The German Ideology by Marx and Engels
Chapter Three: Saint Max

5. The Owner

For the way in which the “owner” is divided into three refractions": “my power”, “my intercourse” and my self-enjoyment”, see “The Economy of the New Testament”. We shall pass directly to the first of these refractions.

A. My Power

The chapter on power has in its turn a trichotomous structure in that it treats of: 1) right, 2) law, and 3) crime. In order to conceal this trichotomy, Sancho resorts very frequently to the “episode”. We give here the entire content in tabular form, with the necessary episodical insertions.

I. Right

A. Canonisation in General

Another example of the holy is right.

Right is not ego

All existing right

= not my right
= alien right
= existing right.
= alien right
= right of others
(not my right)
= right given by others
= (right, which one gives me, which is meted out to me)
(pp. 244, 245).

The Holy

Note No. 1. The reader will wonder why the conclusion of equation No. 4 suddenly appears in equation No. 5 as the antecedent of the conclusion of equation No. 3, so that in the place of “right”, “all existing right” suddenly appears as the antecedent. This is done to create the illusion that Saint Sancho is speaking of actual, existing right which, however, he by no means intends to do. He speaks of right only insofar as it is represented to be a holy “predicate”.

Note No. 2. After right has been determined as “alien right”, it can be given any names you like, such as “Sultan’s right”, “people’s right”, etc., depending on how Saint Sancho wishes to define the alien from whom he receives the right in question. This allows Sancho to go on to say that “alien right is given by nature, God, popular choice, etc.” (p. 250), hence “not by me”. What is naive is only the method by which our saint through the use of synonymy tries to give some semblance of development to the above simple equations.

“If some blockhead considers me right” (what if he himself is the blockhead who considers him right?). “I begin to be mistrustful of my right” (it would be desirable in “Stirner’s” interests that this were so). “But even if a wise man considers me right, this still does not mean that I am right. Whether I am right is quite independent of my being acknowledged right by fools or wise men. Nevertheless, up to now we have striven for this right. We seek right and to this end we appeal to the court.... But what do I seek from this court? I seek Sultan’s right, not my right, I seek alien right ... before the high court of censorship I seek, therefore, the right of censorship” (pp. 244, 245).

One has to admire the cunning use of synonymy in this masterly proposition. Recognition of right in the ordinary conversational sense is identified with recognition of right in the juridical sense. Even more worthy of admiration is the faith capable of moving mountains in the idea that one “appeals to the court” for the sake of the pleasure of vindicating one’s right — a faith which explains that courts are due to litigiousness.

Notable, finally, is also the craftiness with which Sancho — as in the case of equation No. 5 above — smuggles in, in advance, the more concrete name, in this case “Sultan’s right”, in order to be able more confidently later to bring in his universal category of “alien right”.

Alien right

=not my right.

My being right according to alien



= not to be right


= to have no right


= to be rightless (p. 247).

My right

= not your right


= your wrong.

Your right

= my wrong.

Note. “You desire to be in the right against others” (it should read: to be in Your right). “You cannot be this, in relation to them you will always remain in the ‘wrong’, for they would not be your opponents if they were not also in ‘their’ right. They will always ‘consider’ You ‘wrong..... if You remain on the basis of right, then you remain on the basis of litigiousness” (pp. ‘248, 253).

“Let us in the meantime consider the subject from yet another aspect.” Having thus given adequate evidence of his knowledge of right. Saint Sancho can now restrict himself to defining right once again as the holy, in this connection repeating some of the epithets previously given to the holy with the addition of the word “right”.

“Is not tight a religious concept, i.e., something holy?” (p. 247).
"Who can ask about ‘right’ if he does not have a religious standpoint?” (ibid.).
"Right ‘in and for itself’. Therefore without relation to me? ‘Absolute right'! Therefore separated from me. — Something ‘being in and for itself'! — An Absolute! An eternal right, like an eternal truth” — the holy (p. 270).
"You recoil in horror before others because You imagine You see by their side the spectre of right"’ (p. 253).
"You creep about in order to win the apparition over to Your side” (ibid.).
"Right is a whimsy, dispensed by an apparition” (the synthesis of the two propositions given above) (p. 276).
"Right is ... a fixed idea” (p. 270).
"Right is spirit ...” (p. 244).
"Because right can be dispensed only by a spirit” (p. 275).

