non serviam #18
- Ken McLeod:
- Sid Parker:
- Sid Parker:
A few years have passed since the last issue of Non Serviam. It is timefor it to resurface. So we are starting out fresh with a homage wriitenby Ken McLeod written to Sid Parker, who has also contributed two piecesto this issue. The last of Sid’s pieces is also a homage, but as opposedto the one by Ken, one of sadness: An obituary of Wm. Flygare, a man Ihad looked forward to corresponding with.
Sid’s other contribution is a thorough criticism of my conception of the”Union of Egoists”, a concept introduced by Stirner that critics to thisday still cannot agree on the meaning of. It raises many interestingissues; issues that will be responded to in depth in the next issue.
Finally, Non Serviam and Nonserv have moved homes quite a few time sincelast. Nonserv has found a stable home courtesy of the etext archives,and has address firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscription issues are handled email@example.com. Non Serviam is still handled manually by yourstruly, and its present home is
Visit the web site, and tell me if you have any contributions to thecollection of “no”s in any language.
Until #19, enjoy …
Svein Olav Nyberg (ed.)
What Sid did
The luckiest way to stumble across the writings of S. E. Parker is aftera long exploration of anarchism and libertarianism. What a breath offresh air! Especially after exploring the closed room of Objectivism. Asfar as I know, Parker has written nothing about Rand – which suggests acertain gallantry. A man big enough to criticise Ragnar Redbeard (themysterious author of _Might Is Right_) as a *moralist* has no need tobeat up little old ladies.
What Sid did was to drive a wedge between egoism and anarchism. DoraMarsden – whose writings Parker has helped to rescue from obscurity -did the same decades earlier, but in a context which is now remote, andin a dense and allusive style. Parker writes in the plainest English.Bakunin, Engels once said, created anarchism by combining Stirner andProudhon. Parker rescued Stirner from that entanglement, in which evenTucker was snared. Nobody any longer has an excuse to combine egoismwith a muddle of economic fallacies.
I’ve heard it said, half in jest, that ‘Sid will argue that egoism iscompatible with any political philosophy – *except* anarchism.’ There’sa lot of truth in that, because egoism is not about how the world shouldbe – it is, in part, an explanation of how the world is as it is. Allforms of anarchism, even individualist anarchism, have a moral basis inthe rejection of domination. How inconsistent to proclaim ‘the war ofall against all’ and to disdain the use of that war machine, the state,when it acts in *your* interests!
The political applications of this insight are far wider than may beapparent to those whose heads are, as Parker has aptly put it, ‘stuck inthe anarchist tar-bucket’. And they are not necessarily conservative, or’right-wing’, in their implications. Over the past couple of decades,and partly as a result of libertarian argument, millions upon millionsof people have allowed their interests to be sacrificed to ‘the freemarket’. Like a starving man who believes it is immoral to steal (whichit is, but the egoist will always ask ‘So?’) they have put propertyrights ahead of *their* property.
The spooks of idealistic socialism have been thoroughly exorcised. But arealistic socialism rests not on morals but on might – and the sovereignfranchise, as one of Heinlein’s characters puts it, is might. No egoistshould have the slightest qualm about using it, and encouraging othersto use it, if it is in his interest to do so. The spooks oflibertarianism still haunt the world, and Parker has exposed them asrags on a stick.
At least, that’s what Sid did for me.
- Your write that “The Union requires that both/all parties arepresent though conscious egoism.” I do not think that the examples of’unions of egoists’ given by Stirner in his reply to Hess – i.e. somechildren playing, a couple of sweethearts, some friends going for a ink -support your view. The children, sweethearts and friends-were hardlylikely to be _conscious_ egoists, students of Stirner. Much more likelythey would be in various ways possessed by fixed ideas such asChristianity, good citizenship, “mummy and daddy know best,” etc. The samegoes for “unions uniting to catch a thief or to get better pay for one’slabour.” Your conception of the union of egoists strikes me as a very_idealized_ one, similar to those promised, but never delivered, byreligio-therapeutic cults. If we have to wait for fully conscious egoists,free from all possession, before we can form such unions than we arecondemned to waiting for the advent of the _ideal_ man, a spook belongingto never-never land.
