contrary to my interests to do so, I 
abstain from conflict. But if, pushed by an instinct, a feeling, or a need, 
I lash out against my likes and meet no resistance or a weak resistance, 
I naturally become the dominator, the superman. If instead the others 
resist vigorously and return blow for blow, then I am forced to stop 
and come to terms. Unless I judge it appropriate to pay for an im- 
mediate satisfaction with my life. 

It is useless to speak to people of renunciation, of morality, of 
duty, of honesty. It is stupid to want to constrain them, in the name 
of Christ or of humanity, not to step on each other’s toes. Instead one 
tells each of them: “You are strong. Harden your will. Compensate, by 
any means, for your deficiencies. Conserve your freedom. Defend it 
against anyone who wants to oppress you”. 

And if every human being would follow this advice, tyranny 
would become impossible. I will even resist the one who is stronger 
than me. If I can’t do it by myself, I will seek the aid of my friends. If 
my might is lacking, I will replace it with cunning. And balance will 
arise spontaneously from the contrast. 

In fact, the only cause of social imbalance is precisely the herd 
mentality that keeps slaves prone and resigned under the master’s 
whip. 

“Human life is sacred. I cannot suppress it either in the other or 
in myself. And so I must respect the life of the enemy who oppresses 
me and brings me an atrocious and continuous pain. I cannot take 
the life of my poor brother, who is afflicted with a terminal disease 
that causes him terrible suffering, in order to shorten his torment. I 
cannot even free myself, through suicide, from an existence that I feel 


77 


as a burden.” 

Why? 

“Because,” the Christians say, “Life is not our own. It is given to us 
by god and he alone can take it away from us.” 

Okay. But when god gives life to us, it becomes ours. As Thomas 
Aquinas points out, god’s thought confers being in itself, objective 
reality, to the one who thinks. Thus, when god thinks of giving life to 
the human being, and by thinking of it, gives it to him, such life effec- 
tively becomes human, that is, an exclusive property of ours. Thus, we 
can take it away from each other, or anyone can destroy it in herself. 

Emile Armand frees the individual from the state but subordi- 
nates him more strictly to society. For him, in fact, I cannot revoke 
the social contract when I want, but must receive the consent of my 
co-associates in order to release myself from the links of the associa- 
tion. If others don’t grant me such consent, I must remain with them 
even if this harms or offends me. Or yet, by unilaterally breaking the 
pact, I expose myself to the retaliation and vengeance of my former 
comrades. More societarian than this and one dies. But this is a soci- 
etarianism of the Spartan barracks. What! Am I not my own master? 
Just because yesterday, under the influence of certain feelings and 
certain needs, I wanted to associate, today, when I have other feelings 
and needs and want to get out of the association, I can no longer do 
so. I must thus remain chained to my desire of yesterday. Because 
yesterday I desired one way, today I cannot desire another way. But 
then I am a slave, deprived of spontaneity, dependent on the consent 
of the associates. 

According to Armand, I cannot break relationships because I 
should care about the sorrow and harm that I will cause the others 
if I deprive them of my person. But the others don’t care about the 
sorrow and harm that they cause me by forcing me to remain in their 
company when I feel like going away. Thus, mutuality is lacking. And 
if I want to leave the association, I will go when I decide, so much the 
more if, in making the agreement to associate, I have communicated 


78 


to the comrades that I will maintain my freedom to break with it at 
any time. In doing this, one does not deny that some societies might 
have long lives. But in this case, it is a feeling or an interest sensed by 
all that maintain the union. Not an ethical precept as Armand would 
like. 

From Christians to anarchists (?) all moralists insist that we distin- 
guish between freedom, based on responsibility, and license, based on 
caprice and instinct. Now it is good to explain. A freedom that, in all 
of its manifestations, is always controlled, reined in, led by reason, is 
not freedom. Because it lacks spontaneity. Thence, it lacks life. 

What is my aim? To destroy authority, to abolish the state, to es- 
tablish freedom for everyone to live according to her nature as he sees 
and desires it. Does this aim frighten you, fine sirs? Well then, I have 
nothing to do. Like Renzo Novatore, I am beyond the arc. 

When no one commands me, I do what I want. I abandon myself 
to spontaneity or I resist it. I follow instincts or I rein them in with 
reason, at various times, according to which is stronger within me. 

In short, my life is varied and intense precisely because I don’t 
depend upon any rule. 

Moralists of all schools instead claim the opposite. They demand 
that life always be conformed to a single norm of conduct that makes 
it monotonous and colorless. They want human beings to always car- 
ry out certain actions and to always abstain from all the others. 

“You must, in every instance, practice love, forgiveness, renuncia- 
tion of worldly goods and humility. Otherwise you will be damned”, 
say the Gospels. 

“You must, in each moment, defeat egoism and be unselfish. Oth- 
erwise you will remain in absurdity and sorrow,” Kant points out. 

“You must always resist instinct and appetite, showing yourself 
to be balanced, thoughtful and wise on every occasion. If you don’t, 
we will brand you with the mark of archist infamy and treat you as a 
tyrant,” Armand passes judgment. 

In short, they all want to impose the rule that mutilates life and 


turns human beings into equal puppets that perpetually think and 
act in the same way. And this occurs because we are surrounded by 
priests: priests of the church and priests who oppose it, believing and 
atheistic Tartuffes. And all claim to catechize us, to lead us, to control 
us, to bridle us, offering us a prospect of earthly or supernatural pun- 
ishments and rewards. But it is time for the free human being to rise 
up: the one who knows how to go against all priests and priestliness, 
beyond laws and religions, rules and morality. And who knows how 
to go further beyond. Still further beyond. 


8(9 


Egoism 


John Beverley Robinson 


There is no word more generally misinterpreted than the word 
egoism, in its modern sense. In the first place, it is supposed to mean 
devotion to self interest, without regard to the interests of others. It 
is thus opposed to altruism — devotion to others and sacrifice of self. 
This interpretation is due to the use of the word thus antithetically 
by Herbert Spencer. 

Again, it is identified with hedonism, or Epicureanism, 
philosophies that teach that the attainment of pleasure or happiness 
or advantage, whichever you may choose to phrase it, is the rule of 
life. 

Modern egoism, as propounded by Stirner and Nietzsche, and 
expounded by Ibsen, Shaw and others, is all these; but it is more. It is 
realization by the individual that he is an individual; that, as far as he 
is concerned, he is the only individual. 

For each one of us stands alone in the midst of a universe. He 
is surrounded by sights and sounds which he interprets as exterior 
to himself, although all he knows of them are the impressions on 
his retina and ear drums and other organs of sense. The universe for 
him is measured by these sensations; they are, for him, the universe. 
Some of them he interprets as denoting other individuals, whom he 
conceives as more or less like himself. But none of these is himself. 
He stands apart. His consciousness, and the desires and gratifications 
that enter into it, is a thing unique; no other can enter into it. 

But egoism is more than this. It is the realization by the individual 
that he is above all institutions and all formulas; that they exist only so 
far as he chooses to make them his own by accepting them. 

When you see clearly that you are the measure of the universe, 
that everything that exists, exists for you only so far as it is reflected in 
your own consciousness, you become a new man; you see everything 
by a new light: you stand on a height and feel the fresh air blowing 


on your face; and find new strength and glory in it. 

Whatever gods you worship, you realize that they are your gods, 
the product of your own mind, terrible or amiable, as you may choose 
to depict them. You hold them in your hand, and play with them, as a 
child with its paper dolls; for you have learned not to fear them, that 
they are but the “imaginations of your heart”. 

All the ideals which men generally think are realities, you have 
learned to see through; you have learned that they are your ideals. 
Whether you have originated them, which is unlikely, or have accept- 
ed somebody else’s ideals, makes no difference. They are your ideals just 
so far as you accept them. The priest is reverend only so far as you rev- 
erence him. If you cease to reverence him, he is no longer reverend for 
you.You have the power to make and unmake priests as easily as you 
can make and unmake gods. You are the one of whom the poet tells, 
who stands unmoved, though the universe fall in fragments about you. 

And all the other ideals by which men are moved, to which men 
are enslaved, for which men afflict themselves, have no power over 
you; you are no longer afraid of them, for you know them to be 
your own ideals, made in your own mind, for your own pleasure, to 
be changed or ignored, just as you choose to change or ignore them. 
They are your own little pets, to be played with, not to be feared. 

“The State” or “The Government” is idealized by many as a 
thing above them, to be reverenced and feared. They call it “My 
Country”, and if you utter the magic words, they will rush to kill 
their friends, whom they would not injure by so much as a pin 
scratch, if they were not intoxicated and blinded by their ideal. Most 
men are deprived of their reason under the influence of their ideals. 
Moved by the ideal of “religion” or “patriotism” or “morality”, they 
fly at each others’ throats — they, who are otherwise often the gentlest 
of men! But their ideals are for them like the “fixed ideas” of lunatics. 
They become irrational and irresponsible under the influence of 
their ideals. They will not only destroy others, but they will sink their 
own interests, and rush madly to destroy themselves as a sacrifice to 


82 


an all-devouring ideal. Curious, is it not, to one who looks on with 
a philosophical mind? 

But the egoist has no ideals, for the knowledge that his ideals are 
only his ideals, frees him from their domination. He acts for his own 
interest, not for the interest of ideals. He will neither hang a man 
nor whip a child in the interest of “morality”, if it is disagreeable for 
him to do so. 

He has no reverence for “The State”. He knows that “The 
Government” is but a set of men, mostly as big fools as he is himself, 
many of them bigger. If the State does things that benefit him, he will 
benefit; if it attacks him and encroaches on his liberty, he will evade 
it by any means in his power, if he is not strong enough to withstand 
it. He is a man without a country. 

“The Flag” that most men adore, as men always adore symbols, 
worshipping the symbol more than the principle it is supposed to set 
forth, is for the egoist but a rather inharmonious piece of patchwork; 
and anybody may walk on it or spit on it if they will, without exciting 
his emotion any more than if it were a tarpaulin that they walked upon 
or spat upon. The principles that it symbolizes, he will maintain so far as 
it seems to his advantage to maintain them; but if the principles require 
him to kill people or be killed himself, you will have to demonstrate 
to him just what benefit he will gain by killing or being killed, before 
you can persuade him to uphold them. 

When the judge enters court in his toggery (judges and ministers 
and professors know the value of toggery in impressing the populace), 
the egoist is unterrified. He has not any respect for “The Law”. If 
the law happens to be to his advantage, he will avail himself of it; if 
it invades his liberty he will transgress it as far as he thinks it wise to 
do so. But he has no regard for it as a thing supernal. It is to him the 
clumsy creation of them who still “sit in darkness”. 

And for all the other small, tenuous ideals, with which we have 
fettered our minds and to which we have shrunk our petty lives; they 
are for the egoist as though they were not. 


83 


In brief, egoism in its modern interpretation, is the antithesis, 
not of altruism, but of idealism. The ordinary man — the idealist — 
subordinates his interests to the interests of his ideals, and usually 
suffers for it. The egoist is fooled by no ideals: he discards them or 
uses them, as may suit his own interest. 


84 


Stirner, Marx, and Fascism 


S.E. Parker 


John Carroll, in his introduction to his abridged edition of Stirner’s 
The Ego and His Own, quotes “the Polish Marxist” Leszek Kolakowski 
as stating that “Stirner’s grounds are irrefutable. Even Nietzsche 
seems inconsequential to him.” It would seem that either Kolakowski 
has changed his mind, or Carroll has misquoted him, for a glance at 
the section on Max Stirner in the first volume of Kolakowski’s book 
Main Currents of Marxism reveals an all-too-familiar Marxist “critique” 
of Stirner’s philosophy. 

In the space of eight pages the reader is treated to several of the 
usual “interpretations”. We are told, for example, that egoism would 
mean “a return to animality and the unbridled sway of individual 
passion”, and that Stirner condemned “culture in the name of the 
monadic sovereignty of the individual”. Both of these accusations were 
explicitly denied by Stirner, but this does not deter Mr. Kolakowski. 
Having made such statements without bothering to document them, 
he goes on to write the following passage: 

As recent studies by Helms have shown, Stirner’s doctrines 
inspired not only anarchists but various German groups who 
were the immediate precursors of fascism. At first sight, Nazi 
totalitarianism may seem the opposite of Stirner’s radical 
individualism. But fascism was above all an attempt to dissolve 
the social ties created by history and replace them by artificial 
bonds among individuals who were expected to render 
implicit obedience to the State on grounds of absolute egoism. 
Fascist education combined the tenets of asocial egoism and 
unquestioning conformism, the latter being the means by which 
the individual secured his own niche in the system. Stirner’s 
philosophy has nothing to say against conformism, it only objects 
to the Ego being subordinated to any higher principle: the egoist 


85 " 


is free to adjust to the world if it appears that he will better 
himself by doing so. His “rebellion” may take the form of utter 
servility if it will further his interest; what he must not do is be 
bound by “general” values or myths of humanity. The totalitarian 
ideal of a barrack-like society from which all real, historical 
ties have been eliminated is perfectly consistent with Stirner’s 
principles: the egoist, by his very nature, must be prepared to 
fight under any flag that suits his convenience. 

This is a typical piece of Marxist nonsense. No one could be 
more obsessed with the creation of “social ties” based on “history” 
than the fascists. Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian fascist, wrote 

we recognize the profound truth of the historic past as well as 
the historic present... we must be permitted to believe in the 
continual historical and divine mission of the Nordic people’s 
of the world. 

And far from being “asocial” the fascists insisted on the “organic 
society” as the goal of their effort. Fascism, stated Mussolini, “is always. . . 
an organic conception of the world”. Like the Marxists, fascists were 
strident opponents of “atomic individualism” and loved to attribute 
causal efficacy to abstractions such as “History”. As for their “egoism” 
fascists continually denounced “selfishness” and “individualism”. The 
First Programme of the German Nazi Party proclaimed the principle 
“the common interest before the self”. The Belgian fascist Jean Denis 
wrote: “The human being thrives not by referring everything to itself 
in a vain and selfish individualism but, on the contrary, by giving up 
the self and becoming part of communities”. And his colleague Leon 
Degrelle concurred when he stated: 

This is the true Fascist miracle; this faith, the unspoilt, burning 
confidence, the complete lack of selfishness and individualism, 
the tension of the whole being towards the service... of a cause 


86 


which transcends the individual, demanding all, promising 
nothing. 

What has such insistent altruism got to do with Stirner’s conscious 
egoism? The answer is clear: nothing! 

Where Kolakowski gets the idea that “Stirner’s philosophy has 
nothing to say against conformism” is a mystery to me. Conformism 
rests upon the principle that the ego must subordinate itself to 
a “higher principle” and on Kolakowski’s own admission Stirner’s 
philosophy opposes that. At one point Kolakowski even summarizes 
Stirner as saying “My Ego is sovereign, it recognizes no authority or 
constraints such as humanity, the truth, morality, or the State”. 

It is certainly true that Stirner thought that a conscious egoist 
might at times have to pretend conformity if he or she does not 
have enough power to assert him/herself openly against authority. 
But such strategies are firmly based on a recognition of the purely 
prudential nature of such a pretense, as is shown in the following 
example given by Stirner: 

The fetters of reality cut the sharpest welts in my flesh every 
moment. But my own I remain. Given up as a serf to a master, 
I think only of myself and my advantage; his blows strike me, 
indeed I am not free from them; but I endure them only for 
my benefit, perhaps in order to deceive him and make him 
secure by the semblance of patience, or again, not to draw worse 
upon myself by contumacy. But, as I keep my eye on myself and 
my selfishness, I take by the forelock the first good opportunity 
to trample the slaveholder into the dust. That I then become 
free from him and his whip is only the consequence of my 
antecedent egoism. 

Thus the only relationship an egoist has with the “totalitarian 
ideal of a barrack-like society” is that of a prisoner of war waiting for 
the first chance to escape from his captors. 


87 


Kolakowski claims that Marx “seeks to preserve the principle 
of individuality — not, however, as something antagonistic to the 
general interest, but as completely coincident with it”. This is, no 
doubt, intended as a contrast to Stirner’s view “Let us therefore not 
aspire to community, but to one-sidedness”. Marx’s “preservation 
of individuality”, however, is highly suspect. According to Kolakowski 
when communism is achieved “the individual will accept the 
community as his own interiorized nature.” In other words, the 
conformity of community will be manifested as “conscience” and the 
individual will be “integrated” into the “community” by virtue of the 
command of an internalized authority. 