Saint Sancho now expounds again what he already expounded in the Old Testament, viz., what a “fixed idea” is, with the only difference that here “right” crops up everywhere as another example” of the “fixed idea”.

“Right is originally my thought, or it” (!) “has its origin in me. But if it’ has escaped from me” (in common parlance, absconded), “if the ‘word’ has been uttered, then it has become flesh[cf. John 1:14] (and Saint Sancho can cat his fill of it), “a fixed idea” — for which reason Stirner’s whole book consists of “fixed ideas”, which have “escaped” from him, but have been caught by us and confined in the much-praised “house for the correction of morals”. “Now I can no longer get rid of the idea” (after the idea has got rid of him!); “however I twist and turn, it confronts me.” (The pigtail, which hangs down behind him.) “Thus, people have been unable to regain control of the idea of ‘right’ that they themselves have created. Their creature runs away with them. That is absolute right, which is absolved” (o synonymy!) “and detached from me. Since we worship it as Absolute, we cannot devour it again and it deprives us of our creative power; the creation is more than the creator, it exists in and for itself. Do not allow right to run about freely any longer...... (We shall already in this sentence follow this advice and chain it up for the time being) (p. 270).

Having thus dragged right through all possible ordeals of sanctification by fire and water and canonised it, Saint Sancho has thereby destroyed it.

“With absolute right, right itself disappears, at the same time the domination of the concept of right” (hierarchy) “is wiped out. For one should not forget that concepts, ideas, and principles have up to now ruled over us and that among these rulers the concept of right or the concept of justice has played one of the most important parts” (p. 276).

That relations of right here once again appear as the domination of the concept of right and that Stirner kills right simply by declaring it a concept, and therefore the holy, is something to which we are already accustomed; on this see “Hierarchy”. Right [according to Stirner] does not arise from the material relations of people and the resulting antagonism of people against one another, but from their struggle against their own concept, which they should “get out of their heads”. See “Logic”.

This last form of the canonisation of right comprises also the following three notes:

Note 1.

“So long as this alien right coincides with mine, I shall, of course, find the latter also in it” (p. 2451).

Saint Sancho might ponder awhile over this proposition.

Note 2.

“If once an egoistic interest crept in, then society was corrupted ... as is shown, for example, by the Roman society with its highly developed civil law” (p. 278).

According to this, Roman society from the very outset must have been corrupted Roman society, since egoistic interest is manifested in the Ten Tables [92] even more sharply than in the “highly developed civil law” of the imperial epoch. In this unfortunate reminiscence from Hegel, therefore, civil law is considered a symptom of egoism, and not of the holy. Here, too, Saint Sancho might well reflect on the extent to which civil law [Privatrecht] is linked with private property [Privateigentum] and to what extent civil law implies a multitude of other legal relations (cf. “Private Property, State and Right ) about which Saint Max has nothing to say except that they are the holy.

Note 3.

Although right is derived from the concept, nevertheless it only comes into existence because it serves men’s needs.”

So says Hegel (Rechtsphilosophie par 209, Addition) from whom our saint derived the hierarchy of concepts in the modern world. Hegel, therefore, explains the existence of right from the empirical needs of individuals, and rescues the concept only by means of a simple assertion. One can see how infinitely more materialistically Hegel proceeds than our “corporeal ego”, Saint Sancho.

B. Appropriation by Simple Antithesis

a) The right of man

My right.

b) Human right

Egoistic right.

c) Alien right = to be authorised by others

My right = to be authorised by myself.

d) Right is that which man considers right

Right is that which I consider right.

“This is egoistic right, i.e., I consider it right, therefore, it is right” (passin; the last sentence is on p. 25 1).

Note 1.

“I am authorised by myself to commit murder if I do not forbid myself to do so, if I myself am not afraid of murder as a wrong” (p. 249).

This should read: I commit murder if I do not forbid myself to do so, if I am not afraid of murder. This whole proposition is a boastful expansion of the second equation in antithesis c, where the word authorised” has lost its meaning.

