Max Stirner’s Der Einzige und sein Eigentum belongs at the very beginning of the history of modernist manifestos. In many ways, it was simultaneously both the midwife and progeny of the materialist energy which would permeate the late-19th and early-20th century. Roberto Calasso writes in his book The Forty-Nine Steps that “autodidacts and maniacs” have felt drawn to Stirner’s “lump of nihilism.”.His predominating idea—the exaltation of a subjective ego as the guiding principle of life—was too sticky a subject for staid academics and men of letters. And yet they were haunted by the book and its author. Marx and Engels wrote the unpublished (in their lifetimes) The German Ideology as a book-length critique of Stirner without taking the time to mention the man or his work. In letters, Engels called it a criticism “as voluminous as the book itself.” Nietzsche took the essence of Stirner and dressed it up in philology. He whispered Striner’s name to friends but never dared write about the man. Decades later, Heidegger would, as Calasso suggests, quote Nietzsche’s silence on Stirner while putting many of his notions of subjectivity to use.
What does this have to do with Rachel Haywire and her book The New Art Right? Honesty, I suppose. Haywire’s latest collection of essays draws openly from Stirner. You could say there are two branches of social thought and criticism: those who openly and honestly acknowledge Stirner and those too peevish to mention his name, even if critiquing his ego-centric brand of nihilism. Haywire belongs in the honesty camp. And along with that comes a clear-eyed assessment of where we might be right now and where we might be heading, collectively, in the future.
Haywire is one of Calasso’s autodidacts and maniacs. And as messy and misfit as The Art Right is, its chaotic heat is precisely what it draws its power from. There’s a lot here to think about—both with and against. But Haywire gets the single most important thing about contemporary politics right: our notions of left and right are woefully outmoded.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor