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Atlas Shrugged the movie
January 20, 2007 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Atlas Shrugged is again in the pipeline to be made into a movie. BACK in the 1970s Albert S. Ruddy, the producer of “The Godfather,” first approached Ayn Rand to make a movie of her novel “Atlas Shrugged.” But Rand, who had fled the Soviet Union and gone on to inspire capitalists and egoists everywhere, worried aloud, apparently in all seriousness, that the Soviets might try to take over Paramount to block the project.
posted by Brian B. (142 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dear god, for a moment I thought you meant this. Phew!
posted by maryh at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Comedy Gold.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:58 PM on January 20, 2007


If this movie is to be made, then it MUST stay faithful to Rand's original vision.

Therefore, all the heroes must be constantly shown smoking cigarettes, while discussing how great cigarettes are.
posted by ELF Radio at 2:01 PM on January 20, 2007 [9 favorites]


A couple of years ago, I was watching late night PBS, and a black and white movie came on. I'd missed the opening credits, so I didn't know what I was watching.

The movie was about an architect and a rich woman. They had some silly arguments about basically nothing at all, and then there was a big, unbelievably stupid court scene. Then the architect and the rich woman had another argument, and I thought: "these people are childish".

It turned out to be "The Fountainhead".
posted by interrobang at 2:05 PM on January 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Oh boy im gonna be a *star*! Groupies, come to me.
posted by H. Roark at 2:11 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Officer Barbrady will shortly begin preaching that "going to the movies totally sucks ass".
posted by mkb at 2:12 PM on January 20, 2007


It wont happen. Making a movie requires a lot of help, and helping is futile.
posted by jonmc at 2:15 PM on January 20, 2007 [16 favorites]


Great article. I like the image of the aggressive movie producer seducing the author on her love seat, until she gives in: "telling him, in her heavy accent, 'I want you to do Atlas Shrugged.’ "
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:16 PM on January 20, 2007


Her work is based on the presupposition that Freud's ideas were somehow legitimate, which now in academia are little more than an interesting anachronism. 'Laughable' may be more to the point.
posted by four panels at 2:24 PM on January 20, 2007


Her work was based on the presupposition that her own ideas were somehow legitimate. Laughable may definitely be to the point.
posted by QuietDesperation at 2:28 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


*shrug*
posted by uosuaq at 2:30 PM on January 20, 2007


Yeah the Soviets would take over paramount.. yeah.. she was totally sane..
posted by MrLint at 2:30 PM on January 20, 2007


Two shrugs up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:32 PM on January 20, 2007


I think "The Incredibles" pretty much renders a remake of "Atlas Shrugged" redundant.
posted by teleskiving at 2:34 PM on January 20, 2007 [8 favorites]


Her work was based on the presupposition that her own ideas were somehow legitimate.

That's why capitalism is the best form of government.
posted by j-urb at 2:34 PM on January 20, 2007


This is the story that newspapers run when they're bored.

I actually think this movie will do some good for the world. It'll be an emporer's-new-clothes type moment for all of the self-centered 18-year-olds whose lives have been ruined by the book.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:35 PM on January 20, 2007


I think "The Incredibles" pretty much renders a remake of "Atlas Shrugged" redundant.

You don't think the ending would have made Rand vomit?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I remember, The Fountainhead is the one where the heroine realises that the architect hero is a real man, and worthy of her love, because he gives her a jolly good raping. Ah, love.
posted by gdav at 2:38 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just saw The Fountainhead, 25 years after I read the book. Only the preponderance of the ideas really came through in the movie. Severe, heavy, creaking ideas. And has there ever been an actor more miscast than Gary Cooper as John Galt?

I will be watching it again, next time as high camp.
posted by telstar at 2:43 PM on January 20, 2007


meh.
posted by infini at 2:47 PM on January 20, 2007


My favorite Ayn Rand quote:
"I am not looking for intelligent disagreement any longer.... What I am looking for is intelligent agreement."
posted by Coventry at 2:50 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Didn't the objectivists merge with the scientologists and form objectionable sciencism?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:50 PM on January 20, 2007 [6 favorites]


That's why capitalism is the best form of government.

