AYN RAND, OBJECTIVISM AND THE BLOGOSPHERE
There has been a weird surge of Ayn Rand
discussion lately out on the blogosphere. First, Tacitus
posted an excerpt from the famous Whittaker Chambers review of Atlas Shrugged
, then I saw a " Mocking Objectivism " post by JB
that led me to Weasal Manor
and Matt Yglesias
. Meanwhile, Busness Pundit
referenced a John Galt type strike by corporate America in response to class-action looting by trial lawyers. There may have been more that I've missed but it's interesting that two decades after her death, Ayn Rand and Objectivism are still attracting attention and her novels are now the focus of mainstream scholarly research
Why the impact ? I believe the impact of Ayn Rand on the popular culture has a lot to do with her ability to teach logical thinking through a powerful narrative structure -i.e. a good story. Most of us who take the trouble to learn logic do so through expository writing - the dreaded textbook with syllogisms where " If X, then Y..."which has put countless generations of students to rest on their desks. What eludes in dry explanation often erupts in sudden comprehension when illustrated by a demonstration or an analogy. This " awakening effect" of philosophy via a story probably accounts for both the cultural influence of Ayn Rand's ideas and the annoyingly humorless and dogmatic judgementalism of some of her more immature admirers.
Philosophical novels ( at least successful ones) are notoriously difficult to write because incarnating abstract principles as flesh and blood characters requires some sacrifice of realism, even for romantic epics like The Fountainhead
. While critics have complained about some of Rand's characters appearing wooden or shrill overall the public has disagreed as her books are durable sellers and frequently appear on lists of " must-read " books for gifted students and the college bound. Several of Rand's original followers, Nathaniel Branden
( the father of " Self-Esteem " psychology) and Alan Greenspan
have significantly impacted American culture and politics in their own right.
For those interested in a serious look at the intellectual origin's of Ayn Rand's ideas, I highly recommend Ayn Rand:The Russian Radical
by Chris Matthew Sciabarra
who managed a nice background on the philosophical climate of late Tsarist Russia under Nicholas II in the process of explaining Rand. I'd also recommend reading Dostoyevskii's The Possessed
( sometimes mistranslated as" The Devils") as a comparison for how the two Russian authors treated villains ( Peter Verkhovensky and Ellsworth Toohey) with similar philosophical motivations.
" Always check your premises "