Note: Later on I will add material from both Bakunin and Stirner (and perhaps others) into the work. This functions as a preliminary draft of my main points.
It was reading segments of Max Stirner’s The Ego and Its Own that got me to commit to Anarchism, when previously I was simply a non-sectarian Socialist and before that a Marxist, so some may find it strange that just several months afterwards I sharply criticize Stirner’s philosophy. It must be done however, for I have more-and-more begun to see ties between his and Nietzsche’s thought with the Right-wing Libertarians, particularly Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick. Mainly in having no consideration for the ills of society, and instead complain about a lack of personal freedom in the most extreme way – how quaint. Nozick and Rand make it quite plain they believe that the idea of moral obligation, that we should help others and create an atmosphere of healthy psychological and intellectual development is secondary if a consideration at-all. For them, Negative Liberty is all one needs, completely ignoring if not shunning the idea that Man is a material creature and morality must conform to scientific and materialist law. This type of Moral Nihilism shows itself to the sharpest degree in Stirner, for he explicitly states that not only the Government’s laws and societies current conventions are artificial and not axiomatically rational or worthy of obedience (which is the point of the Ancient Greek Cynics who deserve praise) but instead all standards and considerations of ethics, rights, and things that would attempt to sway the individual outside an utterly Rational Egoist framework (arguing with the individual to act out of his material or psychological self-interest) are “specters” as he calls them (ironic considering his middle name is Kaspar).
Not only is this irrational for it has no scientific grounding, but it lacks rationality for lacking universalizability – becoming nothing but whim worship. He claims ethics are artificial, yet numerous psychological studies will show basic ethical norms are hardwired into human beings, not only this, but if ethics were completely behavioral, they would still have their rational and utilitarian grounding in being necessary for safe, just, harmonious and meaningful lives. The Stirnerist could claim that murders would be “brought to justice” (whatever that would mean in a Egoist society, for there would be no concern for rehabilitation for improving of the guilty's condition, for there would be no consideration of the increase of welfare in any society along the ideology of Stirner, Rand or Nozick – therefore the freedom, psychology and material opportunity of all would be diminished) because they would out of self-interest not want to see themselves be murdered, raped or burglarized. Much crime however happens out of personal troubles of the soul, and it is completely reasonable to assume that a man who kills out of petty vengeance or jealousy may not kill again for years if ever again. Therefore unless A) A detective is motivated out of self-interest (a need to feel important or the thrill of the chase and the mental stimulation of the puzzle) or B) there is evidence that crime shall be committed again and with any random person (the Rational Egoist will pursue the murderer regardless of whether or not he is murdering indiscriminately in the first example – though in the first example only if his interest is peaked – while in the second example his own life or those he is concerned about must be potentially affected) will the Stirnerist attempt to protect himself and in doing so the community he lives in. While even someone like myself or others in the Materialist-Determinist camp that no one is the moral author of their actions, and therefore should never be punished will wish to seek justice for both the good of the community and for attention to be brought to the tortured soul who could commit such a heinous crime – punishment is unacceptable but removal from the community is to clarify, though I argue this point in various other essays of mine so I will abstain from doing so here.
It becomes more frightening and flirts with moral chaos far-faster than one could suppose. Stirner argues that a “Union of Egoists” that is not a society of socially-invested individuals (Social Anarchism) but instead a conflagration of self-interested individuals who would in theory protect another man’s rights not out of the Golden Rule, but out of the self-interest I referred to earlier in the murder-and-detective example. This however would easily deteriorate into another class-based society, if not race and sex-based as well. In fact it is the real expression of this Moral Nihilism that connects Stirner to Nietzsche, who despite his better elements such as criticizing religion and authority loves the very essence and utmost appearance of the hierarchical system, which is domination and annihilation of human potential for the short-term gains of few.
People could and would, giving a complete lack of consideration for the rights and health of others, unionize to do whatever is necessary to maintain power and influence over other people’s lives, including creating constructs of ideologies and lies that pass for the world religions, political theory and economic practices – and such has been the history of our species. The Stirnerists would say that most human beings would not be willing to go through the effort to control others; a “willing egoist” is someone who would do anything to secure his or her own desires and a “unwilling egoist” is someone with a notion of morality or higher purpose and value in life and would need to be given ideological and cultural rationalizations to steady his or her hand lest it shake through conscious – but both are clearly capable of defiling and destroying his brother and in the process himself given the proper motivation exterior or personal. However, the fact that most are as Stirner calls them unwilling or involuntary egoists confirms that morality is either something that is innate in birth or is something that people are unwilling to abandon for various reasons but one of them being that it is something that has served them and our species.
