Alexander Hope

Before We Apply Dialectical Egoism

Before we apply this thing called ‘‘Dialectics’’ to Egoism, I would like to first point out that I do not seek to ‘‘Hegelianize’’ Egoism, nor do I seek to transform Egoism into a dialectical philosophy. It is interesting to point out that both Stirner and Kierkegaard rejected the dialectics of Hegel, because they saw the sole individual as something that cannot fit inside a comprehensible system, they saw the foundation of society as being based on the singular individual and not on generalities and the collective at large. They therefore pointed out, that the individual is incomprehensible and therefore unique. Stirner’s dialectical egoism is not used for the purpose to fit the individual inside a comprehensible dialectical philosophy through which the unique one can be explained — ‘‘In fact the unique one can never be explained’’ as Stirner well remarked in ‘‘Stirner’s Critics’’ when he says,

‘‘The unique is a word, and everyone should always be able to think something when he uses a word; a word should have thought content. But the unique is a thoughtless word; it has no thought content. So then what is its content, if it is not thought? It is content that cannot exist a second time and so also cannot be expressed, because if it could be expressed, actually and wholly expressed, it would exist for a second time; it would exist in the “expression.” Since the content of the unique is not thought content, the unique cannot be thought or said; but since it cannot be said, it, this perfect phrase, is not even a phrase. 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 (human, spirit, christian, etc.). But the unique doesn’t say anything because it is merely a name: it says only that you are you and nothing but you, that you are a unique you, or rather your self. Therefore, you have no attribute, but with this you are at the same time without determination, vocation, laws, etc.’’[1]

In this quotation we observe how Stirner clearly marks out how the unique one cannot be expressed into word, because it has no content and therefore by definition it is ‘‘Nothing’’ and when nothing is said about you, therefore nothing can be expressed about you. Only when something is said about you, is there something comprehensible that can be expressed — like Christian, Socialist or Liberal, Muslim and the like — yet these things which are comprehensible are often than not idealist illusions or spooks. The Illusion is a deceiver — an acute liar, the illusion can be expressed as that which is comprehensible, while the reality of one’s own uniqueness is treated as that which cannot be expressed. We live in a world where idealism, where the tarot cards, where Gods, Spirits and haunted houses are more believable than the truth of our own material corporeal body. That which is false is comprehensible, that which is true is incomprehensible as the unique one. The Unique one cannot be expressed, yet Stirner still needed to find a particular word in order to express this reality and that’s how he came up with the term, the ‘‘Unique one’’ — that which cannot be expressed in words, nor can be explained systematically.

Therefore, this becomes slightly confusing — Why would we use a dialectical system on the incomprehensible? Why would we a dialectics that’s sole purpose is to make sense of things on that which is senseless or (incomprehensible)? The only reason we are using dialectics is as a means to illustrate the dialectic’s own weakness to deal with the incomprehensible, to show the dialectic’s imperfections. In the following essay which I wrote called, ‘‘The Principles of Egoism’’ — I present the reader with a Genealogy of the idlers and egoists throughout the different stages of history, through tribal society, the ancient world, feudalism and the middle ages, throughout the industrial revolution and beyond. Engels in his principles of communism highlights how the industrial proletariat is a direct result of the industrial revolution which implies that the industrial proletariat has not always existed — the reason for this answer is because Engels believes in the dialectics and therefore he’s using a systematic system to understand the comprehensible — the proletariat is a comprehensible figure and can be explained to the dialectic, but a human being is much more than a simple laborer, he is unique. The main feature of a human being is his uniqueness, the fact that he is a proletarian is merely an ‘‘attribute’’ of the human being — for instance we say a person is ‘‘Unique’’ this is his main feature, or his ‘‘Incomprehensible unique essence’’, but the fact that this unique one has ‘‘blue eyes, likes to eat cereal, is a proletariat or is a bourgeoisie is totally an ‘‘attribute’’ — some of these attributes can be added unto the unique essence in order to create a newer uniqueness of the person, but generally the attributes are illusions, those attributes on the other hand that are owned by the egoist as property are made a part of his reality.

Therefore Hegel, Marx and Engels utilize the dialectics on the attributes of humanity, on society at large, on state, on religion, on the fact that a human being is a laborer. All these things are comprehensible and are therefore spooks, the dialectic can be applied to these attributes without a problem. Engels in principle of communism therefore could outline the history of the attributes of the laborer throughout the different stages of society, and Engels notes that there are differences in the ‘‘attribute’’ of laborer throughout the different stages of history, just as genetically blue eyes as attributes of human beings developed through evolution in different stages of history. However, what would happen if we apply the dialectical process to the main unique essence of the unique one? Would we notice that egoists are wholly changed from one stage of history to another? Is the egoist in feudalism any different from the egoist in capitalism and communism?

