Novelist and philosopher
I n describing her beliefs, Ayn Rand stated, as noted on the Ayn Rand Institute Web site, "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievements as his noblest activity, and reason … his only absolute [most important quality]." Rand's early experiences while growing up in Russia, coupled with the philosophy of objectivism (which says a person's own life and happiness is the ultimate good; see box), made her a vocal opponent of communism. Her position as an internationally published author and widely read philosopher made her a prominent and highly respected figure during the Cold War (1945–91).
Alissa (Alice) Zinovievna Rosenbaum, later known as Ayn Rand, was the first of three daughters born to Zinovy Zacharovich ("Fronz") and Anna Borisovna (Alice) Rosenbaum. Her younger sisters were Natasha and Elena. The Rose-baum family lived in a large, comfortable apartment overlooking one of the great squares of the Russian city of Saint Petersburg. They lived above the pharmacy owned by Rand's father. She respected her father, but he was distant. In addition, Rand did not get along well with her mother, seeing her in a negative light as a very social person who was fundamentally indifferent to the world of ideas. Rand's mother would often show her off at parties when she was very young because she was so bright and intelligent. The young Alissa learned she was admired by adults for the qualities of her mind.
Winds of change
In the 1910s, Russia was at war with Germany and Austria. Times were difficult under the leadership of the tsar, the emperor of Russia. People stood in long bread lines in the cold Russian winter. Mass strikes by workers kept production of goods at a very low level. To make matters worse, over one million Russian army deserters from the front lines began looting shops and homes as they retreated back into Russia. Unrest gripped the entire country.
It was on Rand's birthday in 1917 at the age of twelve that she witnessed the first shots of the Russian Revolution from her balcony in Saint Petersburg. Huge angry crowds gathered, protesting the current regime. A unit of the National Guard appeared and ordered the crowd to break up. When they screamed in defiance, the soldiers began shooting and the crowd scattered. But the next day, they returned and were joined by the very soldiers who had shot at them. By the end of February, the tsar had abdicated, or given up the throne, and political power passed to the citizens of Russia.
The euphoria over the downfall of the tsar and new freedom did not last long. By the end of October, the Bolshevik revolutionaries saw their opportunity and conducted a bloody coup. The Bolsheviks made up a revolutionary political party of Russian workers and peasants that became the Communist Party after the Russian Revolution of 1917; the terms Bolshevik and communist became interchangeable, with communist eventually becoming more common.
A communist gang nationalized Rand's father's shop. Nationalization refers to a government taking ownership of a business. She watched her father stand helpless and frustrated at the loss of the business he had built by himself. The communists demanded her family give up everything they had worked for; this horrible injustice came to signify what communism was all about in young Alissa's mind.
Communism, which was promoted everywhere, was based on the principle that one must live for the state and not for oneself. To Rand, communism was the horror at the root of all the other horrors taking place around her. This was the source of the bloodshed, the confiscation of property, the night arrests, and the fear gripping her beautiful city. She viewed communism as an unspeakable evil, the destroyer of individual freedom and initiative. This viewpoint was to become the basis for her new philosophy and would define her life thereafter.
After communism was instituted, there was little money in the Rosenbaum household. Food and fuel were scarce in the city and crime was rampant. In 1918, the family was able to obtain travel permits and left for Crimea, by the Black Sea in southwestern Russia, where the family had spent many summers. In 1921, Rand graduated from high school and then Crimea also fell to the Bolsheviks. As the family prepared to return to Saint Petersburg, which was now called Petrograd, Rand burned her diary. She had written down her philosophical ideas and plans for stories, but she knew those would be considered heretical, or against the established views, if discovered by the communists in Petrograd.
Rand began studies at the University of Petrograd, majoring in history with a minor in philosophy. It was here that she watched her first American movies and was fascinated by the bright world projected there. It was in sharp contrast to the dark, brooding atmosphere of Russia. Rand graduated with highest honors in 1924 from the newly renamed University of Leningrad. The city had once again been renamed, to Leningrad, in 1924 when Vladimir I. Lenin (1870–1924), considered the father of communism, died. While in her undergraduate program, Rand took a class from Professor Nicolas O. Lossky (1870–1965), a distinguished international authority on Plato. Through his course, she found further definition for her emerging philosophical system, which she termed objectivism.
Rand gathered together the necessary paperwork to visit relatives in Chicago, Illinois, and was able to leave Russia in January 1926. She never returned. She left France by ship February 10 and arrived in New York City on February 18 with fifty dollars in her pocket. During her six-month stay in Chicago, she adopted the pen name Ayn Rand. Ayn was the name of a Finnish writer whose work she had not read but whose name she liked and took as her own. Following her time in Chicago, she left for Hollywood, California.
The very day Ayn arrived in Hollywood, she found a job as a movie extra with director Cecil B. DeMille (1881–1959). It was on the set of his film King of Kings that she met actor Frank O'Connor (1897–1979). They were married on April 15, 1929, and remained married until he died in 1979. They never had any children as Rand considered writing her priority in life. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen on March 13, 1931.
