The only one and his property

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The only one and his property is the main work by Max Stirner , which was published in October 1844, predated to 1845, by Otto Wigand's publishing housein Leipzig .

Title page of the first edition: The Only One and His Property by Max Stirner .


The book The Single and His Property (hereinafter: The Single ) comprised more than twenty sheets (16 pages each) and was therefore not subject to the prevailing censorship at the time . Immediately after its publication at the end of October 1844, however, it was banned in some areas and permitted in others. The book initially caused a sensation, especially among the Young Hegelians ( Bauer , Feuerbach ), who were heavily criticized by Stirner , but was quickly forgotten even before the political struggles of March 1848 . A second edition published by Wigand in 1882 received little attention.

A successful new edition was apparently only possible in 1893 in the wake of Nietzsche's sudden enthusiasm. Remarkably , it was initiated by an ardent Nietzsche admirer, Paul Lauterbach , who basically wanted to “render Stirner harmless”. His introduction, he wrote to his friend, long-time Nietzsche confidante Peter Gast , “has the sole purpose of protecting the innocent from him [Stirner] and mystifying and paralyzing the malicious, essentially with Nietzsche's help.” Lauterbach's edition of the only one in the Inexpensive Reclams Universal Library appeared from 1893 in numerous new editions until the mid-1920s. A third edition of Wigand's edition for the Stirner year 1906 and a few other prints in various other publishers bear witness to the so-called first Stirner renaissance.

After that, The Only One was largely forgotten again by the early 1960s. The second Stirner renaissance was surprisingly initiated again by the energetic efforts of a Stirner opponent. Hans Günther Helms , an adept of Stirner's former opponent Karl Marx , had published a book in 1966 in which he portrayed Stirner as a “ proto- fascist” and declared it to be the hitherto unrecognized arch-ideologist of fascism and the then Federal Republic (which he attested to the continuity of fascist sentiments). Helms went so far as to assert that there was "no difficulty in producing a catalog of the parallel passages in the single and Mein Kampf ". The - after which he was in 1968 - to the extent of the danger to clarify the original only ones ; however, newly out in a version with numerous strong cuts and a haunting epilogue in the sense of the publisher it was reissued twice, in 1969 and 1970.

Shortly afterwards, in 1972, the Reclam-Verlag reissued its completely unique one , which had not been printed for almost fifty years . Lauterbach introduction was by a long, according to the then Marxist spirit epilogue of Ahlrich Meyer replaced, the Helms' assessment of Single essentially shares. In an addendum written especially for the 1981 re-edition, Meyer regrets "the need for a renewed reprint" of the only thing , because this shows "that we are not at the end of Stirner ... the renaissance of anti-Marxist thought and various existentialist ghetto ideologies" would have helped Stirner to renewed success. This Reclam volume, including Meyer's commentary, was reprinted several times, most recently in 2011.

In 2009, Bernd Kast published an extensively commented study edition at Verlag Karl Alber Freiburg / Munich , which also contains Stirner's reaction to some reviews of the first publication with the title Reviewers of Stirner . The study edition reproduces the texts in the new German spelling of 2006, with the exception of Stirner's peculiarities in the capitalization of pronouns .


The book is not a carefully composed work, as the table of contents reproduced below suggests, but basically an odd job. (159, 250) It arose from the often heated discussions that were held in the Berlin debating club Die Freie in Hippels Weinstube on the Gendarmenmarkt between 1841 and 1844 . In addition to current political events, the main topics were the latest philosophical writings by Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer , which after Kant , Fichte and Hegel - for the first time in Germany - wanted to establish a radically atheistic enlightenment and a philosophy of action .


I have put 'Mein Sach' on nothing [Preliminary remark]

First department. The human being

  • I. A human life
  • II. People of the old and new times
    • 1. The old ones
    • 2. The new ones
      • §1. The ghost
      • §2. The possessed
      • §3. The hierarchy
    • 3. The free ones
      • §1. Political liberalism
      • §2. Social liberalism
      • §3. The humane liberalism

Second division. I.

  • I. The peculiarity
  • II. The owner
    • 1. My power
    • 2. My traffic
    • 3. My self-enjoyment
  • III. One and only

None of the previous editions of the single has a name and / or subject index. Only the latest English edition ( The Ego and Its Own , ed. David Leopold, 1995) contains these registers and about 300 explanatory notes on the text.


