Sunday, February 05, 2012

We Just Live In It.

Noted investigative journalist Gary Weiss, author of 2006's ahead-of-the-curve "Wall St Versus. America", puts the spotlight on Rand's enduring and little-publicised influence over America's modern business and political elites in "Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul"(released Feb 28th). Gary's sent the ARCHNblog an advance galley which we'll review soon, and he's agreed to an interview in a few weeks. Stay tuned. Meantime here's the Kirkus Review:
Weiss (Wall Street Versus America, 2006, etc.) jumps headfirst into the complex socio-cultural maelstrom that that was Ayn Rand, spotlighting her allies, enemies, nemeses and acolytes.

The author has been in the trenches of financial reportage since before Black Monday 1987, examining corruption, mob involvement, takeovers, bailouts, regulatory scandals and a long list of game-changing power plays in every corner of the stock market. Here the author looks at Rand’s immense influence on a variety of sectors of American life, especially politics and economics. If you thought her renowned novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead had been analyzed under every possible microscope, think again. Intrigued by a 1974 photo depicting Rand with Alan Greenspan and President Ford in the White House, Weiss embarks on a quest to excavate the oft-shifting strata of Rand's political doctrine, Objectivism, which she deemed “a philosophy for living on earth," starting with her infamous writings. The love-hate lens through which our society continues to view her self-interested, capitalist canon is, in Weiss' dogged hands, meticulously eye-opening—yet it remains confounding to conservatives, libertarians and liberals alike. Anointing her "the godmother of the Tea Party,” Weiss argues that Rand's influence on Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke and other major players in the contemporary financial and legislative landscape is significant; she suggests that the anti-government seeds she planted may now be taking root. Weiss writes, "[s]uch is the Ayn Rand vision of paradise: an America that would resemble the lands from which our ancestors emigrated, altruism confined to ignored, fringe texts, grinding poverty and starvation coexisting alongside the opulence of the wealthy."
A scrupulous and sobering investigation, vital for our times.


Michael Prescott said...

"starting with her infamous writings."

A little over the top, no? I doubt Kirkus would call the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre or Frantz Fanon (to name two leftists of the same era) "infamous."

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

Neil and Greg - Will the ARCHNBlog also be reviewing this long-awaited treasure of Objectivist thought:

Yes, it's The DIM Hypothesis. Release date 9/4/2012.

I can't believe Peikoff finished it.

Lloyd Flack said...

What will happen to Rand's influence when we have to face up to something that extreme individualism cannot handle? Something that such a hypertrophy of individualiam makes worse.

I'm referring to climate change. I think in between ten and twenty years the denialists will be discredited and people will be very pissed off with them for dropping them in the shit. If you have any doubts about the seriousness of the situation don't.It's real and actually probably worse than most of the projections. I've been following the science and modern climate science explains both what is going on now and what happened in the past. The denialists are merely attacking others positions rather than seeking explanations.

The extreme individualism that Objectivism encourages leads to people abandoning intellectual integrity and looking for something, anything that will let them avoid having to come to an accomodation with ideological opponents and taking collective action to mittigate a danger to all.

Most objectivists won't let themselves believe that the free market will lead to anything but optimal outcomes. It's not just climate change. They usually use Austrian economics and this does not take account what happens when management becomes divorced from ownership in corporations.

Neil Parille said...


Greg and Dan run this blog; I just chime in from time to time.

I assume this book will get a lot of attention here. Peikoff has been working on this for years and it is supposed to be his big contribution to Objectivism, along with the induction theory.

I wasn't impressed with the DIM lectures Peikoff gave a few years ago and the ARI made available for free.

I see the book is all of 320 pages. That's not very long if you are trying to explain the relationship of philosophy, history and culture over 2500 years.

It took Toynbee 11 large volumes, but Peikoff is no Toynbee.


Lloyd Flack said...

Rand's anti-government ideas are gaining traction, for better and worse. But Objectivism itself is not. I think that those supporting some of her agenda are doing so for emotional reasons. OK, she did so too and rationalized. But non objectivists influenced by her are not using her philosophical rationalizations.

We have to look at what her appeal is to non objectivists influenced by her and then evaluate what part is beneficial and what part is the opposite.

Dragonfly said...

I think that if anti-government ideas are gaining traction, this would've happened anyway, even if Rand had never lived. Philosophy doesn't change the course of society and politics, it's rather the other way around: the current vogue in political thinking makes certain philosophies more popular at the time, people are looking where they can find support for their ideas.

And then the book about the DIM hypothesis... I've listened to those DIM lectures some years ago, and they were awfully bad, so I'm curious what Peikoff now has put into that book of his. I can't imagine that it would be any better, as the whole idea of his classification is nonsensical, not to mention the absurd examples he gives in his lectures. But no doubt it'll receive glowing reviews from the usual suspects...

Lloyd Flack said...

How many non objectivists influenced by her have only read her novels? How many have read her essays as well? Anyone have any idea?

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi Lloyd,

From what I've read of Weiss' interesting book so far, there seems to be a substantial disconnect between being a Rand-fan and an Objectivist. The Tea Party, for example, seems to "blank out" her atheism. Most people carrying John Galt signs have no interest in Rand's or anyone else's epistemology. And the Objectivists, who see the Tea Party as a means to an end, "blank out" the religiosity. More as I progress.

Lloyd Flack said...

My experience too. I know a fair few Tea Pary sympathizers in the US who are Rand fans but who think Objectivists are cranks.

Lloyd Flack said...

It's not religion than makes them see objectivists as cranks. It's objectivists attitude to science.

Neil Parille said...

Amazon Rankings:

Atlas Shrugged: #319

ITOE: #69,000

Objectivist philosophy isn't catching on.

-Neil Parille

gregnyquist said...

Rand's anti-government ideas are gaining traction, for better and worse.

The phrase "anti-government" ideas strikes me as a mere slogan. What exactly does "anti-government" mean? When conservatives are in power, liberals tend to be anti-government; when liberals are in power, conservatives tend to be anti-government.

What represents is a kind of extreme government minimalism. The so-called tea party is not, except on the fringes, for government minimalism. They merely believe that the government has grown too big, too expensive, too irresponsible, too much of the "nanny-state," and that things can't go on much longer without the whole thing falling apart. They worry that rising taxes, increased regulation, increased use of arbitrary power on behalf left-wing causes, the rationing of medical care, etc. is going to have detrimental effect on their economic and social status. They look to some of Rand's ideas merely as a kind of window dressing to express what they feel. As Georges Sorel noted more than a hundred years ago, people need myths to express their sentiments, their fears, their desires, their interests, etc. The Left has various myths related to socialism, marxism, environmentalism, identity politics, and so on. But the secular right only has Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. There just really isn't anything better for libertarians and economic conservatives.

Xtra Laj said...

I should probably wait to read the book, but my fear is that it will be badly written with a force-to-fit narrative.

gregnyquist said...

I should probably wait to read the book, but my fear is that it will be badly written with a force-to-fit narrative.

While the book does have a force-to-fit narrative, it's not badly written; quite the contrary, from what I've read so far, it's well written and contains some decent journalism. The analysis is naive and wrong-headed. Reading it I can see how so much of Rand, when it comes to economic policy and politics, is merely the usual left-wing anti-business slogans turned on their heads.