On Fad Egoism
The philosophical-political fad of Egoism continues to attract dozens of post-leftists with lost identities. Unlike the usual niche anarchist post-leftist tendency egoism is an interesting assertion of ideology on the most basic structures of humanity. Through veiled truisms it idealistically destroys the foundations of scientific socialism, so it is worth an analysis.
I will be referencing What is Egoism? by Tadano as it describes the clearest issues of the modern ideology and its advocates, whether applied correctly or not.
A Misunderstanding of Biology — What is Egoism?
Everyone around us has an ego for which, Max Stirner understood that we all have a drive to serve ourselves and the I, the self. This philosophical observation is also often seen in the sciences, as any serious scientist studying in the field of psychology or zoology can tell you that humans act for their own self-interest. It is then asked, is altruism a case against egoism? The answer is no, for which even Stirner argues that even altruism is a form of egoism on its own. Stirner said that altruism and cooperation — and even community — is made because it serves our ego in a way. Why do we work with other people? For our own interests. This is the meat and flesh of egoism, it’s not at all complicated.
The egoist claims the mind as self-evident but goes one step further: it is self evident we must serve the mind. We all are driven to serve our spooked (socially influenced) self and our real self — our “ego”. The egoist follows the path of Kropotkin in studying the biological world, although with no knowledge of the fields they speak of they quickly lose themselves. They wash away unfalsifiable pseudo-scientific claims as common of a knowledge, as much to the scientist as to the peasant: man is a selfish creature.
By admission of the writer themselves, can altruism be proven? Of course not. Sure, I might donate all my money to an orphanage, but it selfishly felt good. Sure, I might throw myself on a live grenade to protect the regiment, but I selfishly expect my comrades in arms to do the same for me. “Altruism is a form of egoism in its own”. This claim is supported as self-evident; while being infallible we can clearly see the ideology behind this interpretation rather than any systemic truth. We only need to look at nature, human and animal, as the egoist is so quick to jump to. As Kropotkin evidenced in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, mutual aid is a governing force of every social animal:
Even such harsh animals as the rats, which continually fight in our cellars, are sufficiently intelligent not to quarrel when they plunder our larders, but to aid one another in their plundering expeditions and migrations, and even to feed their invalids.
One wonders if rats are egoists as well and act for their own self-interests while feeding their fallen comrades. This basic trait isn’t lost in humans, like it has assisted all animal societies in their survival it inevitably has influenced human society as well.
The mutual-aid tendency in man has so remote an origin, and is so deeply interwoven with all the past evolution of the human race, that it has been maintained by mankind up to the present time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history.
Mutual aid is simply a factor of evolution, as much as a prey’s instinct to flee from the predator. I could easily argue from this that animals are inherently altruistic, after all, no matter what species animals will, to their damage, share their resources in mutual aid. Even more, to their damage they will reproduce, sacrificing their lives to the benefit of their and other’s children rather than themselves. Elephants protect the youngest by placing them in the centre of the herd while under attack. If you were to ask me “what about when an elephant acts selfishly?” I would simply tell you yes, they do act selfishly, but they do so only in favour of others: how could they possibly help their clan if they themselves aren’t in full force?
If one wishes to apply a perspective of altruistic or self interest to humans and animals, he can do so without the worry of ever being proven wrong. However, to claim it is inherent to the human condition and not a retroactive assertion of ideology is pseudo-scientific, “Stirner said that altruism and cooperation — and even community — is made because it serves our ego in a way” exemplifies this, our egoist’s interpretation of Stirner would apply these factors, which exist even in animal societies with no or limited concept of the self, to the service of ego.
Stirner is not a capitalist, he was an anarchist in nature, even if he hasn’t outright said it, and a socialist especially. He especially does not believe in “private property” nor even normal “property,” at all. He puts in his book, that property has to be fought for, harshly to be owned, you cannot own a property (personal or private), without violence. One cannot own a property by simply saying, “this is mine!” — by which stirner then observes, that property is fought for in violence, the violence of the state, and the bourgeoisie.
[Quoting Stirner] We two, the State and I, are enemies. I, the egoist, have not at heart the welfare of this ‘human society,’ I sacrifice nothing to it, I only utilize it; but to be able to utilize it completely I transform it rather into my property and my creature; i. e., I annihilate it, and form in its place the Union of Egoists.