Stirner was a vir unius libri , d. That is, he has basically only written this one book, plus a few articles, of which the reply to his critics, Stirner's reviewers, is the most important. The content- related presentation of the individual can therefore be found in the context of Stirner's philosophy in the article Max Stirner . At this point, a more or less formal description of the book follows, in addition to the table of contents given above.

Stirner's book The Only One and His Property consists of a short prologue and two sections of about the same size.


The prologue is titled with the motto, borrowed from Goethe's Vanitas poem, I put 'Mein Sach' on nothing. This is followed by rhetorical fireworks in the form of this motto, in which Stirner turns against any questioning for whatever “thing”: “What shouldn't all be my business! Above all the good cause, then the cause of God, the cause of humanity, truth, freedom, humanity, justice ... of my people, my prince, my fatherland ... "Stirner, who demonstratively uses words like I, me, mine etc . writes in capital letters, rejects such demands and says: "I then put my cause ... on me" - according to the quoted motto. He also rejects the usual accusation that he is - without service to such a thing - but (a) nothing: "I am [not] nothing in the sense of emptiness, but the creative nothingness, the nothing out of which I myself as Creator can do everything. ”He does not even want to make the“ good cause ”his: as a Nietzsche avant la lettre he claims:“ I am neither good nor bad. Both have no meaning for me ”, and he closes the prologue with the exclamation, also borrowed from Goethe: Nothing beats me!

The three pages of the opening also give a foretaste of Stirner's irony, which from the bitter-sarcastic dedication ("My love Marie Dähnhardt" - the former emancipated woman had changed a lot as a wife) consistently to the end and not always easy to recognize and is to be interpreted.

First department

In front of the first section, “Man”, Stirner put its program: Man is man's highest being, says Feuerbach. - The person has only now been found, says Bruno Bauer. Let us take a closer look at this Supreme Being and this new discovery. (7) The main content of this half of the book is the exposition and criticism of these two thinkers of roughly the same age. Precisely because he recognizes their atheistic enlightenment, he only mentions earlier philosophers in passing or for the purpose of express distancing (e.g. from the ego in Descartes , in Fichte ). However, Hegel, who died in 1831 but still dominated intellectual life, is so depressingly close to him that he repeatedly parodies or travestates his views - which is often not recognized. In contrast, the mockingly formulated balance sheet of his examination of the philosophies of Feuerbach, Bauer and their followers (including Marx at the time ) is meant completely seriously : Our atheists are pious people. (42, 203) The reason for this judgment should be provided in the second half of the book.

Second division

The second section, "I", also begins with a program: You thought ... you were finished when the work of enlightenment, the conquest of God, was brought to a victorious end in our days. [...] The hereafter outside of us has been swept away and the great undertaking of the Enlightenment is accomplished; only the hereafter in us has become a new heaven and calls us to renewed storms in the sky.

How difficult Stirner assessed the theoretical part of this storming of the sky - which is only the prerequisite for the practical - is already evident from the place which he gives to his efforts, which he nevertheless assesses only as an awkward beginning . In the chapters on “peculiarity” and “owner” he tries to develop his anthropology beyond “atheistic piety”.

Here, too, the clear division of chapters is deceptive. Essential ideas can already be found in the first section , for example the development of the concept of the sacred in the chapter The Possessed (passim, 38-42) as the counter-term to “one's own”, or the explanations about how the sacred comes into the world, d. That is, how it is implanted in every person in childhood with gentle or brute force (69–79) and the harm it causes. The personal act of liberation from the sacred, d. H. of the “beyond in us”, Stirner calls “outrage” (= rise up). He only introduced this term towards the end of the unique (354–356), which contributed to the fact that it was often interpreted in isolation as a revolt. Since the process of personal indignation is very difficult, Stirner gives greater weight to avoiding the educational creation of the sacred.

The terms to which Stirner formally devotes a chapter are not clearly defined there either. Throughout the book, the terms “owner”, “individual”, “individual” and “ egoist ” are used more or less synonymously. In addition, Stirner also knows “involuntary” or “duped” egoists. Stirner was accused of this and other things by some contemporary critics. His reply to her, Stirner's reviewer, is therefore to be seen as an important addition to his book, although it does not provide any real clarity either.

Stirner and his book The Single and His Property - the content of which is discussed in the article Max Stirner - have a marginal place in all representations of the history of philosophy, if they are mentioned at all. In contrast, there is the indirect, as it were subcutaneous effect that the book has had on individual thinkers, including some very powerful ones.


