THE POLITICS OF THE SELF

THOUGHT

 

 

 

 

 

The fixed idea provides the illusion that there are fixed universals around which human life can be constructed. It generates a belief in stable representations and expectations that are ‘naturally’ human.

Fixing a stable representation of the human being is precisely what Stirner meant by the generalised concept ‘Man.’ Once the human being is represented as a stable objective concept he or she becomesreplaceable.

 

Asobjectified subjects, the ‘I’ has lost its power.

 

There is only a mass. As Jacques Derrida put it, the process of objectification tums a world of unique individuals into the material for production units, police computers, and concentration As Todd May describes the poststructuralist project, all assertions of human essence, even humanism, must be rejected.

 

As is the case with the poststructuralists, Stirner also rejected the possibility that any totalising concept of ‘Man’ could do justice to the unique character of each individual. What links this position to the criticism of the state is the relationship between the construction of truth and the conditions of power in society. If truth is an historical construction and if it does not have any link to a transcendental ahistorical universal ‘law’ or condition, then the structures from which truth is generated cannot be separated from the institutions of power which make them possible.

 

 

Hence, Stimer draws the only logical conclusion possible based on his premises, that it is the state that maintains the generalised concept, or ideal, to which the individual must conform, and it is the state, therefore, that must be resisted. Power attaches identities to people. Power imposes a law of truth that ties people to power.

 

Hence, Michel Foucault concluded that the real political battle is not over the content of truth, but over the status of claims to truth.This is precisely what Stirner recognised in rejecting the ‘fixed idea.’The state reinforces the fixed idea by imposing a code of conduct and discipline on the population.

 

The generalised concept ‘Man’ is the bearer of the idea of normalcy. Normalcy provides the foundation for the code of discipline.

Discipline takes the form of control over individual bodies. It is the state that carries out the imposition of what humanistic culture demands.

 

Intellectuals have been the bearers of the liberal humanist tradition, and can be identified with its oppression. Denying the possibility of the transcendental removes the intellectual from the privileged place granted since Plato’s Republic.

 

Since intellectuals can no longer be seen as the bearers of truth, they are seen by Foucault as occupying a specific place in the p~werhierarchyT.~he~y are the legitimators of the totalising concepts within the structure of power, whether in the name of theology or science.

 

At this point epistemological critique and political commentary come together. If ‘I’ am not the flesh and blood, thought and desire, that is someone else’s ‘I,’ then I must be unique. According to Stimer, my value is that I am an ‘I’ (pp.365-66). If this is the case then the entire Enlightenment project, what Stirner would include as both social liberalism and humane liberalism, must be mistaken. ‘I’ cannot be generalised. What is important in the understanding of ‘I’ is not universal but unique. The ‘I’ must generate a politics of ‘difference.’

 

A politics built around what is different and unique is all that can emerge based on the antifoundational premises of Stirner, Nietzsche, and the poststructuralists. Thus when Stirner denounces the state and calls for a ‘Union of Egos’ in its place (p.179), it is a claim in favour of respecting the ‘I’ not the generalised concept ‘Man’. Respect for difference creates a positive political stance toward the individual. It does not degrade human nature by reducing it to the lowest common denominator. It puts human beings beyond the grasp of any single concept.

 

Any assertion that human beings canbe definedby any assertion of ‘essence,’ ‘identity’ or ‘human nature’ must be rejected. Critique does not set dogmas. It crushes fixed ideas and opposes systems . What is designated as generalized essence is not ‘me,’ but is only a name). I am at every moment creating myself . Or, as Michel Foucault put it, each life is a work of art in progress.).

 

 

 

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