The answer to this question is quite simply ‘‘No’’ — the egoist or rather the unique one never changes throughout the different stages of history. Whether you are unique in feudalism or unique in capitalism, the result will always be the same — the fact that you are unique will always remain the same, the simple fact that ‘‘My power is my property. My power gives me property. My power am I myself, and through it am I my property.’’[2] Remains constant and rings true whether it’s in tribal society, feudalism, capitalism or socialism. The conditions of society matter not — the unique will remain unique, meanwhile the proletariat will change according to the conditions of society. Therefore, in conclusion, the proletariat changes in accordance with society, while the unique one always remains unique regardless to the changes in societies. Therefore, one can immediately note how at first glance the dialectics immediately fails when confronted with the unique one — because unlike the attributes of humanity which experience dialectical motion, which ‘‘change’’ in accordance to history, the essence of the unique one remains the same and is likewise not effected by the motion of dialectical processes.

Even if we apply the dialectics to the unique one, even if there are ‘‘Alterations’’ to the unique one, this will merely add unto the unique’s one’s uniqueness and therefore the result will still remain the same — that one is unique. It is true — the dialectics can be applied to the unique — the unique one is also in flux and motion like every other thing in the world, like the whole universe that is constantly motioning and changing, however the only difference is, that the unique essence of things does not change, what changes are its attributes. The child can change in his physical attributes and grow up to become an adult, but the fact that he is unique from childhood until his death, — perhaps even beyond death remains constant, remains unchanged.

Do Stirner and the Egoists therefore see ‘‘Progression’’ in society like Hegel and Marx. The answer is ‘‘No’’ — While Marx and Engels saw modern society as those who have progressed and saw ancient societies as a bit ‘‘Backwards’’ — Stirner sees no progression at all from one society to another, because the unique one remains unchanged throughout the rest of world history. In fact, Stirner affirms this clearly when he says, ‘‘we are perfect altogether! For we are, every moment, all that we can be; and we never need be more.’’[3] — It seems to the average reader that this quotation is addressing the fact that we aren’t born with original sin and that therefore we are perfect. I believe that this quotation is a lot more, I believe that what Stirner also means in this passage is that the unique one is perfect — not in the sense that he has attained an ideal perfection, but in the sense that we are all we can possibly be in the present, and we need never be more, that being said in the future, which will become the ‘‘present’’ — we will yet become all we can possibly become in this ‘‘new present’’ but we cannot speak of perfect self-mastery of the self in the past — because the past is dead and the future is yet to form.

We can only speak of being all that we can possibly be in our ‘‘Now-time’’ or the present. This means a roman living in the Roman Empire was all he could possibly be in his present time, while a Christian living in the middle ages is all he could possibly be in his time and likewise in our present time, the same applies. According to egoists therefore, there is no progression insofar as we are unique in essence, the only thing that seems to progress is our ‘‘attributes’’ — like the productive forces of society that change with time — of course these productive forces do not change of their own volition and freedom, but change always in retrospect to the unique one’s essence. We may do a little inversion of Marx’s statement in ‘‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’’ in his remarkable phrase that ‘‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.’’ — Marx here is dealing with the history of the attribute of the proletariat, because Marx like all communists views the human being as a laborer and not as a unique one. If we decide to invert Marx’s communist statement on history and turn his message into an egoist one, we could write something like, ‘‘The productive forces, society, capitalism, state, religion and the like develop throughout history, but they do not develop as they place; they do not develop under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the essence of unique ones.’’ — this is because the productive forces as an attribute require the secondary attribute of the laborer — because if the laborer does not exist neither can the productive forces, likewise the attribute of being a laborer leads back to our essence as unique ones, — if the unique ones did not exist, if therefore individuals did not exist, neither can the laborer and to an extension neither can the productive forces and society at large exists — everything depends on the unique individual to which without, everything would have been impossible to exist.

