Ayn Rand and the Russian Intelligentsia: The Origins of an Icon of the American Right

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book

Abstract

This book examines the writings of the American novelist Ayn Rand, especially The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), which Rand considered her definitive statement about the need for an unregulated free market in which superior humans could fully realize themselves by living for no-one but themselves. Rand offered a conception of American identity which exalted individualism and capitalism. She also prescribed a means of saving the modern American nation, which she believed was losing the spirit of its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century founders and frontiersmen and being degraded morally and economically by the rampant socialism of the mid-twentieth-century world. At the same time, her writings functioned as a vehicle in which Rand, a Russian-Jewish writer born in St Petersburg in 1905, engaged with ideas that had long animated the Russian intelligentsia. Her conception of human nature and of a utopian community capable of satisfying its needs; her reversal of conventional valuations of self-sacrifice and selfishness; her division of humans into an extraordinary minority and the ordinary mass; her comparison of competing civilizations – in all these areas, Rand drew on Russian debates and transposed them to a different context. Even the type of novel she writes, the novel of ideas, is informed by the polemical methods and habits of the Russian intelligentsia. Her search for a brave new world continues to have topicality in the twenty-first century, with its populist critiques of liberal democracies and acrimonious debates about countries’ moral, social, and economic priorities and their identities, inequalities, and social tensions.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Jun 2021

Publication series

NameRussian Shorts
PublisherBloomsbury Academic

Keywords

  • Keywords: altruism, the American Right, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, capitalism, collectivism, communism, democracy, Chernyshevsky, deregulation, Dostoevsky, dystopia, egoism, The Fountainhead, Pisarev, the public good, revolution, Russia and the West, the Russian intelligentsia, socialism, Socialist Realism, sub-genres of the novel, supermen.

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