Writing for life
As a young child, Rand had begun to invent her own stories and movie scenarios. It was while on a summer family trip to Austria, Switzerland, and England in 1914 that she had decided to become a writer. She read The Mysterious Valley by French writer Maurice Champagne (1868–1951) and fell in love with its hero, Cyrus. This character became the model for the heroine in her first novel, We the Living, which she completed in 1933. In her novel, the heroine's name is Kira, the feminine form of Cyrus.
In 1918, the works of French writer Victor Hugo (1802–1885) influenced her. His was a world of unprecedented scope and imaginative plots, and man was seen as a hero. At this time, Rand became conscious of style in writing. Her belief in the heroic character of man would be the underlying theme of all her writings and indeed of her philosophy of objectivism.
Rand spent several years in Hollywood until she and O'Connor moved to New York City in 1934. Her days were spent writing screenplays, short stories, and a novel, and also working odd jobs and mastering English. Her talent paid off with two Broadway plays and publication of We the Living in the United States and England in 1936.
The book that made Rand famous was The Fountainhead. Published in 1943 after a dozen rejections, this novel presented her mature portrait of "man as hero." Rand had become a significant influence on American culture and history. The novel was later to become a film starring Gary Cooper (1901–1961) and Patricia Neal (1926–). Rand moved back to Los Angeles with O'Connor in 1943 to write the screenplay.
The Fountainhead created controversy with its very strongly conservative tone in which the individual is praised above the common good of society, but her epic novel Atlas Shrugged was the literary and philosophical high of Rand's career. It combined her philosophy of strong individualism (anticollectivism) with a science fiction setting. By 1957, the Cold War was well entrenched and the American economy was strong, so the theme of individualism over collectivism had a stronger appeal. After the publication of Atlas Shrugged in 1957, she turned to nonfiction. She wrote many essays and columns and made numerous public appearances as a lecturer.
Rand was an active and vocal opponent of communism and collectivism, a theory that promotes group control. In 1947, Rand was called as a "friendly witness" by the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). The committee was charged with investigating activities by organizations and individuals posing a threat to the U.S. government. Rand testified about the communist penetration of the film industry in Hollywood. She primarily discussed the movie Song of Russia, which she felt totally misrepresented life in the communist Soviet Union as being better than it actually was. She claimed that "anticapitalist" themes were often included in Hollywood productions. HUAC drew deep divisions in the country as it led to blacklisting, or refusing to employ, some workers in a system that claimed to honor freedom.
Creating an institute
Rand met future associates Barbara Branden (1929–) and Nathaniel Branden (1930–) in 1950. With Nathaniel, she prepared a course entitled "The Basic Principles of Objectivism," to be presented at the Nathaniel Branden Institute to promote her philosophy. This institute, formed in 1958, promoted lectures, courses, and publications in philosophy. It was the first formal organization to promote objectivist ideas.
The world was in the grips of an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1991. This showdown of capitalism versus communism was a fight for freedom called the Cold War. It was being played out on the world stage, and it touched the heart of Rand's philosophy. The Cold War was a battle of philosophies, or ideas on how to live life, between the communist Soviet Union and the democratic, capitalist United States. From Rand's early years, communism had evolved into a system of government in which a single party, the Communist Party, controlled all aspects of people's lives. In economic theory, it prohibited the private ownership of property and business so that all goods produced and wealth accumulated were supposedly shared by all. In reality, the Soviet people lived in poverty and had no individual liberties. Communism also banned all religious practices.
Democracy, on the other hand, is a system of government consisting of several political parties whose members are elected to leadership roles by the general population. Citizens enjoy individual liberties such as freedom of speech, press, and religion. Capitalism promotes and encourages private ownership of property and businesses. Prices, production, and distribution of goods are determined by competition in a market relatively free of government intervention. Communism and capitalism are completely incompatible.
To further promote her cause of capitalism and objectivism, Rand began publishing a newsletter known in 1962 as the Objectivist Newsletter. It became the Objectivist in 1966 and the Ayn Rand Letter in 1971. In 1963, Rand received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Lewis and Clark College in Oregon.
In October 1951, Rand and O'Connor moved back to New York City on a permanent basis. O'Connor died in 1979; Rand died in her New York apartment on March 6, 1982. At the funeral, Rand's body was laid next to the symbol she had adopted as her own—a 6-foot dollar sign. In the years since her death, interest in her ideas has only increased and many of her writings have been published posthumously.
For More Information
Branden, Barbara. The Passion of Ayn Rand. New York: Anchor Books, 1986.
Hull, Gary, and Leonard Peikoff, eds. The Ayn Rand Reader. New York: Plume, 1999.
All About Ayn Rand.http://ayn-rand.com (accessed on September 14, 2003).
Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism.http://www.aynrand.org (accessed on September 14, 2003).
Ayn Rand Society.http://aynrandsociety.org (accessed on September 14, 2003).
According to objectivism, a person's own life and happiness is the ultimate good. To achieve happiness requires a morality of rational selfishness, one that does not give undeserved rewards to others or ask them for oneself.
Objectivism was made for the era of industrial capitalism. It teaches that a harmony of interests exists among rational individuals, so that no one's benefit need come at the price of another's suffering. Because the human mode of living is production, we are all creators, making new goods through our productive work. Because reason is our means of survival, we stand to benefit from every discovery others make, every image or story they share, and every dollar they earn by production and trade.
