The Ego and Its Own (German: Der Einzige und sein Eigentum; also translated as The Individual and His Property; a literal translation would read The Sole One and His Property) is a philosophical work by German philosopher Max Stirner (1806-1856), first published in 1844


According to Lawrence Stepelewich the book is largely modelled on the work Phenomenology of Spirit by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who was a great source of inspiration and dispute among the Young Hegelians, a group of 19th-century Berlin intellectuals with whom Stirner associated.

The book portrays the life of a human individual as dominated by authoritarian concepts ('fixed ideas' or 'spooks'), which must be shaken and undermined by each individual in order for that person to act freely. These concepts include primarily religion and ideology, and the institutions claiming authority over the individual. The primary implication of undermining these concepts and institutions is, for Stirner, an ethical egoism, which can be said to[original research?] transcend language. According to him, not only is God an alienating ideal, as Feuerbach had argued in The Essence of Christianity (1841), but so too are humanity itself, nationalism and all such ideologies. According to Stirner, individuals should only entertain temporary associations between themselves, agreeing in mutual aid and cooperation for a period of time, but only when in each individual's interest (perhaps anticipating cooperative games):

"In the time of spirits thoughts grew till they overtopped my head, whose offspring they yet were; they hovered about me and convulsed me like fever-phantasies -- an awful power. The thoughts had become corporeal on their own account, were ghosts, e. g. God, Emperor, Pope, Fatherland, etc. If I destroy their corporeity, then I take them back into mine, and say: "I alone am corporeal." And now I take the world as what it is to me, as mine, as my property; I refer all to myself." p.15


Stirner asserted his own "doctrine" of self-interest to be a universal truth or established viewpoint, and likens his book to a ladder you throw away after climbing, a sort of self-therapy.[1]

Do I write out of love to men? No, I write because I want to procure for my thoughts an existence in the world; and, even if I foresaw that these thoughts would deprive you of your rest and your peace, even if I saw the bloodiest wars and the fall of many generations springing up from this seed of thought — I would nevertheless scatter it. Do with it what you will and can, that is your affair and does not trouble me. You will perhaps have only trouble, combat, and death from it, very few will draw joy from it.

If your weal lay at my heart, I should act as the church did in withholding the Bible from the laity, or Christian governments, which make it a sacred duty for themselves to 'protect the common people from bad books'. But not only not for your sake, not even for truth's sake either do I speak out what I think. No —

I sing as the bird sings That on the bough alights; The song that from me springs Is pay that well requites

I sing because — I am a singer. But I use you for it because I — need ears

– Max Stirner, 'The Ego and his Own, p.394


Stirner repeatedly quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Bruno Bauer assuming that readers will be familiar with their works. He also paraphrases and makes word-plays and in-jokes on formulations found in Hegel's works as well as in the works of his contemporaries such as Ludwig Feuerbach. This can make the book more demanding for contemporary readers.

Publication historyEdit

First Edition (1844)Edit

  • The original German edition appeared in October 1844 in Leipzig.

===First editions in other languages=== (chronologically):

  • French ("L'unique et sa propriété", 1900),
  • Danish ("Den Eneste og hans Ejendom", 1901),
  • Spanish ("El único y su propriedad", 1901),
  • Italian ("L'unico", 1902),
  • Russian ("Edinstvennyj i ego dostojanie", 1906),
  • Dutch ("De Eenige en z'n Eigendom", 1907),
  • Swedish ("Den ende och hans egendom", 1910),
  • Japanese ("Yuiitsusha to sono shoyû", 1920),
  • Catalan ("L'únic i la seva propietat", 1986).
  • Greek ("O μοναδικός και το δικό του", 2002),
  • Portuguese ("O Único e a sua propriedade", 2004).

English EditionsEdit

First Edition (1907)Edit

  • The first English Language Edition appeared in 1907; it was a translation by the American individualist anarchist, Steven T. Byington with an introduction by James L. Walker. The Publisher was Benjamin R. Tucker, New York. This edition was reprinted several times by several publishers in New York and London up to 1931.

====Libertarian Book Club edition (1963)===-

  • The 1963 Libertarian Book Club edition is a re-print of a 1907 translation by Steven T. Byington. Edited by James J. Martin and with a cover by the son of Rudolf Rocker, the edition revived interest in Stirner as an influence on anarchism and brought Max Stirner to a wider audience in the English speaking world. This edition was reprinted several times by several publishers in the U.S. and U.K. up to 1993, sometimes with a preface by Sidney E. Parker.

Harper & Row - Readings in Fascist, Racist and Elitist Ideology (1971)Edit

  • An abridged English edition: The Ego and His Own, trans. Steven T. Byington, revised, selected and annotated by John Carroll. New York / London: Harper & Row 1971. 266 pp. The book appeared in a series "Roots of the Right. Readings in Fascist, Racist and Elitist Ideology", together with writings by Gobineau, Rosenberg, de Maistre, Maurras. The text consists of a mix of about a hundred quotations from "The Ego" (and some from Stirner's Minor Writings), reducing the volume to about a half.

Rebel Press Edition (1993)Edit

  • The 1993 Rebel Press, London edition is an unabridged republication of the 1963 re-print of the 1907 Steven T. Byington original by the Libertarian Book Club. The Rebel Press, London edition has a cover design from anarchist artist and Cartoonist, Clifford Harper and a preface by Sidney E. Parker.

Cambridge University press edition (1995)Edit

  • The Cambridge University press edition (ed. David Leopold, 1995) is a revised version of the original translation by Steven T. Byington (1907), an American individualist anarchist. With a new introduction by David Leopold. David Leopold changed the title (His to Its) "not out of ahistorical considerations of 'political correctness' but because Stirner clearly identifies the egoistic subject as prior to gender" (p. xl). He accepted the Steven T. Byington translation ("an heroic attempt to convey the readable yet idiosyncratic prose of Stirner's original") but "made a number of amendments, such as removing infelicities and archaisms, replacing the occasional missing sentence, and restoring some of the original paragraph and sections breaks." (p. xxxix)