Books Anarchy Enemies of Society

Enemies of Society

Enemies of Society
SKU SKU17540
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Anon


An Anthology of Individualist & Egoist Thought

This book tells the story of the most neglected tendency in anarchist thought; egoism.

The story of anarchism is usually told as a story of great bearded men who had beautiful ideas and a series of beautiful failures, culminating in the most beautiful failure of them all -- the Spanish Civil War: a noble history of failed ideas and practice.

Egoism, and individualist anarchism, suffer a different kind of fate. It is not a great history and glorious failure but an obscure series of stories of winning, with victory defined by the only terms that matter, those of people who lived life to their fullest and whose struggle against the existing order defined them. This struggle was not one of abstractions, of Big Ideas, but of people attempting to claim an authentic stake in their own life.

Inspired by the writings of Stirner's "The Ego and His Own" the assertion these people make is not of the composition of a better world (for everyone) but of how the machinations of society, especially one of abstractions and Big Ideas, have shaped the individual members of that society. How everything that we know and believe has been shaped (by structure and intent) into a conformed, denatured shadow of what we could be.

Individualists anarchists have always argued that anarchism should not be a version of heaven on earth but a "plurality of possibilities". This has relegated their activity to the actions that people make in their lives rather than participating in political bodies and formations that shape, and participate in, society. Egoists have gone to war with this world, robbed banks, practiced free love, and won everything except those things worth nothing: history, politics, & acceptance by society.

People like you have been denounced as "enemies of society". No doubt you would indignantly deny being such and claim that you are trying to save society from the vampire of the State. You delude yourselves. Insofar as "society" means an organized collectivity having one basic norm of behavior that must be accepted by all (and that includes your libertarian communist utopia) and insofar as the norm is a product of the average, the crowd, the mediocre, then anarchists are always enemies of society. There is no reason to suppose that the interests of the free individual and the interests of the social machine will ever harmonize, nor is it desirable that they should. Permanent conflict between the two is the only perspective that makes any sense to me. But I expect that you will not see this, that you will continue to hope that if you repeat "the free society is possible" enough times then it will become so.

Publisher: Ardent Press
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Customer Reviews

  • Author: CM
    This is a terrific book.

    It starts with a crackling 23-page preface by an anonymous author, which sets the tone for the whole collection and puts the ideas in context of the broader anarchist impulse. This collection is a rousing defense of the individual against all the authority – State, religion, society, morality – everything. Nothing is sacred. The book is in the grand tradition that begins with Max Stirner.

    I’ll go so far as to say the collection is important as it curates authors and ideas that lie submerged in the mainstream of anarchist thinking – some of which are, for all practical purposes, forgotten by that stream. And some that remain tragically undiscovered for lack of translations.

    “Yet,” as the preface points out, “these remain some of the more wild, undomesticated, and disreputable voices in anarchist thought, the voices that embody the most radical qualities of the anarchist revolt – the “heart of the blast,” so to speak – and in them we catch gleams of the elemental and barbaric will to sovereignty that characterizes an unconquered individual.”

    Some of these voices will be vaguely familiar – James L. Walker, John Beverly Robinson and John Henry Mackay. If you know the names it’s probably because of their association with Benjamin Tucker and his famed periodical Liberty. But many will probably be new to you – Renzo Novatore, Enzo Martucci and E. Armand, for example. All have interesting pieces here and you’ll be wishing there was more available by all of them.

    S.E. Parker’s writings are well represented here, too. These are among my favorite in the book. Parker has a sensible, accessible and yet learned style. He is a clear-headed thinker and deft defender of egoist thought. I’ve read some negative reviews on this book and they tended to focus on Parker’s contributions. This baffles me. I can only say these critics might not like Parker for his cutting criticisms of anarchism, but it is hard to argue he’s wrong.

    And that’s the point. All anarchists should read this book. Anyone with even a remote interest in anarchist thought (or rebellion generally) should wrestle with the concepts and ideas gathered in this collection. They lay down a serious challenge, one that is hard to argue against. The view here is rooted in the real world, as it exists. It is devoid of wish thinking and idealism. It will inoculate your mind against all kinds of “spooks” and you’ll never think of certain cherished ideals in quite the same way again.

    Because of all this, I found the book very liberating. I put down this book feeling much freer for just having read it. The preface says as much when it talks about “egoistic victories come not in the form of revolutionary martyrdom, but in the successful creation of free lives, and at times, free culture.”

    Of course, that’s where the real revolution starts – inside your head. It is a pleasure and a glory to knock over the walls in your head. The glossary of terms in the back, “Flaming Resurrections of a Charred Alphabet,” is not to be missed. It is a collection of mini-essays on various terms. It’s filled with great stuff. And on this point, under “iconoclast,” our anonymous author writes about “That sweet joy… given to ironic nihilists who, with their Diogenes lamps glimmering, lay siege to the citadels of fixed ideas that they have erected in their own consciousness.”

    Well done. Now, buy this book!

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