Individualist anarchism

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Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and their will over any kinds of external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems. Individualist anarchism is not a single philosophy but refers to a group of individualistic philosophies that sometimes are in conflict. From there it expanded through Europe and the United States. Benjamin R. Tucker, a famous 19th century individualist anarchist, held that "if the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny."

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into Russian: Индивидуальный анархизм. 8% translated in draft.
Submitted for translation by anarchofront 20.08.2010


Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and their will over any kinds of external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems.[1][2] Individualist anarchism is not a single philosophy but refers to a group of individualistic philosophies that sometimes are in conflict. From there it expanded through Europe and the United States. Benjamin R. Tucker, a famous 19th century individualist anarchist, held that "if the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny."[3]


Early influences in individualist anarchism were the thought of William Godwin[4], Henry David Thoreau (transcendentalism)[5], Josiah Warren ("sovereignty of the individual"), Lysander Spooner ("natural law"), Pierre Joseph Proudhon (mutualism), Anselme Bellegarrigue[6]Herbert Spencer ("law of equal liberty")[7] and Max Stirner (egoism).[8]

Individualist anarchism of different kinds have a few things in common. These are:

1. The concentration on the individual and his/her will over any construction such as morality, ideology, social custom, religion, metaphysics, ideas or the will of others.[9][10]

2. The rejection or reservations on the idea of revolution, seeing it as a time of mass uprising which could bring about new hierarchies. Instead they favor more evolutionary methods of bringing about anarchy through alternative experiences and experiments and education which could be brought about today[11][12]. This is also because it is not seen desirable for individuals the fact of having to wait for revolution to start experiencing alternative experiences outside what is offered in the current social system[13].

3. The view that relationships with other persons or things can only be of one's own interest and can be as transitory and without compromises as desired since in individualist anarchism sacrifice is usually rejected. In this way Max Stirner recommended associations of egoists[14][15]. Individual experience and exploration therefore is emphazised.

The egoist form of individualist anarchism, derived from the philosophy of Max Stirner, supports the individual doing exactly what he pleases – taking no notice of God, state, or moral rules.[16] To Stirner, rights were spooks in the mind, and he held that society does not exist but "the individuals are its reality"– he supported property by force of might rather than moral right.[17] Stirner advocated self-assertion and foresaw "associations of egoists" drawn together by respect for each other's ruthlessness.[18]

For american anarchist historian Eunice Minette Schuster american individualist anarchism "stresses the isolation of the individual—his right to his own tools, his mind, his body, and to the products of his labor. To the artist who embraces this philosophy it is "aesthetic" anarchism, to the reformer, ethical anarchism, to the independent mechanic, economic anarchism. The former is concerned with philosophy, the latter with practical demonstration. The economic anarchist is concerned with constructing a society on the basis of anarchism. Economically he sees no harm whatever in the private possession of what the individual produces by his own labor, but only so much and no more. The aesthetic and ethical type found expression in the Transcendentalism, Humanitarianism, and Romanticism of the first part of the nineteenth century, the economic type in the pioneer life of the West during the same period, but more favorably after the Civil War."[19]. It is for this reason that it has been suggested that to in order to understand american individualist anarchism one must take into account "the social context of their ideas, namely the transformation of America from a pre-capitalist to a capitalist society...The non-capitalist nature of the early USA can be seen from the early dominance of self-employment (artisan and peasant production). At the beginning of the 19th century, around 80% of the working (non-slave) male population were self-employed. The great majority of Americans during this time were farmers working their own land, primarily for their own needs." and so "Individualist anarchism is clearly a form of artisanal socialism... while communist anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism are forms of industrial (or proletarian) socialism."[20]

In european individualist anarchism a different social context helped the rise of european individualist illegalism and as such "The illegalists were proletarians who had nothing to sell but their labour power, and nothing to discard but their dignity; if they disdained waged-work, it was because of its compulsive nature. If they turned to illegality it was due to the fact that honest toil only benefited the employers and often entailed a complete loss of dignity, while any complaiits resulted in the sack; to avoid starvation through lack of work it was necessary to beg or steal, and to avoid conscription into the army many of them had to go on the run."[21] And so an european tendency of individualist anarchism advocated violent individual acts of propaganda by the deed and criticism of organization. Such individualist anarchist tendencies include french illegalism[22][23] and italian anti-organizational insurrectionarism[24]. Bookchin reports that at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th "it was in times of severe social repression and deadening social quiescence that individualist anarchists came to the foreground of libertarian activity -- and then primarily as terrorists. In France, Spain, and the United States, individualistic anarchists committed acts of terrorism that gave anarchism its reputation as a violently sinister conspiracy."[25].

Another important tendency within individualist anarchist currents emphasizes individual subjective exploration and defiance of social conventions. Individualist anarchist philosophy attracted "amongst artists, intellectuals and the well-read, urban middle classes in general."[26] As such Murray Bookchin describes a lot of individualist anarchism as people who "expressed their opposition in uniquely personal forms, especially in fiery tracts, outrageous behavior, and aberrant lifestyles in the cultural ghettos of fin de siecle New York, Paris, and London. As a credo, individualist anarchism remained largely a bohemian lifestyle, most conspicuous in its demands for sexual freedom ('free love') and enamored of innovations in art, behavior, and clothing."[27]. In this way free love[28][29] currents and other radical lifestyles such as naturism[29][30] had popularity among individualist anarchists.