Again, “it was Marx’s view that under communism men’s 
individual possibilities would display themselves only in socially 
constructive ways” (my emphasis). But who will decide what is 
“socially constructive” and what criteria will be used? What happens 
if an individual persists in behaving in socially unconstructive ways? 
Marx may have advanced “the outlines of a theory in which true 
individuality... is enabled to find a place in the community without 
sacrificing the uniqueness of its own essence”, but fine words like 
these are cheap and are apt to evaporate when confronted with what is 
construed as “asocial egoism”. The trouble with Marx’s “outline”, like 
all outlines of this sort, is that what is “true individuality” is decided by 
those who do the outlining, and those whose individuality is “untrue” 
stand a good chance of finding themselves at the wrong end of a gun — 
or its “therapeutic” equivalent. 

Kolakowski claims that Marx believed that under communism 
“there is no question of uniformity being either imposed or voluntarily 
accepted”. Nonetheless, despite the promise that “in a communist so- 
ciety the universal development of individuals is no empty phase”, this 
could not take place by means of “the assertion of his rights against 
the community”. Community, community, community — always the 
“community”! But if I cannot assert “my right” “against the commu- 
nity” then my “unique essence” must be identical with the communal 


88 


“essence” and my “essence” will be nothing but an expression of the 
“community”. No wonder that Stirner’s one reference to Marx point- 
edly remarks that “To identify me now entirely with Man the demand 
has been invented, and stated, that I must become a real generic be- 
ing”. Marx may have abandoned his talk about the spook “Man”, but 
he did so only to replace it with the spook “community”. 

Preceding the quotation from the fascist Jean Denis that I gave 
above are the words “The concept of the individual which forms the 
erroneous philosophical foundation of the present regime. . .must be 
replaced with the concept of the human being which corresponds 
exactly to the reality of Man — a social being endowed with a funda- 
mental dignity, which society can help develop and with which it has 
no right to interfere”. That is, of course, conditional upon “the giving 
up of the (untrue) self and becoming part of the communities”. In 
what way do Denis and Marx differ in their conception of “the com- 
munity”? It is clear that both fascist and communist are at one on this 
point. Both think that the “true self” or the “true human being” can 
only be achieved when the “true community” has been brought about 
by means of the proper “historical development”. Both, despite their 
protestations to the contrary, view the individual as the subject of a 
religion of society whose content and context are decided by them. 

Marxism, like fascism, is a philosophy of the herd. 

Marxism, like fascism, is an enemy of individualism. 

My uniqueness, as a Stirnerian individualist, is a result of my 
awareness of myself as a specific individual living at a particular time 
who cannot be defined by the gafflegab of peddlers of social salvation. I 
am here and now — not there and then. 


<?0 


Freedom and Solitude 


Marilisa Fiorina 


Anarchy is the negation of authority of 
whatever kind, it is affection and solitude. 

L. Ferre 

To be alone, liberated from the yoke of collective life. Here is the 
most logical system for being truly free — free from convention, from 
dependence and the extortions of others. It is solitude alone that 
makes the individual really free. 

Each day we are victims of hypocrisy, continually reciting the 
rules of bourgeois etiquette: “thank you... excuse me... I am sorry”. 
Others flatter, judge, criticize. Others decide for us, others live on 
our weaknesses, others cheat us, others steal from us, others, always 
others, usurp our lives. 

It is they who love us, who hate us, who betray us, rob us of our 
thoughts, words, life. It would be logical to leave them all, to flee 
physically and mentally to a proper island of solitude, self-sufficient 
and courageous. Courageous? Courageous because it is difficult, 
because we are incapable of living really alone, because we have need 
of contact with others in order to express our feelings, to realize 
ourselves, even for the simplification of our actions. 

It is difficult for one individual, weak, even psychologically 
insecure, to do without friendship, love and solidarity. And then, 
clearly, life in solitude would appear monotonous because, as always, 
our emotions, our adventures, arise from others, evolve among others. 

There is another solitude, perhaps more understood, more naturally 
respected, than that of the hermit. It is when you no longer feel a 
part of these others, when you no longer participate in their mode 
of living, making a world apart from them in which they no longer 
count, from which they are excluded. It is when you no longer accept 
their love, their benevolence, their hypocrisy — and your solitude then 


becomes freedom, rebellion, it is open defiance of society. 

Anarchist individualists are alone, their life lies outside the rules 
imposed by others. They choose the individuals whom it pleases 
them to have near, to listen. The others they regard as if they were 
non-existent, or as enemies. Individualists live beyond the walls of 
society — but not as those driven out... They are mental, rather than 
physical, fugitives, and their solitude is loved, it is the realization of 
their free thought. 


Translated by Stephen Marietta 


part two 


<?4 


The unitary triad: 

self realisation, communication, participation 

(from Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations 
aka The Revolution of E\ ergdag Life) 

Raoul Vaneigem 

The repressive unity of Power is threefold: constraint, seduction and media- 
tion are its three functions. This unity is merely the reflection of an equally 
tripartite, unitary project, its form inverted and perverted by the techniques of 
dissociation. In its chaotic, underground development, the new society tends 
to find practical expression as a transparency in human relationships which 
promotes the participation of everyone in the self-realisation of everyone else. 
Creativity, love and play are to life what the needs for nourishment and shelter 
are to survival (1). The project of self-realisation is grounded in the passion 
to create (2); the project of communication is grounded in the passion of love 
(4); the project of participation is grounded in the passion for play (6). Wher- 
ever these three projects are separated, Powers repressive unity is reinforced. 
Radical subjectivity is the pressure — discernible in practically everyone at the 
present time — of an indivisible will to build a passion-filled life (3). The erotic 
is the spontaneous coherence which gives practical unity to attempts to enrich 
lived experience (5). 

THE CONSTRUCTION of daily life implies the most thorough- 
going fusion of reason and passion. The mystery with which life has 
always been deliberately surrounded has as its main function the 
concealment of survivals basic triviality. The will to live entails the 
demand for some measure of organisation. The attraction which the 
promise of a rich, multi-dimensional life has for each individual in- 
evitably takes the form of a project governed in whole as in part by 
the very social power whose job it is to repress such desires. The 
oppression exercised by human government is essentially three-fold: 
constraint, alienating mediation and magical seduction. The will to 
live also draws its vitality and its coherence from the unity of a three- 

95 


fold project: self-realisation, communication and participation. 

If human history was neither reduced to, nor dissociated from, the 
history of human survival, the dialectic of this three-fold project, in 
conjunction with the dialectic of the productive forces, would prove 
sufficient explanation for most things human beings have done to 
themselves and to one another. Every riot, every revolution, reveals 
a passionate quest for exuberant life, for total clarity in human rela- 
tions, for a collective form of transformation of the world. In fact three 
fundamental passions seem to inform historical development, passions 
that are to life as the needs for nourishment and shelter are to survival. 
The desire to create, the desire to love and the desire to play interact 
with the need to eat and the need to find shelter, just as the will to live 
never ceases to play havoc with the necessity of surviving. Naturally 
these factors have no significance outside their historical context, but 
the history of their dissociation is precisely what must be challenged 
by a continual invocation of their unity. 

Today, with the welfare state, the question of survival tends to be 
subsumed under the problem of life as a whole, as I hope to have 
shown. Life-economy has gradually absorbed survival-economy, and in 
this context the dissociation of the three projects, and of the passions 
underlying them, emerges ever more clearly as an extension of the 
aberrant distinction between life and survival. Since the whole of ex- 
istence is torn between two perspectives — that of separation, of Power, 
and that of revolution, of unity — and is therefore essentially ambiguous, 
I shall discuss each project at once separately and unitarily. 

i 

The project of self-realisation is born of the passion for creation, in 
the moment when subjectivity wells up and aspires to reign universally. 
The project of communication is born of the passion of love, whenever 
people discover that they share the same desire for amorous conquest. 
The project of participation is born of the passion for playing, when- 
ever group activity facilitates the self-realisation of each individual. 

Isolated, the three passions are perverted. Dissociated, the three 

<?6 


projects are falsified. The will to self-realisation is turned into the will 
to power; sacrificed to status and role-playing, it reigns in a world of 
restrictions and illusions. The will to communication becomes objec- 
tive dishonesty; based on relationships between objects, it provides the 
semiologists with signs to dress up in human guise. The will to par- 
ticipation serves to organise the loneliness of everyone in the crowd; it 
creates the tyranny of the illusion of community. 

Once cut off from the others, any of these passions may be in- 
corporated as an absolute into a metaphysical vision which renders it 
inaccessible. Out philosophers will have their little joke: first they turn 
off the main switch, then they say the power has failed. Thus full self- 
realisation becomes a chimera, unobfuscated communication becomes 
a pipe dream, and the idea of social harmony becomes a passing fad. 
True enough, so long as separation is the order of the day, everyone is 
confronted by impossibilities. The Cartesian mania for cutting every- 
thing up into little pieces, and for succeeding only one step at a time, 
necessarily produces an incomplete and crippled reality. No wonder 
that the armies of Order must be recruited from the ranks of the halt 
and the lame. 

The project of self realisation 

The guarantee of material security leaves unused a large supply of energy formerly 
expended in the struggle for survival. The will to power tries to recuperate this 
free-foating energy, which should serve the blossoming of individual life, for the 
reinforcement of hierarchical slavery (A). Universal oppression forces almost everyone 
to withdraw strategically towards what they feel to be their only uncontaminated 
possession: their subjectivity. The revolution of everyday life must create practical 
forms for the countless attacks on the outside world launched daily by subjectivity (B). 

(A) The historical stage of privative appropriation has prevented man 
from himself becoming a creator God, obliging him instead to create 
such a God in ideal form in order to compensate for this failure. At 
heart, everyone wants to be God, hut up to now this desire has been 

97 


turned against humanity itself. I have shown how hierarchical social or- 
ganisation builds the world up by breaking men down; how the perfec- 
tion of its structure and machinery makes it function like a giant com- 
puter whose programmers are also programmed; how the cybernetic 
State being prepared for us will be the masterwork of men become 
the most cold-hearted of monsters. In these conditions, the struggle 
for enough to eat, for comfort, for stable employment and for security 
are, on the social front, so many aggressive raids which are slowly but 
surely becoming rearguard actions, their very real importance notwith- 
standing. The struggle for survival took up and still takes up an energy 
and creativity which are destined to fall on the welfare state like a 
pack of ravening wolves. Despite false conflicts and illusory activities, 
a constantly simulated creative energy is no longer being absorbed fast 
enough by consumer society. What will happen to this vitality suddenly 
at a loose end, to this surplus virility which neither coercion nor lies 
can really continue to handle? No longer recuperated by artistic and 
cultural consumption — by the ideological spectacle — creativity will 
turn spontaneously against the conditions of survival itself. 

Rebels have nothing to lose but their survival. But there are two 
ways of losing it: by giving up life or by seeking to construct it. Since 
survival is simply to die very slowly, there is a temptation, containing 
a very great deal of genuine feeling, to speed the whole thing up and 
to die as fast as possible. To ‘live’ the negation of survival negatively. 
On the other hand, one can try and survive as an anti-survivor, focus- 
ing all one’s energy on the enrichment of daily life. Survival can be 
negated through incorporation into joyous constructive activity. Both 
solutions further the unitary yet contradictory tendency of the dialec- 
tic of decomposition and transcendence. 

Self-realisation cannot be divorced from transcendence. No mat- 
ter how ferocious, the rebellion of desperation remains prisoner to the 
authoritarian dilemma: survival or death. This half rebellion, this savage 
creativity, so easily broken in by the order of things is the will to power. 

i 


<?8 


The will to power is the project of self-realisation falsified — divorced 
from communication and participation. It is the passion for creation, 
for self-creation, caught up in the hierarchical system, condemned to 
turn the mill of repression and appearances. Prestige and humiliation, 
authority and submission: the only music to which the will to power 
can dance. The hero sacrifices to the power of his role and his rifle. 
And when, finally, he is burnt out, he follows Voltaire’s advice and 
cultivates his garden. Meantime his mediocrity becomes a model for 
the common run of mortals. 

The hero, the ruler, the superstar, the millionaire, the expert... 
how often have they sold out all they held most dear? How many 
sacrifices have they made to force people, whether a few people or 
a few million, whom they necessarily take for fools (otherwise they 
themselves would be fools!) to put their photograph on the wall, to 
remember their name, to stare at them in the street. 

And yet the will to power does contain traces of an authentic will 
to live. Think of the virtu of the condottiere, of the exuberance of the 
giants of the Renaissance. But the condottieri are dead and buried. All 
we have left are industrial magnates, gangsters and hired guns, dealers 
in art and artillery. For an adventurer, we are given Tin tin; for an ex- 
plorer, Albert Schweitzer. And with these people Zarathustra dreamt 
of peopling the heights of Sils-Maria; in these abortions he thought 
he could see the adumbration of a future race! Nietzsche is, in fact, the 
last master, crucified by his own illusions. His death was a replay, with 
more brio and more wit, of the comedy of Golgotha. It explains the 
disappearance of the feudal lords just as Christs death explained the 
disappearance of God. Nietzsche may have had a refined sensibility 
but the stench of Christianity did not stop him breathing it in by the 
lungful. And he pretends not to understand that Christianity, however 
much contempt it may have poured on the will to power, is in fact its 
best means of protection, its most faithful bodyguard, since it stands in 
the way of the emergence of masters without slaves. Nietzsche thus 
blessed a hierarchical world in which the will to live condemns itself 


never to be more than the will to power. His last letters were signed 
‘Dionysus the Crucified’: he too was looking for a master, to whom 
he might humbly offer a crippled vitality. Meddling with the witch 
doctor of Bethlehem is a dangerous business. 

Nazism is Nietzschean logic called to order by history. The ques- 
tion was: what can become of those who would be masters in a so- 
ciety from which all true masters have disappeared? And the answer: 
a super-slave. Even Nietzsche’s concept of the superman, however 
threadbare it may have been, is worlds away from what we know 
of the flunkeys who ran the Third Reich. Fascism knows only one 
superman: the State. 

The State as superman is the strength of the weak. This is why 
the demands of an isolated individual can always fit in with a role 
played impeccably in the official spectacle. The will to power is an 
exhibitionistic will. The isolated individual detests other people, feels 
contempt for the masses of which he is a perfect specimen himself. 
He is, in fact, the most contemptible man of all. Showing off, amidst 
the crassest sort of illusory community, is his ‘dynamism’; the rat-race 
is the perfect arena for him to display his ‘love of danger’. 

The manager, the leader, the tough guy, the mobster knows little 
joy. Ability to endure is his main qualification. His ethic is that of the 
pioneer, the spy, the scout — the shock-troops of conformity. “No ani- 
mal would have done what I have done...” A will to appear since one 
cannot be: a way of escaping the emptiness of one’s own existence by 
proclaiming one’s existence ever more noisily. But only servants are 
proud of their sacrifices. The sovereignty of things is absolute here: 
now the artificiality of the role, now the ‘authenticity’ of an animal. 
Only animals can do what a human being would refuse to do. The 
heroes who march past, colours flying — the Red Army, the SS, the 
French paras — are the same people who burnt and cut living flesh 
in Budapest, Warsaw, Algiers. The discipline of armies has no other 
content than the canine savagery of the new recruit; the only thing a 
cop learns is when to snarl and when to fawn. 


lOO 


The will to power is a compensation for slavery. At the same time 
it is a hatred of slavery. The great men of the past never identified 
themselves with a Cause. They just used Causes to further their own 
personal hunger for power. But as great Causes began to break up 
and disappear, so did the ambitious individuals concerned. However, 
the game goes on. People rely on Causes because they haven’t been 
able to make their own life a Cause sufficient unto itself. Through 
the Cause and the sacrifice it entails they stagger along, backwards, in 
search of their own will to live. 