Whether we like it or not therefore, the individual is of himself a world’s history, like Stirner proclaims nearing the ending of his book, ‘‘That the individual is of himself a world’s history, and possesses his property in the rest of the world’s history’’[4] Therefore world history is not society or collectives or the development of the productive forces — these are merely attributes that develop only insofar as the individual exists. The theologian like Saint Aquinas would have said, ‘‘That God is the prime mover’’ — everything depends on God for existence — meanwhile for Spinoza God is the prime essence, everything else that appears different is merely an attribute. For Stirner who has done away with God, the prime mover is the individual. This does not mean to say that egoists worship the ‘‘individual’’, because for us the individual is ‘‘empty’’ — how can we possibly worship that which is empty? — Therefore, nothingness is a prime mover of that which we call ‘‘something’’ and the individual is the prime mover of that which we call society. According to Marx, individuals are not free to choose their circumstances in which they live in — but I believe that he is incorrect, — If Marx wants to prove himself correct, then he must direct me to the sentient being that selects these conditions for me, I cannot possibly believe that society itself as something separate from the individual can create conditions for the individual because in reality the individual creates the conditions of society and vice versa, the conditions of society become the conscious ego of the masses and become representative of the masses. It is only then, that the mass collective consciousness of society starts to create conditions for the individual which oppress him. First the individual create society, then individuals get together in the form of collectives, and they therefore become the masses. The masses create their own system and impose it on the individualists. This is because the masses have become involuntary egoists through their own actions, while those that resist against the consciousness of the masses, are conscious and voluntary egoists.

The Unique one whether conscious or unconscious remains unique throughout all stages of history. As we remarked before, the unique one remains unchanged. In my next essay in this book called ‘‘principles of Egoism’’, I also highlight the dialectical movement of the idlers in society in juxtaposition to the workers. The Bourgeoisie, Kings, Emperors, Dictators, Proletariat, Egoists — everyone is ‘‘Unique’’ — however everyone has different roles at different stages of society. There are roles that are better suited to expressing one’s uniqueness in the world and for me, the most perfect role in society to become a truly free unique one is precisely being an ‘‘idler’’ or what today we call a ‘‘Lumpen Proletariat’’. The Unique one is our incomprehensible essence, while our qualities or attributes are malleable. The proletariat as an attribute in history changes in each stage of history, because the laborer has to relate to the mode of production. The mode of production under feudalism differs from the mode of production found in industrial capitalism — therefore the laborer in feudalism familiarize himself with the fields and the productive forces of the feudal age, while the industrial proletariat in capitalism had to relate to a whole different mode of production, with new industrial productive forces and machinery. We have characterized the proletariat as an ‘‘attribute of the human being’’ — therefore the question must be asked, ‘‘Is the Idler in society an attribute like the proletariat or an unchangeable essence like the unique one?’’ — I have gambled with this question myself and I have come to the conclusion that the answer is ‘‘Both’’ — Unlike the proletariat who has to relate to different modes of production per each stage in history, the idler simply idles in the same mode of leisure in all stages of history. Idleness remains idleness throughout and the way people relax their physical body will always be the same, that being said, in modern capitalism we have modern comforts which where didn’t exist in feudalism and tribal society etc. We must also point out that people have unique bodies and that therefore the degree in which people leisure will differ from one individual to another. Secondly the idler is also part of our essence because all human beings leisure, if you gave a human the ability to leisure for the rest of his life, he would do so without a problem, if you gave a human the ability to labor all his life without rest, the human would end up dead. Henceforth, leisure is part of our biological and natural psyche, while labor is not necessarily part of our psyche but rather a necessity for survival. Labor is something we do ‘‘Outside ourselves’’ — we produce things outside of our internal body, we produce things outside in the world externally, therefore ‘‘labor’’ cannot possibly make part of our essence, nor can it make part of our corporeal body.

The experience of labor is certainly internal, but the experience and the actual act of labor do not mix together, they are wholly different things. Meanwhile being idle, at rest and in leisure is an internal activity, and therefore it makes part of our essence as unique ones. We leisure ‘‘Inside ourselves’’ — it is not possible to ‘‘Leisure outside ourselves’’ — on the other hand, we labor and produce ‘‘Outside ourselves’’ — it is not possible to produce and labor ‘‘inside ourselves’’. The experience of labor and the act of labor are two separate things, but in direct opposing contradictions — and this is again when we can see the ‘‘Dialectics at play’’ — the experience of leisure and the act of leisure are both experienced internally simultaneously.

We all have unique means of ‘‘Idleness’’ and that is why I say that idleness makes a part of our essence as unique ones, meanwhile ‘‘labor’’ is all the same everywhere, if you put Worker A on a factory machine and you put Worker B on the same factory machine later on, they will both carry on the same labor in the same fashion and manner, therefore we cannot possibly imply that their labor is the ‘‘same’’ — This issue can be resolved by communism, that wants to abolish the division of labor, that gives freedom to individuals to pursue labor in their own fashion. Therefore, under communism, labor starts to take a more ‘‘idle form’’ — labor starts to slowly transform itself into idleness and take on the features of idleness unto itself. This is because communist society will be overtaken by the egoist idlers, and therefore dialectically labor will start to shift gradually into idleness, and that is the reason why labor starts to take more ‘‘idle qualities’’ until eventually it will no longer be labor, but it will become idleness in its fullness.