Note 2.

“I decide whether it is right within me; outside me, no right exists” (p. 249). — “Are we what is in us? No, no more than we are what is outside us.... Precisely because we are not the spirit which dwells in us, for that very reason we had to transfer it outside us ... think of it as existing outside us ... in the beyond” (p. 43).

Thus, according to his own statement on page 43, Saint Sancho has again to transfer the right “in him” to “outside himself”, and indeed “into the beyond”. But if at some stage he wants to appropriate things for himself in this fashion, then he can transfer “into himself” morality, religion, everything “holy”, and decide whether “in him” it is the moral, the religious, the holy — “outside him there exists no” morality, religion, holiness — in order thereupon to transfer them, according to page 43, again outside himself, into the beyond. Thereby the “restoration of all things” [Mark 9:12] according to the Christian model is brought about.

Note 3.

“Outside me no right exists. If I consider it right then it is right. It is possible that it is still not on that account right for others” (p. 249).

This should read: If I consider it right then it is right for me, but it is still not right for others. We have by now had sufficient examples of the sort of synonymical “flea-jumps” Saint Sancho makes with the word “right”. The right and right, legal “right”, moral “right”, what he considers “right”, etc. — all are used higgledy-piggledy, as it suits him. Let Saint Max attempt to translate his propositions about right into another language; his nonsense would then become fully apparent. Since this synonymy was dealt with exhaustively in “The Logic [of the New Wisdom]”, we need here only refer to that section.

The proposition mentioned above is also presented in the following three “transformations":

A. “Whether I am right or not, of that there can be no other judge than I myself. Others can judge and decide only whether they agree with my right and whether it exists as right also for them” (p. 246).

B. “it is true that society wants each person to attain his right, but only light sanctioned by society, social right, and not actually his right” (it should read: “what is his” — “right” is a quite meaningless word here. And then he continues boastfully:) “1, however, give myself, or take for myself, right on my own authority.... Owner and creator of my right” (“creator” only insofar as he first declares right to be his thought and then asserts that he has taken this thought back into himself), “I recognise no other source of right but myself — neither God, nor the state, nor nature, nor man, neither divine nor human right” (p. 269).

C. “Since human right is always something given, in reality it always amounts to the right which people give to, i.e., concede, one another” (p. 251).

Egoistical right, on the other hand, is the right which I give myself or take.

However, “let us say in conclusion, it can be seen” that in Sancho’s millennium egoistical right, about which people “came to terms” with each other, is not so very different from that which people “give to” or “concede” one another.

Note 4.

“In conclusion, I have now still to take back the half-and-half mode of expression which I desired to use only while I was delving into the bowels of right and allowed at least the word to remain. In point of fact, however, together with the concept the word loses its meaning. What I called my right, is no longer right at all” (p. 275).

Everyone will see at a glance why Saint Sancho allowed the “word” right to remain in the above antitheses. For as he dces not speak at all about the content of right, let alone criticise it, he can only by retaining the word right make it appear that he is speaking about right. If the word right is left out of the antithesis, all that it contains is “my” and the other grammatical forms of the first person pronoun. The content was always introduced only by means of examples which, however, as we have seen, were nothing but tautologies, such as: if I commit murder, then I commit murder, etc., and in which the words “right”, “authorised”, etc., were introduced only to conceal the simple tautology and give it some sort of connection with the antitheses. The synonymy, too, was intended to create the appearance of dealing with some sort of content. Incidentally, one can see at once what a rich source of bragging this empty chatter about right provides.

Thus, all the “delving into the bowels of right” amounted to this, that Saint Sancho “made use of a half-and-half mode of expression” and “allowed at least the word to remain”, because he was unable to say anything about the subject itself. If the antithesis is to have any meaning, that is to say, if “Stirner” simply wanted to demonstrate in it his repugnance to right, then one must say rather that it was not he who “delved into the bowels of right”, but that right “delved” into his bowels and that he merely recorded the fact that right is not to his liking. “Keep this right uncurtailed”, Jacques le bonhomme!