Sometimes desire for freedom and for play breaks out among 
law and order’s conscripts. Think of Salvatore Giuliano, before he 
was co-opted by the landowners, of Billy the Kid, of various gang- 
sters momentarily close to the anarchist terrorists. Legionnaires and 
mercenaries have defected to the side of the Algerian or Congolese 
rebels, thus choosing the party of open insurrection and taking their 
desire to play to its logical conclusion: the breaking of all taboos and 
the aspiration to complete freedom. 

Teenage gangs also come to mind. The very childishness of their 
will to power has often kept their will to live almost uncontaminated. 
Obviously, the delinquent is always liable to be co-opted. First, as 
consumer, because he wants things he cannot afford to buy; then as 
he gets older, as a producer. But, within the gang, playing remains 
of such great importance that a real revolutionary consciousness is 
always a possible outcome. If the violence of teenage gangs were not 
squandered in exhibitionistic and generally half-baked rumbles, and 
aspired instead to the real poetry which is to be found in a riot, then 
this game-playing could easily set off a chain reaction: a qualitative 
flash. Almost everyone is sick of the lies they are fed all day long. All 
that is needed is a spark — plus tactics. Should delinquents arrive at 
revolutionary consciousness simply through understanding what they 
already are, and by wanting to be more, they could quite conceivably 
become the catalyst of a widescale reversal of perspective. The fed- 
eration of such gangs would amount to a first manifestation of that 


101 


consciousness, and a precondition of its existence. 

(B) So far the centre has never been man. Creativity has always 
been pushed to one side, suburbanised. Indeed, the history of cities is 
a very accurate reflection of the vicissitudes of the axis around which 
life has been organised for thousands of years. The first cities grew 
up around a stronghold or sacred spot, a temple or a church, a point 
where heaven and earth converged. Industrial towns, with their mean, 
dark streets, are focussed on a factory or industrial plant; administrative 
centres preside over empty rectilinear avenues. Finally, the most recent 
examples of city planning simply have no centre at all. It is increas- 
ingly obvious that the reference point they propose is always somewhere 
else. These are labyrinths in which you are allowed only to lose your- 
self. No games. No meetings. No living. A desert of plate-glass. A grid 
of roads. High-rise flats. Oppression is no longer centralised because 
oppression is everywhere. The positive aspect of this: everyone begins 
to see, in conditions of almost total isolation, that first and foremost 
it is they themselves that they have to save, they themselves that they 
have to choose as the centre, their own subjectivity out of which they 
have to build a world in which people can feel at home anywhere. 

The only way of retrieving everyone’s truth, the true roots of 
the social, is to retrieve a clear consciousness of oneself. As long as 
individual creativity is not the centre of social life, man’s only free- 
dom will be freedom to destroy and be destroyed. If you do other 
people’s thinking for them, they will do your thinking for you. And 
he who thinks for you judges you; he reduces you to his own norm; 
and, whatever his intentions may be, he will end by making you stu- 
pid — for stupidity doesn’t come from a lack of intelligence, as stupid 
people imagine, it comes from renouncing, from abandoning one’s 
true self. So if anyone asks you what you’re doing, asks you to explain 
yourself, treat him as a judge — that is to say, as an enemy. 

“I want someone to succeed me; I want children; I want disciples; 
I want a father; I don’t want myself.”A few words from those high on 
Christianity, whether the Roman or the Peking brand. Only unhap- 


107 


piness and neurosis can follow. My subjectivity is too important for 
me to take my lack of inhibition to the point of either asking other 
people for their help or of refusing it when it is offered. The point is 
neither to lose oneself in oneself nor to lose oneself in other people. 
People who realise that they depend ultimately on society must still 
first of all find themselves, else they will find nothing in others save 
the negation of themselves. 

Strengthening the subjective centre is no easy matter — it is even 
hard to talk about. In the heart of each human being there is a hidden 
room, a camera obscura, to which only the mind and dreams can find 
the door. A magic circle in which the world and the self are recon- 
ciled, where every childish wish comes true. The passions flower there, 
brilliant, poisonous blossoms wide open to the mood of the moment. 
I create a universe for myself and, like some fantastic tyrannical god, 
people it with beings who will never live for anyone else. One of my 
favourite James Thurber stories is the one where Walter Mitty dreams 
that he is a swashbuckling captain, then an eminent surgeon, then a 
cold-blooded killer, and finally a war hero. All this as he drives his old 
Buick downtown to buy some dog biscuits. 

The real importance of subjectivity can easily be measured by the 
general embarrassment with which it is approached. Everyone wants 
to pass it off as their mind ‘wandering’, as ‘introversion’, as ‘being 
stoned’. Everyone censors their own daydreams. But isn’t it the phan- 
toms and visions of the mind that have dealt the most deadly blows to 
morality, authority, language and our collective hypnotic sleep? Isn’t 
a fertile imagination the source of all creativity, the alembic distill- 
ing the quick of life: the bridgehead driven into the old world across 
which the coming invasions will pour? 

Anyone who can be open-minded about their interior life will 
begin to see a different world outside themselves: values change, 
things lose their glamour and become plain instruments. In the magic 
of the imaginary, things exist only to be picked up and toyed with, 
caressed, broken apart and put together again in any way one sees 


TO 3 


fit. Once the prime importance of subjectivity is accepted the spell 
things cast upon us is broken. Starting from other people, one’s self- 
pursuit is fruitless; one repeats the same futile gestures time after time. 
Starting from oneself, on the contrary, gestures are not repeated but 
taken back into oneself, corrected and realised in an ideal way. 

Our innermost dreams secrete an energy that demands nothing 
better than to drive the turbines of circumstance. The high technol- 
ogy of today bars the road to Utopia, and by the same token it sup- 
presses the purely magical aspect of the dream. But all our dreams 
will come true when the modern world’s technical know-how is 
placed at their disposal. 

Even now — even without any help from technology — can sub- 
jectivity ever be really far from the mark? It is by no means impos- 
sible for me to give objective form to everything I have ever dreamt 
of being. Surely everyone, at least once in their life, has been a little 
like a Lassailly or a Nechaev: Lassailly, passing himself off at first as the 
author of a book he had never written, ended up as a true writer, as 
the author of the Roueries de Trialph; Nechaev, who began by cheating 
money out of Bakunin in the name of a non-existent terrorist organ- 
isation, would later become the guiding light of an authentic group 
of nihilists. One day I must be as I have wanted to seem; the particular 
spectacular role I have so long aspired to will surely become genuine. 
Thus subjectivity subverts roles and spectacular lies to its own ends: it 
reinvests appearance in reality. 

Subjective imagination is not purely mental: it is always seeking 
its practical realisation. There can be no doubt that the artistic spec- 
tacle — and above all its narrative forms — plays on subjectivity’s quest 
for self-realisation, but solely by captivating it, by making it function 
in terms of passive identification. Debord’s propaganda film Critique 
de la separation stresses the point: “As a rule the things that happen to 
us in our individual lives as organised at present, the things which re- 
ally succeed in catching our attention and soliciting our involvement, 
are the very things that ought to leave us cold and distant spectators. 


104 


By contrast many a situation glimpsed through the lens of any old 
piece of artistic transposition is the very one that should attract us, 
and engage our participation. This paradox must be turned upside 
down — put back on its feet.” The forces of the artistic spectacle must 
be dissolved so that their equipment can pass into the arsenal of indi- 
vidual dreams. Once they are thus armed, there will be no question of 
treating them as fantasies. This is the only way in which the problem 
of the realisation of art can be framed. 

Radical subjectivity 

Each subjectivity is unique, but all obey the same will to self-realisation. The 
problem is one of setting their variety in a common direction, of creating a 
united front of subjectivity. Any attempt to build a new society is subject to 
two conditions: first, that the realisation of each individual subjectivity will 
either take place in a collective form or it will not take place at all; and second, 
that “To tell the truth, the only reason anyone fights is for what they love. 
Fighting for everyone else is only the consequence. ” (Saint-Just) 

MY SUBJECTIVITY feeds on events. The most varied events: a riot, 
a sexual fiasco, a meeting, a memory, a rotten tooth. The shock waves 
of reality in the making reverberate through the caverns of subjec- 
tivity. I am caught up in these oscillations whether I like it or not, 
and, though not everything affects me with equal force, I am always 
faced with the same paradox: no sooner do I become aware of the 
alchemy worked by my imagination upon reality than I see that real- 
ity reclaimed and borne away by the uncontrollable river of things. A 
bridge has to be built between the work of the imagination and the 
objective world. Only radical theory can confer on the individual 
inalienable rights over his surroundings and circumstances. Radical 
theory grasps the individual at the roots — and the roots of the indi- 
vidual lie in his subjectivity, in that soil which he possesses in com- 
mon with all other individuals. 

You can’t make it on your own. But can any individual — any 


1-05 


individual who has got anything at all straight about himself and the 
world — fail to see a will identical to his own in everyone he knows: 
the same search, the same starting points? 

All forms of hierarchical power differ from one another, yet all 
perform identical oppressive functions. Similarly, all subjectivities are 
different, but all contain an identical desire for complete self-realisa- 
tion. This is the sense in which we speak of ‘radical subjectivity’. 

Each individual subjectivity is rooted in the will to realise one- 
self by transforming the world, the will to live every sensation, every 
experience, every possibility to the full. It can be seen in everyone, its 
intensity varying according to the degree of consciousness and deter- 
mination. Its real power depends on the level of collective unity it can 
attain without losing its variety. Consciousness of this necessary unity 
comes from what one could call a reflex of identity — a diametrically 
opposite movement to that of identification. Through identification 
we lose our uniqueness in the multiplicity of roles; through the reflex 
of identity we strengthen the wealth of our individual possibilities in 
the unity of federated subjectivities. 

Radical subjectivity is founded on the reflex of identity, on the 
individual’s constant quest for himself in others. “While I was on a mis- 
sion in the state ofTchou,” says Confucius, “I saw some piglets sucking 
on their dead mother. After a short while they shuddered and went 
away. They had sensed that she could no longer see them and that she 
was not like them any more. What they loved in their mother was not 
her body, but whatever it was that made her body live.” Likewise, what 
I look for in other people is the richest part of myself hidden within 
them. Is the reflex of identity bound to spread? Not necessarily. But 
present-day historical conditions certainly favour such a development. 

No one is questioning the interest people take in being fed, shel- 
tered, cared for, protected from hardship and disaster. The imperfec- 
tions of technology — transformed at a very early date into social im- 
perfections — have postponed the satisfaction of these universal desires. 
Today, however, a planned economy allows us to foresee the final so- 


106 


lution of the problems of survival. Now that the needs of survival are 
well on the way to being satisfied, at least in the hyper-industrialised 
countries, it is becoming painfully obvious that there are also human 
passions which must be satisfied, that the satisfaction of these passions 
is of vital importance to everyone and, furthermore, that failure to 
satisfy them will undermine, if not destroy, all our acquisitions in the 
realm of material survival. As the problems of survival are slowly but 
surely resolved, they clash more and more brutally with the problems 
of life, which, just as slowly and just as surely, are sacrificed to the 
needs of survival. In a way, this simplifies matters: it is now obvious 
that socialist-type planning is incompatible with the true harmonisa- 
tion of life in common. 

i 

Radical subjectivity is the common front of identity rediscovered. 
Those who cannot see themselves in other people are condemned for 
ever to be strangers to themselves. I can do nothing for other people 
if they can do nothing for themselves. This is the context in which 
we should re-examine such words as ‘knowledge’, ‘recognition’, ‘sym- 
pathy’ and ‘supporter’. 

Knowledge is only of value if it leads to the recognition of a 
common project — to the reflex of identity. True self-realisation calls 
for a good deal of knowledge of various kinds but much knowledge 
is worthless if it is not placed in the service of self-realisation. As the 
first years of the Situationist International have shown, the main ene- 
mies of a coherent revolutionary group are those closest to that group 
in knowledge and furthest away from it in their lived experience and 
the sense they give it. In the same way ‘supporters’ who identify with 
the group become an obstacle in its path. They understand every- 
thing except what is really at stake. They demand knowledge because 
they are incapable of demanding their own self-realisation. 

By grasping myself, I break other people’s hold over me, and 
thus let them see themselves in me. No one can develop in freedom 
without spreading freedom in the world. 


107 


“I want to be myself. I want to walk without impediment. I want 
to affirm myself alone in my freedom. May everyone do likewise. The 
fate of revolution need not concern us: it will be safer in the hands 
of everyone than in the hands of parties.” So said Coeurderoy. I agree 
one hundred per cent. Nothing gives me the right to speak in the 
name of other people. I am my own delegate. Yet at the same time 
I can’t help thinking that my life is not of concern to me alone, but 
that I serve the interests of thousands of other people by living the 
way I live, and by struggling to live more intensely and more freely. 
My friends and I are one, and we know it. Each of us is acting for 
each other by acting for himself. Such transparency is the only way 
to true participation. 

The project of communication 

Love offers the purest glimpse of true communication that any of us have had. 
But as communication in general tends to break down love becomes increasing- 
ly precarious. Everything tends to reduce lovers to objects. No real encounters, 
just mechanical sex — the posturing of countless playboys and bunnies. True 
love is revolutionary praxis or it is nothing. 

ALTHOUGH THE three passions underlying the three-fold project of 
self-realisation, communication and participation are equally impor- 
tant, they are not equally repressed. While creativity and play have been 
blighted by prohibitions and by every sort of distortion, love, without 
escaping from repression, still remains relatively the freest and most eas- 
ily accessible experience. The most democratic, so to speak. 

Love offers the model of perfect communication: the orgasm, 
the total fusion of two separate beings. It is a transformed universe 
glimpsed from the shadows of everyday survival. Its intensity, its here- 
and-nowness, its physical exaltation, its emotional fluidity, its eager 
acceptance of precariousness, of change: everything indicates that 
love will prove the key factor in recreating the world. Our emotion- 
ally dead survival cries out for multidimensional passions. Lovemak- 


102 


ing sums up and distils both the desire for, and the reality of, such a 
life. The universe lovers build of dreams and of one another’s bodies 
is a transparent universe; lovers want to be at home everywhere. 

Love has been able to stay free more successfully than the other 
passions. Creativity and play have always ‘benefited’ from an official 
representation, a spectacular acknowledgement which alienates them, 
as it were, at source. Love has always been clandestine — ‘being alone 
together’. It was lucky enough to be protected by the bourgeois con- 
cept of private life: banished from the day (reserved for work and con- 
sumption) , it found refuge in the night’s shadows, lit only by the moon. 
Thus it partly escaped the mopping-up operations to which daytime 
activities were subjected. The same cannot be said for communication. 
And now the ashes of false daytime communication are threatening 
to stifle even this spark of nocturnal passion. Consumer society is ex- 
tending falsification further and further into the reaches of the night, 
where the simplest gestures of love are contaminated by its logic. 

People who talk about ‘communication’ when there are only 
things and their mechanical relations are working on the side of the 
process of reification that they pretend to attack. ‘Understanding’, 
‘friendship’, ‘being happy together’ — what can these words mean 
when all I can see is exploiters and exploited, rulers and ruled, actors 
and spectators. And all of them flailed like chaff by Power. 

Things are not necessarily expressionless. Anything can become 
human if someone infuses it with his own subjectivity. But in a world 
ruled by privative appropriation, the object’s only function is to jus- 
tify its proprietor. If my subjectivity overflows, if my eyes make the 
landscape their own, it can only be ideally, without material or legal 
consequences. In the perspective of power, people and things are not 
there for my enjoyment, but to serve a master; nothing really ^every- 
thing is a function of an order based on property. 

There cannot be any real communication in a world where almost 
everything one does is ruled by fetishes. The space between people and 
things is packed with alienating mediations. And as power becomes 




increasingly abstract its own signals become so numerous, so chaotic, 
as to demand systematic interpretation on the part of a body of scribes, 
semanticists, and mythologists. Trained to see only objects around him, 
the proprietor needs objective — and objectified — servants. Such are 
the communications experts, organising lies for masters of dead people. 
Only subjective truth, buttressed by historical conditions, can resist 
their machinations. The only way to counter the deeper thrusts of op- 
pression is by taking immediate experience as Base One. 

i 

The main pleasure of the bourgeoisie seems to have been to degrade 
pleasure in all its forms. Not content with imprisoning people’s free- 
dom to love in the squalid ownaship of marriage (whence it can always 
be wheeled out for the purposes of adultery . . .), not content with 
setting things up so that deception and jealousy were bound to follow, 
this class has finally succeeded in separating lovers at the most basic 
level, within the physical act of love itself. 