As such differences exist. In regards to economic questions there are adherents to mutualism (Proudhon, Emile Armand, early Benjamin Tucker), egoistic disrespect for "ghosts" such as private property and markets (Stirner, John Henry Mackay, Lev Chernyi, later Tucker), and adherents to anarcho-communism (Albert Libertad, illegalism, Renzo Novatore [31]). Anarchist historian George Woodcock finds a tendency in individualist anarchism of a "distrust (of) all co-operation beyond the barest minimum for an ascetic life"[32].

Early influences

William Godwin

William Godwin can be considered an individualist anarchist[33] and philosophical anarchist who was influenced by the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment,[34] and developed what many consider the first expression of modern anarchist thought.[4] Godwin was, according to Peter Kropotkin, "the first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism, even though he did not give that name to the ideas developed in his work."[35][36] Godwin advocated extreme individualism, proposing that all cooperation in labor be eliminated.[37] Godwin was a utilitarian who believed that all individuals are not of equal value, with some of us "of more worth and importance' than others depending on our utility in bringing about social good. Therefore he does not believe in equal rights, but the person's life that should be favored that is most conducive to the general good.[38] Godwin opposed government because it infringes on the individual's right to "private judgement" to determine which actions most maximize utility, but also makes a critique of all authority over the individual's judgement. This aspect of Godwin's philosophy, minus the utilitarianism, was developed into a more extreme form later by Stirner.[39]

Godwin's individualism was to such a radical degree that he even opposed individuals performing together in orchestras, writing in Political Justice that "everything understood by the term co-operation is in some sense an evil."[37] The only apparent exception to this opposition to cooperation is the spontaneous association that may arise when a society is threatened by violent force. One reason he opposed cooperation is he believed it to interfere with an individual's ability to be benevolent for the greater good. Godwin opposes the idea of government, but wrote that a minimal state as a present "necessary evil"[40] that would become increasingly irrelevant and powerless by the gradual spread of knowledge.[4] He expressly opposed democracy, fearing oppression of the individual by the majority (though he believed it to be preferable to dictatorship).

Godwin supported individual ownership of property, defining it as "the empire to which every man is entitled over the produce of his own industry."[40] However, he also advocated that individuals give to each other their surplus property on the occasion that others have a need for it, without involving trade (e.g. gift economy). Thus, while people have the right to private property, they should give it away as enlightened altruists. This was to be based on utilitarian principles; he said: "Every man has a right to that, the exclusive possession of which being awarded to him, a greater sum of benefit or pleasure will result than could have arisen from its being otherwise appropriated."[40] However, benevolence was not to be enforced, being a matter of free individual "private judgement." He did not advocate a community of goods or assert collective ownership as is embraced in communism, but his belief that individuals ought to share with those in need was influential on the later development of anarchist communism.

Godwin's political views were diverse and do not perfectly agree with any of the ideologies that claim his influence; writers of the Socialist Standard, organ of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, consider Godwin both an individualist and a communist;[41] anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard did not regard Godwin as being in the individualist camp at all, referring to him as the "founder of communist anarchism";[42] and historian Albert Weisbord considers him an individualist anarchist without reservation.[43] Some writers see a conflict between Godwin's advocacy of "private judgement" and utilitarianism, as he says that ethics requires that individuals give their surplus property to each other resulting in an egalitarian society, but, at the same time, he insists that all things be left to individual choice.[4] Many of Godwin's views changed over time, as noted by Kropotkin.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) was the first philosopher to label himself an "anarchist."[44] Some consider Proudhon to be an individualist anarchist,[45][46][47] while others regard him to be a social anarchist.[48][49] Some commentators do not identify Proudhon as an individualist anarchist due to his preference for association in large industries, rather than individual control.[50] Nevertheless, he was influential among some of the American individualists; in the 1840s and 1850s, Charles A. Dana,[51] and William B. Greene introduced Proudhon's works to the United States. Greene adapted Proudhon's mutualism to American conditions and introduced it to Benjamin R. Tucker.[52]

Proudhon opposed government privilege that protects capitalist, banking and land interests, and the accumulation or acquisition of property (and any form of coercion that led to it) which he believed hampers competition and keeps wealth in the hands of the few. Proudhon favoured a right of individuals to retain the product of their labor as their own property, but believed that any property beyond that which an individual produced and could possess was illegitimate. Thus, he saw private property as both essential to liberty and a road to tyranny, the former when it resulted from labor and was required for labor and the latter when it resulted in exploitation (profit, interest, rent, tax). He generally called the former "possession" and the latter "property." For large-scale industry, he supported workers associations to replace wage labour and opposed the ownership of land.

Proudhon maintained that those who labor should retain the entirety of what they produce, and that monopolies on credit and land are the forces that prohibit such. He advocated an economic system that included private property as possession and exchange market but without profit, which he called mutualism. It is Proudhon's philosophy that was explicitly rejected by Joseph Dejacque in the inception of anarchist-communism, with the latter asserting directly to Proudhon in a letter that "it is not the product of his or her labor that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature." An individualist rather than anarchist communist,[45][46][47] Proudhon said that " the very denial of society in its foundation..."[53] and famously declared that "property is theft!" in reference to his rejection of ownership rights to land being granted to a person who is not using that land.

After Dejacque and others split from Proudhon due to the latter's support of individual property and an exchange economy, the relationship between the individualists, who continued in relative alignment with the philosophy of Proudhon, and the anarcho-communists was characterised by various degrees of antagonism and harmony. For example, individualists like Tucker on the one hand translated and reprinted the works of collectivists like Mikhail Bakunin, while on the other hand rejected the economic aspects of collectivism and communism as incompatible with anarchist ideals.


Mutualism is an anarchist school of thought which can be traced to the writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who envisioned a society where each person might possess a means of production, either individually or collectively, with trade representing equivalent amounts of labor in the free market.[54] Integral to the scheme was the establishment of a mutual-credit bank which would lend to producers at a minimal interest rate only high enough to cover the costs of administration.[55] Mutualism is based on a labor theory of value which holds that when labor or its product is sold, in exchange, it ought to receive goods or services embodying "the amount of labor necessary to produce an article of exactly similar and equal utility".[56] Some mutualists believe that if the state did not intervene, as a result of increased competition in the marketplace, individuals would receive no more income than that in proportion to the amount of labor they exert.[57] Mutualists oppose the idea of individuals receiving an income through loans, investments, and rent, as they believe these individuals are not laboring. Some of them argue that if state intervention ceased, these types of incomes would disappear due to increased competition in capital.[58] Though Proudhon opposed this type of income, he expressed: "... I never meant to ... forbid or suppress, by sovereign decree, ground rent and interest on capital. I believe that all these forms of human activity should remain free and optional for all."[59]

Insofar as they ensure the workers right to the full product of their labor, mutualists support markets and private property in the product of labor. However, they argue for conditional titles to land, whose private ownership is legitimate only so long as it remains in use or occupation (which Proudhon called "possession.")[60] Proudhon's Mutualism supports labor-owned cooperative firms and associations[61] for "we need not hesitate, for we have no choice. . . it is necessary to form an ASSOCIATION among workers . . . because without that, they would remain related as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two . . . castes of masters and wage-workers, which is repugnant to a free and democratic society" and so "it becomes necessary for the workers to form themselves into democratic societies, with equal conditions for all members, on pain of a relapse into feudalism."[62] As for capital goods (man-made, non-land, "means of production"), mutualist opinion differs on whether these should be commonly managed public assets or private property.

Mutualists, following Proudhon, originally considered themselves to be libertarian socialists. However, "some mutualists have abandoned the labor theory of value, and prefer to avoid the term "socialist." But they still retain some cultural attitudes, for the most part, that set them off from the libertarian right."[63] Mutualists have distinguished themselves from state socialism, and don't advocate social control over the means of production. Benjamin Tucker said of Proudhon, that "though opposed to socializing the ownership of capital, Proudhon aimed nevertheless to socialize its effects by making its use beneficial to all instead of a means of impoverishing the many to enrich the subjecting capital to the natural law of competition, thus bringing the price of its own use down to cost."[64]

Max Stirner

Johann Kaspar Schmidt (October 25, 1806 – June 26, 1856), better known as Max Stirner (the nom de plume he adopted from a schoolyard nickname he had acquired as a child because of his high brow, in German 'Stirn'), was a German philosopher, who ranks as one of the literary fathers of nihilism, existentialism, post-modernism and anarchism, especially of individualist anarchism. Stirner's main work is The Ego and Its Own, also known as The Ego and His Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum in German, which translates literally as The Only One and his Property). This work was first published in 1844 in Leipzig, and has since appeared in numerous editions and translations.


Max Stirner's philosophy, sometimes called "egoism," is the most extreme[65] form of individualist anarchism. Max Stirner was a Hegelian philosopher whose "name appears with familiar regularity in historically-orientated surveys of anarchist thought as one of the earliest and best-known exponents of individualist anarchism."[8] In 1844, his The Ego and Its Own (Der Einzige and sein Eigentum which may literally be translated as The Unique Individual and His Property[66]) was published, which is considered to be "a founding text in the tradition of individualist anarchism."[8] Stirner does not recommend that the individual try to eliminate the state but simply that they disregard the state when it conflicts with one's autonomous choices and go along with it when doing so is conducive to one's interests.[67] He says that the egoist rejects pursuit of devotion to "a great idea, a good cause, a doctirine, a system, a lofty calling," saying that the egoist has no political calling but rather "lives themselves out" without regard to "how well or ill humanity may fare thereby."[68] Stirner held that the only limitation on the rights of the individual is his power to obtain what he desires.[69] He proposes that most commonly accepted social institutions—including the notion of State, property as a right, natural rights in general, and the very notion of society—were mere spooks in the mind. Stirner wants to "abolish not only the state but also society as an institution responsible for its members."[70] Stirner advocated self-assertion and foresaw Unions of Egoists, non-systematic associations, which Stirner proposed in as a form of organization in place of the state.[71] A Union is understood as a relation between egoists which is continually renewed by all parties' support through an act of will.[72].[33] Even murder is permissible "if it is right for me,"[73], though it is claimed by egoist anarchists that egoism will foster genuine and spontaneous union between individuals.[74]

For Stirner, property simply comes about through might: "Whoever knows how to take, to defend, the thing, to him belongs property." And, "What I have in my power, that is my own. So long as I assert myself as holder, I am the proprietor of the thing." He says, "I do not step shyly back from your property, but look upon it always as my property, in which I respect nothing. Pray do the like with what you call my property!".[75] His concept of "egoistic property" not only a lack of moral restraint on how own obtains and uses things, but includes other people as well.[76] His embrace of egoism is in stark contrast to Godwin's altruism. Stirner was opposed to communism, seeing it as a form of authority over the individual.

This position on property is much different from the native American, natural law, form of individualist anarchism, which defends the inviolability of the private property that has been earned through labor[77] and trade. However, in 1886 Benjamin Tucker rejected the natural rights philosophy and adopted Stirner's egoism, with several others joining with him. This split the American individualists into fierce debate, "with the natural rights proponents accusing the egoists of destroying libertarianism itself."[78] Other egoists include James L. Walker, Sidney Parker, Dora Marsden, John Beverly Robinson, and Benjamin Tucker (later in life).

In Russia, individualist anarchism inspired by Stirner combined with an appreciation for Friedrich Nietzsche attracted a small following of bohemian artists and intellectuals such as Lev Chernyi, as well as a few lone wolves who found self-expression in crime and violence.[79] They rejected organizing, believing that only unorganized individuals were safe from coercion and domination, believing this kept them true to the ideals of anarchism.[80] This type of individualist anarchism inspired anarcho-feminist Emma Goldman[79]

Though Stirner's philosophy is individualist, it has influenced some libertarian communists and anarcho-communists. "For Ourselves Council for Generalized Self-Management" discusses Stirner and speaks of a "communist egoism," which is said to be a "synthesis of individualism and collectivism," and says that "greed in its fullest sense is the only possible basis of communist society."[81] Forms of libertarian communism such as Situationism are influenced by Stirner.[82] Anarcho-communist Emma Goldman was influenced by both Stirner and Peter Kropotkin and blended their philosophies together in her own, as shown in books of hers such as Anarchism And Other Essays.[83]

Early american individualist anarchism

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was an important early influence in individualist anarchist thought in the United States and Europe[12]. Thoreau was an American author, poet, naturalist, tax resister, development critic , surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state. His thought is an early influence on green anarchism but with an emphasis on the individual experience of the natural world influencing later naturist currents,[5]Simple living as a rejection of a materialist lifestyle[5] and self-sufficiency were Thoreau's goals, and the whole project was inspired by transcendentalist philosophy. "Many have seen in Thoreau one of the precursors of ecologism and anarcho-primitivism represented today in John Zerzan. For George Woodcock this attitude can be also motivated by certain idea of resistance to progress and of rejection of the growing materialism which is the nature of american society in the mid XIX century."[30] Civil Disobedience(Resistance to Civil Government) is an essay by Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849. It argues that people should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that people have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.

Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican-American War. It became an influence Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Buber and Leo Tolstoy through its advocacy of nonviolent resistance.[84]. It is also the main precedent for anarcho-pacifism[84].The American version of individualist anarchism has a strong emphasis on the non-aggression principle and individual sovereignty.[85] Some individualist anarchists, such as Thoreau[86][87], do not speak of economics but simply the right of "disunion" from the state, and foresee the gradual elimination of the state through social evolution. His anarchism not only rejects the state but all organized associations of any kind, advocating complete individual self reliance.[88]

Another early individualist anarchist who was very influential was Josiah Warren, who had participated in a failed collective "utopian socialist" experiment headed by Robert Owen called "[[New Harmony[disambiguation needed]]]" and came to the conclusion that such a system is inferior to one that respects the "sovereignty[89] of the individual" and his right to dispose of his property as his own self-interest prescribes.

Developments and expansion

Free Love and anarcha-feminism

An important current within individualist anarchism is free love.[28] Free love advocates sometimes traced their roots back to Josiah Warren and to experimental communities, viewed sexual freedom as a clear, direct expression of an individual's self-ownership. Free love particularly stressed women's rights since most sexual laws discriminated against women: for example, marriage laws and anti-birth control measures.[28] The most important American free love journal was Lucifer the Lightbearer (1883–1907) edited by Moses Harman and Lois Waisbrooker[90] but also there existed Ezra Heywood and Angela Heywood's The Word (1872–1890, 1892–1893).[28] Also M. E. Lazarus was an important American individualist anarchist who promoted free love,[28]

In Europe the main propagandist of free love within individualist anarchism was Emile Armand.[91] He proposed the concept of la camaraderie amoureuse to speak of free love as the possibility of voluntary sexual encounter between consenting adults. He was also a consistent proponent of polyamory.[91] In France there was also feminist activity inside individualist anarchism as promoted by individualist feminists Marie Küge, Anna Mahé, Rirette Maitrejean, and Sophia Zaïkovska.[92]

The Brazilian individualist anarchist Maria Lacerda de Moura lectured on topics such as education, women's rights, free love, and antimilitarism. Her writings and essays landed her attention not only in Brazil, but also in Argentina and Uruguay.[93]

In Germany the Stirnerists Adolf Brand and John Henry Mackay were pioneering campaigners for the acceptance of male bisexuality and homosexuality.


