November 4, 2009


Burns, Jennifer, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2009) (“This book firmly locates Rand within the tumultuous American century that her life spanned. Rand’s defense of individualism, celebration of capitalism, and controversial morality of selfishness can be understood only against the backdrop of his historical moment. All sprang from her early life experiences in Communist Russia and became the most powerful and deeply enduring of her messages. What Rand confronted in her work was a basic human dilemma: the failure of good intentions. Her indictment of altruism, social welfare, and service to others sprang from her belief that these ideals underlay Communism, Nazism, and the wars that wracked the century. Rand’s solution, characteristically, was extreme: to eliminate all virtues that could possibly be used in the service of totalitarianism. It was also simplistic. If Rand’s great strength as a thinker was to grasp interrelated underlying principles and weave them into an impenetrable logical edifice, it was also her great weakness. In her effort to find a unifying cause for all the trauma and bloodshed of the twentieth century, Rand was attempting the impossible. But it was this deadly serious quest that animated tall of her writing. Rand was among the first to identify the problem of the modern state’s often terrifying power and make it an issue popular concern.” “She was also one of the first American writers to celebrate the creative possibilities of modern capitalism and to emphasize the economic value of independent thought. In a time when leading intellectuals assumed that large corporations would continue to dominate economic life, shaping their employees into soulless organization men, Rand clung to the vision of the independent entrepreneur.“ Id. at 2-3. “Once unleashed, Rand’s ideas helped power an ideological explosion on the right that culminated in an independent libertarian movement. These new libertarians distinguished themselves proudly from traditional conservatives, who in turn greeted the movement with dismay. At times, libertarians talking fervently about revolution seemed to have more in common with the left than the right. For a brief moment it even seemed that libertarianism or anarchism might become the latest addition to the New Left’s rainbow of ideologies. But since Rand had so deeply imprinted capitalism upon the face of the libertarian subculture, this latent potential never fully developed. Instead, libertarians remained fierce defenders of the free market and apologists for all social consequences thus engendered. The greatest contribution of Rand’ Objectivism was to moor the libertarian movement to the right side of the political spectrum.” Id. at 247-248. “Rand had little appreciation for her new fan base. During her annual public appearances she called libertarians “scum,” “intellectual cranks,” and “plagiarists.” Because she defined Objectivism as her personal property, she viewed libertarian use of her ideas as theft. What others would see as tribute or recognition of her work, Rand defined as “cashing in” or plagiarism. . . . . Rand’s writings were a sort of ur-text for the libertarian movement. They could be challenged, interpreted, reinterpreted, adopted, celebrated—but never ignored. Whether she liked it or not, libertarians would always consider Rand a vital part of their intellectual heritage.” Id. at 258. See the review "Capitalism's Martyred Hero," The Economist, October 24, 2009).

Heller, Anne C., Ayn Rand and the World She Made (New York; Nan. A. Talese/Doubleday, 2009) (“Like Dickens, Rand’s art is the art of the melodrama. At heart, she was a nineteenth-century novelist illuminating twentieth-century social conflicts. Her novels and the best of her essays are well worth reading now, when issues of wealth and poverty, state power and autonomy, security and freedom still disturb us.” Id. at xiii. “Gallant, driven, brilliant, brash, cruel, as accomplished as her heroes, and ultimately self-destructive, she has to be understood to be believed.” Id. at xiv. See Adam Kirsch, "Capitalist With a $," The NYT Book Review, Sunday, November 1, 2009.).