Atlas Shrugged

This is not the first time I've read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and it probably won't be the last. However, I think I like the book less and less with each reading. This book is really two books put together, it is a novel and and political manifesto combined into one. The novel is interesting, with creatively written charachters who are larger than life. The political manifesto is impassioned and powerful and well thought-out, although, it seems, from a limited worldview. Unfortunately the switches between story and lecture are difficult to wrap one's mind around at times. And when a character gives a 3 hour speech, it makes for a long book, in much the same way as reading Shakespeare isn't nearly as great as seeing Shakespeare performed.
My biggest problem with the novel itself is that, while the characters span the spectrum from ultra-bad, to super-heroic, and several levels in between, the non-extreme characters are completely in-effectual, and in the end are written off. Eddie Willers is one of the most interesting characters in the book, yet at the end, he's left in the middle of nowhere. Cherryl Taggart is one of the only characters who shows any change, and she commits suicide. Which leads to one of the major issues with the integration of Ayn Rand's philosophy into the story. Her sociology seems to only apply to her heros. By the end of the book, the average person has been completely eliminated from the story.
And here is where we transition from the novel to the manifesto. Ayn Rand places the highest value on the the intellectual. She holds the human mind as her God-figure and claims that a body without a mind is a corpse. The builders of factories, the inventors, the creators of wealth are her heroes. This is all well and good. Acheivement must be celebrated. The goal of everyone should be to add something good to the world and make it better than it was when they started. But... the laborer seems to have no place in her philosophy. The average mind has no worth to her. There are many people for whom a simple job in a factory is enough. There are people for whom, even that is a great acheivement in life. In her value system, the person who does not trade value for value, is evil. Yet there are some who cannot contribute as much as they need to survive. A person with a physical handicap may not be able to do work on the level of someone who is not. In her system, this person would seem to be the "looter" she rails against. Like communisim is a theory that is great on paper, but requires that you ignore those who are unwilling to work, Ayn Rand's subjectivism ignores those who are unable to work.
Hank Rearden may be one of the greatest minds ever placed on paper, but without the people in his factory, he'd have no Metal.
A body without a head quickly dies... but a head without a body is only useful on Futurama.
6 of 10.

Leave a Comment

Before leaving a comment, please ensure you have read and understand my comments policy and my privacy policy. Any comment that does not abide by the comment policy will be deleted immediately.

Related Posts