Love’s despair doesn’t come from sexual frustration. It comes 
from suddenly losing contact with the person in your arms; of both 
of you suddenly seeing one another as objects. Swedish social democ- 
racy, as everyone knows, has already marketed a form of manipulated 
and hygienic sex under the brand name of ‘free love’. 

But in the end the disgust aroused by this world of inauthenticity 
revives an insatiable desire for human contact. Love, it seems at times, 
is our only break. Sometimes I think that nothing else is as real, noth- 
ing else is as human, as the feel of a woman’s body, the softness of her 
skin, the warmth of her cunt. That even if this is all there is, it opens 
the door to a totality that even eternal life could not exhaust . . . 

And then, even during really magical moments, the inert mass of 
objects suddenly becomes magnetic. The passivity of a lover unravels 
the bonds which were being woven; the dialogue is interrupted be- 
fore it is really begun. Love’s dialectic freezes. Two statues are left lying 
side by side. Two objects. 

Although love is always born of subjectivity — a woman is beauti- 




ful because I love her — my desire cannot stop itself objectifying what 
it wants. Desire always makes an object of the loved person. But if I 
let my desire transform the loved person into an object, have I not 
condemned myself to conflict with this object and, through force of 
habit, to become detached from it? 

What can ensure perfect communication between lovers? The 
union of these opposites: 

• the more I detach myself from the object of my desire and 
the more objective strength I give to my desire, the more 
carefree my desire becomes towards its object; 

• the more I detach myself from my desire, insofar as it is an 
object, and the more objective strength I give to the object 
of my desire, the more my desire finds its raison d’etre in the 
loved person. 

Socially, this interplay of attitudes can be expressed by changing 
partners at the same time as one is attached more or less permanently 
to a ‘pivotal’ partner. All these encounters would imply the commu- 
nication of a single formulation endorsed by both partners. I have 
always wanted to be able to say: “I know you don’t love me because 
you only love yourself. I am just the same. So love me.” 

Love can only be based on radical subjectivity. The time is up for 
all Christian, self-sacrificial and militant forms of love. To love only 
oneself through other people, to be loved by others through the love 
they owe themselves. This is what the passion of love teaches, and 
what the conditions of authentic communication require. 

i 

And love is also an adventure — a search for a Northwest Passage out 
of inauthenticity. To approach someone in any spectacular, exhibi- 
tionistic way is to condemn oneself to a reified relationship from the 
very first. The choice is between spectacular seduction — that of the 
playboy — and seduction by the qualitative, by a person who is seduc- 
tive because he is not trying to seduce. 

De Sade describes two possible attitudes. On the one hand, the 


111 


libertines of The 120 Days of Sodom who can only really enjoy them- 
selves by torturing to death the object they have seduced (and what 
more fitting homage to a thing than to make it suffer) . On the other 
hand, the libertines of Philosophy in the Bedroom, warm and playful, 
who do all they can to increase one another’s pleasure. The former 
are the masters of old, vibrant with hatred and revolt; the latter are 
masters without slaves, discovering in one another only the reflection 
of their own pleasure. 

Present-day seduction is sadistic in that the seducer refuses to 
forgive the desired person for being an object. Truly seductive people, 
on the contrary, contain the fullness of desire in themselves; they 
refuse to play roles and owe their seductiveness to this refusal. In de 
Sade this would be Dolmance, Eugenie or Madame de Saint -Ange. 
This plenitude can only exist for the desired person, however, if he 
recognises his own will to live in the person who embodies it. Real 
seductiveness seduces solely by its honesty; which is why it is not 
given to all who wish it. This is what Schweidnitz’s Beguines and their 
thirteenth century companions meant by saying that resistance to 
sexual advances was the sign of a crass spirit. The Brethren of the Free 
Spirit expressed the same idea. Anyone who knows the God inhabiting 
him carries his own Heaven within himself. By the same token, ignorance 
of one’s own divinity really is a mortal sin. This is the meaning of the Hell 
which one carries with oneself in earthly life. 

Hell is the emptiness left by separation, the anguish of lovers ly- 
ing side by side without being together. Non-communication is al- 
ways like the collapse of a revolutionary movement. The will to death 
reigns wherever the will to live has been defeated. 

i 

Love must be freed from its myths, from its images, from its spectacu- 
lar categories; its authenticity must be strengthened and its spontane- 
ity renewed. There is no other way of fighting its reification and its 
recuperation in the spectacle. Love cannot survive either isolation or 
fragmentation; it is bound to overflow into the will to transform the 


112 . 


whole of human activity, into the necessity of building a world where 
lovers feel themselves to be everywhere free. 

The birth and the dissolution of the moment of love are bound 
up with the dialectic of memory and desire. During the inception of 
this moment, the present desire and the memory of the earliest satis- 
fied desires (involving no resistance on the part of the parent) tend 
to reinforce one another. In the moment itself, memory and desire 
coincide: the moment of love is a space-time of authentic lived ex- 
perience, a present embracing both the memory of the past and the 
taut bow of desire aimed at the future. At the stage of breaking-up, 
memory prolongs the impassioned moment but desire gradually ebbs 
away. The present disintegrates, memory turns nostalgically towards 
past happiness, while desire foresees the unhappiness to come. With 
dissolution the separation becomes real. The failure of the recent past 
cannot be forgotten, and memory eventually quells desire. 

In love, as in every attempt to communicate, the problem is 
avoiding the stage of breaking up. One could suggest: 

• developing the moment of love as far as one can, in as many 
directions as possible; in other words, refusing to dissociate 
it from either creativity or play, promoting it from the rank 
of a moment to that of the real construction of a situation; 

• encouraging collective experiments in individual self-real- 
isation; multiplying the possibilities of sexual attraction by 
bringing together a great variety of possible partners; 

• permanently strengthening the pleasure-principle, which is 
the lifeblood of every attempt to realise oneself, to commu- 
nicate or to participate. Pleasure is the principle of unifica- 
tion; love is desire for unity in a common moment; friend- 
ship, desire for unity in a common project. 

The erotic or the dialectic of pleasure 

There is no pleasure that does not seek its own coherence. Its interruption, its 
lack of satisfaction, causes a disturbance analogous to Reichian ‘stasis’. Op- 

113 


pression by Power keeps human beings in a state of permanent crisis. Thus 
the function of pleasure, as of the anxiety born of its absence, is essentially a 
social function . The erotic is the development of the passions as they become 
unitary, a game of unity and variety without which revolutionary coherence 
cannot exist (‘Boredom is always counter-revolutionary” — Internationale 
Situationniste, no. 3). 

WILHELM REICH ATTRIBUTES most neurotic behaviour 
to disturbances of the orgasm, to what he called ‘orgastic impotence’. 
He maintains that anxiety is created by inability to experience a com- 
plete orgasm, by a sexual discharge which fails to liquidate all the 
excitation mobilised by preliminary sexual activity. The accumulated 
and unspent energy becomes free-floating and is converted into anx- 
iety. Anxiety in its turn still further impedes future orgastic potency. 

But the problem of tensions and their liquidation does not exist 
solely on the level of sexuality. It characterises all human relationships. 
And Reich, although he sensed that this was so, failed to emphasise 
strongly enough that the present social crisis is also a crisis of an or- 
gastic kind. If it is true that “the energy source of neurosis lies in the 
disparity between the accumulation and the discharge of sexual en- 
ergy”, it seems to me that such neurotic energy also derives from the 
disparity between the accumulation and the discharge of the energy 
set in motion by human relationships. Total enjoyment is still possible 
in the moment of love, but as soon as one tries to prolong this mo- 
ment, to extend it into social life itself, one cannot avoid what Reich 
called ‘stasis’. The world of dissatisfaction and non-consummation is a 
world of permanent crisis. What would a society without neurosis be 
like? An endless banquet, with pleasure as the only guide. 

i 

“Everything is feminine in what one loves”, wrote La Mettrie. “The 
empire of love recognises no other frontiers than those of pleasure.” 
But pleasure in general recognises no frontiers. Pleasure which does 
not increase evaporates. Repetition kills it, nor can it abide the frag- 


114 


mentary. The pleasure-principle is inseparable from the totality. 

The erotic is pleasure seeking its own coherence. The movement 
of the passions towards intercommunication, interdependence and 
unity. Towards the re-creation in social life as a whole of the perfect 
pleasure experienced in the moment of love. And towards the estab- 
lishment of the preconditions for playing with the one and the many, 
that is to say, for the individuals free and transparent participation in 
the quest for fulfilment. 

Freud defines the goal of Eros as unification or the search for 
union. But when he maintains that fear of being separated and ex- 
pelled from the group comes from an underlying fear of castration, 
he has things the wrong way round: fear of castration comes from the 
fear of being excluded. This anxiety becomes more marked as the 
isolation of individuals in an illusory community becomes more and 
more difficult to ignore. 

Even while it seeks unification, Eros is essentially narcissistic and 
in love with itself. It wants a world to love as much as it loves itself. 
Norman O. Brown, in Life Against Death, points out the contradiction. 
How, he asks, can a narcissistic orientation lead to union with beings 
in the world? “In love, the abstract antimony of the Ego and the Other 
can be transcended if we return to the concrete reality of pleasure, to a 
definition of sexuality as being essentially a pleasurable activity of the 
body, and if we see love as the relationship between the Ego and the 
sources of pleasure.”To be more exact, the source of pleasure lies less in 
the body than in the possibility of free activity in the world. The con- 
crete reality of pleasure is based on the freedom to unite oneself with 
anyone who allows one to become united with oneself. The realisation 
of pleasure passes via pleasure of realisation, the pleasure of commu- 
nication via the communication of pleasure, participation in pleasure 
via the pleasure of participation. This explains why narcissism turned 
towards the outside world, the narcissism Brown is talking about, can 
only lead to a wholesale demolition of social structures. 

The more intense pleasure becomes, the more it demands the 


115 


whole world. “Lovers, give one another greater and greater pleasure,” 
said Breton. A truly revolutionary slogan. 

Western civilisation is a civilisation of work and, as Diogenes ob- 
served, “Love is the occupation of the unoccupied.” With the gradual 
disappearance of forced labour, love is destined to retrieve all the ground 
it has lost. This naturally poses a direct threat to every kind of author- 
ity. Because the erotic is unitary, it implies the freedom of multiplic- 
ity. Freedom knows no propaganda more effective than people calmly 
enjoying the pleasures of the senses. Which is why pleasure, for the 
most part, is forced to be clandestine, love is locked away in a bedroom, 
creativity is confined to the backstairs of culture, and why alcohol and 
drugs cower under the shadow of the outstretched arm of the law. 

The ethic of survival condemns the diversity of pleasures and their 
union-in-variety the better to promote obsessive repetition. But if plea- 
sure-anxiety is satisfied by the repetitive, true pleasure can only occur 
thanks to diversity-in-unity. Clearly the simplest model of the erotic is 
the pivotal couple. Two people live their experiences as transparently 
and as freely as possible. This radiant complicity has all the charm of 
incest. Their wealth of common experiences can only lead to a brother- 
and-sister relationship. Great loves have always had something incestu- 
ous about them, a fact which suggests that love between brothers and 
sisters was privileged from the very first, and that it should be encour- 
aged in every way. It is high time that this ancient and silly taboo was 
broken, and a process of ‘sororisation’ set in train: I would like to have 
a wife-cum-sister, all of whose friends were also my wives and sisters. 

In the erotic realm there is no perversion apart from the nega- 
tion of pleasure — its distortion into pleasure-anxiety. What matters 
the spring so long as the water runs? As the Chinese say: immobile in 
one another, we are borne along by pleasure. 

Finally, the search for pleasure ensures the survival of the prin- 
ciple of play. It ensures real participation, protecting it against self- 
sacrifice, coercion and lies. The actual degree of intensity pleasure 
reaches is the measure of subjectivity’s grasp on the world. Thus ca- 


116 


price is the play of desire in statu nascendi; desire, the play of passion 
in statu nascendi. And the play of passion finds its coherent expression 
in the poetry of revolution. 

Does this mean that the search for pleasure is incompatible with 
pain? Not at all — but pain has to be given a new meaning. Pleasure- 
anxiety is neither pleasure nor pain; it is just scratching yourself and 
letting the itch get worse and worse. What is real pain? A setback in 
the play of desire or passion; a positive pain crying out with a cor- 
responding degree of passion for another pleasure to construct. 

The project of participation 

A society based on organised survival can tolerate only false, spectacular forms of 
play. But with the crisis of the spectacle, playfulness, which had been hounded 
almost, out of existence, tends to re-emerge on all sides. It is now taking the form 
of social upheaval and already adumbrates, over and above this negative aspect, 
the future society based on true participation. The praxis of play implies the 
refusal of leaders, of sacrifice, of roles, freedom for everyone to realise himself, and 
transparency in all social relationships (a). Tactics are the polemical stage of play. 
Individual creativity needs an organisation concentrating and strengthening it. 
Tactics entail a certain kind of hedonistic foresight. The point of every action, no 
matter how circumscribed, must be the total destruction of the enemy. Industrial 
societies have to evolve their own adequate forms of guerilla wafare (b). Subver- 
sion is the only possible revolutionary use of the spiritual and material values 
distributed by consumer society: the ultimate weapon of transcendence (c). 

(A) Economic necessity and play don’t mix. Financial transactions are 
deadly serious: you do not fool around with money. The elements of 
play contained within the feudal economy were gradually squeezed 
out by the rationality of money exchange. Playing with exchange 
meant bartering products without worrying too much about strictly 
standardised equivalents. But as soon as capitalism forced its com- 
mercial relationships on the world, all such caprice was forbidden; 
and todays dictatorship of the commodity shows clearly that this 


117 


system intends to enforce these relationships everywhere, at every 
level of life. 

The pastoral relationships of country life in the high Middle Ages 
tempered the purely economic necessities of feudalism with a sort of 
freedom; play often took the upper hand even in the corvee, in the 
dispensing of justice, in the settling of debts. By throwing the whole 
of everyday life onto the battlefield of production and consumption, 
capitalism crushes the urge to play while at the same time trying to 
harness it as a source of profit. So, over the last few decades, we have 
seen the attraction of the unknown turned into mass tourism, adven- 
ture turned into scientific expeditions, the great game of war turned 
into operational strategy, and the taste for change turned into mere 
changes in taste. 

Contemporary society has banned all real play. Play has become 
something for children only. (And even children are getting more 
and more pacifying, gadget-type toys rammed down their throats.) 
The adult is only allowed falsified and co-opted forms of play: com- 
petitions, games, elections, casino gambling. .. Yet it is obvious that 
this kind of rubbish can never satisfy something as strong as people’s 
desire to play — especially today, when play could flourish as never 
before in history. 

The sacred order knew how to cope with the profane and icono- 
clastic game, witness the irreverent and obscene carvings to be found 
in cathedrals. Without muting them, the Church was able to embrace 
cynical laughter, biting fantasy and nihilistic scorn. Under its mantel, 
the demoniac game was safe. Bourgeois power, on the other hand, had 
to put play in quarantine, isolate it in a special ward, as though afraid 
that it might infect other human activities. This privileged and de- 
spised area set apart from commerce constituted the domain of artistic 
activity. And so things remained until economic imperialism reached 
even this sphere and redeveloped it into a cultural supermarket. 

It was in fact from art — from the zone where it had survived lon- 
gest — that the urge to play broke through the strata of prohibitions 


118 


which had come to overlay it: this eruption was called Dada. “The 
Dadaist event awoke the primitive-irrational play instinct which had 
been held down in its audience,” said Hugo Ball. Once embarked on 
the fatal path of pranks and scandals, art was bound to bring down 
with it, in its fall, the whole edifice which the Spirit of Seriousness 
had built to the greater glory of the bourgeoisie. Consequently, play 
in our time has donned the robe of insurrection. Henceforward, the 
total game and the revolution of everyday life are one. 

