Max Stirner

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Max Stirner, excerpt from a caricature by Friedrich Engels (1842)

Max Stirner ( pseudonym for Johann Caspar Schmidt ; born October 25, 1806 in Bayreuth ; died June 25, 1856 in Berlin ) was a German philosopher , journalist , writer and translator .


Information column on the birthplace, which was demolished in 1970, on the market square in Bayreuth
Stirner's house where he died in Berlin NW (district Berlin-Mitte ), Philippstrasse 19, before 1914

Johann Caspar Schmidt came from a middle-class background. His parents were Albert Christian Heinrich Schmidt and Sophie Eleonore Schmidt born. Pure. The father was a portrait painter and made woodwind instruments ; he died at the age of 37 when Johann Caspar was six months old. His mother married the pharmacist Ballerstedt three years later and moved from Bayreuth to Culm on the Vistula in West Prussia . His half-sister Johanna Friederica was born there in 1809 and was only just three years old. In 1810 his mother brought Johann Caspar to live with her, who returned to Bayreuth in 1818 at the age of 12.

In Bayreuth he lived with his godparents, attended the local grammar school and passed his Abitur there in 1826 with the grade “very worthy”. His teachers, who “looked after me with great love, so that I remember them gratefully”, described him in retrospect as gifted and promising. His classmates - including Jean Paul's son Max - jokingly called the high school student with the noticeably high forehead "Stirner".

After graduating from high school, he studied from 1826 to 1828 in Berlin with Hegel , Schleiermacher and others. In 1828/1829 he was enrolled at the University of Erlangen . After a long break, he studied two more semesters in Berlin in 1832/1833 in order to meet the requirements for teaching. He completed his studies in 1835, but then did not get a state job and started his first job in 1839 at a private school for senior daughters in Berlin. Since 1841 he associated there with the " outside ", a debating opposition (liberal and socialist) academics and journalists, which, among other Bruno Bauer , Edgar Bauer , Karl Friedrich Koppen , Ludwig Buhl , Adolf Friedrich Rutenberg , Hermann Maron and briefly Friedrich Engels belonged . At that time he published articles and newspaper correspondence, both anonymously and under the pseudonym "Max Stirner".

From around 1843 he worked on the manuscript of his main work The Single and His Property . This appeared in October 1844 with the date of publication 1845. It was banned immediately, after a week - at least in the Kingdom of Saxony - the ban was lifted again. Immediately beforehand, Stirner had given up his position; the reasons for this are not known.

Schmidt was married twice. His first wife Agnes Clara Kunigunde Burtz, whom he married on December 12, 1837, died in childbirth on August 29, 1838; the child could not be saved either. On October 21, 1843, Stirner married Marie Wilhelmine Dähnhardt, the daughter of a wealthy pharmacist from Gadebusch , who frequented the “Free” in Berlin. The bride and groom turned the wedding celebration into a perfectly shaped satire on the church marriage ceremony. Stirner's book The Only One and His Property , which appeared a year later, bears the dedication “Meinem Liebchen Marie Dähnhardt”, probably a bitter and sarcastic allusion to his wife's change. The couple separated in 1846. Marie converted to Catholicism and went to England.

Max Stirner translated Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations into German in 1847 , continued to write articles and most recently produced a compilation History of Reaction (1852). He died in 1856 as a result of an infection caused by an insect bite and was buried at the II. Sophien-Friedhof in Berlin-Mitte in Dept. V-8-53, G3. His estate must be considered lost. Very few original documents by and about Stirner have survived. There are also no contemporary portraits, only two sketches by Friedrich Engels, one from 1842, which Stirner shows as part of a group picture of the “Free”, the other, a head profile that he made from memory almost fifty years later. According to contemporaries Stirner, however, the latter should not look "similar". The writer and Stirner admirer John Henry Mackay wrote a biography of Stirner (1898, ext. 1910, ext. 1914) to which hardly anything could be added later.