- Stirner seems to me to be sometimes using the conception of ‘theunion of egoists’ as a metaphor to describe a _change_of_attitude_ ratherthan an actual ‘institution’. For example, when he writes “therefore wetwo, the State and I are enemies. I, the egoist, have not at heart thewelfare of this ‘human society’. I sacrifice nothing to it, I only utilizeit; but to be able to utilize it I transform it rather into my property andmy creature; that is I annihilate it and form in its place the Union OfEgoists,” it appears to me that he is not here claiming that he wants_to_literally_ destroy the State as an _institution_, but as an _idea_, a_sacred_principle_. Otherwise, what point would there be in seeking toutilize the ‘human society’ of the State if one is going to abolish it?You cannot use something which no longer exists. Indeed, Stirner himselfbears this out when he states “only when the State comes into contact withhis ownness does the egoist take any active interest in it. If thecondition of the State does not bear hard upon the scholar, is he to occupyhimself with it because it is his ‘most sacred duty’?_So_long_as_the_State_does_according_to_his_wishes_ (my italics) what needhas he to look up from his studies?” Here Stirner is treating the State asa mere instrument, not as ‘ruling principle.’ Stirner’s own vagueness aboutthe exact nature of ‘the union of egoists’ is partly to blame for thefantasies that some have woven about it as a means of ‘worldtransformation’. However, the considerably less weight he gave to it inhis replies to his critics and his locating it in the examples he gavethere, supports the view of Henri Arvon (Aux Sources de l’Existentialisme:Max Stirner, 1954) that in The Ego and His Own Stirner had not “succeededin freeing himself completely from the climate of social reform thatsurrounded him” when writing of the union of egoists.
- You reject Hess’s criticism of Stirners’s conception of the unionof egoist as consisting of a relationship between an Einzige and anEigentum – i.e. that I treat you as my property. You see this sort ofrelationship as “one-sided” and contend that Stirner really meant somethingelse. Did he? Nothing could be clearer to my mind than he did _not_ meansomething else. What else does he mean when he says “Let us therefore notaspire to community, but to _one-sidedness_. Let us not seek the mostcomprehensive commune, ‘human society,’ but let us seek in others onlymeans and organs which we may use as our property! As we do not see ourequal in the tree, the beast, so the presupposition that others are _ourequals_ springs from hypocrisy. No one is _my equal_, but I regard him,equally with all other beings as my property”? Of course, such a view ofthe other as property does not rule out coming to “an understanding Š inorder, by agreement, to strengthen _my power_, and by combined force toaccomplish more than individual force can effect … thus it is a – union.”Stirner, then, regarded treating the other as his property as compatiblewith forming a union with him! What Stirner means by ‘union’ is not whatHess said he meant, but nor did he mean what you say he meant…..
(S. E. Parker)
His published works included two collections of poetry: “Presence” in 1972and “This” in 1993 (revised 1995); a monograph “Montaigne-Shakespeare” in1978; an annotated edition of Etienne la BoetiŽ’s “The Will to Bondage” in1974. In 1996 he completed “The Wrath of Hamlet”, which has yet to bepublished. In addition he contributed reviews, translations and poetry to”Minus One” and “Ego”.
Around 1970 he prepared a new edition of Max Stirner’s “The Ego and HisOwn” for The Libertarian Book Club of New York which, despite their initialenthusiasm, they eventually refused to publish. His introduction containeda witty overview of the diverse reactions of both published writers andprivate correspondents to their reading of Stirner, a translation ofGoethe’s light-hearted drinking song “Vanitas! Vanitatum! Vanitas!” “thatStirner had adopted as his theme song”, and a description of “the making”of the form and style of “The Ego and His Own”. Flygare concluded “MaxStirner has been associated with philosophy, (a-)politics, history andespecially with language and literature, but it is most likely as aneducator (educer rather than inducer) that he lives. “To teach means toencourage.”
A glimpse of the man behind the writings was shown when he retired andwrote a farewell message to his students for the Kyoto University magazine”Logos”. In it he recalled the student disturbances of 1969: “In my diary Iread ‘Hatsun-gu^o (Pronunciation Sutra) beats reds’: while all otherclass-rooms were empty, we could prevent rioters from breaking up yourclass by standing in our midst and answering nonsense with nonsense by ourchanting the pronunciation syllables ‘er-aw-oh’ and so on.”
William is survived by his wife Yoshiko, his daughters Freya and Mathilde,and a grandson, ^Otaro.
S.E. Parker, June 1998