The desire to play returns to destroy the hierarchical society 
which banished it. It becomes the motor of a new type of society 
based on real participation. It is impossible to foresee the details of 
such a society — a society in which play will be completely unre- 
stricted — but we may expect to find the following: 

• rejection of all leaders and all hierarchies; 

• rejection of self-sacrifice; 

• rejection of roles; 

• freedom of genuine self-realisation; 

• transparent social relationships. 

i 

All true play involves rules and playing with rules. Watch children 
at play. They know the rules of the game, they can remember them 
perfectly well, but they are always breaking them, always dreaming up 
new ways of getting round them. But cheating, for children, does not 
have the connotations it does for adults. Cheating is part of the game, 
they play at cheating, accomplices even in their disputes. What they 
are really doing is spurring themselves on to create new games. And 
sometimes they are successful: a new game is found and unfolds. They 
revitalise their playfulness without interrupting its flow. 

Play comes to an end as soon as an authority crystallises, becomes 
absolute and assumes a magical aura. Even so, playfulness, however 
lighthearted, always involves a certain spirit of organisation and the dis- 
cipline this implies. If a play leader proves necessary, his power of deci- 
sion is never wielded at the expense of the autonomous power of each 


119 


individual. Rather it is the focus of each individual will, the collective 
counterpart of each particular desire. So the project of participation de- 
mands a coherent organisation allowing the decisions of each individual 
to be the decision of everyone concerned. Obviously, small intimate 
groups, micro-societies, offer the best conditions for such experiments. 
Within them, the game can be the sole arbiter of the intricacies of com- 
munal life, harmonising individual whims, desires and passions. This is 
especially true where the game in question is an insurrectionary one 
imposed upon a group by its wish to live outside the official world. 

The urge to play is incompatible with self-sacrifice. You can lose, 
pay the forfeit, submit to the rules, be given a bad time; but this is the 
logic of the game, not the logic of a Cause, not the logic of self-sacrifice. 
Once the idea of sacrifice appears the game becomes sacred and its 
rules become rites. In true play, the rules come packaged with ways of 
getting round them, of playing with them. In the realm of the sacred, 
by contrast, rituals cannot be played with, they can only be broken, can 
only be transgressed (let us not forget that pissing on the altar is still 
a way of paying homage to the Church). Only play can deconsecrate, 
open up the possibilities of total freedom. This is the principle of sub- 
version, the freedom to change the sense of everything which serves 
Power: the freedom, for example, to turn Chartres Cathedral into a 
funfair, into a labyrinth, into a shooting-range, into a dream landscape... 

In a group revolving around play, boring and domestic chores 
might be allotted as penalties — as the price paid, say, for losing a point 
in a game. Or, more simply, they could be used to fill unoccupied 
time, as a sort of active rest: having the value of a stimulant and mak- 
ing the resumption of play more exciting. The construction of such 
situations can only be based on the dialectic of presence and absence, 
richness and poverty, pleasure and pain, the intensity of each pole ac- 
centuating the intensity of the other. 

In any case, any technique applied in an atmosphere of sacrifice 
and coercion loses much of its cutting edge. Its actual effectiveness 
is mixed up with a purely repressive purpose, and the repression of 


12-0 


creativity reduces the effectiveness of the oppressive apparatus. Ludic 
attraction is the only possible basis for a non-alienated labour, for 
truly productive work. 

Within the game, the playing of roles inevitably involves playing 
with roles. The spectacular role demands complete conviction; a lu- 
dic role, on the contrary, demands a certain distanciation. One has 
to watch oneself over one’s shoulder, just as professional actors like 
to joke sotto voce between dramatic tirades. Spectacular organisation is 
completely out of its depth with this sort of thing. The Marx Brothers 
demonstrated what a role can become if you play with it, and this de- 
spite the cinema’s ultimately recuperative function — which gives some 
idea of what would happen if people started playing with real-life roles. 

When someone begins to play a permanent role, a serious role, he 
either wrecks the game or it wrecks him. Consider the unhappy case 
of the provocateur. The provocateur is an expert in collective games. 
He has mastered their techniques but not their dialectic. At times he is 
able to give expression to the group’s offensive tendencies — the provo- 
cateur always urges immediate offensive action — but in the end he is 
always betrayed by the demands of his role and mission, which prevent 
him from incarnating the group’s need for defence. This contradiction 
is what seals his invariable fate. And who makes the best provocateur? 
The play leader who turns into a leader tout court. 

The urge to play is the only possible basis for a community 
whose interests are identical with those of the individual. The traitor, 
unlike the provocateur, appears quite spontaneously in revolutionary 
groups. When does he appear? Whenever the spirit of play has died 
in a group, and with it, inevitably, the possibility of real participation. 
The traitor is one who cannot express himself through the sort of 
participation he is offered and decides to ‘play’ against this participa- 
tion: not to correct but to destroy it. Treachery is the senile disease of 
revolutionary groups. And the betrayal of the principle of play is the 
prime treachery, the one which justifies all the others. 

Inasmuch as it embodies the consciousness of radical subjectivity, 


12.1 


the project of participation enhances the transparency of human re- 
lationships. The game of insurrection is part and parcel of the project 
of communication. 

(B) Tactics. Tactics are the polemical stage of play. They provide the 
necessary continuity between poetry in statu nascendi (play) and the 
organisation of spontaneity (poetry). Essentially technical in nature, 
they prevent spontaneity burning itself out in the general confusion. 
We know how cruelly absent tactics have been from most popular 
uprisings. And we also know just how offhand historians can be about 
spontaneous revolutions. No serious study, no methodical analysis, 
nothing remotely comparable to Clausewitz’s book on war. Revolu- 
tionaries have ignored Makhno s battles almost as thoroughly as bour- 
geois generals have studied Napoleon’s. 

In the absence of a more detailed analysis, a few remarks are in 
order. 

An efficiently hierarchised army can win a war, but not a revolu- 
tion; an undisciplined mob can win neither. The problem then is how 
to organise, without creating a hierarchy; in other words, how to make 
sure that the leader of the game does not become just ‘the Leader’. 
The only safeguard against authority and rigidity setting in is a playful 
attitude. Creativity plus a machine gun is an unstoppable combination. 
Villa’s and Makhno’s troops routed the most hardened professional 
soldiers of their day. But once playfulness rigidifies, the battle is lost. 
The revolution fails so that its leader can be infallible. Why was Villa 
defeated at Celaya? Because he fell back on old tactical and strategic 
games, instead of making up new ones. Technically, Villa was carried 
away by memories of Ciudad Juarez, where his men had fallen on the 
enemy from the rear by silently cutting their way through the walls 
of house after house. He failed to see the importance of the military 
advances of World War I machine-gun nests, mortars, trenches, etc. 
Politically, a certain narrow-mindedness prevented him from seeing 
the importance of gaining the support of the industrial proletariat. It 
is significant that Obregon’s army, which defeated Villa’s Dorados, in- 


1ZZ 


eluded both workers’ militias and German military advisers. 

The strength of revolutionary armies lies in their creativity. Fre- 
quently, the first days of an insurrection are a walk-over simply be- 
cause nobody pays the slightest attention to the enemy’s rules: be- 
cause a new game is invented and because everyone takes part in its 
elaboration. But if this creativity flags, if it becomes repetitive, if the 
revolutionary army becomes a regular army, then blind devotion and 
hysteria try in vain to make up for military weakness. Infatuation 
with past victories breeds terrible defeats. The magic of the Cause 
and the Leader replaces the conscious unity of the will to live and the 
will to conquer. In 1525, having held the princes at bay for two years, 
some forty thousand peasants, for whom tactics had been replaced 
by religious fanaticism, were hacked to pieces at Frankenhaussen; the 
feudal army lost only three men. In 1964, at Stanleyville, hundreds 
of Mulelists, convinced they were invincible, allowed themselves to 
be massacred by throwing themselves onto a bridge defended by two 
machine-guns. Yet these were the same men who had previously cap- 
tured trucks and arms from the National Congolese Army by pitting 
the road with elephant traps. 

Hierarchical organisation and complete lack of discipline are both 
inefficient. In classical warfare, the inefficiency of one side triumphs 
over the inefficiency of its adversary through technical superiority. In 
revolutionary war, the poetic force of the rebels takes the enemy by 
surprise, so depriving him of his only possible advantage, the techni- 
cal one. As soon as the guerrillero’s tactics become repetitive, however, 
the enemy learns to play by his rules, and an anti-guerrilla campaign 
will then have every chance of destroying or at least blocking an al- 
ready inhibited popular creativity. 

i 

How can the discipline combat requires be maintained among troops 
who refuse blind obedience to leaders? Most of the time, it must be said, 
revolutionary armies either succumb to the devil of submission to a 
Cause or plunge into the deep blue sea of a heedless search for pleasure. 


123 


The call to self-sacrifice and renunciation in the name of freedom 
is the foundation stone of future slavery. On the other hand, premature 
rejoicing and haphazard pleasure-seeking invariably herald repression 
and the Bloody Sundays of order being restored. No, the game has to 
have coherence and discipline, but these must be supplied by the plea- 
sure principle itself. The risk of pain is part and parcel of the quest for 
the greatest possible pleasure. Whence the energy with which this quest 
is pursued: there is no other explanation, for instance, for the verve with 
which the roistering soldiery of pre-Revolutionary France would at- 
tack a town over and over again, no matter how many times they were 
repelled. What drove them onward was their passionate anticipation of 
the fete to come — in this case, a fete of pillage and debauchery. Pleasure 
is heightened when it is long in the making. The most effective tactics 
are indistinguishable from calculated hedonism. The will to live, brutal 
and unvarnished, is the fighter’s most deadly secret weapon — and one 
liable to be turned against any who do not take it seriously: when his 
own life is in the balance, a soldier has every reason to shoot those 
placed in authority over him. A revolutionary army has thus everything 
to gain from making its every member into a skilled tactician in his 
own right and, above all, into his own master, into someone who knows 
how to work logically and consistently towards his own gratification. 

In the struggles to come, the desire to live intensely will replace 
the old motive of pillage. Tactics will become a science of pleasure, 
reflecting the fact that the search for pleasure is itself pleasurable. Such 
tactics, moreover, can be learned every day. The form of play known 
as armed combat differs in no essential way from that free play sought 
by everyone, more or less consciously, at every instant of their daily 
lives. Anyone who is prepared to learn, from his simple everyday ex- 
perience, what tends to kill him and what tends to strengthen him as a 
free individual, is already well on the way to becoming a true tactician. 

There is no such thing, however, as a tactician in isolation. Only a 
federation of tacticians of daily life can meet the requirements of the 
desire to destroy the old society. To equip such a federation, to supply 


12.4 


its technical needs, is one of the immediate goals of the Situationist In- 
ternational: strategy is the collective construction of the launching pad 
of the revolution on the basis of the tactics of the individual’s daily life. 

i 

The ambiguous notion of humanity sometimes generates a degree of 
indecision in spontaneous revolutionary movements. Only too fre- 
quently, the desire to make people the central concern opens the 
door to a paralysing humanism. How often have revolutionaries 
spared their future executioners! How often have they accepted a 
truce which has given the enemy forces time to regroup! The ideol- 
ogy of humanism serves reaction and underwrites the worst inhu- 
manity: Belgian paratroopers in Stanleyville. 

No compromise is possible with the enemies of freedom — and 
humanism does not apply to mankind’s oppressors. The ruthless elimi- 
nation of counter-revolutionaries is a humanitarian act because it is 
the only course that averts the cruelties of bureaucratised humanism. 

Lastly, another problem of spontaneous insurrection derives from 
the paradoxical fact that it must destroy Power totally by means of par- 
tial actions. The struggle for economic emancipation alone has made 
survival possible for everyone, but it has also subjected everyone to 
survival’s limitations. Now there can be no doubt that the masses have 
always fought for a much broader goal, for an overall transformation 
of their condition, a change in life as a whole. Of course, the idea 
that the whole world can be changed in one fell swoop has a mystical 
dimension, which is why it can so easily degenerate into the crudest 
reformism. Apocalypticism and demands for gradual reform eventu- 
ally form an unholy alliance of undialectically resolved antagonisms. It 
is not surprising that pseudo-revolutionary parties always pretend that 
compromises are the same as tactics. 

The revolution cannot be won either by accumulating minor 
victories or by an all-out frontal assault. Guerrilla war is total war. 
This is the path on which the Situationist International is set: calcu- 
lated harassment on every front — cultural, political, economic and 

12.5 


social. Concentrating on everyday life will ensure the unity of the 
combat. 

(C) Subversion. In its broadest sense, subversion (detournement) is 
an all-embracing reinsertion of things into play. It is the act whereby 
play grasps and reunites beings and things hitherto frozen solid in a 
hierarchy of fragments. 

One evening, as night fell, my friends and I wandered into the 
Palais de Justice in Brussels. The building is a monstrosity, crushing 
the poor quarters beneath it and standing guard over the fashionable 
Avenue Louise — out of which, some day, we will make a breath- 
takingly beautiful wasteland. As we drifted through the labyrinth of 
corridors, staircases and suite after suite of rooms, we discussed what 
could be done to make the place habitable; for a time we occu- 
pied the enemy’s territory; through the power of our imagination 
we transformed the thieves’ den into a fantastic funfair, into a sunny 
pleasure dome, where the most amazing adventures would, for the 
first time, be really lived. In short, subversion is the basic expression 
of creativity. Daydreaming subverts the world. Sometimes subversion 
is like Monsieur Jourdain speaking prose; sometimes it is more like 
James Joyce writing Ulysses. That is, it may be spontaneous or it may 
require a good deal of reflection. 

It was in 1955 that Debord, struck by Lautreamont’s systematic 
use of subversion, first drew attention to the virtually unlimited pos- 
sibilities of the technique. In 1960, Jorn was to write: “Subversion is 
a game made possible by the fact that things can be devalorised. Ev- 
ery element of past culture must be either re-invested or scrapped.” 
Debord, in Internationale Situationniste no. 3, developed the concept 
further: “The two basic principles of subversion are the loss of impor- 
tance of each originally independent element (which may even lose 
its first sense completely), and the organisation of a new significant 
whole which confers a fresh meaning on each element.” Recent his- 
tory allows one to be still more precise. From now on it is clear that: 

• As more and more things rot and fall apart, subversion ap- 


12.(o 


pears spontaneously. Consumer society plays into the hands 
of those who want to create new significant wholes. 

• Culture is no longer a particularly privileged theatre. The 
art of subversion can be an integral part of all forms of re- 
sistance to the organisation of everyday life. 

• Since part-truths rule our world, subversion is now the only 
technique at the service of the total view. As a revolution- 
ary act, subversion is the most coherent, the most popular 
and the best suited to the praxis of insurrection. By a sort 
of natural evolution — the desire to play — it leads people to 
take up an ever more extreme and radical stance. 

i 

Our experience, both spiritual and material, is falling to pieces about 
our ears, and its disintegration is a direct consequence of the de- 
velopment of consumer society. The ‘devalorising’ phase of detoume- 
ment has in a sense been taken care of by contemporary history itself; 
negativity has thus taken up residence in the reality of the facts, while 
subversion has come more and more to resemble a tactic of transcen- 
dence, an essentially positive act. 

While the abundance of consumer goods is hailed everywhere 
as a major step forward, the way these goods are used by society, as 
we know, invalidates all their positive aspects. Because the gadget is 
primarily a source of profit for capitalist and bureaucratic regimes, it 
cannot be allowed to serve any other purpose. The ideology of con- 
sumerism acts like a fault in manufacture, sabotaging the commodity 
it packages and turning what could be the material basis of happiness 
into a new form of slavery. In this context, subversion broadcasts new 
ways of using commodities; it invents superior uses of goods, uses 
whereby subjectivity can take strength from something that was orig- 
inally marketed to weaken it. The crisis of the spectacle will throw 
the forces now mobilised for deception into the camp of lived truth. 
The problems of tactics and strategy revolve around the question of 
how to turn against capitalism the weapons that commercial neces- 

12.7 


sity has forced it to distribute. We need a manual of subversion — a 
‘Consumer’s Guide to Not Consuming’. 