Objectivism honors achievement and celebrates greatness because civilization rests on the shoulders of the industrious. It holds that humans live best as rational traders, dealing with others by exchanging value for value. It teaches integrity because rational beings are honest—they love truth more than deception. Objectivism values reasonable action, purposeful living, and self worth. Its major element of individualism operates in a capitalist economy, leaving no room for collectivism or communism.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) began to form her philosophy of rational self interest, which she called "objectivism," at an early age. This view became the basis for her immensely popular writings, which included The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
Ayn Rand was born Alice Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia on February 2, 1905 to Fronz and Anna Rosenbaum, the first of three daughters. Fronz Rosenbaum was a moderately successful chemist who was able to provide a good living for his family. As the years of Czarist Russia came to a close, violence surged throughout the country. Rand's parents believed that their children should be spared news of the revolution, and kept them mostly ignorant of political events. As the revolution moved closer and encroached on the family, Rand saw her father's chemistry shop confiscated by Soviet authorities in their attempt to nationalize the economy. It was her first introduction to collectivism, and was one of the early events that led to her philosophy of self-importance.
Rand knew early in life that she wanted to be a writer and focused her attention on that goal. At the age of six she taught herself to read and, two years later, was inventing her own stories and plots. By the age of nine she had discovered her first fictional hero and was determined to become a writer. Rand was a precocious child who began thinking in "principles" as early as 12 years of age. After reading Walter Scott and Victor Hugo, the writers she most admired, she looked upon herself as a European writer, disdaining the works of Russia authors. She became familiar with U.S. history in her last year of high school and immediately embraced America as a model for what a nation of free citizens could become.
Rand entered the University of Petrograd in 1921, where she studied philosophy and history. She felt that the study of history would give her the background she needed to write on broad social issues that interested her. Rand graduated in 1924 and entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts to study screenwriting.
Left Russia Behind
Rand's opportunity to leave Russia came in 1925 through an invitation from relatives in Chicago, Illinois. She convinced soviet authorities that she would only be gone for a short time. By the time of her arrival in New York, in 1926, she had adopted the pseudonym of Ayn Rand, taking her first name from a Finnish writer and her last from her Remington Rand typewriter. Rand detested the Communist system that spread rapidly throughout Russia and adopted her new country with a passion. In America, she enjoyed the freedom of writing and saying whatever she thought without fear of government retribution. She obtained an extension on her visa and, in 1931, became a naturalized citizen.
By September 1926, Rand was on her way to Hollywood with the intention of becoming a screenwriter. Shortly after her arrival, she was hired as an extra in Cecile B. DeMille's film, King of Kings. It was here that she met actor, Frank O'Connor. He was her physical opposite—tall, blond, and handsome. They were married in 1929 and remained together until his death in 1979. Shortly after her marriage, RKO studios hired Rand in the wardrobe department. By 1932, she had risen to become the head of the wardrobe department. During this time Rand continued her writing on weekends. She sold her first screenplay Red Pawn (1932) to Universal Studios and produced her first play, Night of January 16th, in Hollywood. Rand completed her first novel, We the Living, in 1933. The manuscript floated to various publishers until it was accepted by Macmillan in America and Cassell in England and published in 1936. An autobiographical novel based on her years in the Soviet Union, it was not well received by American audiences. In 1938, she published Anthem, in which she warned her readers about the hardships of life in political dictatorships.
Rand began writing her first major novel, The Fountain-head in 1935 under the working title Second-Hand Lives . She wrote volumes in her personal diaries about the theme, characters, and plot of the novel. They contain extensive architectural research and her expanding philosophy of objectivism. The Fountainhead examines an architect's struggle to maintain his integrity against those who would have it compromised. The character of Howard Roark embodies her philosophy of rational self-interest, which encourages human beings to live for themselves. Rand's thesis compares individualism to collectivism and applies it to man's inner soul. She uses the book to examine the struggles put forth in such a conflict. The Fountainhead was rejected by a dozen publishers before Bobbs-Merrill accepted it for publication in 1943. It was the first book to achieve best seller status through word-of-mouth, two years after its publication. The rights to the movie version of the novel were purchased and Rand was hired to write the screenplay. She returned to Hollywood in 1943, but wartime activities delayed the production until 1948. Rand was fiercely protective of her intellectual property and refused to allow even one word of her screen adaptation to be changed.
Rand continued to use her novels to express her philosophy of Objectivism. In 1951, after completing the screenplay of The Fountainhead, Rand returned permanently to New York and continued work on her next mammoth novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957). Considered to be her "magnum opus," it tells the story of two industrialists who struggle to continue their business in a decaying society. The book was criticized for its harsh characterizations. In one of his most important articles, Whittaker Chambers published a savage review of the work saying, "The book's dictatorial tone is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained." Although Rand did not read the review, she was angered by it, as were many of her admirers. It is considered by others to be an epic story of suspense in which Rand successfully integrated theme and plot, ideas and action.