To introduce some sort of content into this void, Saint Sancho has to undertake vet another logical manoeuvre, which with great “virtuosity” he thoroughly shuffles together with canonisation and the simple antithesis, and so completely masks with numerous episodes that the German public and German philosophers, at any rate, were unable to see through it.

C. Appropriation by Compound Antithesis

“Stirner” now has to introduce an empirical definition of right, which he can ascribe to the individual, i.e., he has to recognise something else in right besides holiness. In this connection, he could have spared himself all his clumsy machinations, since, starting with Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Bodinus and others of modern times, not to mention earlier ones, might has been represented as the basis of right. Thereby the theoretical view of politics was freed from morality, and apart from the postulate of an independent treatment of politics nothing was accepted. Later, in the eighteenth century in France and in the nineteenth century in England, all right was reduced to civil law (which Saint Max does not discuss) and the latter to a quite definite power, the power of the owners of private property. Moreover, the matter was by no means left at a mere phrase.

Thus Saint Sancho draws the definition of might from right and explains it as follows:

“We are in the habit of classifying states according to the various ways in which the ‘supreme power’ is divided ... hence, the supreme power! Power over whom, Over the individual.... The state uses force ... the behaviour of the state is exercise of force, and it calls its force right.... The collective as a whole ... has a power which is called rightful, i.e., which is right” (pp. 259, 260).

Through “our” “habit”, our saint arrives at his longed-for power and can now “look after” [in German a pun on pflegen, which can mean to be accustomed to and to look after] himself.

Right, the might of man — might, my right.

Intermediate equations:

To be authorised = to be empowered.

To authorise oneself = to empower oneself.


To be authorised by man — to be empowered by me.

First antithesis:

Right, might of man — Might, my right

now becomes converted into:

Right of manMight of me, My might,

because in the thesis right and might are identical, and in the antithesis the “half-and-half mode of expression” has to be “taken back”, since right, as we have seen, has “lost all meaning”.

Note 1. Examples of bombastic and boastful paraphrases of the above antitheses and equations:

“What You have the power to be, You have the right to be.” “I derive all right and all authority from myself, I am authorised to do everything which I have the power to do.” — “I do not demand any right, and therefore I need recognise none. What I can obtain for myself by force, I obtain for myself, and what I cannot obtain by force, to that I have no right either, etc. — It is a matter of indifference to me whether I am authorised or not; if only I have the power, then I am already empowered as a matter of course and do not need any other power or authority” (pp. 248, 275).

Note 2. Examples of the way in which Saint Sancho expounds might as the real basis of right:

“Thus, ‘the communists’ say” (how on earth does “Stirner” know what the communists say, since he has never set eves on anything concerning them except the Bluntschli report,’ Becker’s Volksphilosophie and a few other things?): “Equal work gives people the right to equal enjoyment.... No, equal work does not give you this right, only equal enjoyment gives you the right to equal enjoyment. Enjoy, and you are entitled to enjoyment.... if You take enjoyment, then it is your right; if, on the other hand, you only yearn for it, without seizing it, it will remain as before the ‘established right’ of those who have the privilege of enjoyment. It is their right, just as it would become your right, by your seizing it” (p. 250).

Compare what is here put into the mouth of the communists with what was previously said about “communism”. Saint Sancho again presents the proletarians here as a “closed society”, which has only to take the decision of “seizing” in order the next day to put a summary end to the entire hitherto existing world order. But in reality the proletarians arrive at this unity only through a long process of development in which the appeal to their right also plays a part. Incidentally, this appeal to their right is only a means of making them take shape as “they”, as a revolutionary, united mass.

As for the above proposition itself, from start to finish it is a brilliant example of tautology, as is at once clear if one omits both might and right, which can be done without any harm to the content. Secondly, Saint Sancho himself distinguishes between personal and material property, [vermögen] thereby making a distinction between enjoying and the power to enjoy. I may have great personal power (capacity) of enjoyment without necessarily having the corresponding material power (money, etc.). Thus my actual “enjoyment” still remains hypothetical.

“That the child of royalty sets himself above other children,” continues our school-master, using examples suitable for a child’s book, “is already his act, one which ensures his superiority, and that other children recognise and approve this act is their act, which makes them deserving of being subjects” (p. 250).