You know what's terribly sad is I can't tell if this is sarcasm or irony or not. I can hope, but I really just don't know.
posted by loquacious at 3:11 PM on January 20, 2007


my god, atlas just shrugged, again.
posted by infini at 3:16 PM on January 20, 2007


Oh boy im gonna be a *star*! Groupies, come to me. posted by H. Roark at 2:11 PM PST on January 20 [+]
[!]


and

And has there ever been an actor more miscast than Gary Cooper as John Galt?

Jeez, I'm the furthest thing in the world from a Rand fan and I've never even read Shrugged, but the above indicates some serious confusion here. Rourke was the hero of the Fountainhead and Galt was the hero of Shrugged and not vice versa.

And if Ayn Rand had written The Incredibles, Buddy/Syndrome would have been the hero.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:16 PM on January 20, 2007


AJAX favorites sure make this thread more fun.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:17 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I use to hate Ayn Rand as much as any of you.

But once I realized that her characters are suppose to be unrealistic and situations between them somewhat exaggerated and little like real life, she's not too bad. While I hated reading "We the Living" (the only book I've given up on after reading about halfway through) and thought "Anthem" was decent, I'm reading "The Fountainhead" and I think it's a pretty good book.

A movie of "Atlas Shrugged" probably won't go over well. Right or wrong, the book has its unique philosophy and I have a feeling that it'll be sacrificed in order for it to be an actual movie instead of a movie of a guy talking about the nature of man for an hour.
posted by champthom at 3:18 PM on January 20, 2007


I read that book during a curfew because the city I was in was erupting in riots and mayhem.
posted by infini at 3:22 PM on January 20, 2007


It's funny that the producer of The Godfather is involved since in many ways those first 2 movies are a total undressing of the Nietzscheanism-perverted-by-capitalism-run-wild philosophy that is Atlas Shrugged.
posted by papakwanz at 3:26 PM on January 20, 2007


I wonder if the movie will be as putrid as the book.

I'd like to see the 50+ page sermon by Galt translated into film.

10 hours ought to cover it. It ought to be as self-indulgent and stupid as Rand was herself.
posted by teece at 3:28 PM on January 20, 2007


I'm surprised at you. bet you thoroughly bookmarked that section yourself as a giddy teenager. g'wan, confess
posted by infini at 3:32 PM on January 20, 2007


Just how did the book Atlas Shrugged end anyway? Cuz I dutifully trudged through it, constantly under the impression it would someday get better, and when John Galt got in front of cameras and started talking, I think I got about five pages into that, then flipped through the last of the book and realized he juuuuuuust kehhhhpt taaaaahlking. Did he ever stop? I think the book is still going, and I just walked out of the book. I'll do the same in the movie theater.

Taggart was a hottie, though.

Hollywood can't make this film, any more than it could successfully make a film of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. Rearden and Taggart will be played by Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver. The copper industry will become dinosaurs that spit fire. Smart people fleeing a state-controlled society will become a car chase involving Nissans and Toyotas. They'll call it Audience Shrugged.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:37 PM on January 20, 2007


Sweet. Can't wait till the book comes out.
posted by infini at 3:40 PM on January 20, 2007


Meh, I don't understand why Objectivism must be the province of deluded, narcissistic teens any more than, say, Marxism. I've met one self-proclaimed Objectivist, and I've met dozens of Marxists, especially back in high school. All of them radiate Jehovah's Witness vibes.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:45 PM on January 20, 2007


Good grief - the Rand-hating around here is absolutely amazing. I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so. Yeah, some of Rand's writing was a bit hammy, but as noted above somewhere, that was a plot device to some degree - purposely exaggerating certain traits and situations in order to create a dramatic work of fiction. It's been done before, ya know.

But regarding the ideas and principles of objectivism? No other philosophy that I am familiar with is more reality-based, freedom-oriented, and livable.

But regarding the movie...'ve never thought that AS should be made into a movie - it just doesn't seem necessary or important. The constant "who should play Galt?" and "Antonio Banderas is PERFECT to play Francisco" games grew stale many years ago. (Having said that, I believe that Eric Close should portray Galt.)

If a movie helps spread the objectivist philosophy, great - but I'm not too optimistic that it will, because it will be "Hollywoodized" too much for it to be a truly effective "message" movie.

