Libertarians You’ve Never Heard Of: Max Stirner

SFL Staff

It’s important to learn from intellectual giants like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but there are many unsung heroes that are also worth exploring. In thiseducational series, we hope to introduce students to such individuals. While not all of the figures profiled here explicitly identified as libertarian, they made great contributions to the cause of liberty that are worth acknowledging.

“The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.”– Max Stirner, quoted in The Great Quotations (1960) by George Seldes.

Who: Max Stirner (1806-1856) was a German philosopher whose works are recognized as a precursor to nihilism, existentialism, and individualist anarchism. He undertook many different challenges as an author, including the translation of Adams Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Jean-Baptiste Say’s Treatise on Political Economy into German. His philosophy was polemical because it rested on individualism, egoism, and rationality. In Stirner’s words, “to be free is to be one’s own creature and one’s own creation.”

Why he matters: Stirner challenged the logic of the philosophical and political grounds of his time, advocating for individualism and anarchism. His philosophy had a destructive impact to left-Hegelianism, an ideological current that had a significant role on the intellectual development of Karl Marx. He is the father of contemporary individualist anarchism and he is highly respected as an intellectual who fought against the predominant ideas of his time to free himself.

If you only read one thing: Read his major work, The Ego and Its Own, which is a radical anti-authoritarian and individualist manifesto.

Available online:The Ego and Its Own