In this example, the social relation in which the royal child stands to other children is regarded as the power and indeed as the personal power of the royal child, and as the impotence of other children. If the fact that other children allow themselves to be commanded by the royal child is regarded as the “act” of the other children, this proves at most that they are egoists. “Peculiarity is at work in the little egoists” and induces them to exploit the royal child, to extract an advantage from him.

“It is said” (i.e., Hegel said) “that punishment is the right of the criminal. But impunity is equally his right. If he succeeds in his undertakings, he gets his right, and if he fails it equally serves him right. If someone with reckless courage puts himself in danger and is killed, we say: it serves him right, he asked for it. But if he overcomes the danger, i.e., if his power is victorious, it appears he is also right. If a child plays with a knife and cuts himself, it serves him right; if he does not cut himself, that is also all right. Therefore it serves the criminal right if he suffers the penalty he risked; why did he take the risk, knowing the possible consequences?” (p. 255).

in the concluding words of the last sentence, where the criminal is asked why he took the risk, the school-masterish nonsense of the whole passage is latent. Whether it serves a criminal right if on burgling a house he falls down and breaks his leg, or a child who cuts himself all these important questions, with which only a man like Saint Sancho is capable of occupying himself, yield only the result that here chance is declared to be my power. Thus, in the first example it was my action that was “my power”, in the second example it was social relations independent of me, in the third it was chance. But we have already encountered these contradictory definitions in connection with peculiarity.

Between the above childish examples Sancho inserts the following amusing little intermezzo:

For otherwise right would be a humbug. The tiger who attacks me is right and I, who kill it, am also right. I am protecting against it not my right, but myself” (p. 251).

In the first part of this passage Saint Sancho sets himself in a relation of right to the tiger, but in the second part it occurs to him that basically no relation of right is involved at all. For that reason “right” appears to “be a humbug”. The right of “Man” merges into the right of the “Tiger”.

This concludes the criticism of right. Long after having learned from hundreds of earlier writers that right originated from force, we now learn from Saint Sancho that “right” is “the power of man”. Thus he has successfully eliminated all questions about the connection between right and real people and their relations, and has established his antithesis. He restricts himself to abolishing right in the form in which he posits it, namely, as the holy, i.e., he restricts himself to abolishing the holy and leaving right untouched.

This criticism of right is embellished with a host of episodes — all sorts of things which people are “in the habit” of discussing at Stehely’s between two and four in the afternoon.

Episode 1. “The right of man” and “established right”.

“When the revolution made ‘equality’ into a ‘right’, it [the revolution] fled into the religious sphere, into the domain of the holy, the ideal. Therefore a struggle has been waged ever since over the holy, inalienable rights of man. Quite naturally and with equal justification, the ‘established right of the existing’ is asserted against the eternal right of man; right against right, and of course each of these condemns the other as a wrong. Such has been the dispute over right since the revolution” (p. 248).

Here Saint Sancho first of all repeats that the rights of man are “the holy” and that therefore a struggle over the rights of man has been waged ever since. Thereby he only proves that the material basis of this struggle is still, for him, holy, i.e., alien.

Since the “right of man” and “established right” are both rights”, they are “equally justified” and here in fact “justified” in the historical sense. Since both are “rights” in the legal sense, they are “equally justified” in the historical sense. In this way one can dispose of everything in the shortest space of time without knowing anything about the matter. Thus, for example, it can be said of the struggle over the Corn Laws in England: “quite naturally and with equal justification” rent, which is also profit (gain), is “asserted” against the profit (gain) [of the manufacturers], gain against gain, and “of course each of these decries the other. Such has been the struggle” over the Corn Laws in England since 1815.[93]

Incidentally, Stirner might have said from the outset: existing right is the right of man, human right. In certain circles one is also “in the habit” of calling ‘t “established right”. Where then is the difference between the “right of man” and “established right"?

We already know that alien, holy right is what is given to me by others. But since the rights of man are also called natural, innate rights, and since for Saint Sancho the name is the thing itself, it follows that they are rights which are mine by nature, i.e., by birth.