Subversion, which forged its first weapons in the artistic sphere, has 
now become the art of handling every sort of weapon. Having first ap- 
peared amidst the cultural crisis of the years 1910-25, it has gradually 
spread to every area touched by social decomposition. Despite which, 
art still offers a field of valid experiment for the techniques of subver- 
sion; and there is still much to be learnt from the past. Surrealism failed 
because it tried to re-invest Dadaist anti-values which had not been 
completely reduced to zero. Any attempt to build on values which have 
not been thoroughly purged by a nihilistic crisis must end in the same 
way: recuperation by the dominant mechanisms of social organisation. 
Contemporary cyberneticians have taken their ‘combinatory’ attitude 
towards art so far as to hail any accumulation of disparate elements 
whatsoever, even if the particular elements have not been devalued at all. 
Pop art orJean-Luc Godard — the same apologetics of the junk-yard. 

In the realm of art it is also possible to undertake a tentative search 
for new forms of agitation and propaganda. In 1963, for instance, Mi- 
chele Bernstein produced a series of works in plaster with toy soldiers, 
cars, tanks, etc. With such titles as ‘The Victory of the Bonnot Gang’, 
‘The Victory of the Paris Commune’, ‘The Victory of the Budapest 
Workers’ Councils of 1956’ these works sought to dereify historical 
events, to rescue them from artificial entombment in the past. They 
tended at once towards two goals: the rectification of the history of the 
workers’ movement and the realisation of art. No matter how limited 
and speculative, agitational art of this kind opens the door to every- 
one’s creative spontaneity, if only by proving that in the particularly 
distorted realm of art subversion is the only language, the only kind of 
action, that contains its own self-criticism. 

There are no limits to creativity. There is no end to subversion. 


12.8 


Preface 


from The Right to be Greedy 
by For Ourselves 


Bob Black 


Preface to the Preface 

I was never a member of For Ourselves, the San Francisco Bay Area 
pro-situationist group which wrote and self-published The Right to 
Be Greedy in 1974. The principal author was Bruce Gardner, who 
has long since dropped out of sight. I came across the pamphlet a 
couple of years later, by which time For Ourselves was defunct. I was 
charmed and challenged by its “communist egoism,” its audacious 
attempt to synthesize a collectivist social vision of left-wing origin 
with an individuahstic (for lack of a better word) ethic, one usuahy 
articulated on the right. 

I was coming from the New Left of the 60s, but I was increas- 
ingly disgruntled with the left of the 70s. It retained or exaggerated 
ah the faults of the 60s left (such as current-events myopia, theoreti- 
cal incoherence, historical amnesia, and — especiahy — the cult of the 
victim) while denying or diminishing its merits, among them a sense 
of revolution against the totality, a sense of verve and vitality, and a 
sense of humor. The left demanded more sacrifice and promised less 
satisfaction, as if there was not already too much sacrifice and too 
little satisfaction. I began to wonder whether the failure of the left 
to root itself in a substantial social base, or even to hold on to much 
of what base it once had (mostly on campus, and among the intel- 
ligentsia, and in the counter-culture), might not in part derive from 
its own deficiencies, and not only from government repression and 
manipulation. Maybe the leftists were not so smart or the masses 
so stupid after all. Guilt-tripping might not go over very well with 
ordinary people who know they are too powerless to be too guilty 
of anything. Demands for sacrifice lack appeal for those who have al- 


12 . <? 


ready sacrificed, and been sacrificed, too much and for too long. The 
future promised by the left looked to be — at worst, even worse — and 
at best, not noticeably better than the status quo. Why rush to the 
barricades or, for that matter, why even bother to vote? 

More or less in isolation, I sought out currents that were more 
liberatory, more libertarian, and more libertine. I discovered, among 
others, the situationists. In Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Every- 
day Life, especially, I found a congenial concept of “radical subjectiv- 
ity” offering some promise of a revolutionary transcendence of mor- 
alism. The Right to Be Greedy further developed this dimension of the 
revolution of everyday life, the only revolution that matters. 

The circumstances in which I brought about the reprinting of 
The Right to Be Greedy explain a few of my Preface’s peculiarities. 
In the early 1980s I got to be in contact with publisher Mike Hoy 
of Loompanics Unlimited. Hoy came out of an extreme right-wing 
background to get involved in the libertarian movement. There 
too he staked out an extreme position as an amoral egoist anarcho- 
capitalist: Loompanics, he boasted, was “the lunatic fringe of the lib- 
ertarian movement.” By the time I happened by, Hoy was beginning 
to find even that position restrictive. By then Hoy and I both thought 
of ourselves as egoists, but from that we drew very different politi- 
cal conclusions. In fall 1982, as a lark, I sent Greedy to Hoy, saying 
something to the effect of “...you think you’re an egoist? Try this on 
for size.” Months passed, I heard nothing from Hoy, I forgot all about 
it. Then in February 1983 he wrote in to say that the Loompanics 
reprint of Greedy has been typeset and would you please provide a 
preface within a few days? 

So I did. I slanted it toward a mostly libertarian or apolitical read- 
ership, which, I could safely assume, knew nothing about the situ- 
ationists or their predecessors (those involved in such as dada, surreal- 
ism, and lettrism). I did the very little I could, in a very small space, 
to supply a little context and forewarning. I even tried a bit of cross- 
ideological outreach, as when I suggested that the communist egoism 


13 O 


of For Ourselves involved “multiplier effects” — a technical term from 
economics that libertarians should be familiar with. Anarcho-leftists 
who are, almost without exception, ignorant of the neo-classical 
micro-economics to which they object, sometimes stumbled over the 
phrase. Had I written a Preface for them, it would have been different. 

The Preface 

Most libertarians think of themselves as in some sense egoists. If they 
believe in rights, they believe these rights belong to them as individu- 
als. If not, they nonetheless look to themselves and others as so many 
individuals possessed of power to be reckoned with. Either way, they 
assume that the opposite of egoism is altruism. The altruists, Christian 
or Maoist, agree. A cozy accomodation; and, I submit, a suspicious 
one. What if this antagonistic interdependence, this reciprocal reli- 
ance reflects and conceals an accord? Could egoism be altruism’s loyal 
opposition? 

Yes, according to the authors of this text. What’s more, they insist 
that an egoism which knows itself and refuses every limit to its own 
realization is communism. Altruism and (narrow) egoism or egotism 
they disparage as competing and complementary moralisms in ser- 
vice to capital and the state. They urge us to indulge a generous and 
expansive greed which goes beyond self-sacrifice and petty selfish- 
ness to encompass the appropriation of everything and everyone by 
each and all of us. “Wealth is other people,” wrote Ruskin.The radi- 
cally and rationally (self)-conscious egoist, appreciating this, enriches 
him-self in and though other subjectivities. In social life at its (con) 
sensual and satisfying best — sex, conversation, creation — taking from 
and giving to others constitute a single play-activity rich with multi- 
plier effects. For the lucid and ludic egoist, anything less than general- 
ized egoism is just not enough. 

The individualists have only worshipped their whims. The point, 
however, is to live them. 


131 


Is this a put-on, a piece of parlor preciosity? There is more than a 
touch of that here. Or a mushminded exercise in incongruous eclec- 
ticism? The individualist egoist is bound to be skeptical, but he should 
not be too quick to deprive himself of the insights (and the entertain- 
ment!) of this unique challenge to his certitudes. The contradictions 
are obvious, but whether they derive from the authors’ irrationality 
or from their fidelity to the real quality of lived experience is not so 
easy to say. If Marxism-Stirnerism is conceivable, every orthodocy 
prating of freedom or liberation is called into question, anarchism 
included. The only reason to read this book, as its authors would be 
the first to agree, is for what you can get out of it. 

At least for those not conversant with Hegelian Marxism, “criti- 
cal theory,” and the latest French fashions in avant garde discourse, 
the mode of expression in this work may seem unusual. But it’s very 
much in the tradition of those (mainly European) oppositional cur- 
rents — such as dada and surrealism — which tried to combine politi- 
cal and cultural iconoclasm. In the late 1950s, a small French-based 
but international organization called the Situationist International re- 
sumed this project at a high level of intransigence and sophistication. 

The situationist drew attention to the way the “spectacle” of 
modern capitalism (including its Leninist variants), the organization 
of appearances, interposes itself between isolated and enervated “in- 
dividuals” and a world which they produce by their activity but nei- 
ther control nor comprehend. Mediation supplants direct experience 
as the fragmentation of daily life into so many standardized prefab 
roles produces individuals with a dazzling array of forced “choices” 
but drained of effective autonomy by the loss of initiative to cre- 
ate their own lives. Politically, the situationists bitterly denounced 
the established left, but moved toward an ultra-left stance themselves 
when they embraced council communism. Calling for the abolition 
of work — its transformation into productive playlike pastimes — on 
the one hand, and for workers’ councils, on the other, is only one of 


132 . 


the contradictions which the sits failed to resolve. The French general 
strike of 1968 vindicated the sits’ thesis that the affluent society had 
merely modernized poverty, and even showcased a number of their 
slogans, but the S.I. was at a loss what to do next and broke up in 1972. 

Ever since, situationist ideas — and poses — have percolated into 
popular culture. (The Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm Maclaren was 
perhaps the first to sell a denatured situationism to the trendies). In 
the early 1970s, “pro-situ” groups (as they are known) formed in 
Britain, New York City, and especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. 
One of these groups, Negation, reformed as For Ourselves around 
1973, and by the following Mayday produced the present text. For 
Ourselves was particularly beholden to the situationist Raoul Vanei- 
gem, whose celebration of the “radical subjectivity” of “masters with- 
out slaves” figures prominently in the theory espoused in The Right 
to Be Greedy. All too soon the group collapsed, some of its members 
regressing into Marxism from which they had never really escaped. 

The text manages to be at once too Marxist and oblivious to the 
extent of its incompatibility with Marxism. Too Marxist, in that the 
illusion of Man as essentially Producer persists, and a “democratically” 
planned economy based on the councils is touted as the structural 
basis of a new and free society. And too enamored of Marxism in that 
the attempt to square communist egoism with the Marxist scriptures 
is far more ingenious than persuasive — though perhaps it does show 
that Marx was more radical than he himself supposed. It’s a pity For 
Ourselves didn’t try to Marxize Stirner as they Stirnerized Marx: 
then we might have a better sense of the level at which it just might 
be possible to harmonize the two great revolutionary amoralists. 

Egoism in its narrowest sense is a tautology, not a tactic. Adoles- 
cents of all ages who triumphantly trumpet that “everyone is selfish,” 
as if they’d made a factual discovery about the world, only show that 
they literally don’t know what they’re talking about. Practical ego- 
ism must be something more, it must tell the egoist something useful 
about himself and other selves which will make a difference in his 


133 


life (and, as it happens, theirs). My want, needs, desires, whims — call 
them what you will — extend the ego, which is my-self purposively 
acting, out where the other selves await me. If I deal with them, as the 
economists say, “at arm’s length,” I can’t get as close as I need to for so 
much of what I want. At any rate, no “spook,” no ideology is going to 
get in my way. Do you have ideas, or do ideas have you? 


134 


The Union of Egoists 


Svein Olav Nyberg 

A common misconception about egoism, and about the egoism of 
Stirner in particular, is that it is a reclusive, anti-social kind of behav- 
iour. As far as Stirner is concerned, such commentators must have 
been asleep through that half of his book which is devoted to de- 
scribing exactly the social interactions of an egoist, or more precise- 
ly — what social interactions are like when they are not mediated by 
ideals or “natural bonds”. 

Egoism is not anti-sociality, like some believe, but is better seen 
as a more mature kind of sociality. 

Stirner is a dialectical philosopher, and as such his focus is on 
relations. As is with relations, it often comprises three elements, the 
two relata, and the relation itself, and hence the famous triad is a 
common occurrence in dialectical philosophy. So also with Stirner. 
Stirner ’s main triadic development is that of (1) The “natural” or ma- 
terial bond of the ancients, (2) The bond by ideas, our “equality be- 
fore reason”, into (3) the willed or owned relation. 

In his book, Stirner starts the description of owned relations with 
relations to material objects and ideas. A willed relation to these are 
said to be that they are your property (“eigentum”). 

The opposite of the willed relation is, as indicated, the bond, the 
“ought” and the “shall”. These are simply relations that are not mine 
to dispose of, but which are given me from without — without also 
in the sense of an “essence” I must confirm to and cannot dispose of. 

A particular case of such a bond is when you are not to let go 
of an idea. In Hegelian terms: When that thought is seen as exempt 
from and sacred to “the power of the negative”. Such an idea is called 
a fixed idea. It is, in Stirner ’s words “An idea that has subjected the 
man to itself” — an idea that you are not to criticise. [Recall that Der 
Einzige is “the power of the negative” to himself.] 


135 " 


Ideas are often expressed in the material world, as we call it. One 
such idea is that of “property”. It should be noted that the common 
use of this word is that of conformation to an idea — a Fixed Idea — 
about what you can [“morally”] lay your hands on. By Stirner, howev- 
er, property in this sense, “sacred property” or as he even calls it “state 
property”, is not exempt from criticism and from — his laying hands 
on it. It is in the sense of idea already his property in his thinking it 
as such — in the intentional, willing act. However, factual possession, 
laying hands on it, depends also on “my might”, as Stirner expresses it. 

Now, once the relation of Eigentum — of “property” in the 
Stirnerian sense has been understood — and not before, can we pro- 
ceed to the meeting of two Einzige, two Subjects. There are several 
ways in which two people can meet: 

1 . The Bond. This is a meeting of two people according to how 
they “ought to” behave towards one another. It is not as such a meet- 
ing which is willed, but rather a meeting according to the “ought”. 
Examples of such are when the father and the son meet in the roles 
of father and son. “Father” and “son” they will always remain in a 
descriptive sense. But when they meet according to such roles, they 
meet by an “ought” and not by a “will”. Roles are ascribed when the 
relation is seen as a static object. 

2. The property. The relation can be a one-sidedly willed one. In 
this, the one is an Einzige whereas the Other has become Eigentum 
(for the one who is Einzige) . Perhaps this is the state of things where 
we can say “Hell is the Other” (i.e. when that Other guy is Einzige 
and I am reduced to a role as Eigentum). 

However, Moses Hess criticised Stirner’s conception of what 
Stirner call Verein der Egoisten [The Union of Egoists] along the lines 
that in such a meeting, there would have to be one who dominated 
and one who submitted to domination. That is, Hess imagined that 
“The Union of Egoists” would be a relation of the kind (2) described 
above. 

Now, (2) might describe a Hobbesian egoist. But can it describe 


136 


la derniere mallon de la chaine Hegelienne (as Stirner has been 
called)? No, that is a bit too crude. Stirner did himself reply to this 
criticism by pointing to examples: Two friends playing with their toys, 
two men going together to the wine shop. These do of course not 
comprise an exhaustive list of unions, and our man Stirner does in- 
deed speak of unions consisting of thousands of people, too, unions 
uniting to catch a thief or to get better pay for one’s own labour. 

More philosophically, Moses Hess describes a one-sidedness, and 
thinks it is a necessary one for an Stirner. What is then more natural 
than to apply a little dialectical reasoning to figure out what Stirner 
really did mean. I propose it is 

3. the union. The relation is understood as a process. It is a process 
in which the relation is continually renewed by that both [/ all] parts 
support it through an act of will. The Union requires that both/ all 
parties are present through conscious egoism — i.e. own-will. If one 
part silently finds him/her-self to be suffering, but puts up and — 
keeps the appearance, the union has degenerated into something else. 

Only after development has come to the understanding of the 
union of egoists does Stirner come to the ultimately important rela- 
tion — the relation of me to myself. In the section entitled “My self- 
enjoyment”, Stirner sets up mere valuing of life against enjoyment of 
life. In the former view, I am an object to be preserved. In the latter I 
see myself as the subject of all my valuing relations. 

In this sense, Stirner can rebuke the question “what am I?” and 
replace it with “who am I?”, a question which has its answer in this 
bodily person who asks the question. This is the “nothingness” of 
which Stirner speaks of as I. “Not nothing in the sense of emptiness, 
but a creative nothing.” 

My relation to myself is thus a meeting of myself as wilier, a 
union with myself and a consumption — appropriation — of myself as 
my own. 

“There is no room for God in the man who is full of himself.” 