To make things simple to understand, egoists believe that we have all an innate ego that we can activate at any time, an ego that works for a self-interest that does not bow down to any spook or false idea that statists and/or liberals will throw down on you. An ego that loves all egos, while obliterating all that stands away or harm egos, i.e. Spooks, in which we will talk about in a second.
The egoist remains a Utopian socialist and here their idealism presents itself first in this “innate” ego we all have. Our mind would tell us to oppose these poltergeists, if only we were to press that button to switch it on. Utopia is on the verge of the masses acting selfishly and selfishly loving others, while refusing and actively opposing all of human society. The ego should only unite for its selfish interests in a union of egoists, through which one ego can own society. Therefore the liberal state and its violence is the only thing standing between the egoist and egoism as such.
A Failure of Material Reality — What is a Spook?
A spook is a social construct, an abstract concept made up by society with no material basis — an immaterial spirit, a figment of the imagination.
The egoist mistakes material social constructs for simply imaginary concepts. Religion, nationalism, morality — these may be metaphysical concepts in a vacuum, imaginary thoughts, but have a solid basis in reality, the real relationships of men. Society too is imaginary, there is no force of society, yet our imagination is only an extension of our individual and social self, society is the sum of all individual actions. These form the existing relations for the necessities of a society, and our imagination is born out of our social consciousness through it, influencing society back in turn, it can never reach more than its developments at any given time of history. Their base and influence is not a mere thought, but the material conditions that form a society: collaboration, struggle, exchange — labour. A medieval peasant couldn’t imagine individualism and apply it in its modern forms. This fact alone does not destroy the spook, but admission of this would turn the spook from a ghastly apparition into a historical event. Consequently, spooks are not something which can be removed from the mind. Spooks form the mind like any other material influence. Society shapes the mind as much as the womb, all egos are “spooked”, the human species is a social being and inherently derives its self from its social, material, reality. All that we are, we develop not out of some mystical ego within us but from our essence foremost and progressively our social experience, whether a rejection of their contradictions or in their support, their unique economic necessities and derived superstructure: culture, religion, language, etc.
All spooks are created by humanity, usually for political power and purposes, to keep down ego, and to keep down the freedom of the individual, to disallow the free association of individuals, to prevent the exploration of our ego!
The oppression of the ego seems a favourite sport of the ruling class. The stars aligned thousands of years ago and determined the oppressors of ego would be in power. In reality, social constructs are created by society to their survival like all other concepts of reality; for the state, the principle culprit of ego’s suppression, Engels described its origin in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State:
The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it ’the reality of the ethical idea’, ’the image and reality of reason’, as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ’order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.
The state was not born by some will of evil men to exploit political power against the ego of the majority, the material economic organisation of society formed certain social relations, which necessitated order in the form of the state.
I hate capitalism ’cause it’s spooked, right? But I don’t like the spooked way socialism is promoted and enforced. This can be seen in the ultranationalism of the USSR or DPRK, the obligation, the duty, to build socialism, not because of an inner egoist desire, but because, “it’s for the motherland! ’Cause I said so!” Now continue working under state owned property. No, I want socialism not ’cause it’s for “a greater cause;” I want socialism so I can really do whatever I want! Like, play League of Legends all day! Or having intense gay sex with no risk of economic collapse due to medical bills! Or to make whatever weird wood statues I can make, just because!
The self-defeating idealistic attitudes of egoism present socialism as an elite class, a force of reaction against capitalism, party officials annoyed that they aren’t on top (and equally preoccupied with your sexual positions). This is a misunderstanding of socialism foremost, and consequently the Soviet state. Socialism is “promoted and enforced” out of the historical product, I personally would appreciate socialism coming to be by the ego alone, although preferably better games than LoL, as is the idealist’s dreams. Revolution is not the wish of the vanguard elite as is implied, it’s the necessity of the proletariat’s emancipation. And that is the keyword for the proletarian movement, its emancipation: full freedom to all members. It does not wish to establish a new ruling class as it did in mentioned states, its historic goal is to abolish class. Social change doesn’t happen out of a tantrum for one’s ego to be appreciated, they are historical currents formed by the contradictions within a society.
The short-slightness of the egoist limits their criticism of degenerated socialist states, bourgeois dictatorships in full force, to criticisms of scarcity-based freedoms. If all acted only upon their ego as proposed, there would surely be more issues than unpaid medical bills and little time for gaming.