Bakunin’s Collectivist Anarchism is the counter-point to Stirner and the most rational expression of both political ideology and sociological and ethical questions of human development and expression of moral obligation that I have seen. He points out that no man is an island upon himself. That we cannot function without others and we are indebted to them for their sacrifices as they are in some way or another indebted to us. Be this servitude to others is not a burden when it is done out of love either out of the thing-in-itself or that which benefits from one’s services. Parenthood is not considered indentured service to a loving parent, despite moments of frustration and perhaps even doubt. His ethics are not only sound in-regards to reason, but to the growth and happiness of our species. The Capitalist and the Statesmen are those who steal and burden humanity, in-fact damn humanity collectively rather than giving and allowing human beings to use their natural skills and intelligence to grow and aid others in growth and flourishing.
We are material beings, and this is not a curse but a blessing; it is this nature of communal necessity of our brothers and sisters that the Right-wing Libertarians lack an understanding of or a visceral realization or expression of utterly. It is a rare soul who is Stirner’s “Willing Egoist” one who sees his brother cold and hungry in the street and turns his shoulder to him solely out of lack of desire to help him. Most of us still feel some moral pangs, and need to rationalize either personally (“I’ll help him some other time,” “I already do so much for someone else” etc) or politically or ideologically (“lazy bum should just get a job, and stop mooching my tax-payer dollars,” “probably a drug-addict, he knew what he was doing; it’s his fault he is where he is” etc) and this is both a sign we are still in some way good people, but also exposes how we have either internalized the selfishness of Right-wing Capitalist culture, or (more-likely, though the other is a factor as well) are willing to take on a small amount of guilt to spare us from helping others, either out of miserliness or a fear of the rawness that comes through helping another human being in a time of need; we often fear to experience this “rawness” because we have been burned in the past, or have been conditioned to follow the directives of a Liberal Democracy (not getting involved in society, instead simply buying cheap products, voting and returning to one’s private domicile to be protected from the realities of the world both foreign and domestic).
The argument that everything is a matter of Ego (though I take his point that in a sense much is, though that does nothing to invalidate acts of altruism) is made only by those who have never experienced a form of compassion for others so profound, that to do good for their sake seems so simply and clearly the only important thing one could do in this life. Ego does play into much of what is claimed to be acts of selflessness, and is the motivation in all-likelihood by the most self-righteous, but there is a quiet yet powerful form of love and caring for others that transcends all forms of Egoism. The view that all actions, even self-sacrifice while experiencing this kind of compassion I describe, is at its core a type of Psychological Egoism is absurd both due-to a lack of evidence and from becoming utterly meaningless. Stirner would want us to believe that because all actions are inherently selfish that there is no moral difference between hoarding food and feeding the poor; this cheap rationalization to save the conscious of those who are petty, miserly, and suffer from various psychological problems if not being mentally ill (in the case of Ayn Rand who is the by-the-book definition of a Narcissist).
To summarize, though Individualist Anarchism has had a fair standing in-regards to support of Free Love and homosexual rights, it is the intellectual and political manifestation of some of the most childish aspects of our nature. Social Anarchists understand the basic and simple truth that one has the right to do with their body and mind as they wish (the Non-Aggression Principle) but further their attack on Government, Liberal society and religion by exposing the material conditions that create people who will submit and allow the freedoms that Individual Anarchists care about to be taken from them, along with more important freedoms, like the right to work within a economic democratic framework. Ennobling selfishness as some grand ideal, and failing to both understand Man’s material nature and be an outlet of any type of warmth or psychological health, Egoist Anarchy and its counterpart Right-wing Libertarianism in some ways are far darker than even Conservatism and the Christian-Right, while in some ways have been embraced by them either out of agreement or to further their own causes. For no matter how different they may appear or are, those who would have us in chains, those who would commit the ultimate sin of reducing the material and social conditions of society and reducing much of us and our potential experiences and phenomenogical states of being (which is the ultimate indicator in ethics both in terms of motivations and results) to either miserable wretches or cheap and cowardly knock-offs of what they could be are always good bed-fellows for evil.