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Journal of the History of Ideas 46 (4):597 (1985)
From its first appearance in 1844, Max Stirner’s major work, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum , has produced little agreement among its many interpreters. The very first of these interpreters was Friedrich Engels, who suggested that Stirner’s doctrines would be quite compatible with Benthamite utilitarianism, which he then admired, and even saw in these doctrines the potential of benefiting communism. Marx, in short order, corrected this optimistic deviation, and then—with a surely repentant Engels—set forth the orthodox gospel for all future generations of communists: Stirner, or “Sankt Max,” was but the speculative spokesman for the petty bourgeois, a decadent Hegelian boasting over the unrestraint of his self inflated ego. Sidney Hook echoed Marx when he condemned Stirner’s work as but the “social defense mechanism of a petty bourgeois soul.” Others, unsatisfied with this “petty” status, elevate him to that of the Grand Bourgeois, or Fascist. Still others, taking an opposite stance, see in Stirner the most articulate defender of individual liberty. In between, he has been called a nihilist, an anarchist, an existentialist, a solipsist, an anti Benthamite, an intemperate capitalist, or—as we might now suspect—an anti capitalist. At least two commentators, lost in the confusion, have managed to escape the need to classify Stirner within the ongoing political and ethical categories and simply declare him to be insane. In short, the list of radically diverse interpretations..
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