Culture in itself is a spook, if not the ultimate spook as culture shapes entire societies. The study of culture is the study of a spook. Traditional customs, requirement to pray, requirement to cite a pledge of allegiance, where do these ideas come from? All but figments of the imagination, a spirit, a spook.
The idealism of the ghost busters sees spooks as nothing but the imagination of arbitrary and evil men, who unfortunately ended up on top. In the same manner, it sees culture as created by the mere thought of a spirit. The origins of hegemonic culture are the same as the state, necessary structures reinforcing the socio-economic structures of their time. Culture is not simply the figments of one’s imagination, it is the sum of social relations between peoples in their particular shape, formed through countless trial and error and still continuously changing.
Covered its idealistic concept of the origin of the state and culture, how could the egoist hope to destroy these? They are mere spirits of the mind, therefore through nothing more than rejecting imposition of other minds. “Activating” one’s ego undoes a spook, so the egoist need not wait for nothing but for everyone to press their switch, a lacking revolutionary strategy.
We can see this dynamic, the dynamic between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat under capitalist societies play out in many cultures, and how it intentionally or unintentionally, enforces capitalism. I’ll give you a classic example in Filipino society: the obligation to work and do well because “responsibilidad mo to! para to kay Jesus!” In the USSR, many workers have to keep doing labor “for the motherland!” In Imperial Japan: “work or you will throw away your family honor! If you throw away your honor, you must execute yourself!” The worst example of this is Fascist Germany. Fascism is dangerous because it abuses spooks in the worst way possible. Fascist ideology is riddled with spooks: the belief that one race is superior, that Jews bad cause something something, using christianity to justify genocide, and the use of religion in general to be an ass. Fascism, anti-semitism, race, inherent superiority, unfortunately has not material and/or scientific basis, but the fascist does not care, why? It’s not meant to be logical, pure reactionary, to gain and use state violence under a fake coat of “populism.”
If we do indeed acknowledge that spooks are based on and reinforce social relations, almost entirely capitalism in our current era, we can easily see the origin of spooks and what will bring down the inherently oppressive spook of the state, that is progress into the next era of human society, and the natural evolving existence of the cultural spook. But the egoist again limits their analysis to simply opposing spectres on their own, with little consideration for society’s conditions. Whether patriotism was born in the Japanese fascistic state invading China or in the Soviet Union facing a genocidal invasion from Nazi Germany, the egoist would see no difference in its existence.
A Weak Struggle at Marxist Science — Egoist Analysis
Egoist analysis explains a lot of things, especially useful for understanding class conflicts and how the bourgeoisie abuses spooks to hinder the egos of the working class and force them to conform. If you think about it, Marx uses egoism unconsciously in his works to philosophically and scientifically explain bourgeoisie activity and what they do under capitalist society. While it is true that the bourgeoisie do things for their own ego, they do so in complete disrespect of the ego of others, in this case, the proletariat. As explained earlier, egoist analysis simultaneously explains why we are both not only egoistic, but also altruistic.
The egoist analysis covered has been shown inadequate and shallow at class analysis. The spook is indeed a real force in social creatures, however the Marxian “spook” is materialistic and scientific; Marx explained how society, social relations between peoples, is a real material force and through this its scientific analysis was opened. The egoist spook has been shown to little more than an assertion of selfishness, a creation of power-hungry men, to which a magical ego must be tapped in to overcome them.
Egoist analysis is a nice philosophical reflection that confirms a lot of things that I thought about my experience as a Filipino and Filipino society. Like, why are we really altruistic, but at the same time, we’re also individualistic? Why is the state always so rude and mean towards the poor people, why does it feel like there’s a massive disconnect between the poor and the rich? While these can be answered through Marxism, I’ve found that egoism is a more useful tool in figuring this out.
Marxism remains a scientific tool of analysis, this factor can’t be undervalued. Any philosophy may assign a meaning to society with any degree of truthfulness, but Marxist analysis studies it. Marxism developed the theory of evolution into society and explained the moving cause of all social development, spooks included. In this its power as the proletariat’s tool of struggle it has proved itself through two centuries, while Stirner dwells in relative obscurity. Pannekoek, in Marxism and Darwinism:
For decades their names have been on the tongues of everybody, and their teachings have become the central point of the mental struggles which accompany the social struggles of today. The cause of this lies primarily in the highly scientific contents of their teachings. […] As with Darwin, the scientific importance of Marx’s work consists in this, that he discovered the propelling force, the cause of social development. He did not have to prove that such a development was taking place; every one knew that from the most primitive times new social forms ever supplanted older, but the causes and aims of this development were unknown. […] It is the production of the material necessities of life that forms the main structure of society and that determines the political relations and social struggles.