When the book was published, it was mainly received by the authors criticized in it. Replies therefore came from Ludwig Feuerbach (anonymously) as well as from Szeliga, a supporter of Bruno Bauer , and from Moses Hess , who was close to Marx at the time. Stirner answered them in a lengthy article by Reviewer Stirner, in which, among other things, he explained the terms he used. The historically most powerful reception was that of Karl Marx . Marx wrote his Anti-Stirner Sankt Max, which was more extensive than The Only One , but did not bring it to publication for unexplained reasons. However, as recent research has shown, his Stirner reception was decisive for his solution to Feuerbach and for the conception of his "great theory", historical materialism .

Even before the beginning of the March Revolution of 1848, it had become quiet about the individual . The work remained lost for decades and was only mentioned very sporadically, for example in 1866 by Friedrich Albert Lange in his history of materialism as "the most extreme [book] we know." The only one was only in the 1890s, subsequently the Nietzsche enthusiasm, rediscovered and found wide distribution as a Reclam band. Immediately it was claimed , for example by Eduard von Hartmann , that Nietzsche had plagiarized Stirner. As much as one investigated this suspicion, there were no traces in Nietzsche's work, letters, and papers that would prove that Nietzsche knew Stirner at all (which in turn evoked suspicion). The question has not yet been definitively clarified.

Also around 1890, Friedrich Engels, in his influential writing Ludwig Feuerbach and the outcome of classical German philosophy, stamped Stirner as the founding father of anarchism and declared Michail Bakunin to be his student. But Stirner had polemicized against Pierre-Joseph Proudhon , who was the first to call himself an anarchist, and Bakunin, Kropotkin and other prominent anarchist theorists never referred to Stirner. The only better-known anarchist who derived his position from Stirner was John Henry Mackay , who, however, found very few followers with his individualistic anarchism .

The single has often been referred to as the extreme literary expression of a consistent nihilism . Although it was widespread at times, its academic reception was rather reserved. In philosophical stories, even in monographs on nihilism, it is only mentioned in passing. The main effect of the singular was indirect. In the most important cases, Marx and Nietzsche, the only stimulus was an extraordinarily powerful philosophizing. In fact, as Bernd A. Laska in particular has shown in his history of the impact of the unique (see below), such an influence can be demonstrated in numerous prominent thinkers, mostly at a young age. Examples:

  • Rudolf Steiner saw what he "developed in the second half of the" Philosophy of Freedom "(Version 1894) as the ethical consequence of his presuppositions" in "perfect agreement" with the unique .
  • Early British anarcho-feminist Dora Marsden was inspired by the One .
  • The early psychoanalyst and anarchist Otto Gross was influenced by Stirner's ideas.
  • The sex researcher and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich was very enthusiastic about Stirner at a young age.
  • As a student, Carl Schmitt was an admirer of the unique and came back to him in old age, in Allied imprisonment ( Ex captivitate salus : Wisdom of the Cell, 1950).
  • In his late work Eumeswil, Ernst Jünger formed the figure of the “ Anarch ” after Stirner's Unique .
  • The French philosopher Georges Palante , one of the first left-Nietzschean, was the only ones inspired.
  • The satirist and publicist Oskar Panizza dedicated his essay, The Illusionism and The Rescue of Personality , published in 1895, to “the memory of Max Stirner”.

Some celebrities who are not theoreticians and who value Stirner more privately have also made this public in books and interviews, such as mountaineer Reinhold Messner and Swiss fitness entrepreneur Werner Kieser .

Foreign language editions

(Only the respective first editions are listed.)

  • French: ( L'unique et sa propriété , 1900)
  • Danish: ( Den Eneste og hans Ejendom , 1901)
  • Spanish: ( El único y su propriedad , 1901)
  • Italian: ( L'unico , 1902)
  • Russian: ( Edinstvennyj i ego dostojanie , 1906)
  • English: ( The Ego and His Own , 1907)
  • Dutch: ( De Eenige en z'n Eigendom , 1907)
  • Swedish: ( Den ende och hans egendom , 1910)
  • Yiddish: ( Der eyntsiker un zayn eygentum , 1916)
  • Japanese: ( Yuiitsusha to sono shoyû , 1920)
  • Serbo-Croatian: ( Jedini i njegovo vlastništvo , 1976)
  • Catalan: ( L'únic i la seva propietat , 1986),
  • Hungarian: ( Az egyetlen és tulajdona , 1991 - only 2nd part)
  • Polish: ( Jedyny i jego własność , 1995)
  • Chinese: ( Wei yi zhe ji qi suo you wu , 1997)
  • Greek: ( O μοναδικός και το δικό του , 2002)
  • Portuguese: ( O Único ea sua propriedade , 2004)
  • Czech: ( Jediný a jeho vlastnictví , 2010)
  • Turkish: ( Biricik ve Mülkiyeti , 2013)