Another important current especially within French and Spanish individualist anarchist groups was naturism[29]. Naturism promoted an ecological worldview, small ecovillages, and most prominently nudism as a way to avoid the artificiality of the industrial mass society of modernity[30]. Naturist individualist anarchists saw the individual in his biological, physical and psychological aspects and avoided and tried to eliminate social determinations [30]. An early influence in this vein was Henry David Thoreau and his famous book Walden[29]. Important promoters of this were Henri Zisly and Emile Gravelle who collaborated in La Nouvelle Humanité followed by Le Naturien, Le Sauvage, L'Ordre Naturel, & La Vie Naturelle [94] Their ideas were important in individualist anarchist circles in France but also in Spain where Federico Urales (pseudonym of Joan Montseny), promotes the ideas of Gravelle and Zisly in La Revista Blanca (1898–1905)[29].

Anglo American individualist anarchism

American mutualism

For american anarchist historian Eunice Minette Schuster "It is apparent...that Proudhonian Anarchism was to be found in the United States at least as early as 1848 and that it was not conscious of its affinity to the Individualist Anarchism of Josiah Warren and Stephen Pearl Andrews...William B. Greene presented this Proudhonian Mutualism in its purest and most systematic form."[95]. William Batchelder Greene (1819-1878) is best known for the works Mutual Banking(1850), which proposed an interest-free banking system, and Transcendentalism, a critique of the New England philosophical school. He saw mutualism as the synthesis of "liberty and order."[96] His " checked by individualism..."Mind your own business," "Judge not that ye be not judged." Over matters which are purely personal, as for example, moral conduct, the individual is sovereign, as well as over that which he himself produces. For this reason he demands "mutuality" in marriage—the equal right of a woman to her own personal freedom and property."[97]

The "Boston Anarchists"

Another form of individualist anarchism was found in the United States, as advocated by the "Boston anarchists."[79] By default American individualists didn't have any problem that "one man employ another" or that "he direct him," in his labor but demanded that "all natural opportunities requisite to the production of wealth be accessible to all on equal terms and that monopolies arising from special privileges created by law be abolished."[98]

They believed state monopoly capitalism (defined as a state-sponsored monopoly)[99] prevented labor from being fully rewarded. Voltairine de Cleyre, summed up the philosophy by saying that the anarchist individualists "are firm in the idea that the system of employer and employed, buying and selling, banking, and all the other essential institutions of Commercialism, centered upon private property, are in themselves good, and are rendered vicious merely by the interference of the State."[100]

Even among the nineteenth century American individualists, there was not a monolithic doctrine, as they disagreed amongst each other on various issues including intellectual property rights and possession versus property in land.[101][102][103] A major schism occurred later in the 19th century when Tucker and some others abandoned their traditional support of natural rights -as espoused by Lysander Spooner- and converted to an "egoism" modeled upon Stirner's philosophy.[102]

Some "Boston anarchists", including Benjamin Tucker, identified themselves as "socialists" which in the 19th century was often used in the broad sense of a commitment to improving conditions of the working class (i.e. "the labor problem").[104] By the turn of the 20th century, the heyday of individualist anarchism had passed,[105] although aspects of the individualist anarchist tradition were later revived with modifications by Murray Rothbard and his anarcho-capitalism in the mid-twentieth century, as a current of the broader libertarian movement.[79][106]

American egoism

Some of the American individualist anarchists later in this era, such as Benjamin Tucker, abandoned natural rights positions and converted to Max Stirner's Egoist anarchism. Rejecting the idea of moral rights, Tucker said that there were only two rights, "the right of might" and "the right of contract." He also said, after converting to Egoist individualism, "In times was my habit to talk glibly of the right of man to land. It was a bad habit, and I long ago sloughed it off....Man's only right to land is his might over it."[107] In adopting Stirnerite egoism (1886), Tucker rejected natural rights which had long been considered the foundation of libertarianism. This rejection galvanized the movement into fierce debates, with the natural rights proponents accusing the egoists of destroying libertarianism itself. So bitter was the conflict that a number of natural rights proponents withdrew from the pages of Liberty in protest even though they had hitherto been among its frequent contributors. Thereafter, Liberty championed egoism although its general content did not change significantly."[108]

"Several periodicals were undoubtedly influenced by Liberty's presentation of egoism. They included: I published by C.L. Swartz, edited by W.E. Gordak and J.W. Lloyd (all associates of Liberty); The Ego and The Egoist, both of which were edited by Edward H. Fulton. Among the egoist papers that Tucker followed were the German Der Eigene, edited by Adolf Brand, and The Eagle and The Serpent, issued from London. The latter, the most prominent English-language egoist journal, was published from 1898 to 1900 with the subtitle 'A Journal of Egoistic Philosophy and Sociology'".[109]

Among those American anarchists who adhered to egoism include Benjamin Tucker, John Beverley Robinson, Steven T. Byington, Hutchins Hapgood, James L. Walker and Victor Yarros and E.H. Fulton.[109] John Beverley Robinson wrote an essay called "Egoism" in which he states that "Modern egoism, as propounded by Stirner and Nietzsche, and expounded by Ibsen, Shaw and others, is all these; but it is more. It is the realization by the individual that they are an individual; that, as far as they are concerned, they are the only individual."[110]

Italian anti-organizationalist individualist anarchism was brought to the United States[111] by italian born individualists such as Giuseppe Ciancabilla and others who advocated for violent propaganda by the deed there. Anarchist historian George Woodcock reports the incident in which the important italian social anarchist Errico Malatesta became involved "in a dispute with the individualist anarchists of Paterson, who insisted that anarchism implied no organization at all, and that every man must act solely on his impulses. At last, in one noisy debate, the individual impulse of a certain Ciancabilla directed him to shoot Malatesta, who was badly wounded but obstinately refused to name his assailant."[112]


