Chris Sciabarra, some years ago, wrote an interesting book on Ayn Rand, titled, *Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical*, which seeks to trace out the Russian intellectual and cultural roots of Rand's thought. He sees much of her thinking as rooted in the culture of Russia's Silver Age, which followed the failed revolution of 1905. During that period, Nietzsche became very popular among Russian intellectuals and artists. Indeed, even many of the Russian Marxists, including Bolshevik theorists like Bogdanov and Lunacharsky caught the Nietzschean bug. The young Ayn Rand (or rather the young Alissa Rosenbaum) became very much taken with Nietzsche. In fact what she did later on was to marry the romantic individualism of Nietzsche with the economic individualism of capitalist apologists.
I think to understand her as a writer, we must keep in mind that she toiled for years on the fringes of Hollywood's film industry. She started off working in menial jobs as was an occasional "extra" on films. She later became script doctor and eventually, a screen writer. She was, as a Russian, taken with the idea of using the novel as a medium for expressing complex philosophical or political ideas. She was a great admirer of Dostoyevsky. Either because she lacked the ability or perhaps because she had a good grasp of the cultural realities of American society, she turned to what was essentially pulp fiction as a means for conveying her philosophical and political outlook to the general public in the US.
---------- Original Message ---------- From: Joanna <123hop at comcast.net> To: lbo-talk at lbo-talk.org Subject: Re: [lbo-talk] My Ayn Randian, libertarian loving relatives....argh... !!! Date: Tue, 05 Jan 2010 21:42:42 -0800
Woj's account wasn't completely ahistorical, because the mission presented to the young post 65 lacked certain features that had traditionally been there before: the importance of society and community; the notion that individual achievement was only the circumstantial crowning of a larger drive; and the desirability of equality and democracy in an age where the franchise had indeed become universal. In fact, there is a growing elitist, meritocratic, hyper-individualistic movement starting in the early seventies and Rand's ravings were tailor made for times which insisted that there wasn't enough to go around, that democracy lowered or destroyed cultural values, and that any notion of social obligation was nothing other than the tyrannical rule of the weak over the strong. Moreover, the relentless deskilling of all blue-collar work made it "obvious" that the creators and leaders were the only ones who knew anything. In fact, if you look at Rand's heroes, they're all Stakhano!
vite, skilled workmen: Dagny Taggart can build railroads with her bare hands, Howard Roark literally breaks the rocks that builds the buildings he designs, etc., Dominque Francon is a journalist....they work their way from the bottom up even if they start rich and inherit the stairs they're climbing. (She did grow up during the Russian revolution and did pick up some interesting notions that she married to her idea of a heroic elite.)
For all the talk of the lone creator, all of Rand's novels are really about the distinction between an elite and a hoi polloi, and the elite is quite communistic in its way. They just play at competition, they enjoy free love, and they are generous with one another. In fact Atlas Shrugged paints a pretty good picture of communism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.
No wonder her "philosophy" touched a nerve. This is why it's worth a few hours to actually read one of her books and, as I mentioned before, The Fountainhead is probably the most representative of her cosmology.
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