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Ayn Rand

Term Definition
Ayn Rand

The philosophy of objectivism is Rand's main legacy: even her novels are highly philosophical in nature and largely serve to develop her objectivist ideas through a different medium. Objectivism is characterized by a radical, quasi-Nietzschean individualism that largely rejects most liberal ethical notions. The author's philosophy has recently experienced a revival as a result of having been embraced by right-wing political groups such as the Tea Party.

Ayn Rand's background

Ayn Rand, born in Russia in 1905, was a renowned playwright, novelist, philosopher, and screenwriter. Ayn was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum as the oldest child of the family and would go no to have two younger sisters She began writing screenplays at the age of eight and wrote her first novel at the age of ten. In school, Ayn was deeply interested in politics and would debate the benefits of a republic over a monarchy at the age of twelve. She was educated in Russia before moving to the United States in 1926 where she would build the literary career for which she is remembered.

Works by Ayn Rand

During her almost fifty year writing career, Ayn Rand wrote three novels, two other fiction works, and seven non-fiction works. Her two most famous works were two novels titled The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (the opposite of flash fiction due to their length). The Fountainhead was her first majorly successful work and was a romantic philosophical novel that she wrote over seven years. It was originally denied by twelve publishing companies before finally being picked up by the Bobbs-Merrill Company when their editor threatened to quit his job if they did not. Atlas Shrugged, considered to be her magnum opus, was published in 1957. This was written to support Ayn Rand’s objectivism philosophy and to highlight the importance of rationality. 

Ayn Rand's writing style

Ayn Rand used her writing to make political statements. While writing The Fountainhead, Rand was becoming more politically active, working for 1940 presidential candidate Wendell Willkies. Her novel was about Howard Roark, a young architect, and his struggles against those who try to live through others rather than doing things for themselves. Atlas Shrugged was Rand’s way of demonstrating the morality of rational self-interest. In the book, set in a dystopian America, the most creative members of society go and strike and bring the country to a grinding halt, showing the value of creative but rational thinkers.

After her death

Even after her death, Ayn Rand continues to have a lasting influence on libertarianism. She is considered to be one of the three most important women of modern libertarianism in America and it has been said that without her, there would not exist a libertarian movement. Despite forceful opposition, her work showed that people could integrate traditional concepts of virtue and Christian notions with support for capitalism. Though she was an atheist and pro-choice, rare characteristics for right-wing enthusiasts, Rand was highly influential for the conservative population. 

During the financial crisis of the early twenty first century, a renewed interest in Ayn Rand’s work was born. Tea Party activists continuously referenced the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. On the opposite end, there was a high increase in criticism of Rand’s work from the left side of the political spectrum. It was said that her philosophy supported free markets and selfishness and that she portray the wealthy and powerful as the victimized and oppressed. Her political ideologies are also compared to fascism.

Ayn Rand spent the 1960s and 1970s promoting her books and philosophy by giving speeches at college around the country. In her lectures, she took on controversial topics and made big waves with her radical statements. Some of these included calling those of Arabian decent ‘savages’, that homosexuality was both ‘disgusting’ and ‘immoral’, and that white colonists had the right to take land from Native Americans. She continued to influence the political world by advocating for several Republican presidential candidates with her publication, The Objectivist Newsletter. 

Ayn Rand was a writer who was both incredibly influential when she was alive and continues to leave a lasting impression on the world today.  She composed her work carefully to make very specific political statements for which she advocated for her entire life. Her philosophies remain significant and will continue to influence and inspire conservative supporters in the future. 

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