Life After Fiction
With the completion of Atlas Shrugged, Rand stopped writing fiction. She became a visiting lecturer at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins, Ford Hall Forum, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the United States Military Academy at West Point. She began to publish and edit a newsletter, The Objectivist Newsletter (name later changed to The Objectivist and The Ayn Rand Letter ). This new forum provided her with a continuing venue to expand on her philosophy of self-interest. Rand became more deeply immersed in the philosophy that she had begun to embrace as a child. To her, individualism and self-interest were the most important values. Altruism and organized religion were anathema. Rand is considered by her detractors to have been a huge egotist because of her belief in self-importance.
Rand published six fiction books and plays and six non-fiction works. The major non-fiction works she produced during this time included, For the New Intellectual (1961); The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (1964); Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966); The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature (1969); The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (1971); and Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982).
Rand continued to refine her theories of self-interest and self-importance. She spoke openly of her loathing of Communism and, in 1947, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee. She became a prominent player in the post-World War II Hollywood witch-hunts when she spoke of the influence of Communism on the film industry. In Alliance news releases, Rand wrote that the purpose of Communists in Hollywood was "to corrupt our moral premises by corrupting nonpolitical movies (by) introducing small, casual bits of propaganda into innocent stories—thus making people absorb the basic principles of collectivism by indirection and implication."
In 1950, Rand developed a close friendship with a young Canadian-born couple, Barbara Weidman and Nathaniel Blumenthal, who were students at UCLA. Blumenthal, who later changed his name to Branden, wrote to Rand expressing his interest in her philosophy. Rand became their mentor. She eventually entered into an adulterous liaison with Blumenthal, despite a 26-year age difference. The relationship lasted over 13 years. Rand is said to have proposed the affair to Branden's wife and her husband, then proceeded to open the topic for discussion. She is said to have rationalized the proposed affair, proving it to be reasonable according to the tenets of Objectivism and claiming that it would not threaten either marriage. Apparently that was true for Rand, who remained married to O'Connor for 50 years, until his death in 1979. The same can not be said of the Brandens, who later divorced. Details of the split between Branden and Rand are sketchy. However, the Nathaniel Branden Institute, a think-tank originally formed to promote Rand's philosophy, closed in 1968, shortly after the end of their relationship.
Rand remained an active lecturer until 1981, when she gave her last public speech. She died in New York on March 6, 1982, but her legacy lives on. Several of her works were published posthumously, including The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought (1988), Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Edition (1990), and The Letters of Ayn Rand (1995). The writings of Ayn Rand have sold more than 20 million copies. Her vision has impacted thousands of lives.
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Major Works of Ayn Rand, http://www.vix.com/objectivism/Biblography/AynRand.html (October 24, 1999). □
(b. 2 February 1905 in Saint Petersburg, Russia; d. 6 March 1982 in New York City), author, lecturer, and philosopher whose stories of individualistic heroes in pursuit of personal wealth and happiness made her one of the bestselling writers of the 1960s.
Rand was born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, daughter of Fronz Rosenbaum, a chemist, and Anna (Borisnova) Rosenbaum, a teacher. As youngsters, Rand and her two sisters witnessed the Russian revolution and its social upheaval. In 1924 at the age of twenty-one, the aspiring writer graduated from the University of Petrograd with a bachelor's degree with honors in philosophy and history and entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts to study screen-writing.
In 1926 Rand moved to the United States and changed her name. Ayn she took from the name of a Finnish writer, Rand from her Remington-Rand typewriter. In Hollywood she worked as an extra and a scriptwriter. She married Frank O'Connor, an actor, on 15 April 1929.
In the 1930s and 1940s Rand devoted her life to writing novels. Her first novel, We the Living, was published in 1936, followed by the novella Anthem in 1938. The Fountainhead (1943), whose hero, Howard Roark, was the Randian ideal man, a man as "he could be and ought to be," became a best-seller in 1945. Her novel Atlas Shrugged (1957) made her a household name in the 1960s.
Atlas Shrugged, at over 1,000 pages long, contains the bases of Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, which she elaborated and publicized throughout the 1960s. Objectivism states that man is a heroic being, with his own happiness the purpose of life, productive achievement his noblest activity, and reason his only absolute. Objectivism preached for the complete deregulation of business and the abolition of welfare and any other institution devoted to altruism. One line from the novel, "Who is John Galt?", became a password for Rand's devoted fans, who called themselves Randroids in the 1960s. The novel gained her international fame and millions of new readers. She became the most successful author of propaganda fiction.
While the reading public was devouring Rand's novels in the 1960s, she gained few admirers in philosophical circles. Most philosophers objected to her belief that selfishness was good and altruism evil, that the good of the group should be subordinated to the self-interest of the individual. Rand thrived on the negative publicity. An un-abashed advocate of capitalism, she often wore a gold brooch and pendant in the shape of a dollar sign. At the end of Atlas Shrugged, the triumphant antihero John Galt "raised his hand and over the desolate earth" and "traced in space the sign of the dollar." Many critics claimed that Rand's readers had taken on the status of cultists with her as the godhead. Bennett Cerf, the head of Random House, which published Atlas Shrugged, recounted in his memoirs how he had advised Rand to cut one speech by John Galt that ran over 35,000 words, to which she replied, "Would you cut the Bible?"
