Intro. Having gone through most of the official philosophy of Objectivism, we can now turn our attention to some of the cultural and sociological aspects of the Objectivism movements. There are two major challenges to making prognostications about the future of Objectivism: (1) the future is inherently unpredictable; and (2) lack of sociological data about Objectivism. For these two reasons what is put forth in this series will be highly conjectural. We'll be dealing with possibilities, not facts, questions, not answers.
Throughout I will be operating on several assumptions:
(1) That Objectivism does not exist in a vacuum. What goes on in society and the world will affect the future course of Objectivism. We saw this on a small scale in 2008, with the financial meltdown followed by Obama's election. These events caused sales of Atlas Shrugged to increase. One can imagine scenarios which could potentially decrease interest in Ayn Rand: for example, major attacks on USA involving weapons of mass destruction, catastrophic climate change, collapse of democratic government in America.
(2) That the political allegiances are rarely made based on purely "rational" reasons. Nearly everyone has ingrained biases, some of them rooted in genetics, others in life experiences, which influences political beliefs. Consequently, it is very difficult to get people to change their political beliefs via argumentation. It rarely happens.
(3) That factionalism is a built-in feature of society. The elites of society are involved in a battle for status and pre-eminence. Non-elites will tend to attach themselves to whichever party of elites best furthers their interests and satisfies their sentiments. The competitive nature of society means that people have no choice but to join forces with like-minded individuals. The few mavericks who refuse join one of the major factions remain isolated and powerless, without a voice within the governing factions.
(4) That the Objectivist movement requires an authority figure to settle inevitable disputes. Since Ayn Rand's "reason" is a myth (there's no such method), and since the Objectivist ethics is a bit vague (lacking, as Nathanial Branden has noted, a "technology"), there exists no sure-fire way of settling the inevitable disputes that arise among various Objectivists in a rational, "objective" manner. Only by having an authority respected by all members of the group can meddlesome issues be arbitrated.
At the present time, the Objectivist movement seems to be involved a generational change. A new generation of Objectivists, led by people who never knew Ayn Rand, is coming to the fore. Leonard Peikoff just turned 80. Harry Binswanger is 69. Andrew Bernstein is 64. Edwin Locke is 75. Michael Berliner and Peter Schwartz are hardly spring chickens. The influence of these older men is dwindling, being replaced by a younger generation led by ARI director Yaron Brook, who is 53. While orthodoxy to Rand's views remains the unquestioned standard, under this younger generation we are seeing a change of emphasis. The older generation, while focusing much of their attention on morality and politics, still had time for the more abstruse and/or dubious areas of Rand's philosophy, such as epistemology, metaphysics, psychology, and history. The new generation seems to be focusing almost exclusively on Rand's views on morality and politics. While maintaining a theoretical hostility towards both libertarianism and conservatism, the new generation appears willing and perhaps even eager to find allies and sympathizers among other factions on the right. It's possible that Leonard Peikoff's paranoia about libertarians and conservatives may pass on when he has shuffled off this mortal coil.
If a more pragmatic attitude toward ideological outreach becomes the norm at ARI in the years to come, how will this affect the future of Objectivism. Will ARI become less of an Ayn Rand cult and more of a free market advocacy group, competing with other free market advocacy groups? Supposing this happens, will the change of emphasis increase or decrease ARI's influence? If, in the future, Objectivism becomes more latitudinarian and less doctrinaire, how will this affect the movement itself? Will the purists revolt? Are there more schisms in store? What will happen to the Kelley schism? Will there finally be a grand reconciliation? Or will divisions within Objectivism only deepen over time, leading to even more infighting and bad blood? In this series on the future of Objectivism, we will explore some of these issues.