The Personal Ideology — The Liberating Potential of Egoism
Egoism is a liberating philosophy that explains a lot of my angers towards modern Filipino society. This is first seen and acknowledged by me when in very early on in school, I continue to keep asking myself, every year, “why do we keep having to go school? Why can’t we just be free and do whatever we want, even if education is so important, why are these teachers so strict about our lives, freedoms, uniqueness?” The answer to this is always been, “well, it’s for your grades! You have to keep working when you’re older, it’s your responsibility, as a human being!” Then after that, they start to threaten you with terrible things that happened towards workers, “If you don’t want to work! You’ll be living on the streets like those poor hobos! Do you want that? Do you want to live like a hobo?” And I’m especially not alone here in these thoughts.
The egoist would propose that people who can barely read be free to determine whether they should be educated. To a certain extent it’s true, in Italy we have the saying “anche l’operaio vuole il figlio dottore” (even the labourer wants his son to be a doctor) and education is certainly an imposition. Society at large does tend to pressure people towards higher education, whether for economic reasons, for pride or truly a wish of greater education, and teachers under the capitalist state do crush the uniqueness of many students. But we can’t be free if we have no knowledge of what it means to be free, if we’re not able to even write or read. Such as opposing slavery, even for the willing slave, is a basic principle of liberty, no less is teaching that slave how to read a basic commandment.
Society must impose its language and tools, that is what humanity has depended on ever since the first two rocks were banged together to create fire. We are only granted thought independent from society. There is a real debate to be had on what is essential and what limits or negatively influences the individual in school, however the egoist paints all education as spooked, as such to the goals of this debate the egoist only damages education as a tool and would rather delegate it to a personal journey. Implying this authoritarian force to the most basic and unavoidable factor of society, learning, devalues any other legitimate criticism.
Diploma fetishism and coercion towards better grades and certain fields, while the shaming of lower-education people and jobs, are real issues in most societies, and grades do not matter to the extent of these capitalist fetishists. However, the suppression of the individual is not caused by the existence of the spook in itself; the suppression of an individual who cannot knowingly consent in the interests of his education is necessary for the individual to truly be free.
Once I noticed and fully understood just how spooked society is, that’s when I’ve truly become so much more free and happy. I can recall many days in grade school where I was left crying in my bed ’cause, “I’m not good enough,” for society, and once I’ve fully taken in that these spooks don’t matter, it made me so much better, happier, and free. I believe that is the value in egoism as a philosophy, and together with other nihilistic, postmodernist literature in philosophy, and that is why we must start reading Stirner and be free. It is especially valuable in the Philippines, as many, many of the proletarians and people here are spooked into religion, into “responsibility,” into human society as a whole.
I’m glad some people find escape within themselves and philosophy, psychologically I can recommend not giving too much importance to social judgement and “spooks”, but humans are social creatures. The issues of society cannot be solved by the reading of a book which activates our ego, these contradictions are ingrained and constantly bring the system in balance towards collapse, but the extent of contradictions don’t limit themselves to the event of collapse alone. Our next society won’t be created solely by the whim of a few men, whether egoist or not, it will be created from the consequences of capitalism, our future productive abilities and their necessary relations. As we can understand from this, until production is so advanced that one may live on his own, human society cannot be rejected and some spooks will continue. The egoist may, as said, “subjugate human society to him, own society, without owing anything to society” until such moment, but it will find the relations it tries to own are forced upon him all the same. Only when our abilities are so developed may human society freely organise or dissolve, the ‘ego’ finally in command.
While egoism is not devoid of any value and egoists may do their part in struggle, its pseudo-scientific analysis of the mind and consequential immaterial analysis of spooks undermines any potential it may have. Its limited reach within a few post-left anarchist spaces is appropriate, Stirner’s thought has become what he tried desperately to avoid, just another ideology.
Look at Stirner, look at him, the peaceful enemy of all constraint.
For the moment, he is still drinking beer, soon he will be drinking blood as though it were water.
When others cry savagely “down with the kings” Stirner immediately supplements “down with the laws also.”
Stirner full of dignity proclaims; you bend your will power and you dare to call yourselves free. You become accustomed to slavery
Down with dogmatism, down with law.