Politics & Culture: Reconstructing Ayn Rand

by Maureen Minard

This article is from Edition 2010 Issue 2.

Review of Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Heller, Nan A. Talese, 2009.

In the shadows of American conservative politics sits the memory of a stalwart intellectual, who molded the concept of capitalist individualism to mythical proportions. Most often recognized for the most famous son of her Collective, Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand’s imprint on politics can be seen in the recent rantings of conservative commentators about institutionalized socialism in the United States. The fear represented by these politicos reflects the footprints of a bygone era in American politics, where communism appeared to threaten the foundation of society, and Rand fed that anxiety. Long supported by enthusiastic young neoliberals, Rand’s books Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead create a cult following, where her archetypes present a version of economic Objectivist truths. Rand sculpted a theory, which moved away from, in her view, the flawed altruism and toward a celebration of the individual. In this approach, the capitalist economy will reward innovation and advancement, which can only be produced by the competitive individual. Rand’s personal experience growing up in Czarist Russia, living through the Bolshevik Revolution, and working in Hollywood informed her philosophical viewpoint of the free market. Although Rand became famous for finding flaws in the arguments of others, she guarded her personal convictions closely, which mystified her presence in the American public.

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