See also


  1. All information about the history of the edition is taken from Bernd A. Laska: Ein heimlicher Hit. 150 years of Stirner's “only one”. A brief edition history. Nuremberg: LSR-Verlag 1994 ( demolition )
  2. Hans G Helms: The Ideology of the Anonymous Society. Max Stirner's ›Einsiger‹ and the progress of democratic self-confidence from Vormärz to the Federal Republic , Cologne 1966, p. 7
  3. ^ Max Stirner: The single and his property , Stuttgart: Reclam 1981, p. 462
  4. See: Bernd A. Laska : On the new edition of Stirner's 'Unique' (June 21, 2010)
  5. Stirner himself notes this on the pages mentioned (here and below after the 1972 Reclam edition)
  6. Horst Stuke: Philosophy of Action. Studies on the "Realization of Philosophy" among the Young Hegelians and the True Socialists. Stuttgart 1963
  7. ^ [Max Stirner:] Stirner's reviewers . In: ders .: Parerga, reviews, replicas. Nuremberg: LSR-Verlag 1985, p. 170
  8. ^ Karl Marx: Saint Max . In: The German Ideology . ( Online version )
  9. Wolfgang Essbach: The importance of Max Stirner for the genesis of historical materialism. Göttingen 1978; udT countermeasures. A study of the controversy between Stirner and Marx. Frankfurt / Main: Materialis 1982 (very rich in material)
  10. That Nietzsche knew Stirner's book could be proven, but not, of course, his reading and why he consistently kept silent about it given its thematic proximity. Bernd A. Laska provides an outline of the discussions so far and a biographical find that allows a new perspective on the question : Nietzsche's initial crisis . In: Germanic Notes and Reviews, vol. 33, n.2, fall / autumn 2002, pp. 109-133
  11. ^ Letter to the Stirner biographer John Henry Mackay dated December 5, 1893, in: GA 39, p. 193.
  12. Panizza: Illusionism and the Rescue of Personality, full text in Wikisource


Original texts
  • Max Stirner: The only one and his property . Otto Wigand , Leipzig 1845 ( digitized version and full text in the German text archive ; digitized version ). 2nd ed. 1882; 3rd edition 1906.
  • Max Stirner (Kaspar Schmidt): The only one and his property . Edited by Paul Lauterbach. Reclam, Leipzig 1892 (Universal Library 3057–3060) (numerous editions up to 1927) ( digitized version ).
  • Max Stirner: The only one and his property . With an afterword ed. by Ahlrich Meyer . Through and verb. Output. Reclam, Stuttgart 1972 (Universal-Bibliothek 3057), ISBN 3-15-003057-9 .
  • Max Stirner: The only one and his property. Edition with detailed comments. Edited by Bernd Kast. Karl Alber, Freiburg / Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-495-48342-8 .
To the history of the impact
  • Hans G. Helms : The ideology of the anonymous society. Cologne: DuMont Schauberg 1966 (initiated a renewed reception of the unique , mainly through its extensive bibliography)
  • Gerhard Senft : The shadow of the only one. The history of Stirner's individual anarchism. Vienna: Verlag Monte Verita 1988 ISBN 3-900434-20-4 (focus: the single and the labor movement. )
  • Bernd A. Laska : A secret hit. Nuremberg: LSR-Verlag 1994 ISBN 3-922058-61-2 (the edition history of the only thing between missing and bestselling)
  • Bernd A. Laska: A permanent dissident. Nuremberg: LSR-Verlag 1996 ISBN 3-922058-62-0 (a concise history of the impact of the only one , which tries to make its topicality clear)
  • Alexander Stulpe: Faces of the Unique. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 2010 ISBN 978-3-428-12885-3 (Subtitle: Max Stirner and the anatomy of modern individuality )
  • Paterson RWK: The Nihilistic Egoist Max Stirner. London: Oxford University Press 1971 (reprint 1993)
  • Thomson, Ernie: The Discovery of the Materialist Conception of History in the Writings of the Young Karl Marx. 2004

Online texts / web links

On the Stirner-Nietzsche debate