Enriched by the success of Atlas Shrugged, Rand wrote about and lectured on her philosophy at Yale University (1960), Princeton University (1960), Columbia University (1960, 1962), Harvard University (1962), and other institutions. She wrote several books exploring her philosophy, including: For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1961), The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (1965), Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal (1966), Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1967), and The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature (1969).
During the 1960s Rand continued a torrid love affair with Nathaniel Branden, who, as a young philosophy student years before, had written her an enthusiastic fan letter and who, with his wife, Barbara, had been a regular visitor at the O'Connors' ranch. Both Branden's and Rand's spouses knew about and agreed to the affair, which the two couples kept among themselves for fourteen years. Rand helped her lover establish the Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI) in January 1958, a think tank for the propagation of Objectivist principles. Barbara Branden kept the books for NBI, and all three gave lectures and appeared on TV and radio, explaining "Rand–Thought." By the mid-1960s the institute was conducting Objectivist courses in eighty American cities and publishing the magazine The Objectivist Newsletter.
NBI quickly took on the fervor of a fanatical religion with Rand as its deity and Branden as its psychotherapist and chief priest. Those who expressed different opinions were expelled and publicly humiliated. In 1968 Branden was attracted to a young Randian groupie and wanted out of his affair with Rand. Retaliation was swift. Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem and later a leader in the self-esteem movement in psychology, was thrown out of his own institute, followed a week later by his wife. The NBI was no more. Rand continued to publicize her ideas, supporting a newsletter devoted to her teachings, the Ayn Rand Letter, which was published sporadically from 1971 to 1976.
O'Connor, who had remained with Rand through fifty years of marriage, died in 1979. Rand, being treated for lung cancer, died of heart failure at the age of seventy-seven in her New York City apartment, while working on a screenplay for a projected miniseries of Atlas Shrugged. She and her husband are buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.
Over the years, more than thirty million copies of Rand's books have been sold. In 1991 a survey by the Library of Congress pronounced Atlas Shrugged the most influential book in American lives after the Bible. She loved Rachmaninoff and light opera and hated Bach and Shakespeare. Her favorite TV programs were Charlie's Angels and Kojak. She preferred James Bond to John Steinbeck. Her favorite American author was the early Mickey Spillane.
Rand gave a moral justification for capitalism and showed that a free society is also a productive society. She insisted that what matters most is individual freedom. She withstood attacks from the left for her anticommunist pro-capitalist politics, by the right for her atheism and civil libertarianism. Her fans who openly admit the influence of her works include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Alan Green-span, and Clarence Thomas. The Ayn Rand Institute, founded in 1985 by Leonard Peikoff and based in Marina del Ray, California, and The Objectivist Center, founded in 1990 by David Kelley and based in New York City, are the two leading sites dedicated to the propagation of Rand's libertarian views, summed up in a line from The Fountain-head: "Great men can't be ruled."
Rand's writings have been edited in two books: Michael S. Berliner, The Letters of Ayn Rand (1995), and David Harriman, Journals of Ayn Rand (1997). Biographies include: Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand (1986); Nathaniel Branden, Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand (1989); Michael Paxton, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (1998); and Tibor R. Macahn, Ayn Rand (2001). Chris Matthews Sciabarra, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995), is a comprehensive examination of Rand's philosophical thought and her place in intellectual history. The film documentary A Sense of Life (1997) incorporates conversations with the people who knew Rand best. A lengthy article on Rand's life and her influence is in the Manchester Guardian (2 Aug. 1997). An Internet site for Rand's works and thoughts is <http://www.aynrand.org>. Obituaries are in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times (both 7 Mar. 1982), London Times (8 Mar. 1982), and Time (15 Mar. 1982).
John J. Byrne
Born Alyssa (Alice) Resenbaum, 2 February 1905, St. Petersburg, Russia; died March 1982
Married Frank O'Connor, 1929
Ayn Rand's early life of relative comfort was abruptly terminated when the family business was nationalized after the Russian Revolution. An excellent student whose far-ranging interests included mathematics, literature, philosophy, and engineering, Rand graduated from the University of Leningrad with a degree in history. Not able to adjust to the Communist regime, she accepted an invitation to visit relatives in New York in 1926.
Rand went to Hollywood to write screen scenarios and was given a job as an extra by Cecil B. de Mille. Though de Mille rejected her first five scenarios as too romantic, unrealistic, and improbable, Rand did eventually work as a screenwriter.
We, the Living (1936, 1977) received a lukewarm critical reception. The themes are the sanctity of human life and the evil of collectivism in Russia. Written at the same time, The Night of January 16th (1936, 1983) is an effective dramatic piece. The play's originality derives from the gimmick of allowing each night's audience to serve as the jury in a murder trial.
The Fountainhead (1943, film version 1949) established Rand as a popular writer and is considered her best work. The world of contemporary architecture serves as the backdrop for this battle between the forces of individualism and collectivisim, between creativity and derivativeness.
The plot follows protagonist Howard Roark's career from the day he is expelled from architectural school, through his difficulties in establishing a career, to his professional and personal victory and vindication. The book ends with the triumph of the virtuous and the creative. The heavy moralizing has drawn negative reactions from some commentators.