19th century individualist anarchists espoused the labor theory of value. Some believe that the modern movement of anarcho-capitalism is the result of simply removing the labor theory of value from ideas of the 19th century American individualist anarchists: "Their successors today, such as Murray Rothbard, having abandoned the labor theory of value, describe themselves as anarcho-capitalists."[113] As economic theory changed, the popularity of the labor theory of classical economics was superseded by the subjective theory of value of neo-classical economics. According to Kevin Carson (himself a mutualist), "most people who call themselves "individualist anarchists" today are followers of Murray Rothbard's Austrian economics."[114]

Murray Rothbard, a student of Ludwig von Mises, combined the Austrian school economics of his teacher with the absolutist views of human rights and rejection of the state he had absorbed from studying the individualist American anarchists of the nineteenth century such as Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker.[115]

In the mid-1950s Rothbard wrote an article under a pseudonym, saying that "we are not anarchists...but not archists either...Perhaps, then, we could call ourselves by a new name: nonarchist," concerned with differentiating himself from communist and socialistic economic views of other anarchists (including the individualist anarchists of the nineteenth century).[116] However, Rothbard later chose the term "anarcho-capitalism" for his philosophy and referred to himself as an anarchist.


Agorism is a radical left-libertarian[δ] form of anarchism, developed from anarcho-capitalism in the late 20th-century by Samuel Edward Konkin III (a.k.a. SEK3). The goal of agorists is a society in which all "relations between people are voluntary exchanges – a free market."[117] Agorists are propertarian market anarchists who consider that property rights are natural rights deriving from the primary right of self-ownership and are not opposed in principle to collectively held property if individual owners of the property consent to collective ownership by contract or other voluntary mutual agreement. However, Agorists are divided on the question of intellectual property rights.[δ]

European individualist anarchism

European individualist anarchism proceeded from the roots laid by William Godwin,[33] Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Max Stirner. Proudhon was an early pioneer of anarchism as well as of the important individualist anarchist current of mutualism.[45][46] Stirner became a central figure of individualist anarchis through the publication of his seminal work The Ego and Its Own which is considered to be "a founding text in the tradition of individualist anarchism."[8] Another early figure was Anselme Bellegarrigue.[118] IA expanded and diversified through Europe, incorporating influences from North American individualist anarchism.

European individualist anarchists include Albert Libertad, Bellegarrigue, Oscar Wilde, Émile Armand, Lev Chernyi, John Henry Mackay, Han Ryner, Adolf Brand, Miguel Gimenez Igualada, Renzo Novatore, and currently Michel Onfray. Important currents within it include free love,[119] anarcho-naturism,[119] and illegalism.[120]


From the legacy of Proudhon and Stirner there emerged a strong tradition of French individualist anarchism. An early important individualist anarchist was Anselme Bellegarrigue. He participated in the French Revolution of 1848, was author and editor of 'Anarchie, Journal de l'Ordre and Au fait ! Au fait ! Interprétation de l'idée démocratique' and wrote the important early Anarchist Manifesto in 1850. Autonomie Individuelle was an individualist anarchist publication that ran from 1887 to 1888. It was edited by Jean-Baptiste Louiche, Charles Schæffer and Georges Deherme[121].

Later this tradition continued with such intellectuals as Albert Libertad, André Lorulot, Emile Armand, Victor Serge, Zo d'Axa and Rirette Maitrejean developed theory in the main individualist anarchist journal in France, L’Anarchie[122] in 1905. Outside this journal, Han Ryner wrote Petit Manuel individualiste (1903). Later appeared the journal L'EnDehors created by Zo d'Axa in 1891.

French individualist anarchist exposed a diversity of positions (per example, about violence and non-violence). For example Emile Armand rejected violence and embraced mutualism while becoming an important propagandist for free love, while Albert Libertad and Zo d’Axa was influential in violentists circles and championed violent propaganda by the deed while adhering to communitarianism or anarcho-communism [123] and rejecting work. Han Ryner on the other side conciled anarchism with stoicism. Nevertheless French individualist circles had a strong sense of personal libertarianism and experimentation. Naturism and free love contents started to have a strong influence in individualist anarchist circles and from there it expanded to the rest of anarchism also appearing in Spanish individualist anarchist groups[29].

Anarchist naturism was promoted by Henri Zisly, Emile Gravelle [94] and Georges Butaud. Butaud was a individualist "partisan of the milieux libres, publisher of "Flambeau" ("an enemy of authority") in 1901 in Vienna. Most of his energies were devoted to creating anarchist colonies (communautés expérimentales) in which he participated in several.[124]

"In this sense, the theoretical positions and the vital experiences of french individualism are deeply iconoclastic and scandalous, even within libertarian circles. The call of nudist naturism, the strong defence of bith control methods, the idea of "unions of egoists" with the sole justification of sexual practices, that will try to put in practice, not without difficulties, will establish a way of thought and action, and will result in symphathy within some, and a strong rejection within others."[29]


Illegalism[22] is an anarchist philosophy that developed primarily in France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland during the early 1900s as an outgrowth of Stirner's individualist anarchism[120]. Illegalists usually did not seek moral basis for their actions, recognizing only the reality of "might" rather than "right"; for the most part, illegal acts were done simply to satisfy personal desires, not for some greater ideal[23], although some committed crimes as a form of Propaganda of the deed [22]. The illegalists embraced direct action and propaganda by the deed[125].