"Max Stirner. Drawn from memory by Friedrich Engels , London 1892. "

In terms of philosophy, Max Stirner is mostly assigned to the Hegelian Left or the Young Hegelians . In The Single and His Property , he criticized Hegel, but primarily the Young Hegelians, namely Bruno Bauer and Ludwig Feuerbach . To those who believed that they founded the atheistic Enlightenment in Germany according to German idealism , he mockingly called out: “Our atheists are pious people” (EE, 203). What he meant by that, he summarized as follows: “The hereafter outside of us has certainly been swept away and the great undertaking of the Enlightenment is accomplished; only the beyond in us has become a new heaven and calls us to new storms of heaven ”(from the preamble to the 2nd section of the unique - EE, 170).

Max Stirner's philosophy essentially points to practice, deducting all polemics: according to the Enlightenment , in order to really create the much-invoked exit from “immaturity”, it is also important to eliminate the “afterlife in us”. Stirner calls the person thus created or made the "owner" (of "everything", including himself), provocatively also the "egoist". Owners can basically arise in two ways: either through the so-to-speak autotherapeutic act of "indignation", understood as the "working out of mine from the existing" (EE, 354), or through a kind of upbringing that allows the child to grow into the owner as much as possible little disabled (see section “ Pedagogy ”).

The Stirnersche “Jenseits in Uns” roughly denotes what Sigmund Freud later called the super-ego , i.e. a psychic authority that is largely unconsciously formed in the course of the educational process and later as a conscience , as a complex of values ​​and moral concepts that ( cultural) identity etc. regulates human behavior. Stirner uses the concept of the sacred to determine that instance.

“Before the holy one loses all feeling of power and all courage ... And yet nothing is holy by itself, but by my canonization, by my saying, my judgment, my squat, in short by my - conscience. ... Everything for which you have a respect or awe deserves the name of the saint. "

- EE, 77

One feels no fear of the sacred, but awe; you honor it, but you fear it at the same time:

“Alone in fear there is still the attempt to free oneself from what is feared ... In contrast, it is completely different in awe. Here is not only feared, but also honored: what is feared has become an inner power that I can no longer withdraw from ... I am completely in its power and do not even try to liberate ... I and what is feared are one. "

- EE, 78

There are many passages in the only ones in which Stirner, some with other terms such. B. Obsession, spook, rafter, peculiarity, self-membership of mine seeks to get at this object.

The figure of the owner (synonymous: the egoist, the only one) is at the center of Stirner's thinking. From here, Stirner criticized Hegel, Feuerbach and Bauer, but also the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon , the communist Wilhelm Weitling and others. From the point of view of the owner, Stirner criticizes the progressive political directions of his time (the conservative or reactionary are for him under all criticism) under the headings of political, social and humane liberalism ; further sublime ideas such as freedom and humanity, to which the owner does not feel obliged, and institutions such as the state, law, marriage, property , etc. The property of the sole or owner, as it appears prominently in his book title , is not what is guaranteed by state and law, but "everything":

"Just as the world as property has become a material with which I can do what I want, so the spirit as property must also sink down to a material that I no longer have holy fear of."

- EE, 402

The much-quoted saying of Stirner “Nothing goes beyond me” (EE, 5) says exactly that: the owner does not accept anything “about himself”, nothing sacred; he is free from that educatively generated superego, of which most previous people are more or less “possessed” (EE, 36, 47, passim). Stirner is therefore considered a classic of amoralism and ethical egoism . This aspect of Stirner's philosophy is in a certain tension to his concept of the "association" - a vaguely conceived counterpart to the "state" of non-owners - the preferred sociable form of life and cooperation for owners.


