People v. State

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Ernst Juenger on Benjamin Tucker

October 25, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

In reply to a comment here by the owner of the blog Ernst Juenger – Anarch, I wrote [links added]:

While the distinction between the anarchist and the anarch is critical, I don’t necessarily think it’s that stark. I see similarities between Juenger’s concept of the anarch and the concept of the Remnant set forth by Albert Jay Nock (in his essay Isaiah’s Job and in the last few paragraphs of Our Enemy, the State), who did describe himself as an “anarchist” and who along with Lysander Spooner was already far and away my favorite “political” thinker until I came across Juenger. Juenger for example in Eumeswil had good things to say about Benjamin Tucker, citing approvingly his expression “Anarchy is Order” (which actually predated Tucker and is often attributed to Proudhon), which is the basis for the red circled-A in the right sidebar of this blog. I expect I will now be using the word “anarchic” and “anarchy” more often and the word “anarchist” less often or not at all. There is a tension and arguable contradiction in an anarch PUBLISHING a book like On the Marble Cliffs, or Eumeswil for that matter. Such books have an EFFECT, and are not written only for the author. They are benevolent and generous with their insight. They blow the cover of the “master spy” to whom Juenger compared the anarch. They are not without risk to the author, especially in the case of On the Marble Cliffs. I think Stirner really hit the nail on the head with his concept of the insurgent and insurrection, and his relation of these concepts to Jesus and the first Christians.

Here is the passage in ​Eumeswil ​about Tucker I was referring to:

It is especially difficult to tell the essential from that which is similar to and indeed seems identical with it. This also applies to the anarch’s relation to the anarchist. The latter resembles the man who has heard the alarm but charges off in the wrong direction.

However, the anarch lurks in the anarchist, as in anyone else, and so, in the wasteland of their writings, they often score a hit that confirms that statement. At the luminar, I plucked out utterances that could have been signed by Stirner.

Take Benjamin Tucker, a true don Quixote, who, in his Liberty, one of the small anarchist journals, tilts at the windmills of the “riffraff of future governments”:

“Whatever the state socialists may claim or deny, if their system is accepted, it is doomed to lead to a state religion whose expenses must be borne by everyone and at whose altar everyone must kneel; a state medical school by whose practitioners everyone must be treated; a state system of hygiene that prescribes what everyone must eat and drink, what everyone must wear, and what everyone may or may not do; a state code of ethics that, not satisfied with punishing crime, will suppress everything that the majority may describe as vice; a state system of education that will outlaw all private schools, academies, and universities; a state elementary school, where all children are educated collectively at public expense; and finally, a state family, with an attempt to introduce scientific eugenics. Thus, authority will reach its peak, and monopoly the supreme display of its power.”

That was penned in the Christian year 1888, way before a like-minded Irishman sketched the horrific image of such a future. Poor Tucker — he died very long in the tooth, during the first year of World War II; he had lived to see the triumph of the authoritarian state in Russia, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Throughout his writings, I stumbled upon statements that were unusual for an anarchist, such as “Anarchy is order” or “Attend to your own affairs; this is the only moral law.” That is why he regards all efforts at “suppressing vice as intrinsically criminal.” Here, an anarch smashes through the anarchist system. By comparison, individualist anarchists like Most, who rejoices whenever a ruler is blown up, are mindless firecrackers.


2 Comments to “Ernst Juenger on Benjamin Tucker”

  1. John, I don’t see any necessary contradiction in an anarch publishing influential books like Eumeswil or Marble Cliffs. Indeed, they might blow the cover of anarchic writer, but if he does it, then it is because his own ethos demands it of him, even at risk to himself. That is to say, he has a real conscience (and not a socialized morality), and will otherwise pay the price for “sinning” against his own ethos.

    Interestingly, I just wrote a comment in your blog about capital punishment, saying that the “fundamental law” mentioned by Juenger was something like karma, or action/reaction. I would now modify that and say that the fundamental law is the law of conduct dictated to oneself by one’s own conscience. This is not in contradiction to karma or action/reaction, if we also consider the psychological consequences of one’s actions.

    In the context of this blog, an anarch whose conscience said that writing a risky but important book was necessary would commit a “sin” against himself by not doing it.

    This is in fact egoism, but of a higher form, that understands the subtler psychological, and not merely external, effects of one’s actions. Of course, it presupposes the presence of a truly independent conscience in the subject, which is by now means a given. Most people have merely socialized conscience; and those anarchists who fight externally against the enemy of society without realizing the far more dangerous “enemy within” are not exceptions. This is the “hearing the alarm bell but charging off in the wrong direction” described by Juenger above.

    • John Kindley says:

      Perhaps similarly, it’s occurred to me that there may be an affinity between the anarch and the desireless action of the Bagavad Gita. The anarch may be inspired to create a work of art or other manifestation of his spirit in the world, but his consciousness of eternity keeps all in perspective. Venator takes issue with Nietzsche’s claim that even art is the Will to Power. The anarch is not even precluded from tyrannicide, but if he takes such an action it’s for his own purposes, which however aren’t confined to the narrowness of the ego narrowly conceived. It seems that what makes an anarch an anarch is simply that he recognizes no ruler. Therefore he is not constrained as the anarchist is to eliminate something that doesn’t exist.


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