Although Marsden avoided making an analysis of Stirner, she still adopted an eclectic few pithy theses from him; however, none were either fundamental or specific. The manner of her selective appropriation in particular was seen in the dispute she fought out with Tucker in her periodicals (see Parker, 1986, both articles).
Benjamin R. Tucker (1854-1939) was from 1881 to 1907 publisher of the individualist-anarchist magazine »Liberty,« which was published in New England (Boston, New York). In the late 1880s, the polyglot journalist James L. Walker introduced Stirner, who was then relatively unknown even in Germany, as a topic of discussion in the magazine. The result was an irreconcilable polarisation of opinions, within both the readers and the editorial staff. Stirner’s morally indignant opponents respectively canceled their subscriptions and contributions. Therefore, in spite of Tucker and the remaining contributors, »Liberty« became in no way Stirnerian. On the contrary, once the periodical divided, the theme of Stirner was only briefly and in a subdued manner discussed and quickly “forgotten.” In 1907, after a twenty-year delay, Tucker finally issued the first English translation of »Der Einzige und sein Eigentum.« Shortly after, as a result of the fire that destroyed his publishing house, he ended his journalistic career and moved to France with the intention of spending the rest of his life in seclusion.
However, Tucker once broke his resigned silence after 1907, because Marsden’s newly established »The Freewoman« gave him a reason to be somewhat optimistic again. He began to write from June, 1913, onwards in »The New Freewoman.« His contributions were mostly correspondence from Paris but also theoretical articles in which he, as before in »Liberty,« promoted Proudhon’s mutualism. A social contract was practically indispensable for a life in society, he said, and such a contract that did not bind the citizen to God and a sovereign ruler but only to his own conscience “would have been acceptable even to Max Stirner as a charter for his ‘Union of the Free’.” Marsden replied that such a society would, in effect, be more repressive than all those that came before, because the “State” which had been transferred to the conscience would be omnipresent. She saw no fundamental difference between Tucker’s “individualist” anarchism and collectivist anarchism, terming it a “clerico-libertarian” doctrine — a criticism with which she could have quoted Stirner and proclaimed: Our anarchists are pious people!
Tucker was angered and finally broke off the debate. He refuted Marsden’s claim of being an anarchist, instead terming her “archist and egoist,” and in March, 1914, he withdrew for good from public debate. Marsden took up this polemic designation positively and professed her “archism” in a direct reply (2 March1914), as well as in a later article about »The Illusion of Anarchism« (15 Sept 1914). Every living being, she said, is archist from birth, because it seeks through all means to foster its own interests rather than those of others. Anarchism, on the other hand, preaches — “like any church” — that one should deny his innate archism=egoism. An “inner spiritual police,” the conscience, should prohibit him from indulging his natural need for domination and for the unhampered gratification of his wishes. Some anarchists were indeed for the idea of the ego as a sovereign ruler, but only when it had first changed itself in a definite way, whereas Marsden, as an archist, meant the real, existing, unchanged individuals and their egos, their spontaneous wishes and desires as well as their “vulgar simple satisfaction according to taste — a tub for Diogenes; a continent for Napoleon; control of a trust for Rockefeller.” [And what for Dora Marsden?] Referring to Tucker’s remark, which noted that history up until the present took exactly this course, Marsden answered that this showed exactly — in line with philosophical pragmatism — that the concept was correct. The sooner the miserable wretches became archists, that is to say, looked after their own interests, the better (2 March1914).
The discussion between Marsden and Tucker touched upon that theoretical as well as practical problem which is of chief importance to any thoroughly considered, radical (not just “socialist”) anarchism: the anthropological phenomenon that one can try to name and circumscribe as that of “voluntary servitude” / of “conscience” as an internalized governing authority / of the “enculturation” of every newborn in a social system rooted in millennia / of an unconscious and irrational “superego,” which is implanted in every individual, or as related concepts. Characteristic of this discussion between two protagonists who are often portrayed as being Stirnerian is that they, like many other thinkers (see Laska, 1996), never once perceived the quality of Stirner’s given form of the problem, allegedly or ostensibly developing Stirner’s ideas but actually missing them, Tucker in individualist anarchism and Marsden initially in an assertive trivial-egoism, called “archism,” later in a mystical-cosmological “all-egoism.”