Already in his work The untrue principle of our upbringing (1842), Stirner explained the question of upbringing as “as important as any one of our social classes can be, indeed it is the most important” (PKR, 75). For he was of the opinion that “a society cannot become new as long as those who make it up and who constitute it remain the old ones” (EE, 231). Stirner sees “nothing but submissive people” around him, and this in all strata: “What are most of our witty and educated subjects? Sneering slave owners and slaves themselves ”(PKR, 90f.). His future vision is the “free”, “personal”, “whole”, “true”, “reasonable”, “principled” or “self-creative” person. In the single (1844) he will call him the owner.

Here Stirner shows himself most clearly and substantially as the antipode of Hegel, who had taught that upbringing must first and foremost be "discipline, which has the purpose of breaking the child's will ... The rational must appear to him as his own subjectivity ... The Morality must have been planted in the child as a feeling ... ”( Basic lines of the philosophy of law , §§ 174, 175, add.).

Stirner sees the evil precisely in the fact that “moral influence is the main ingredient of our upbringing” (EE, 332), precisely that “untrue principle” that should be eliminated. “The moral influence begins where the humiliation begins, yes, it is nothing other than this humiliation itself, the breaking and bending of the courage to humility” (EE, 88). The evil is therefore that “our whole upbringing aims to create feelings in us, i. H. to give them to us instead of leaving the creation of them to us, however they may turn out. ”The latter would be“ own ”, would be feelings whose“ owner ”I am. The former, although foreign at first, would soon be “sacred” because of the way they were imprinted; I would not be their owner, but they would be the owners of mine, so to speak, I would be “possessed” by them (EE, 70f.).

Stirner does not develop any educational theory; He only gives what he considers to be the decisive criterion for such, if they really improve the life of the individual and society, i.e. H. "The big company of the Enlightenment" should continue. At the same time, he anticipates a criticism of the later historical materialism , which expects the emergence of the new man solely on the basis of historical laws: “A [political] revolution will certainly not bring about the end [of the old conditions] unless an outrage [to the“ owner ”first) "] Is done!" (EE, 356)


Although most accounts of the history of philosophy only mention Stirner in passing, he influenced not only Karl Marx but also numerous other thinkers (often also Friedrich Nietzsche ) insofar as they (mostly unspoken) contradicted his " nihilistic " ideas developed. Marx wrote a comprehensive critique ( Sankt Max ), but did not publish it and withheld Stirner's role in his conception of historical materialism . “As far as Nietzsche is concerned,” writes Rüdiger Safranski , “there seems to be a remarkable concealment [Stirner's] with him.” This secretive effect of Stirner continued later: Edmund Husserl once spoke of the “tempting power” of Stirner but nowhere mentioned in his work; As a student, Carl Schmitt was deeply impressed by Stirner; years later, in 1947, he was “haunted” by him in his prison cell, but he kept silent about him in his work. Georg Simmel had consciously forbidden himself to come into contact with this “strange kind of individualism ”; Nietzsche had even incurred a plagiarism allegation on the part of Eduard von Hartmann , who proved Nietzsche's knowledge of Stirner's thoughts with Nietzsche's out-of- date view. Second piece criticized precisely those passages in Hartmann's work that explicitly reject Stirner's thinking.

Stirner is sometimes referred to as an (ethical) solipsist , often as a forerunner of anarchism , especially individualistic anarchism and existentialism , which, however, only partially does justice to Stirner's philosophy of consistent individuality .

Friedrich Engels assigned Stirner to anarchism as a doctrine competing with Marxism with a polemical intention . But Stirner was always controversial among anarchists because the prominent anarcho-communists Bakunin and Kropotkin , as well as the anarcho-mechanicalist Proudhon , had remained silent about him. Most of them found his ideas incompatible with those of anarchism, and very few, e.g. B. John Henry Mackay and in the 1970s Kurt Zube , explicitly referred to Stirner as their mastermind.

