[ExI] Meta Rand

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 19 14:18:37 UTC 2009

--- On Fri, 6/19/09, Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 2:24 AM, hkhenson<hkhenson at rogers.com>
> wrote:
>> There is a meta point I have considered for many years
>> without coming close
>> to resolving it.  What is it about Ayn Rand's writing
>> that has such a
>> powerful memetic hook on 13 year old boys?  (I think
>> this is about the
>> center of the distribution.)   To a lesser extent
>> Heinlein had a similar
>> effect, giving rise to the two main origins of people
>> in the Libertarian
>> party.
> What makes both Heinlein and Rand attractive is the
> "titanism", the
> overcoming of limitations, the quest for greatness and the
> concern for
> the protection of greatness and creative spirit and will to
> power
> against mediocrity and status quo. Accordingly, Rand may
> have an
> appeal also for those who find mathematical demonstrations
> of the
> alleged superiority of free markets, let alone the preaches
> on
> fundamental benignity of giant corporations, frankly
> boring. This also
> explains why both were, and to an extent still are, wildly
> popular in
> the transhumanist camp.
> This titanism, which has obvious Nietzschean roots, in the
> US ends up
> invariably being declined in individualistic terms. In
> Europe, the
> "hero" considers himself or herself most often an agent or
> the "true
> soul" of a community, see Marinetti or D'Annunzio or the
> protagonist
> of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. This is however a very rough
> sketch:
> consider for instance Starship Troopers, where aristocracy
> is defined
> by one's willingness to sacrifice for the good of the
> group.

Well, consider the example of the section in _Atlas Shrugged_ where John Galt is captured and then tortured.  Rand and her followers take pains to mesh this with egoism.  On a simplistic account of egoism, Galt should just give in to avoid the torture and even work with the government which promises him power and wealth.  Instead, he is tortured -- and even fixes the torture device when it breaks.  (This does seem to be a biblical allusion, no?)

I also think there's the caricatural view of individualism as anti-social or as social atomism.  Perhaps some of Rand's writing reinforce this view, but I don't think she held that view.  After all, _Atlas Shrugged_ is a social novel and, at times, tries to depict how extremely individualistic people can get along and live together.  Here, in terms of social morality, I think she was critiquing both the Nietzschean view of sacrificing others for oneself and the more conventional view of sacrificing oneself for others.  She disagreed that one had to make that choice and, I believe, tried to portray that in Galt's Gulch.




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