Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" turns fifty

And here's a "tribute" from Leslie Clark:

... Rand called her books "novels of ideas", by which she meant that her characters, straw figures all, pelt one another with philosophic bromides, either expressing wrong-headed collectivist notions on the one hand - "Man can be permitted to exist only to serve others" - or noble individualistic notions on the other: "I live by the judgment of my own mind and for my own sake."

Rand's readers will invariably admit that they first responded to her writing during adolescence. That makes sense. A simplified world of brilliant and unappreciated beings fighting for the recognition they deserve is understandably appealing to teenagers.

These are romance novels with a patina of pseudo-philosophy which is well-suited to those desperate for adulthood. Indeed, Rand is probably best read by those still young enough to miss the implication of her beliefs: neither charity nor compassion nor common cause have any value when compared with the transcendence of the individual mind.


  1. Cosmic Voices said...

    The last lines of Leslie Clark were perfect. I know what how deep an influence the book makes when you read during adolescence. I finished the book when I was in high school and I remember praising it right through my graduation. Unfortunately, those whom I recommended it, now think it is a revelation.

  2. Madhat said...

    Abi, thanks for the link.

    Cosmic voices, you have done a great disservice to humanity :)

  3. pradeepkumar pi said...

    Ayn Rands so called philosophy may attracts English educated kids from middle class/rich families where competion is worshipped as an ideal.
    However, it is repugnant to the philosophies of east especially "Vedanta", where induvidualism has no Value. A good commentory of Bhagavad Gita would be a good antidote to those who fell into such temporary hallucinations.

  4. Alex said...


    It is true that her books tend to have an impact on people, especially those in their younger years. But, it also can ruin a person's philosophy of life.

    Such extreme forms of philosophy are lauded, but it cannot prevail in this world.

    Moreover, we cannot apply such philosophy in all walks of life.

    The Fountainhead was one book which concreted my beliefs.

    It all comes down to one thing- "We see what we want to see."

  5. ggop said...

    I haven't read Atlas Shrugged but it seem like a Libertarian bible.

  6. Kar Salaam said...

    I read the Atlas Shrugged when I was doing my Masters. It was a revelation for me. I did find some ideas repulsive, for instance, the John Galt radio speech. But the rest of the thoughts shall stay with me.

    To enjoy ... without guilt.
    To respect service/work....whatever it is.
    To put a price on my work.... for whoever it is.
    Not to fall in the guilt trap.... since they are always betting that I will be good for all the bad they trash out on me.
    These are clear than ever for me after I read this novel.

  7. Anonymous said...

    Ayn Rand has been much more fully demystified in some longer
    articles, and she sold herself out big time at the end of her life.
    I've always wanted to write a novel called The Proletariat Shrugged. All those rich self-satisfied people are much more dependent on other people (and the beneficence of the Absolute) than they would ever admit. If people stopped working for them, they would quickly starve.
    My dad gave me Atlas Shrugged when I was 14 or so. It is a fairly exciting read, but even as a naive kid I was highly suspicious of its philosophy. Verse 19 of That Alone the Core Wisdom is the perfect antidote.

    " "Bottom, top or tip, reality here, there or that" -
    So do conflicts come: Prime Substance is all there is:
    The inert here, all change and pass, how could a wave
    Apart from the water's form, another reality have?"

    Actually, individualism vs. collectivism is a perfect subject for dialectical synthesis. Our individual integrity is essential, and so is our corporate communal life. Both must be honored and allowed to flower in its own way. They can mutually support each other--as when intellectuals are freed by abundant food supplies to think their thoughts and write their books--or they can battle each other and stifle their benefits. History seems to go back and forth. When nations rise, their individual and collective aspects are in harmony,
    and they fall when they go out of synch. America at present is a
    perfect example. The bastion of the individual is now a leader in
    conformity and punitive measures for being different.

    Scott Teitsworth, Prorland, Oregon