After being forgotten for about half a century, Stirner was rediscovered twice: 1) at the turn of the 20th century in the wake of Nietzsche's enthusiasm; 2) 1966, when the Marxist author Hans G Helms , in view of “the dangerous development of the ideological situation”, presented him in a 600-page treatise as the “most consistent ideologist” of the current “ruling class in all modern industrial countries”. On the fringes of Marx research, however, it also became increasingly clear what role Stirner had in Marx's conception of historical materialism , so that Wolfgang Eßbach in 1982 ventured in a careful study that Stirner's "materialism of the self" was (almost) on a par with Marx's " Materialism of the circumstances ”. After the loss of validity of Marxism, two younger authors went even further in reassessing Stirner. Since 1985, Bernd A. Laska has presented Stirner (alongside La Mettrie in the 18th century and Wilhelm Reich in the 20th century) as one of three “key figures” in several works, mostly about the history of reception , “with whose help a new view of the dead end advised enlightenment (including anarchisms) can be obtained ”. Saul Newman also sees a key figure in Stirner: he calls him a proto- post-structuralist (cf. post- anarchism ), who the modern post-structuralists like Foucault , Lacan , Deleuze , Derrida and others. a. rudimentarily anticipated, but at the same time - and therefore it is important today - pointed beyond them and, in contrast to these, found a starting point for today's "non-essentialist" ideology criticism. In 2010, Alexander Stulpe presented the most elaborate attempt to date, with a 1000-page work, to portray Stirner - as a follow-up to Helms, but on a sociological basis - as an as yet unrecognized ideologist of “modern individuality”. Modern society has given Stirner's figure of the “one and only”, especially in the decades around 1900, “so many shapes” and “so thoroughly incorporated him into this diversity that his philosophical creator has long been forgotten, but he is everywhere ". Four years later, Peter Sloterdijk , taking up Stulpe's idea, wrote: “In modern times, countless individuals would again refer to the privilege of being 'unique' or singularities, mostly without understanding that they were thereby claiming the status of monsters. "With Stirner," the terrible child of modern times has reached its reflective figure ".


In Stirner's hometown of Bayreuth , Max-Stirner-Strasse has been named after him since 1947. There is also a Stirnerstraße in Berlin ( Steglitz part of the Steglitz-Zehlendorf district ) and in Nuremberg.

His grave was registered by the Senate on March 22, 1994 as an honor grave of the city of Berlin in the list of Berlin honor graves .

The Stirner supporter, publicist and publisher André F. Lichtschlag called the magazine he edited and directed peculiarly free . According to the publisher and co-founder Lichtschlag, the title was inspired by Max Stirner's book The One and His Own .


Commemorative plaque

Max Stirner's birthplace at Maximilianstrasse 31 in Bayreuth was demolished in 1970. The memorial plaque donated by John Henry Mackay was transferred to the successor building.

A Max Stirner Society e. V. was founded in 2002. It broke up by itself in late September 2013.

Fonts (selection)

Smaller writings (more detailed information in Mackay (Ed.) Or Laska (Ed.))

  • About school laws , 1834 (first published 1920)
  • Christianity and Antichristity , 1842
  • Reply of a member of the Berlin congregation against the writing of the fifty-seven Berlin clergymen , 1842
  • On B. Bauer's Trumpet of the Last Judgment , 1842
  • The untrue principle of our education , 1842
  • Art and Religion , 1842
  • About the obligation of citizens to any religion
  • On "The Mysteries of Paris" (Eugène Sue) , 1843
  • Some preliminary information about the love state , 1844
  • Stirner's reviewers , 1845
  • The philosophical reactionaries. The Modern Sophists by Kuno Fischer , 1847


The only one and his property

  • Paul Lauterbach (ed.): Max Stirner: The only one and his property (= Reclam's universal library 3057-3060). Reclam, Leipzig 1892 a. ö. ( digitized in the Google book search).
  • Ahlrich Meyer (Ed.): Max Stirner: The only one and his property (= Reclam's Universal Library 3057). Reclam, Stuttgart 1972 a. ö., ISBN 978-3-15-003057-8 .
  • Bernd Kast (ed.): Max Stirner: The only one and his property. Study edition with detailed comments . Karl Alber, Freiburg / Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-495-48342-8 .