Influenced by theorist Max Stirner's egoism as well as Proudhon (his view that Property is theft!), Clément Duval and Marius Jacob proposed the theory of la reprise individuelle (Eng: individual reclamation) which justified robbery on the rich and personal direct action against exploiters and the system.[23],

Illegalism first rose to prominence among a generation of Europeans inspired by the unrest of the 1890s, during which Ravachol, Émile Henry, Auguste Vaillant, and Caserio committed daring crimes in the name of anarchism[126], in what is known as propaganda of the deed. France's Bonnot Gang was the most famous group to embrace illegalism.


In Italy individualist anarchism had a strong tendency towards illegalism and violent propaganda by the deed similar to French individualist anarchism but perhaps more extreme[127][128] which emphazised criticism of organization be it anarchist or of other type [129]. In this respect we can consider notorious magnicides carried out or attempted by individualists Giovanni Passannante, Sante Caserio, Michele Angiolillo, Luigi Luccheni, Gaetano Bresci who murdered king Umberto I. Caserio lived in France and coexisted within French illegalism and later assassinated French president Sadi Carnot. The theoretical seeds of current Insurrectionary anarchism were already laid out at the end of 19th century Italy in a combination of individualist anarchism criticism of permanent groups and organization with a socialist class struggle worldview[130].During the rise of fascism this thought also motivated Gino Lucetti, Michele Schirru and Angelo Sbardellotto in attempting the assassination of Benito Mussolini.

During the early 20th century it is important the intellectual work of individualist anarchist Renzo Novatore which was influenced by Stirner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Palante, Oscar Wilde, Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Schopenhauer and Charles Baudelaire. He collaborated in numerous anarchist journals and participated in futurism avant-garde currents. In his thought he adhered to stirnerist disrespect to private property only recognizing property of one's own spirit.[131]. Novatore collaborated in the individualist anarchist journal Iconoclasta! alongside the young stirnerist illegalist Bruno Filippi[132]

The individualist philosopher and poet Renzo Novatore belonged to the leftist section of the avant-garde movement of Futurism[133] alongside other individualist anarcho-futurists such as Dante Carnesecchi, Leda Rafanelli, Auro d'Arcola, and Giovanni Governato. Also there is Pietro Bruzzi who published the journal L’Individualista in the 1920s but who fell to fascist forces later.


Spain received the influence of American individualist anarchism but most importantly it was related to the French currents. At the turn of the century individualism in Spain takes force through the efforts of people such as Dorado Montero, Ricardo Mella, Federico Urales, Miguel Gimenez Igualada, Mariano Gallardo, and J. Elizalde who will translatre French and American individualists[29]. Important in this respect were also magazines such as La Idea Libre, La revista blanca, Etica, Iniciales, Al margen, Estudios and Nosotros. The most influential thinkers there were Max Stirner, Emile Armand and Han Ryner. Just as in France, the spreading of Esperanto and anationalism had importance just as naturism and free love currents[29]. Later Armand and Ryner themselves will start writing in the Spanish invidualist press. The concept of Armand of amorous chamaraderie had an important role in motivating polyamory as realization of the individual[29].

An important Spanish individualist anarchist was Miguel Giménez Igualada who wrote the lengthy theory book called Anarchism espousing his individualist anarchism[134]. Between October, 1937 and February , 1938 he starts as editor of the individualist anarchist magazine Nosotros[119], in which many works of Han Ryner and Émile Armand appear and will also participate in the publishing of another individualist anarchist maganize Al Margen: Publicación quincenal individualista[135]. His thought was deeply influenced by Max Stirner, of which he was the main popularizer in Spain through his writings. He publishes and writes the preface[119] to the fourth edition in Spanish of The Ego and Its Own from 1900. He will propose the creation of a Union of Egoists, which will be a Federation of Individualist Anarchists in Spain, but did not succeed[135]. In 1956 publishes an extensive treatise on Stirner which he dedicates to fellow individualist anarchist Emile Armand[136]Afterwards he will travel and live in Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico[137].

Federico Urales was an important individualist anarchist who edited La Revista Blanca[138]. The individualist anarchism[139] of Urales was influenced by Auguste Comte and Charles Darwin. He saw science and reason as a defense againts blind servitude to authority. He was critical of influential individualist thinkers such as Nietzsche and Stirner for promoting an asocial egoist individualism and instead promoted an individualism with solidarity as a way to guarantee social equality and harmony[140]. In the subject of organization he was highly critical of anarcho-syndicalism as he saw it plagued by too much bureaucracy and thought that it tended towards reformism[141]. Instead he favored small groups based on ideological alignement[142]. He supported the establishmente of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) in 1927 and participated in it[143].


In Germany the Scottish-German John Henry McKay became the most important propagandist for individualist anarchist ideas. He fused stirnerist egoism with the positions of Benjamin Tucker and actually translated Tucker into German. Two semi-fictional writings of his own Die Anarchisten and Der Freiheitsucher contributed to individualist theory through an updating of egoist themes within a consideration of the anarchist movement. English translations of these works arrived in the United Kingdom and in individualist American circles lead by Tucker[144]. McKay is also known as an important European early activist for LGBT rights.