But “established rights amount to the same thing, namely to nature, which gives me a right, that is to birth and, furthermore, to inheritance”, and so on. “I am born as a man is equivalent to saying: I am born as a king’s son”

This is on pages 249, ‘50, where Babeuf is reproached for not having had this dialectical talent for dissolving differences. Since under all circumstances”, the “ego” is “also” man, as Saint Sancho later concedes, and therefore has the benefit “also” of what it has as man, just as the ego, for instance, as a Berliner has the benefit of the Berlin Tiergarten,’ so “also” the ego has the benefit of the right of man “under all circumstances”. But since he is by no means born a “king’s son” “under all circumstances”, he by no means has the benefit of “established right” “under all circumstances”. In the sphere of right, therefore, there is an essential difference between the “right of man” and “established right”. If it had not been necessary for Saint Sancho to conceal his logic it “should have been said here": After I have, in my opinion, dissolved the concept of right, in the way in which I am generally “in the habit” of dissolving concepts, the struggle over these two special rights becomes a struggle within a concept which, in my opinion, has been dissolved by me, and “therefore” does not need to be touched upon any further by me.

For greater thoroughness Saint Sancho could have added the following new turn of expression: The right of man too is acquired, hence well acquired, and well-acquired [i.e., established] right is the human right possessed by men, the right of man.

That such concepts, if they are divorced from the empirical reality underlying them, can be turned inside-out like a glove [Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act III, Scene 1] has already been thoroughly enough proved by Hegel, whose use of this method, as against the abstract ideologists, was justified. Saint Sancho, therefore, has no need to make it appear ridiculous by his own “clumsy” “machinations”.

So far established right and the right of man “have amounted to the same thing”, so that Saint Sancho could reduce to nothing a struggle that exists outside his mind, in history. Now our saint proves that he is as keen-witted in drawing distinctions as he is all-powerful in heaping everything together, in order to be able to bring about a new terrible struggle in the “creative nothing” of his head.

“I am also ready to admit” (magnanimous Sancho) “that everyone is born as a human being” (hence, according to the above-mentioned reproach against Babeuf, also as a “king’s son”), “hence, the newly born are in this respect equal to one another ... only because as Yet they reveal themselves and act as nothing but mere children of men, naked little human beings.” On the other hand, adults are the “children of their own creation”. They “possess more than merely innate rights, they have acquired rights”.

(Does Stirner believe that the infant emerged from the mother’s womb without any act of his own, an act by which he acquired the right” to be outside the mother’s womb; and does not every child from the very beginning reveal himself and act as a “unique” child?)

“What a contradiction, what a battlefield! The old battle of innate rights and established rights!” (p. 252).

What a battle of bearded men against babes!

Incidentally, Sancho speaks against the rights of man only because “in recent times” it has again become “customary” to speak against them. In fact he has “acquired” these innate rights of man. In connection with peculiarity we already met the man who is “born free”; there Sancho made peculiarity the innate right of man, because merely by being born he revealed himself as being free and acted as such’. Furthermore: “Every ego is already from birth a criminal against the state”, whereby a crime against the state becomes an innate right of man, and the child already commits a crime against something that does not yet exist for him, but for which he exists. Finally, “Stirner” speaks further on about “innately limited intellects”, “born poets”, “born musicians”, etc. Since here the power (musical, poetic resp. limited ability) is innate, and right = power, one sees how “Stirner” claims for the “ego” the innate rights of man, although this time equality does not figure among these rights.

Episode 2. Privileges and equal rights. Our Sancho first of all transforms the struggle over privilege and equal right into a struggle over the mere “concepts” privileged and equal. In this way he saves himself the trouble of having to know anything about the medieval mode of production, the political expression of which was privilege, and the modern mode of production, of which right as such, equal right, is the expression, or about the relation of these two modes of production to the legal relations which correspond to them. He can even reduce the two above-mentioned “concepts” to the still simpler expression: equal and unequal, and prove that one and the same thing (e.g., other people, a dog, etc.) may, according to circumstances, be a matter of indifference i.e., of equanimity,, equality, or it may not be a matter of indifference — i.e., it may be different, unequal, preferred, etc., etc.

“Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted.” (Saint-Jaques le bonbomme [James] 1:9)