“THE MAX STIRNER OF FEMINISM” ?

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The development of Marsden’s theory formation is of interest here only insofar as it directly relates to the theme of anarchism in the relatively short period from ca. 1912 to 1914. Until 1912, Marsden’s viewpoint had progressed from a socialist to a feminist and humanist and finally to an individualist point of view, which she termed egoist and in which all that had come previously was “alike contained and transcended.” Literary “egoisms” had come into vogue since ca. 1890, most from the Continent, penetrating the Anglo-Saxon sphere (Nietzsche, Barrès, and others) and causing the discourse in Marsden’s »Freewoman« to affirm egoism before the name of Stirner was even mentioned. Nevertheless, the American culture critic Floyd Dell addressed Marsden even then — due to her programmatic opening article (»Bondwomen,« 23 Nov 1911) — admiringly as “The Max Stirner of Feminism” (»Women as World Builders,« p.103).

After Stirner’s »The Ego and His Own« appeared in English (London, 1912) this book seemed to Marsden to be of especially remarkable value. Contrary to habit, she even spoke about the book once, enthusiastically and with unchecked superlatives: it was (not “one of the,” but rather) “the” “most powerful work” that had ever appeared (1 Sept 1913). — Only he or she who is familiar with the peculiar ways in which Stirner’s thought was received, particularly those approving (Mackay, Ruest, Jünger; see Laska, 1996), will look more closely here.

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THE UNIQUE ONE MEETS THE OVERHUMAN II

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Zarathustra attacks individual humans for what they are, how they live, what they value, and what they aspire to become. They are disparaged because they do not fit the spiritual ideal of the overhuman.

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THE UNIQUE ONE MEETS THE OVERHUMAN

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Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch or overhuman is easily one of the most recognized ideas in his thought. However, it actually plays a small and somewhat vague role in the entirety of his philosophy. Nietzsche’s definition and characterization of the overhuman is also very limited. The overhuman is discussed with any depth only in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

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ANTAGONISTIC FOUNDATIONS:NIETZSCHE’S EGOISM

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Another important difference is apparent in the nature of the egoism of Stirner and N ietzsche. Like Stirner, Nietzsche clearly advocates for egoism and offers an organized criticism of altruistic morality in several of his books. At times, he describes himself as an “immoralist,” perhaps ironically, and applauds the contemporary value of independence, self interest, feeling “responsible for what one intends,” and having “pride in ourselves.”

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ANTAGONISTIC FOUNDATIONS

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If there are significant parallels in the thought of Stirner and Nietzsche, it should be possible to identify similarities in the methodological and theoretical frameworks they developed . If Stirner developed a dialectical egoist critique of modernity, then Nietzsche should have comparable views on the dialectic, egoism, and modernity. This is far from the case.

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THE CONTROVERSY OVER STIRNER’S INFLUENCE

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The broad interest in egoism and the notion of the “superman” in modernist literature and criticism in the early 1900s encouraged interest in, and conflated the thought of, otherwise divergent “individualist” writers and philosophers.

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STIRNER-NIETZSCHE AND THE REVOLT AGAINST MODERNITY

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Stirner remains a marginal figure in contemporary philosophy and social thought, despite his significant influence on theorists such as Benjamin Tucker, James L. Walker, Dora Marsden, and the writers and activists associated with Liberty and The Egoist.

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DORA MARSDEN AND THE EGOIST CRITIQUE OF MODERNITY

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Although she bristled at the term, Marsden is arguably the most forceful “Stirnerian” among the writers and activists who were influenced by Max Stirner.

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EMBARGOISM

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Whatever its form, anarchism, the “libertarian creed,” is basically a bad d ream that laments political conflict and seeks the end of the intrusion of individual interests and self-assertion in social life. It is a fantasy that, sooner or later, appeals to morality and the internal police of conscience to repress and renounce the self by “respecting” the interests of the other.

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EGOISM-ARCHISM-AND THE CRITIQUE OF ANARCHISM

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Despite the effort Marsden put into the critique of culture and social movements, political theory w a s never far from her mind. Her three journals are replete with articles and commentary that subject political thought to an egoist perspective. She variously assails democracy, socialism, Marxism, utopianism, autocracy, militarism, and libertarianism.

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