Using the pseudonym Sagitta, Mackay wrote a series of works for pederastic emancipation, titled Die Buecher der namenlosen Liebe (Books of the Nameless Love). This series was conceived in 1905 and completed in 1913 and included the Fenny Skaller, a story of a pederast.[145] Under the same pseudonym he also published fiction, such as Holland (1924) and a pederastic novel of the Berlin boy-bars, Der Puppenjunge (The Hustler) (1926).

Der Eigene stirnerist pioneer Gay activist publication

Adolf Brand (1874–1945) was a German writer, stirnerist anarchist and pioneering campaigner for the acceptance of male bisexuality and homosexuality. Brand published a German homosexual periodical, Der Eigene in 1896. This was the first ongoing homosexual publication in the world[146]. The name was taken from writings of egoist philosopher Max Stirner, who had greatly influenced the young Brand, and refers to Stirner's concept of "self-ownership" of the individual. Der Eigene concentrated on cultural and scholarly material, and may have had an average of around 1500 subscribers per issue during its lifetime, although the exact numbers are uncertain. Contributors included Erich Mühsam, Kurt Hiller, John Henry Mackay (under the pseudonym Sagitta) and artists Wilhelm von Gloeden, Fidus and Sascha Schneider. Brand contributed many poems and articles himself. Benjamin Tucker followed this journal from the United States[147].

Great Britain and Ireland

The english enlightenment political theorist William Godwin was an important influence early influence as mentioned before[33]. The Irish anarchist writer of the Decadent movement Oscar Wilde influenced individualist anarchists such as Renzo Novatore[148] and gained the admiration of Benjamin Tucker[149].In his important essay The Soul of Man under Socialism from 1891 he defended socialism as the way to guarantee individualism and so he saw that "With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."[150] For anarchist historian George Woodcock "Wilde's aim in The Soul of Man under Socialism is to seek the society most favorable to the artist...for Wilde art is the supreme end, containing within itself enlightenment and regeneration, to which all else in society must be subordinated...Wilde represents the anarchist as aesthete."[151] Woodocock finds that "The most ambitious contribution to literary anarchism during the 1890's was undoubtedly Oscar Wilde The Soul of Man under Socialism" and finds that it is influenced mainly by the thought of William Godwin [152].

In the late 19th century in the United Kingdom there existed individualist anarchists such as Wordsworth Donisthorpe, Joseph Hiam Levy, Joseph Greevz Fisher, John Badcock, Jr., Albert Tarn, and Henry Seymour[153] who were close to the United States group around Benjamin Tucker´s magazine Liberty. In the mid 1880's Seymour published a journal called The Anarchist.[153] and also later took a special interest in free love as he participated in the journal The Adult: A Journal for the Advancement of Freedom in Sexual Relationships[153]. Also there is the philosopher in the line of German Idealism and writer Herbert Read who wrote on Godwin and Stirner, and works such as To Hell With Culture, The Paradox of Anarchism, "Philosophy of Anarchism", Anarchy & Order; Poetry & Anarchism and My Anarchism. Henry Meulen was another British anarchist, he was notable for his support of free banking.


Individualist anarchism was one of the three categories of anarchism in Russia, along with the more prominent anarchist communism and anarcho-syndicalism.[154] The ranks of the Russian individualist anarchists were predominantly drawn from the intelligentsia and the working class.[154]In Russia, Lev Chernyi was an important individualist anarchist involved in resistance against the rise to power of the Bolchevik Party. He adhered mainly to Stirner and the ideas of Benjamin Tucker. In 1907, he published a book entitled Associational Anarchism, in which he advocated the "free association of independent individuals."[155]. On his return from Siberia in 1917 he enjoyed great popularity among Moscow workers as a lecturer. Chernyi was also Secretary of the Moscow Federation of Anarchist Groups, which was formed in March 1917[155]. He died after being accused of participation in an episode in which this group bombed the headquarters of the Moscow Committee of the Communist Party. Although most likely not being really involved in the bombing, he might have died of torture[155].

Chernyi advocated a Nietzschean overthrow of the values of bourgeois Russian society, and rejected the voluntary communes of anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin as a threat to the freedom of the individual.[156][157][158] Scholars including Avrich and Allan Antliff have interpreted this vision of society to have been greatly influenced by the individualist anarchists Max Stirner, and Benjamin Tucker.[159] Subsequent to the book's publication, Chernyi was imprisoned in Siberia under the Russian Czarist regime for his revolutionary activities.[160]

Latin American individualist anarchism

Vicente Rojas Lizcano whose pseudonym was Biófilo Panclasta, was a Colombian individualist anarchist writer and activist. In 1904 he begins using the name Biofilo Panclasta. "Biofilo" in Spanish stands for "lover of life" and "Panclasta" for "enemy of all".[161] He visited more than fifty countries propagadizing for anarchism which in his case was highly influenced by the thought of Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietszche. Among his written works there are Siete años enterrado vivo en una de las mazmorras de Gomezuela: Horripilante relato de un resucitado(1932) and Mis prisiones, mis destierros y mi vida (1929) which talk about his many adventures while living his live as an adventurer, activist and vagabond as well as his thought and the many times he was imprisoned in different countries.

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