Smaller fonts


  • Jean-Baptiste Say : Comprehensive textbook of practical political economy. German with comments by Max Stirner. 3 volumes. Otto Wigand, Leipzig 1845.
  • Adam Smith : Inquiries into the Nature and Causes of National Wealth. German with comments by Max Stirner. (= National Economists of the French and English edited by Max Stirner Vol. 5–8). Otto Wigand, Leipzig 1846–1847.


Web links

Commons : Max Stirner  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Max Stirner  - Sources and full texts


  1. ↑ In the following, references to quotations from Stirner's writings are given in the running text with the following abbreviations and page numbers: * EE = The One and His Own. Stuttgart: Reclam 1972; * PKR = Parerga, reviews, replicas. Nuremberg: LSR-Verlag 1986
  2. The psychoanalyst Bernd Nitzschke stated that Stirner anticipated “very modern knowledge” on the problem of individuation. He wrote "as if he had read a modern psychoanalytic textbook ..." (in: Die Liebe als Duell , Rowohlt, Reinbek 1991, p. 18). - Bernd A. Laska goes into more detail on this problem in The Negation of the Irrational Super-Ego in Max Stirner , first udT Max Stirner as "educational anarchist" , in: Anarchismus und Pädagogik. Studies on a Forgotten Tradition, ed. v. Ulrich Klemm. Frankfurt / M .: dipa-Verlag 1991, pp. 33-44.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Ruge among the Berlin 'Free' (1842)". Marx-Engels Works. Vol. 27, opposite p. 400.
  2. ^ A b c Will von Poswik, Herbert Conrad: Bayreuth . Druckhaus Bayreuth, Bayreuth 1974, p. 23 f .
  3. a b c d Max Stirner: Life and Work at, accessed on July 6, 2019
  4. Max Stirner's biography at, accessed on November 30, 2014
  5. ^ John Henry Mackay: Max Stirner. His life and his work. 3rd edition (self-published) Berlin-Charlottenburg 1914, p. 222
  6. ^ Marx-Engels works . Vol. 38, p. 43.
  7. Cf. Bernd A. Laska : Nietzsche's initial crisis . In: Germanic Notes and Reviews, vol. 33, n. 2, fall / autumn 2002, pp. 109–133.
  8. ^ Marx-Engels works, Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1969, Volume 3, pp. 101ff.
  9. see e.g. B. Wolfgang Eßbach : Countermeasures. Frankfurt / M .: Materialis 1982
  10. ^ Rüdiger Safranski: Nietzsche. Biography of his thinking. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag 2000, p. 123 ff.
  11. Cf. Bernd A. Laska: A permanent dissident . Nuremberg 1996. p. 38ff.
  12. Cf. Bernd A. Laska: A permanent dissident. Nuremberg 1996. pp. 40ff, passim; as well as Max Nettlau : The early spring of anarchy . Berlin 1925. pp. 169-179.
  13. Hans G Helms: The ideology of the anonymous society. Cologne: DuMont 1966, foreword, pp. 1–5.
  14. Alexander Stulpe: Faces of the Unique. Max Stirner and the anatomy of modern individuality. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010, p. 935; on this, a review essay by Bernd A. Laska: Der Stachel Stirner (PDF; 47 kB). In: Enlightenment and Criticism , 17th year, Volume 4, 2010, pp. 272–279.
  15. ^ Peter Sloterdijk : The terrible children of the modern age. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2014, pp. 257, 468.
  16. Rosa and Volker carbon home: Bayreuth from A-Z . Verlag C. and C. Rabenstein, Bayreuth, p. 84
  17. Stirnerstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  18. Berlin Senate Department of Honorary Graves ( Memento of the original from December 16, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19.> Town Hall> Press Releases> Archive . In: . July 31, 2006. Archived from the original on July 21, 2013. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  21. ^ Max Stirner Society eV ( Memento from September 8, 2013 in the Internet Archive )