Extreme Individualism Deconstructed

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The Promise of Objectivism Squandered by the Ultimate Rejection of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy.

Guest Editorial By Thomas

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. According to her biography, Alisa’s parents were largely non-observant Jews who celebrated Passover but had her sit out of class during religious instruction. Intellectual, withdrawn and immersed in her fantasy worlds, Alisa yearned to leave her country behind. When Alisa turned 21, relatives in Chicago fulfilled her dream by arranging for her arrival. Alisa became dissolusioned with Chicago’s “provincialism” and her family’s insular Jewish world and headed to her lifelong source of the fantasy world: Hollywood, to realize her dream of becoming a screenwriter.

In Hollywood, Alisa Rosenbaum reinvented herself – by breaking free from the “claws” of tradition and family, gentrifying her name by becoming Ayn Rand, rejecting her Jewish heritage and becoming a devout atheist.

She devoted herself to writing stories about an idealized America and the blueprint of what would become her own philosophy, Objectivism was borne. Concepts such as extreme Individualism, rational selfishness and reason as the only man’s absolute, became the foundation from which Objectivism resonated throughout literary devices in Ayn’s three major novels: We The Living, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. We The Living was widely rejected, The Fountainhead became a best-seller, followed by large screen adaptation, and established Ayn’s career as a novelist and a cult of personality by popular demand. Lastly, Atlas Shrugged was instrumental in advancing the ideological touchstones of the modern Conservative Movement.

While accepted by millions as the ideals of extreme Individualism pronounced, Ayn’s novels attracted negative reviews and Atlas Shrugged was dismissed by most critics who found the premise that “the most gifted, creative, and successful members of a society are exploited by the untalented and unappreciative masses—only slightly less implausible than the major action of the novel, a strike of geniuses to force an end to their abuse.”

The Objectivist Movement fell into disfavor and relative obscurity since 1968. Yet it was in the front and center advanced by the VP candidate Paul Ryan, a self – described Ayn Rand devotee, during the 2012 presidential elections. Yet, evidently not making any difference in the election’s outcome.

Today, few philosophers take Ayn’s work at all seriously and academics shun it. There is an uneasiness toward her philosophy even in the Jewish community, summarized in one source – “her declaration that selfishness is a virtue and altruism a vice is contrary to traditional Jewish values.”

In summary it could be argued against Ayn’s core beliefs that the most successful countries do not only fund defense, police and the courts system. Successful nations invest in research, education and innovation, provide a safety net to the sick and needy, keep defense spending in check, protect the environment from over-exploitation, make cuts and raise taxes, so that society’s costs and benefits are equalized.

A question for you, the reader – what is your vision of the individual within West Civilization’s society at large and does it incorporate or reject Ayn’s objectivist ideology?


Further reading:

Twin Biographies of a Singular Woman, Ayn Rand

October 21, 2009

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