Work in communism starts to become more pleasurable and as a result more diverse, the more leisurely labor becomes, the less labor it will actually be, and the more idle it will become, until we have achieved peak idleness and labor itself becomes abolished. Therefore, this proves that ‘‘Labor’’ itself in communism doesn’t become ‘‘unique essence’’ like idleness, but rather labor under communism starts to appropriate the idle features to become itself idleness. Labor therefore is an ‘‘attribute’’, while Idleness is both an ‘‘attribute and part of the unique one’s essence’’ — as labor in communism appropriates the features of idleness, it will cease to remain an attribute and it will add unto the essence of the unique one. Once all individuals become idle in an egoist world, idleness itself also ceases to be an attribute, because idleness at this stage will presumably remain the same. Idleness is only an attribute in so far as it changes in different stages of society, for instance idleness in tribal society, feudalism and capitalism are all different, but in a world that is fully egoist and fully unique, idleness ceases to be an attribute and becomes part and parcel of the unique one’s identity.

Final Clarification: ‘‘The unique one although we say is unchangeable is always ‘‘Transient’’, and also changeable, this may be paradoxical, but the unique one also undergoes changes like everything else, but these changes do not change the quality of the unique one, because whatever change the unique one undergoes, the unique one will always remain unique, meanwhile the laborer as a peasant in feudalism undergoes a qualitative change in capitalism by becoming the industrial proletariat’’

Summary: ‘‘Before jumping into the dialectics of egoism, we have clarified that, the unique one is a paradox, it changes but the result remains unchangeable, no matter how much change the unique undergoes, it still remains unique. Secondly, we remarked how often the spooks of society are often attributes that change with time, while our essence as unique individuals generally does not. Attributes experience change throughout history, but our essence doesn’t. While the communists see progression in attributes of human beings, the egoist sees no progression whatsoever, because the individual will always be at his highest peak during the course of his life no matter in which historical period the individual lived. The Ego is not absolute but rather a transient ego, an ego that is in flux, but also unchanging in it’s unique factor. The Idler is both an attribute and part of our essence, the idler is an attribute because we relate to different societies across history and we have different technologies that enable us to idle in different ways. Meanwhile being idle is part of our essence as human beings because it is an internal act taking place inside our corporeal body, meanwhile the act of labor takes place outside our corporeal body. The act of leisure is therefore part of our unique essence, while labor is merely an attribute. Idleness will cease to become an attribute in the egoist age after communism, when finally all people can idle in freedom, and when the mode of idleness or the way we relate to idleness will not change anymore.

Idler — Both part of our Essence as unique ones and an attribute of human beings that develops in history

Labor — An attribute that develops in history

Labor in communism — Work in communism will start to resemble idleness because it will be different kind of work per each individual, therefore leisure and work start to become more compatible with each other. As labor appropriates the features of idleness, it will gradually be abolished or rather be transformed into idleness itself.

Idleness in post-communist egoism — After Egoism takes over communism, Idleness loses it’s attribute features that it has carried across history, — idleness no longer changes as an attribute. In past systems, idleness had to change from one form to another, from the idle philosopher of the ancient world, to the idle monastic of the christian in feudalism, and to the lumpen proletariat under capitalism and to the idler in communism. In egoism, the idler ceases to change, unless there is something that goes ‘‘Beyond Egoism’’ itself, but this for now seems rather impossible, because egoism as it stands today is as radical as it gets — nothing more seems even possible. Since it is apparent that there are no more phases for the world to go through after egoism, therefore the idle will most likely not change in relation to idleness, of course always taking into account, that every individual idles in different ways.

In my egoist hypothesis, I hypothesize that communist society will meet it’s end and become transformed into an egoist union and when this happens, idleness will cease being transformed and will become directly part of our corporeal essence as unique ones. Finally, the dialectics can be applied to egoism, but the result will always be the same, the unique one, his property and the creative nothing. The dialectics cannot lock egoism in a box or a system, but can be used to help us do away with the dialectical system itself and introduce a system of paradox, the transformation of the dialectician into a ‘‘paradoxician’’ — For me, that is what Max Stirner has accomplished.

[1] Stirner’s Critics

[2] Ego and Its Own

[3] The Ego and Its own

[4] Ego and Its own

I am a platformist anarcho-communist, a writer and student of political philosophy, specifically on anarchism.