All Things are Nothing to Me
Max Stirner’s "The Unique and Its Property" (1844) is the first ruthless critique of modern society.
Max Stirner’s The Unique and Its Property (1844) is the first ruthless critique of modern society. In All Things are Nothing to Me, Jacob Blumenfeld reconstructs the unique philosophy of Max Stirner (1806–1856), a figure that strongly influenced—for better or worse—Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Emma Goldman as well as numerous anarchists, feminists, surrealists, illegalists, existentialists, fascists, libertarians, dadaists, situationists, insurrectionists and nihilists of the last two centuries.
Misunderstood, dismissed, and defamed, Stirner’s work is considered by some to be the worst book ever written. It combines the worst elements of philosophy, politics, history, psychology, and morality, and ties it all together with simple tautologies, fancy rhetoric, and militant declarations. That is the glory of Max Stirner’s unique footprint in the history of philosophy.
Jacob Blumenfeld wanted to exhume this dead tome along with its dead philosopher, but discovered instead that, rather than deceased, their spirits are alive and quite well, floating in our presence. All Things are Nothing to Me is a forensic investigation into how Stirner has stayed alive throughout time.
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Even people who have been grappling with Stirner’s work and its implications for quite some time will find new insights, new challenges, and, one hopes, new weapons on reading it. ~ Matty Groves, The Anvil
In his ambitious study, Blumenfeld attempts to revive Stirner’s ghost once more in two regards: he wants to actualise Stirner both as a philosopher to be taken seriously and as a contemporary point of interest for both anarchist and Marxist purposes, a theoretician of contemporary political resistance against postmodern capitalism exactly because he might overcome the split between these two traditions. Blumenfeld undertakes this from an explicitly Stirnerian point of view: he does not want to save Stirner by making any concessions to his critiques and yet he attempts to make Stirner as strong as possible in order to show that it is Stirner’s opponents who are to make the concessions. This radical gesture – a very Stirnerian one in itself –makes Blumenfeld’s book a valuable resource for anyone interested in philosophy and/or political theory. Blumenfeld succeeds in convincing the reader that Stirner is a critical philosopher for our time, impressively refuting the standard claims against him, but without hesitating to criticize him as well. ~ Paul Stephan, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books
Max Stirner is the bad boy, the black sheep of post-Hegelian philosophy. Often derided and dismissed, his philosophy of ‘egoism’ and his powerful critique of the ‘spooks’ of modernity have continued to resonate with those who are at odds with the world around them. In this brilliant book, Blumenfeld discovers that the ghosts of Stirner are alive and well, and that his message of nothingness and indifference speaks particularly to us today, living as we do at the end of history. Yet, as this book shows, rather than being the nihilist he is often characterised as, Stirner guides us along the path of a new ethical and political sensibility based on singularity rather than identity – something urgently needed today. Blumenfeld’s original and heretical reading shows Stirner’s undoubted contemporary relevance. ~ Saul Newman, Goldsmiths University
Max Stirner has been presented in many ways, but never as a punk rock philosopher. This is a refreshing take on a highly controversial thinker. ~ Gabriel Kuhn, author of Anarchismus und Revolution
Stirner argued that thoughts can and should be violently appropriated and made our own, if they are to be of any use. This is what Jacob Blumenfeld does in this book: provide an interpretation of Stirner’s philosophy that can make it truly our own. In doing so, not only does he illuminate neglected aspects of Stirner’s philosophy, but, most importantly, make it breath and palpitate for our times. ~ Chiara Bottici, New School for Social Research
We think we have the measure of Stirner’s egoism: it is too tempting to dismiss it as a provocation whose political upshot is either reactionary libertarianism or infantile anarchism. Whether anarchist or libertarian in temper, Stirner’s egoism is assumed to be inimical to Marx’s communism. Jacob Blumenfeld’s dazzling reconstruction of Stirner’s philosophy overthrows this received wisdom. Blumenfeld does not just interpret Stirner’s thought; he appropriates it, thereby exemplifying its most radical injunction. In Blumenfeld’s memorable formulation, Stirner’s egoism is communism seen from the first person singular perspective. But the perspective of the singular is precisely what nullifies the bourgeois subject. Far from sanctifying the individual, Stirner seeks to unleash the nihilating power of the unique beyond the ego. This annihilating power follows from the unique’s productive consumption of every property, including itself. The point is not to replace the sovereignty of the state with that of the individual but to bring about a union of singularities capable of annulling “the thing-like quality of the world”, together with the phantoms of self, society, state, and God. Blumenfeld’s Stirner is the precursor of contemporary insurrectionists and secessionists, but one who refuses to subordinate insurrection to community or secession to identity. The result is an anarchist who subverts the elevation of groundlessness into another law and a separatist who destroys the ontological grounds of separation. What is generated through the union of the uncommon is communism as what Marx called the “fraternization of impossibilities." ~ Ray Brassier, author of Nihil Unbound