— Posted outside a local church 


137 


138 


From Sovereign Self 


A Letter to Lovers 

Cresencia Desafio and 
Katherine DiFiore 


A note on the individual and relationships 

One thing I can be sure of — I am me despite you, and you are you 
despite me. Our relationship is not a separate entity within itself, but 
neither are either of us this relationship. Relationships, romantic or 
otherwise, are nothing more and nothing less than interactions be- 
tween individuals. You and I have made the choice to come together 
and to live our own lives alongside one another. 

Our romance is not infinite. I will continue my relationship to 
you as long as it is relevant to my life. As we each grow and change, 
our relationship to each other may too evolve. It may come to an 
end as we each move on with our own lives. I do not expect that 
our relationship will remain static or that our interactions will always 
transpire in the same way. What I do hope is that our friendship will 
last and that an end to our romance is not an end to our interactions 
altogether. First and foremost what I want in any relationship is a 
friendship, romance is secondary. 

Our romance is only strong when we are strong in ourselves. 
Relationships do not have insecurities; individuals have insecuri- 
ties, and as long as the individuals are weak, the relationship will 
follow suit. I will not and cannot use this romance as a bandaid for 
my insecurities. If I want to have mutually beneficial relationships, 
I must first confront my own demons. No friend can do that for 
me. I cannot honestly interact with you and respect your autonomy 
until I can be honest and respectful of myself. I will not nurture a 
relationship; I will only nurture people. I will not look to you or 


13 <? 


anyone for validation because I know that I alone am enough. On 
the flipside, I refuse to be your crutch, your security blanket. Not 
because I do not care about you, but because I know that you too, 
alone, are enough for yourself. 

I can only own that which is mine. You are not mine, and I am 
not yours. I resent any entitlement to my time, my thoughts, my space, 
and my relationships. These are not collective property. These are my 
own. All that we choose to share with each other are gifts. Any gift 
given out of manipulation, guilt, or obligation has lost, in that process, 
all meaning, all joy. I will not carry on any relationship that does not 
better my own life. I will not ask, beg, or force you to share anything 
that is yours. I continue to share some of my time, thougths, space — 
these bits and pieces of myself — with you, because I cherish our in- 
teractions: the long nights spend conversing, adventures in the woods, 
epic meals prepared and shared between just the two of us — these are 
gifts we have generously given. 

My separate relationships cannot be weighed against each other, 
they are each unique and incomparable. I will not play the game of 
quantifying my relationships in order to measure them against each 
other for the sake of competition and validation. Each relation- 
ship, while somewhat connected, is separate. It is up to each of us to 
choose not to let our jealousies and insecurities cloud our abilities 
to interact with others. I will not be fought over. I am not a prize to 
be possessed. Know that if I take space for myself it is not an insult 
to you. I do not value you any less because I need space to myself or 
because I share myself with others. Just as I enjoy sharing my time 
and space with you, our relationship is not my only one. I am an 
autonomous individual; no quarrel between lovers can decide my 
choices. I will continue to interact with others and I expect you to do 
the same. It is absurd to believe that either of us should cut ties with 
anyone else for the sake of this romance. If separately we are bettered 
and strengthened by each of our relationships, then in turn this rela- 
tionship is bettered and strengthened. 


d-40 


I care for you because you, in and of yourself add some panache to my indi- 
vidual awesomeness. 


141 


142 . 


From Sovereign Self 


Towards an Indigenous Egoism 

Introduction 


Alex 


I am an indigenous person of the Oglala Lakota nation. My ancestors 
are from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Before 
then, they were nomadic and traveled freely across the entire area 
known as the Great Plains. I am also an individualist anarchist and, 
for better or worse, exist within a “radical” community of other 
anarchists here in the United States. I have been bombarded with 
countless write-offs of individualist and egoist thought: calling it 
capitalist, colonialist, or even white supremacist. I'm writing this 
particular piece in response to a friend of mine who made the claim 
that individualism and self-interest are basic tenets of colonization. 
While this may be true if self-interest is defined by colonial ideology, 
I will present an individualist and egoist-anarchist thought that is a 
tool of decolonization and indigenous resistance. 


Individualism, Colonialism, and Entitlement 

What makes individualism and egoism so appealing is the sense 
of liberty and freedom it offers: the sense that no one else should 
restrain you from achieving your desires and that you and your 
desires are important. We are deprived of freedom in every culture 
and society: we face the coercion to work, to serve the collective, 
to honor the morality of God and the church, to fear prison an 
internalize policing, to fulfill social roles, to reproduce the family, 
to submit to authority, to be a productive contributor to society 
and humanity. Active pursuit of freedom seems a natural reaction to 
constraints. European explorers, colonists, and settlers were seeking 
this freedom. They felt entitled to resources and the land, which 
lead to the removal and relocation of Indigenous peoples. They felt 
entitled to the exploitation of free labor, which lead to the transport 

143 


and slavery of Africans. It was in their interest to expand the wealth 
and power of their nation or colony, and disregard the interests of 
anyone who would be in the way of this. In short, colonization is 
acting on behalf of the self-interest of the colonizer. 

However, Max Stirner's definition of what constitutes a voluntary 
egoist offers a different vision of colonial individualism. A colony is 
a collective that exists to benefit its mother country with natural 
resources, labor, the spread of nationalist and Christian ideologies 
and culture, and strategic control of land from which to wage war. 
Everyone who exists within a colony is then existing to serve their 
country, whether it be as workers to extract resources or in factory 
production, in armies to fend off rival countries and Indigenous 
peoples, as missionaries to spread religion among Indigenous nations, 
or as politicians to maintain the order of the colony's population. 
The thirteen colonies realized their lack of freedom from Britain, 
and initiated the American Revolution, created the Declaration of 
Independence, and the creation of the United States of America. 
The United States is founded on an illusion of freedom, liberty, and 
individualism. This has always been a central marker of American 
national ideology. But a delusional mass that continues to serve and 
submit to various authorities are not voluntary egoists, but rather, in 
Stirner's words, involuntary egoists. A patriotic person may join the 
military and fight his country's enemy in his self-interest, but in doing 
so he is submitting to his commanding officer, to the politicians who 
decided to go to war, to the duty to obey orders, and to his devotion 
to Country. He is giving up his freedom as an individual and serving 
a collective: his idea of a “greater good.” He is giving up the ability 
to become his full Self. The same can be applied to the religious man 
who serves God in self-interest, to attain salvation and avoid eternal 
suffering in his imagined Hell. He represses many aspects of himself to 
conform to his idea, or his church's idea, of God and morality. Every 
man who fought in the American Revolution, and every person 
who has immigrated to America — for freedom, for individualism, for 


144 


the American dream — has been chasing individualism, which can 
never be achieved by servitude. 

The History of American Colonialism and 
Indigenous People 

Colonial individualism and entitlement were expressed at the 
expense of Indigenous peoples. In order for these explorers, colonists, 
and settlers to expand and have access to whatever would bring them 
power and wealth, Indigenous people had to be subj ugated. In a military 
sense, this was not an easy task at first, but due to epidemics brought 
by Europeans, many Indigenous nations were severely weakened 
or nearly wiped out entirely. This allowed European/ American 
colonizers to gain a military advantage. Forced removal from land 
followed; any land that held value of any sort was cleared out and 
exploited by the colonizers, resulting in near extinction of animals 
and plants that Indigenous people relied on to sustain themselves. 
Any resistance to removal brought warfare and the individuals who 
advocated for such things were called “savage” and either forcibly 
civilized or killed. The civilizing was left to missionaries, whereas the 
killing was the job of the United States and Canadian governments. 
Both spiritual and cultural traditions and ceremonies were outlawed. 
Belongings considered to be sacred were taken away and destroyed. 
Children were removed from families and sent to boarding schools. 
Their hair, which held tremendous spiritual meaning, was cut off to 
resemble the style of whites. They were hit and beaten for speaking 
their traditional languages. They were converted to Christianity.They 
were educated as the colonizers saw fit, to be suited to living up 
to Western cultural standards. Everything was done to exterminate 
Indigenous culture, in the service of colonialism. 

Self-Hatred in Modern Day Indigenous 
Communities 

We have survived through a great deal. History has erased us; to most 


14 S 


we no longer exist. We are still very much alive, but modern-day 
reservation life is no treat. Colonization's effects still haunt us as a 
people, often subtly. Alcoholism, addition, domestic abuse, economic 
deprivation, poverty, diabetes, and suicide are at high rates on 
reservations all across North America. Most of these stem from self- 
hatred, both individually and collectively. Is it a coincidence that many 
of these issues also plague African-American neighborhoods in major 
cities across the United States? These are the results of colonization, 
of removing indigenous peoples from the land they're accustomed to 
living with, of forcing them to assimilate to Western civilized cultural 
standards and a capitalist market economy. 

The Colonizer in Our Heads 

Aside front the self-hatred I see in fellow Native people, I also witness 
assimilation and a sense of identification with the colonizer. The 
remnants of our communities are now run by tribal governments, 
tribal police, and tribal courts pushing reform and imitating the way 
that the colonizer runs things in his world. Our youth are encouraged 
to go to college, get careers, and be successful; or join the army to 
fight in the United States government's wars to enforce colonialism 
in other parts of the world. I frequently attend, dance, and sing at 
powwows across North America, and see crosses and Nike symbols 
on individuals' dance outfits. It's unheard of for there not to be an 
American flag carried in at grand entry, followed by a song to honor 
all Native and non-Native veterans for “protecting our freedom” and 
“allowing us the privileges to do what we're doing today.” 

Individualism as a Tenet of Decolonization 

It should be evident that when we talk about “self-interest,” we cannot 
speak of objectivity. What may be in your self-interest could also very 
well be something against my self-interest. This makes the blanket 
statement, “self-interest and individualism are tenets of colonialism” 
a simplistic view of what self-interest is, and avoids the question 


146 


of whose interest it is that we're talking about. As an Indigenous 
person who takes a strong stance against assimilation, colonialism, 
and capitalism, it is certainly not in my interest to maintain those 
structures. 

Individualism is the idea that you and your desires are important. 
Egoism implies this and also states that one ought to act on behalf 
of oneself to realize those desires. As Indigenous people, what could 
we use more than self confidence? We need to know that we as 
individuals and as a people, matter. For centuries we've been beaten 
down, physically and psychologically. We've been oppressed by Power 
for so long that we're convinced that we don't matter, that we're 
worthless, that we're savages: less than human and unfit for society. 
The psychological effects of colonization have been studied, dissected, 
and proven to result in both internal and external self-hatred. 

Some of us have accepted this; we abuse ourselves and each other. 
Or we self-medicate to numb ourselves from the pain. Some of us 
assimilate to be recognized by our oppressors, to feel a sense of self- 
worth. I for one want to appease no one. I want to know that I 
matter to me, not to the society that denies me my desires, keeps me 
from freedom, a society responsible for all of the damage done to 
Indigenous peoples worldwide. One thing that I do see at powwows 
all across the continent are bumper stickers and clothing expressing 
“Native Pride.” This is something that my elders have said as far back 
as I can remember. “Be proud of who and what you are.” If we were 
to take on this pride and understand that we do matter, to us, and 
start acting in our self-interest, it would mean war against those who 
stand in our way, who keep us from our freedom. 

Egoism Means War on Society 

The part of individualism that the European explorers and colonizers 
failed to realize was its rejection of duty, devotion, and submission. 
I recognize no authority figure over me, nor do I aspire to any 
particular ideology. I am not swayed by duty because I owe nothing 


147 


to anyone. I am devoted to nothing but myself. I subscribe to no 
civilized standards or set of morals because I recognize no God or 
religion. No amount of pressure, judgment, or force should cause 
me to restrain myself from that which I desire. Egoist anarchists have 
declared war on society, war on civilization. This resistance is in the 
interest of anyone who desires a life free of submission to a ruling 
power, to anyone who dreams of a world of freedom, to those who 
would build community with those who share common interests and 
affinity: a world of free association, so we can live as we please and 
experience a fulfilling life. This should apply to no one more than 
Indigenous peoples. As the Western culture's standards and values 
have been forced down our throats, we need to remember who we 
are. We need to remember the importance of self and our desires. 

The rejection of this submission does not come easily. When 
I say war on society, I mean it. Decolonization can only occur if 
we confront our enemy: the colonizer. If we don't, then we're only 
perpetuating the colonizer/ colonized relationship. 

We can never expect the oppressors to give up their privileges 
for the sake of the oppressed. This initiation and confrontation may 
necessitate violence. 

It should be noted that colonialism was imposed through 
military force. Ultimately, it is the system's monopoly on the 
use of violence that enables it to impose its will. 

Warrior magazine 

We have to remember what it means to be a “warrior.” We honor 
our veterans as Native people, to revive the traditions of honoring 
our warriors; but a true warrior doesn't fight for her enemy, and 
she doesn't submit to an authority that dominates and subjugates 
her and her people. A true warrior fights for himself, his family, and 
his community. Make no mistake: our indigenous ancestors didn't 
go down without a fight. We remember the Sioux uprising, where 
a broken promise of food led to attacks on white settlers and theft 


148 


of food from settlements. Andrew Myrick, a lead trader who said of 
the broken promise, “if they are hungry, let them eat grass,” was one 
of the first killed, found days later with his mouth stuffed with grass. 

The history of indigenous resistance began the day Columbus 
and his men landed and continues today in struggles such as the 
refusal of the Dine to relocate as strip mines rip apart their lands and 
generating plants poison the desert air. I think it's time we stress the 
importance of Self. I think it's time we brainstorm new strategies and 
study the history of Indigenous resistance to formulate new paths 
toward decolonization and the destruction of civilization. 


14 <? 


ISO 


from My Own #3 


An Egoist Method 

Apio Ludd 

What do I mean when I talk about egoism? For some, egoism is a 
philosophy. James L. Walker, for example wrote The Philosophy of 
Egoism. Yet he himself points out in that book that .You, as a person 
of flesh and blood, will not be successfully classified in philosophy. . . 
And since I, as a person in flesh and blood, am the center of egoism, 
it can.t very well be a philosophy, though no doubt many egoists, by 
talking about .the ego. rather than about themselves in flesh and 
blood, have created a kind of .egoist, philosophy. But by making an 
abstraction, .the ego,, the center rather than each unique flesh and 
blood individual, their philosophy contradicts egoism. They have 
created a new spook to haunt their heads. I despise philosophy 
(though, yes, I raid it for weapons to use against it) because it appears 
to me as nothing but a haunted, spook-riddled realm. 

Others see egoism as an ethic. Some, like Ayn Rand, go so far as 
to claim that acting on one.s self-interest is what is best for society, 
and so promote it as a panacea for social ills. Here they expose that 
they are still moralists. But others instead see it as a purely a personal 
ethic.You and I would be better off for ourselves if we acted egoistically. 
But even as this personal, utterly selfish ethic, it becomes a rule for my 
behavior, a law outside of me telling me what to do. So my egoism is 
also not an ethic. 

It seems to me that everyone acts egoistically. Christians or 
moslems who have faith and act on it do so to gain favor with the god 
they believe in. Altruists giving to charity feel good about themselves. 
Even one who jumps into a raging river to save a drowning child does 
so because of a compulsive urge. But most act out of .involuntary, or 
.duped, egoism. Involuntary, in that they have convinced themselves 
that they really are acting out of some higher interest; duped, because 


1ST 


they have duped themselves into believing their interest coincides 
with and needs to conform to the alleged .higher interest,, that to 
ultimately achieve their own highest interest they must enslave 
themselves to the interest of a higher power, god, humanity, state, 
nation, duty, justice, etc. So, while still doing what they do in a self- 
interested way, they do it without being aware they are doing so, 
without willfully creating and using themselves and their worlds on 
their own terms, i.e., without making their egoism their own. Rather 
than a philosophy or an ethic, I consider egoism (for the willful, aware 
egoist) as a method for encountering, analyzing and using my world. I 
don’t speak of the egoist method, because I figure that each unique 
individual, encountering her world in her own way, will develop an 
egoist method of his own. So I am talking about my egoist method. 
But there are things that I can say in a general way about how such a 
method would operate. 