The philosophies set forth in The Fountainhead were amplified in Atlas Shrugged (1957), the fullest novelistic treatment of Rand's theories and established her as an intellectual cult figure. A novel which can be read to satisfy many different tastes, it has been categorized by various critics as a mystery story, science fiction, a philosophical diatribe, a female fantasy novel, and a justification of capitalism.
The protagonist, Dagny Taggart—whose attempts to run a transcontinental railroad are complicated by networks of bureaus, councils, and committees that strangle productive initiatives—fights a losing battle against a group that wants to "stop the motor of the world" in order to rebuild a society of free enterprise, devoid of government controls. She inadvertently finds a projection of this society, Galt's Gulch, a utopia in a hidden valley in Colorado. Galt's Gulch was born as a reaction against the collectivist maxim, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"—its motto is "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for mine."
Rand's philosophical thought informs her work as well, and all of her publications following Atlas Shrugged were nonfiction. During the 1960s she was a popular campus lecturer, and in conjunction with the Objectivist, a newsletter published to explain Rand's brand of philosophy, courses in objectivism were taught by the Nathaniel Branden Institute.
Rand's novels, though popular, have received little serious consideration as works of literature; she is something of a cultural phenomenon. Her books have been reprinted many times, and Atlas Shrugged is roundly considered one of the top books of the century from sources as disparate as the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Book-of-the-Month Club, and Barnes and Noble. Rand's life and thought were also depicted in a major film in late 1999. Though her politics are anathema to most feminists, her commitment to self-actualization both as a philosopher and as creator of one of the most positive female protagonists in American literature (Dagny Taggart) suggests that perhaps her works need to be reevaluated by women.
Anthem (1938; revised 1946, 1995). For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1961). The Virtue of Selfishness (1964). Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966, 1976). Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1967, 1990). The Romantic Manifesto (1969, 1971). The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (1971). Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982, 1984). The Early Ayn Rand: A Selection From Her Unpublished Fiction (1986). For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1996). Ayn Rand's Marginalia: Her Critical Comments on the Writings of Over 20 Authors (1996). The Letters of Ayn Rand (1997). The Ayn Rand Column: Written for the Los Angeles Times (1998). The Journals of Ayn Rand (1999). The Ayn Rand Reader (1999).
Binswanger, H., ed., The Ayn Rand Lexicon (1986). Bloom, H., ed., American Women Fiction Writers, Volume Three 1900-1960 (1998). Branden, B., The Passion of Ayn Rand (1986). Branden, B., Ayn Rand and Her Movement: An Interview With Barbara Branden, Rand's Close Colleague and Administrator of Her Movement (1991). Branden, N., and B. Branden, Who is Ayn Rand? (1962). Branden, N., My Years With Ayn Rand (1999). Coleman, D. M., "The Pursuit of Happiness Through a Virtuous Life: Ayn Rand and Aristotle" (thesis, 1997). Den Uyl, D. J., The Fountainhead: An American Novel (1999). Erickson, P. F., The Stance of Atlas: An Examination of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1997). Gladstein, M. R., The Ayn Rand Companion (1984). Gladstein, M. R., The New Ayn Rand Companion (1999). Gladstein, M. R. and Sciabarra, C. M., eds., Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (1999). Haught, J. A., 2000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People With the Courage to Doubt (1996). Hoffman, J. L., "Feminist Characteristics in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged" (thesis, 1998). Merrill, R. E., The Ideas of Ayn Rand (1991). O'Neill, W., With Charity Toward None (1971). Peikoff, L., Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1993). Perinn, V. L., Ayn Rand—First Descriptive Bibliography (1990). Pinson, J. L., Objective Journalism and Ayn Rand's Philosophy of Objectivism (dissertation, 1996). Robbins, J. W., Without A Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System (1997). Rothbard, M. N., The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult (1990). Sciabarra, C. M., Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995). Tuccille, J., It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand (1997). Walker, J., The Ayn Rand Cult (1999).
CA (1975). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995). TCAS.
America (1999). American Book Review (May 1990). American Enterprise (1997, 1998). Book World (July 1995). Commonweal (8 Nov. 1957). Forbes (Mar. 1998). Free Inquiry (Summer 1994). Freeman (May 1996). Harper's (Feb. 1999). Insight (Sept. 1997, May 1999). In These Times (July 1999). Journal of Libertarian Studies (Fall 1992). Maclean's (Aug. 1998). National Journal (1997). National Review (May 1990, Sept. 1994). NY (26 Oct. 1957). NYTBR (16 May 1943, Oct. 1997, Aug.1995). Playboy (March 1964). SR (12 Oct. 1957). U.S. News & World Report (Mar. 1998)
—MIMI R. GLADSTEIN,
UPDATED BY NELSON RHODES
One of the twentieth century's best known novelists and philosophers, Ayn Rand (1905–1982), who was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia on February 2, and died in New York City on March 6, celebrated the individual in dramatic stories with unconventional characters and plots. The heroes of her four novels are engineers, scientists, architects, and industrialists. Her philosophy, which she called Objectivism, champions the rational productive individual.
