Stirner (with Marx and Derrida): Neither Material nor Utopian?

  • Susan McManus
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)


Political theory is haunted. Max Stirner is prepared to dispel and exorcise the monsters, specters, demons, ghosts, and phantasms, rational or otherwise, that stalk its pages, inhabit its subjects, and foreclose human potentiality. To read Max Stirner’s The Ego and Its Own, Marx (and Engels) reading of Stirner in The German Ideology, and Derrida’s readings of both these texts in his Specters of Marx is to explore the problematic that the attempt to read the “real” literally gives rise to. It is also to read a tale of hauntings, obsessions, accusations; a battle to reclaim the real against the illusory. Stirner, haunted by illusory forms of authority, the “superior specters” haunting brains and bodies that are simultaneously embodied yet fantastic and spectral, writes an “ego-logical” critique where, in a radically defined “real,” the sole source of authority is an inarticulable profoundly creative “I”; and Marx, through two-thirds of The German Ideology rewrites this “undisguised ghost story,” attempts to exorcise Stirner’s specters in order to reclaim the really real.1 As for Derrida …? At stake in this part of the book are both the possibility and the politics of a post-representational epistemology. There are nevertheless potential dangers in such a project that working through Stirner helps to illuminate. In this chapter, I argue that Stirner aims to perform, through his egological critique, a post-representational renaming of the world. His endeavor is significant and important, and the politics of “insurrection” provocative and necessary. Nevertheless, Stirner’s post-representational renaming of the world is dissociated from a transformative praxis just at the moment when the politics of insurrection seems to demand such a thing (which is not to say, as I shall argue, that he cannot help me figure out “strategies of resistance”).2


Political Theory Existential Body Speculative Philosophy German Ideology Real Premise 
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© Susan McManus 2005

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  • Susan McManus

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