First of all, when I use an egoist method, I knowingly and willfully 
make myself the center of my universe. Everyone unknowingly and 
involuntarily experiences themselves as the center of their universe. 
Due to the way perception operates in living beings, this seems to be 
inevitable and probably necessary for survival. But human beings 
think * So along with perceptions, they have conceptions, abstractions 
and ideas to which they can ascribe value, power, will, even a kind of 
personhood at times. And, in fact, most human beings project their 
own centrality onto some such abstraction or idea: god, humanity, 
nature, nation, family, duty, justice, love, etc. Then, even though this 
abstraction or idea is actually their own invention, they make 
themselves its slave, and if their experience contradicts the alleged will 
of their chosen spook-master, they deny it, they sacrifice themselves 
for this thought that they have made their master. And what makes 


* It is quite possible that other living beings think as well, but so far I have 
seen little evidence that other living beings develop and enslave themselves 
to abstract conceptions as humans do. 

152 . 


these abstractions powerful is their alienation from the one who 
thought them, their removal into the realm of the sacred which is the 
ultimate haunted realm. 

So when I use an egoist method, I become aware again of my 
actual experience of my universe, free from the impositions of 
thought, and willfully grasp this experience as my own. This doesn’t 
mean that I stop thinking, of course, but rather that I make thinking 
my own and recognize what I create through thinking as nothing 
more than conceptual tools that I use. This requires me to hunt out 
all the traces of the sacred, first within myself in order to root them 
out, to destroy the spooks that may haunt me. This is essential to my 
self-liberation. But since I find myself in a world in which social 
institutions (the actual embodiment of spooks others conceived and 
imposed by force long ago) also get in the way of my full self-creation 
on my own terms, I also turn my attack on the sacred outward, onto 
the whole of the social world I experience, exposing the delusions 
and deceptions of all the various institutions that make up the social 
reality that has been imposed in my world. So many of the activities, 
interactions, relationships, conflicts, etc. of the social world are 
ritualistic absurdities. They only make sense in a sacred, religious 
context, a context in which some higher power demands the use of 
certain fetishes and the performance of certain rituals, as well as the 
suppression of heretics and unbelievers. An egoist method involves 
the demolition of all that is sacred, through exposure, mockery and 
blasphemy of every deity, every fetish, very ritual. It is a method for 
breaking these things down into their phenomenal components as I 
experience them and exposing their dependence on the continuing 
active belief and consequent servitude of individuals who have let 
their heads be haunted. 

With a practical application of this method, it is possible to develop 
an ongoing self-theory capable of taking on the current social 
structures from a specifically anarchist perspective, that is, from a 
perspective that strives for individual autonomy against every authority 


153 


and recognizes die responsibility of each individual, not to anyone 
else or to any higher power or value, but rather for her own life and 
activity. Thus, it provides a starting point for an anarchist critique of 
the state, of economy, of the family, of morality, of religion, of the 
various social constructions of identity, etc. In every one of these 
things, there is something of the sacred, something of the power that 
individuals have alienated from themselves to create and empower 
the spooks they serve, and if I willfully examine them from starting 
from myself as center and my experience of these things on the 
phenomenal level, their absurdity is exposed. From there, I strive to 
express these critiques in such a way that they do not become new 
doctrines creating a new ideological spook, but instead goad others 
toward their own individual insurrections against the ruling structures 
and institutions, and the ideas behind them, and find ways to 
interweave these insurrections that enhance them all. 

Of course, it would require many pages to go into detail about 
how an egoist method would operate, to fully explain how 
phenomenal experience provides a basis for developing practical 
critique, how dialectic in its original sense of an ongoing clash and 
interweaving of ideas, experiments, analyses and practices is a 
necessary part of such a method so that it can keep on developing, 
to show how this method undermines all theological, philosophical, 
ideological, i.e., all spook-ridden, thought. But I hope that this brief 
look has provoked some readers to look into what such a method 
might mean for them, how they might use it in their own insurrection 
and selfcreation. 


1S4 


from My Own #1 


What Is An Individual? 

Apio Ludd 

( The following article is the first in a series of somewhat experimental articles 
in which I am developing my perceptions and experiences of autonomous 
self-creation and self-ownership. 

Because of the nature of the topic, I am writing these pieces mostly in the 
first-person singular and combining this with directly addressing the reader. 
Though at times this may seem a bit clumsy or unsettling, I think it is most 
fitting for the topic.) 

What am I as an individual? The unique embodiment of a specific 
fabric of interweaving, everchanging emotions, actions, thoughts, 
interactions, relationships... Where do these interweaving, fluid 
threads come from? In the present world, until I become aware of 
this and begin to take these threads into my own hands, they mostly 
come from the things and being that make up the specific social 
context into which I was born, where I was raised and educated, 
and where I continue to carry out my roles and functions. 

The activities through which I and other people survive — 
working, buying, selling — are products of this context. They can 
cause me to consume most of my time in activities and interactions 
that are not my own. Consider the amount of time wasted waiting 
in lines, the amount of time spent in the tedious motions through 
which I get and pay money, and the endless banal verbal exchanges 
with strangers about whom I couldn't care less. 

These activities and interactions inevitably affect my emotions, 
for the most part by watering them down to a pathetic mediocrity. 
But then I consider how most people use their so-called free time 
(the time not devoted to social obligation and survival, which in this 
society are the same thing). They fill these “free” hours being 


T55 


entertained (going to movies, watching TV, listening to music — 
particularly pop music) . Every form of entertainment plays with the 
emotions. But beyond this, movies, TV shows, pop music and other 
forms of entertainment also have the function of defining the 
acceptable parameters of emotion, giving examples of how to feel 
them in specific situations, how to express them. So if I remain 
passive in the face of the influence of entertainment, even my 
emotions will not be my own creation, but a patchwork of givens 
that I have gathered from movies, television, pop songs and so on. 
This is why it is so easy for so-called passions, relationships, aspirations 
and individual endeavors to fall into cliched patterns that are 
repeated over and over again, not just by specific individuals, by you 
and me, but all across the social wasteland in which you and I live. 

To break from this, I need to learn to willfully create my passions 
and my desires as my own, to develop a capacity for intentional 
spontaneity, recognizing that without conscious choice, there is no 
spontaneity, only reaction and habit. 

It may seem paradoxical to talk about willfully creating passions 
and desires. How could I possibly create my impulses willfully? Well, 
I have heard many a so-called radical (particularly communists) 
claim that the passions and desires of individuals are created by the 
social context. But an abstraction cannot create anything. The 
concrete reality behind this is that specific individuals who have an 
interest in defining everyone’s passions and desires use certain 
techniques to define and channel our feelings and our impulses. 
This is not a conspiracy theory;it is simply a description of advertising, 
public relations, political propaganda and, as I already mentioned 
above, passive entertainment. To give an example, say that I suddenly 
get an urge for “Ben and Jerry's Funky Monkey” 1 . Obviously there 
is nothing innate about such a desire, since this company for 
exploiting the hippie sweet tooth has only been around for about 
three decades. My urge for this product would have been artificially 

1 Fortunately, it will never happen since I am allergic to milk... 

156 


created using a combination of advertising, labeling, identity and 
related techniques. On a less blatantly commercial level, what if I 
had a fetish for rubber, leather or high heels? Once again, this is an 
artificial passion, something created through a series of social 
processes — that is to say through the specific activities (whether 
conscious or not) of specific individuals. No one is born with these 
fetishes. In fact, they do not exist as fetishes at all until they are 
identified as such by the authorities who claim expertise in 
identifying sexual deviance and who change what may have been a 
momentary excitement into an identity. 

But the point I am making with these examples is that passions 
and impulses, feelings and desires are not innate, but created, and 
there is no reason why I couldn’t willfully create mine for myself. If 
I don’t, it is because I fall into the expected channels of habit and 
social norms. So in order to begin willfully creating my own feelings, 
impulses and desires I need to decisively break with habit, bursting 
through the channels of social expectation and experimenting with 
intentional spontaneity. 

Spontaneity can really only exist as a conscious, intentional 
choice. When I act unconsciously (and this is how most people act 
most of the time in this society), I will tend to limit my actions to 
habit, role, identity and mere reaction, none of which involve 
genuine self-creation, being instead submission to what is expected, 
to what is created to keep me enslaved. This is the very opposite of 
spontaneity. Where there is no will, there cannot be spontaneous 
activity. 

I look upon desire — as opposed to the mere “ghost of desire” 
(William Blake) — as the impulse to create. It moves me to act upon 
my world, to experiment and explore. This impulse can only exist in 
its full force to the extent that my life is not already created for me. 
This means that it can only exist in conflict with the present social 
order, since that order usurps my capacity to create my own life, 
forcing me to submit or rebel. What is called “desire” in that order 


157 


is merely the longing for an already defined, external object that is 
not my own creation, even if I produce it myself. Self-creation is 
rebellion against that reality. 


158 


from My Own #6 


Nameless: An Egoist Critique of Identity 


Apio Ludd 

Only when nothing is said about you and you are merely named, 
are you recognized as you. As soon as something is said about 
you, you are only recognized as that thing... 

Max Stirner 

It’s amusing how often people confuse identity with individuality. 
Identity traces back to a Latin word meaning “sameness”. And sameness 
implies the existence of something with which I can be the same. 

It is certainly possible to conceive of individuals as identical atoms 
bashing into each other — marxists like to assume that this is what 
individualists are talking about — but even atoms only become identical 
when you or I conceive of them as atoms, giving them an identity. 
Atomization is a process that has its basis in the denial of my unique 
individuality, and identification plays a part in this process. 

Stirner referred to you and I, i.e., to any individual in the flesh at 
this moment, as .the unique, (der Einzige) . In Stirner’s Critics, he explains 
that this is merely a name, nothing more. To speak, to write, he had to 
use a name. But, he wrote, “The unique . has no content; it is 
indeterminacy in itself.... To give it content before I live it out in my 
world, before you live it out in your world, is to give it an identity, a 
sameness, to destroy it as unique. To give a conceptual content to the 
unique is to make it an absurdity. 

But even as unique, I am forced to contend with identity. There are 
the banalities of having to identify myself, for example, when entering 
a tavern, or when cashing a check, or when stopped by the cops. In 
every one of these instances, someone has been delegated a certain legal 
authority to make sure that I am the same as something required by their 
rules. Am I the same as someone old enough to drink? Am I the same as 


d-59 


the one authorized to cash the check? Am I the same as a person with 
no outstanding warrants? Each of these identities are concepts that I am 
supposed to live up to. And if I fail, I suffer the consequences. But, in 
fact, no one is ever the same as any of these things. Even if I can meet 
each of these challenges to get what I want (some drinks, some needed 
cash, some distance from the pigs), / am not any of those things. And 
those who impose these tests on me are my enemies in that they impose 
abstractions onto my unique self forcing a conformity to their rules and 
to a social requirement for personal consistency.They seek to undermine 
my ownness and with it my uniqueness. 

In addition, every ruling social order is set up only to process 
individuals in terms of categorical identities: race, gender, nationality, 
sexuality, etc. Though these are all fictions, they affect people physically 
and mentally. These categories have served as justifications for enslaving 
individuals, excluding individuals, placing restrictions on individuals, 
beating and killing individuals, etc., ad nauseum. It makes sense that 
those who have experienced abuse based on such categorical identities 
would unite to fight against this abuse and those who carried it out. 
What doesn’t make sense to me is that most of those who unite for this 
purpose don.t base their unity on their shared desire to eradicate the 
abuse, but rather on the categorical identity that has served to justify 
this abuse. In other words, they choose to unite not as enemies of an 
order they aim to destroy, but as victims of an order from which they 
want recognition and justice. A social order can only recognize categories, 
not unique individuals. Justice can only deal with what can be measured 
and weighed, i.e., what can be compared and equated. Identity, sameness, 
belonging to a group, different ways of expressing the requirement for 
social recognition and justice. I, as an egoist aware of my uniqueness 
respond differently, as an enemy, aiming to destroy categorical identity 
and those who benefit from it immediately as I experience them here 
and now. If I unites with others, they will be those whose aims and 
powers enhance my own. Not identity politics, but the destruction of 
identity and politics, in favor of myself and my associations. 


16(9 


But I am not a moralist. I may well find uses for identity in 
some sense, even while recognizing that it is always a lie. In 
fact, I use identity whenever I say “I.” In this word, I identify 
myself here and now, my immediate concrete self, with my 
concept of myself in the past. As unique (i.e., as I exist con- 
cretely here and now), I am not the same as that, but I choose 
to unite myself with that, even to the extent of identifying with 
it, because it gives me a significant power in relating to my 
world and in interacting with others, just as identifying other 
with the past forms of these others that I have encountered 
enhances that power. So here, identity can become my tool. 
However, here as well, I am not talking about categorical 
identity, but about personal identity, equations that I make 
for myself, knowing full well that they are nothing more than 
conceptual tools for my use, for enhancing my self-enjoyment. 
If I take them to be myself, I am deluding myself. 

Recently, I have come across communiques from individuals 
(apparently acting in small groups) who describe themselves 
as individualist-nihilists and egoist-nihilists, laying claim to 
various attacks against the ruling order. Anyone who rebels 
and attacks the ruler order for themselves is certainly my 
comrade. I feel a kinship with her even if I don’t agree with 
all of his decisions about how he goes about her action. But I 
wonder why someone who’s acting for himself, from his own 
life, feels the need to lay claim to her action at all, let alone 
by using a group name, creating a group identity. If I choose 
to attack the ruling order or to act against the law in any other 
way, this choice springs from the immediacy of my life here 
and now, and I owe no one an explanation. Nor do I need the 
inspiration of other actions to move me. It is my own life and 
my own opportunities that move me. It’s true that a rebellious 

161 


act may move the rebel with passion so she wants to express 
her rage and joy. Then he might write to claim his act, but 
there is no need to do so and a great deal of wisdom in not 
doing so. But what I question most in this is that individuals 
who claim an act in this way are taking on an identity. This 
is why they have to name themselves (and as beautiful and 
poetic as some of these names are, they remain labels for an 
identity). The signed communique replaces the immediate 
fleeting meaning of the action for the unique individuals who 
carried it out with a permanent meaning intended to explain 
the action to an audience. With permanent meanings come 
permanent identities and the unique individuals disappear into 
this crystallized fonn. A unique individual, acting for herself, 
is nameless. She is nameless, because her existence is too 
immediate and fleeting for any name that is not completely 
empty of meaning or thought to express him. If he chooses 
to act, it makes sense for him to act anonymously, without 
an identity. If she chooses to talk about her act, to make it a 
matter for conversation of debate, or to let others know that 
they are not alone in their rebellion, it makes sense for her 
to do this anonymously as well. It isn’t difficult to figure out 
how. The individual, acting from his uniqueness, has no need 
to identify with his action, she was completely in that action at 
the moment that she did it. In any case, the full implications 
of claiming one’s acts should be a matter for ongoing debate 
without taking away from the solidarity and kinship one feels 
with those who in their rebellion make different choices. 

Identity is about defining what you are. As I said, there are 
moments when playing with such definitions may make sense 
(or give pleasure). But these definitions, these identities can 

never be me. They can, however, become prisons locking me 
162 . 


into the cell of a role or a set of roles. And if I am not to be a 
slave, I have to reject these roles, except as occasional masks I 
may don when it serves my interests. Of course, when I don’t 
confonn to roles, I become unpredictable, I become fleeting, 
I become unintelligible to the institutions and to those with 
insti-tutional ways of viewing their worlds. Stirner says, in 
Stirner’s Critics, that he “names the unique and says at the 
same time that ‘names don’t name it’...” Precisely as a unique 
individual I am nameless, precisely as such I have no identity. 
I am simply myself here and now. 


163 



The project of self-realisation is born of the passion for cre- 
ation, in the moment when subjectivity wells up and aspires 
to reign universally. The project of communication is born 
of the passion of love, whenever people discover that they 
share the same desire for amorous conquest. The project of 
participation is born of the passion for playing, whenever 
group activity facilitates the self-realisation of each individual. 

Isolated, the three passions are perverted. Dissociated, 
the three projects are falsified. The will to self-realisation is 
turned into the will to power; sacrificed to status and role- 
playing, it reigns in a world of restrictions and illusions. The 
will to communication becomes objective dishonesty; based 
on relationships between objects, it provides the semiologists 
with signs to dress up in human guise. The will to partici- 
pation serves to organise the loneliness of everyone in the 
crowd; it creates the tyranny of the illusion of community.