In 1936, ten years after her arrival in the United States, Rand published her first novel, We the Living. Set in Russia shortly after the communist revolution of 1917, it tells the story of Kira Argounova, a young woman who wants to become an engineer and build bridges, and her struggle to live in a collectivist society at war with the individual.
Rand's second major publication, the novelette Anthem, published in 1938, is set in a bleak future in which freedom and individualism have been eliminated in the name of the common good. The achievements of the Industrial Revolution have been lost; people have been reduced to using candles. Against this background of decay one man defies society and rediscovers individual thought, science, and technology, along with the importance of the self.
Rand's third novel, The Fountainhead, was published in 1943. Her first major commercial success, The Fountainhead is the story of Howard Roark, an innovative young architect who thinks and lives for himself and refuses to copy the designs of the past, and of the opposition he faces from a society that worships tradition and mindless conformity.
Rand's last novel, Atlas Shrugged, was published in 1957. Its focus is the heroic individuals who, like the titan of Greek mythology, carry the world on their shoulders: the scientists, inventors, and businesspersons who create the knowledge and technology that sustain human life. Atlas Shrugged describes how those "men of the mind," as Rand calls them, liberate themselves from a society that denounces them as evil.
In presenting her vision of the hero, Rand created a new philosophy, Objectivism, on which she elaborated in her later, nonfiction writings. She argued that the subject of philosophy is not a realm of nonsense or mysteries but a science whose purpose is to teach people how to think and live, a science as capable of certainty and proof as is physics or mathematics.
The central idea of Rand's philosophy is that reason is human being's means of survival. Only through a process of reasoning—cold, hard, scientific, logical thought—can an individual understand the world and thus survive and prosper in it. This is why the heroes in her novels are scientists, engineers, and businesspersons; they are rational thinkers.
Rand accordingly defended the power of reason: She argued that the testimony of the senses is unquestionably valid, that human concepts and language con connect one to the facts of reality, and that logic is the only method for reaching truth. She rejected all forms of mysticism and supernaturalism on the grounds that such doctrines defy reason and contradict the fundamental laws of reality.
In regard to ethics Rand advocated rational self-interest. The task of ethics, she argued, is to teach one the principles—the virtues—that one must practice to realize the values that sustain one's life. No outside power, whether society or an alleged god, has the right to demand that one sacrifice one's values and live for its sake. The good is to live one's own life and attain happiness. This is accomplished through a resolute commitment to the virtue of rationality. For Rand the moral and the practical are one.
In regard to political philosophy Rand argued that a proper social system must accord with the individual's nature as a rational being. Individuals in society must be free to live, think, produce and keep the results of their work, and pursue their own goals. They must have the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. The social system that results from the protection of individual rights, Rand taught, is laissez-faire capitalism. That system was approached in the freest countries in the nineteenth century, and Rand argued that the thought and productivity that capitalism unleashed made possible the ensuing unprecedented prosperity in those countries.
Rand was one of the twentieth century's champions of science and technology and the rational mind that creates them. She therefore was an opponent of ideological movements that praise more primitive lifestyles, such as the New Left and environmentalism. An increasingly industrialized society, Rand held, is the proper environment for a rational being. Although her thought, which challenged contemporary views, was largely ignored in academic circles during her lifetime, it is receiving growing attention from scholars in the early twenty-first century.
SEE ALSO Freedom.
Mayhew, Robert, ed. (2004). Essays on Ayn Rand's We The Living. Oxford: Lexington Books. This is a collection of sixteen essays by thirteen different contributors on the history as well as literary and philosophical content of Rand's first novel. For the sake of disclosure, please note that I contributed one essay.
Peikoff, Leonard. (1993). Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Meridian. Presents the essentials of Rand's system of philosophy; written by her foremost student.
Rand, Ayn. (1943). The Fountainhead. New York: Signet.
Rand Ayn. (1957). Atlas Shrugged. New York: Signet.
Rand, Ayn. (1959). We the Living. New York: Signet.
Rand, Ayn. (1961). For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Signet. This collection contains the key philosophical passages from Rand's novels as well as a lead essay written by her explaining how philosophy has shaped the course of Western history and why new thinkers are needed.
Rand, Ayn. (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism. New York: Signet. A collection of essays, by Rand and a colleague, on her ethics of rational self-interest.
Rand, Ayn. (1995). Anthem. New York: Signet.
Rand, Ayn. (1999). Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, ed. Peter Schwartz. New York: Meridian. A collection of essays, by Rand and editor Peter Schwartz, on cultural trends in politics and education.
Smith, Tara. (2000). Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality. Lanham, Maryland: Roman and Littlefield. A critical study of the foundations of Rand's ethics, written by a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas.
Ayn Rand (1905–1982) used her novels as a vehicle for her objectivist philosophy, which endorsed individualism by stressing "rational self-interest" over charity and the welfare state. Her best-known novels include The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957).
