‘Ownness created a new freedom’: Max Stirner’s alternative concept of liberty

Saul Abraham Newman

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This paper will examine Max Stirner’s notion of ownness as an alternative paradigm of freedom. I argue that ownness–which implies a radical form of self-ownership or self-mastery–is not reducible to any of the familiar categories of freedom such as negative or positive liberty; nor does it fit in with the republican model of liberty as non-domination. The problem with these understandings is that they make freedom dependent on external conditions–whether it is the actions of others, or the presence laws and institutions, or external rational and moral norms which the individual is expected to conform to. For Stirner, this dependence leaves freedom vulnerable and ultimately empty and meaningless. Rather, as I show, ownness proposes an ontological freedom–a permanent property of the self which exists regardless of the circumstances one finds oneself in, and which forms the basis for one’s resistance against constraint and domination. The aim of the paper is to show that ownness is a more effective and persuasive answer to the distortion of freedom under neoliberalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-175
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2019


  • freedom
  • Max Stirner
  • neoliberalism
  • ownness
  • republicanism


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