Ayn Rand was born Allisa Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the first of Fronz and Anna Rosenbaum's three daughters. Her father was a self-made Jewish merchant. Rand taught herself to read and write by age four and had decided to become a writer by age nine. Her greatest hero was author Victor Hugo (1802–1885). Rand's family barely survived the siege of St. Petersburg during World War I (1914–1918), and they later lost their possessions in the Russian Revolution. As a teenager, Rand learned to hate her country's new communist doctrine and vowed to make it her life's work to use the written word to prove that doctrine wrong.
After graduating with a degree in history from the University of Leningrad in 1926, Rand immigrated to the United States. In her new country, she changed her name to Ayn Rand. She lived with relatives in Chicago, Illinois, for a few months before moving to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter and movie extra. There, she met actor Frank O'Connor, and the two were married in 1929. Rand became a U.S. citizen in 1931.
Penthouse Legend, Rand's first play, was produced on Broadway in 1934. Two years later she published her first novel, We the Living (1936). It was set during the Russian Revolution and condemned communism and those who would follow its principle of sacrificing self for the state. Her next novel, Anthem was published in 1938. The Fountainhead (1943), Rand's most famous work, was initially turned down by several publishers for being considered too intellectual for a mass market. The novel took four years to complete, but became the medium through which Rand defended her philosophical beliefs. Her hero, brilliant architect Howard Roark, blows up his own building when the architectural establishment alters its design. Using a classic metaphor, Roark symbolizes "good" while the establishment is "evil." The book was highly praised by critics and hit the national bestseller list several times during 1945. Hollywood even hired her to write the screenplay.
Rand's later works include Atlas Shrugged (1957), For the New Intellectual (1961), The Virtue of Selfishness (1965), The Romantic Manifesto (1969), and Philosophy—Who Needs It? (1982). Atlas Shrugged, concerned with the philosophical faults of collective societies, became her second most popular novel.
Rand spent a large part of her career defending her philosophy of objectivism. During the 1960s and 1970s, she was a visiting lecturer at the Nathaniel Branden Institute and other American university campuses, including Harvard and Yale. The Ayn Rand Letter and Objectivist Bulletin were circulated to promote her philosophy. Rand's pro-capitalist views are considered by some to have helped influence the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982 in New York City.
See also: Capitalism, Laissez Faire
Harriman, David. Journals of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton, 1997.
Landrum, Gene N., Ph.D. Profiles of Female Genius: Thirteen Creative Women Who Changed the World. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994.
Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Meridian, 1993.
Rand, Ayn. The Letters of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton, 1995.
Sciabarra, Chris Matthew. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.
civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. the savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
ayn rand, the fountainhead, 1943
RAND, AYN (Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum ; 1905–1982), writer and philosopher. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, she displayed a strong interest in literature and films from an early age. Her mother taught her French and subscribed to a magazine featuring stories for boys, where Rand found her first childhood hero, an Indian army officer in a Kipling-style story. She expressed a passionate enthusiasm for the Romantic Movement and fell deeply in love with the novels of Victor Hugo at the age of 13. She studied philosophy and history at the University of Petrograd. In her diary she expressed intensely anti-Soviet ideas. She loved the philosophical ideas of Nietzsche, and embraced his exaltation of the heroic and independent individual who embraced egoism and rejected altruism in Thus Spake Zarathustra. She eventually became critical of Nietzsche, believing his philosophy emphasized emotion over reason. She considered Aristotle her greatest influence by far.
She entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting. The following year, she was granted a visa to visit American relatives and in 1926, after a brief stay in Chicago, she resolved never to return to the Soviet Union. She set out for Hollywood to become a screenwriter, changing her name to Ayn (rhymes with pine) Rand, a variant spelling of the name of a Finnish writer. While working as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings, she met an aspiring actor, Frank O'Conner. They married in 1929. Rand became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1931. The following year she achieved literary success with the sale of her fist screenplay, Red Pawn, to Universal Studios. In 1934 she wrote the play The Night of January 16th; it was highly successful. She then published two novels, We the Living (1936) and Anthem (1938).
Her first major professional success came with the best-selling novel The Fountainhead (1943), which she wrote over a period of seven years. The theme of The Fountainhead is "individualism and collectivism in man's soul." The hero is Rand's ideal, a noble soul, an architect who is firmly and serenely devoted to his own ideals and believes that no man should copy the style of another. The other characters demand that he renounce his values, but the hero maintains his integrity.
Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957), her most extensive statement of her Objectivist philosophy in any of her fiction, became an international bestseller. In the appendix, she asserted: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." Along with Nathaniel Branden, a young philosophy student, his wife, Barbara, Alan *Greenspan, the future head of the Federal Reserve System, and others, members of The Collective, she launched the Objectivist movement to promote her philosophy of individual ability and laissez-faire capitalism. After several years, Rand and Branden's relationship blossomed into an intense romance, despite the fact that both were married. Eventually, the affair led to the Brandens' divorce.
Rand's political views were radically pro-capitalist, antistatist, and anti-Communist. She had a strong dislike for mysticism, religion, and compulsory charity, all of which she believed helped foster a crippling culture of resentment towards individual human happiness and success. Although she became a cult figure in libertarian circles, her view of selfishness as a virtue and altruism as a vice was a reversal of the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic. In 1985, Leonard Peikoff, a surviving member of The Collective and Rand's designated heir, established the Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism.
[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]