And after seeing "The Fountainhead" mangled so badly, well...I just don't think that an AS project is worthwhile. But there's a chance - slim - that it will be good.
posted by davidmsc at 3:49 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Padre Adelfio's going to need a new altar bell.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2007


“I think it solidified my capitalistic thinking, in that I believe very strongly that people are generally selfish, but that selfishness can ultimately benefit many, many people,” Mr. Burns said.

Excellent!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't it be great if all the insanely wealthy super-capitalists in the world actually did go on strike? Did Rand ever even consider why something like that would only happen in science fiction?
posted by stammer at 4:03 PM on January 20, 2007


To quote PinkStainlessTail, "Kevin McDonald as Jimmy Taggart."

I'm *still* laughing about that one.
posted by parki at 4:05 PM on January 20, 2007


Somehow I love the fact that Angelina Jolie is an Objectivist hilarious.

I think "The Incredibles" pretty much renders a remake of "Atlas Shrugged" redundant.

You mean the movie where the main villain was a genius inventor and industrialist, who believed in the power of capitalism to lift up the common man to greatness? The one where the heroes believed that their mission in life was to help others?
posted by delmoi at 4:10 PM on January 20, 2007


Rand having grown up in the early Soviet Union, it's not hard see why the rest of her life would be a be an absolutist reaction to a tyranny of mediocrity, since that's in essence what daily life in the Soviet Union was. But the U.S. isn't the Soviet Union, and the only way she could escape this truth and get her fulminations on paper was to set The Fountainhead in a feebly simplistic fantasy world in which her message would actually have meaning. It certainly doesn't in this one. Not content merely with straw man villains, she sets her stories in a straw world with a straw population, and the idea that you can base any critical thought on a philosophy that requires this kind of deck-stacking needs a lot of defending.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:12 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

You're kidding, right? Many of the principles are nothing more than matters of belief, so "refuting" them is very difficult.

But one of the core consequences of Rand's silly little system of ethics is in her absolute belief in laissez-faire capitalism as the ideal form or society.

Unfortunately for Rand, even a cursory examination of the situation shows that any society develops structures greater than the individual, and that maximizing individual benefit almost never maximizes societal benefit (maximizing societal benefit is also problematic for individual benefit. There is a tension here: it's nowhere near the simple, toy model Rand prefers). And yet, advanced societies can and do come somewhere in the neighborhood of greatly improving individual beneift.

Indeed, her utopian capitalist society of 100% private property, and completely selfish actors (as Rand defines the term) could not produce anything resembling the societies we see today. It could not produce the kinds of thinking and technology she so admires in her putrid novel.

She, like any Marxist or other quasi-cultists, distorts reality and pretends that an "ideal" exists that just happens to be something she wants to be true, rather than dealing with this messy thing that is reality.

Rand is an infantile thinker (and a really fucking bad writer). She's being mocked rightfully.
posted by teece at 4:15 PM on January 20, 2007 [7 favorites]


Wouldn't it be great if all the insanely wealthy super-capitalists in the world actually did go on strike?

It already happened. Did you think Akhenaten and Hatshepsut got their hands dirty by tilling the earth?
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:15 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Gosh, I really hope this movie gets made, finally. Then Randians can see what a dump of a movie it is and move on, instead of pining for the movie to be made.

I predict the movie will do for Objectivism what the "Left Behind" movie did for Fundamentalist Eschatologists, the "Dungeons and Dragons" movie did for RPGers and what Tom Cruise contiues to do for Scientologists.

Namely, merely serve as an aching source of embarrassment for adherents.
posted by darkstar at 4:16 PM on January 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Davidmsc, I can refute some of the major principals of objectivism using things my mother taught me;

"Don't be selfish. Make sure you share. Eat your dinner - think about the starving kids in Africa who aren't so lucky!"

That's a good enough refutation for me.
posted by Jimbob at 4:17 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


No other philosophy that I am familiar with is more reality-based, freedom-oriented, and livable.

Sure, if you want to be known far and wide as a reality-based, freedom-oriented douchelord.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:18 PM on January 20, 2007 [13 favorites]


I bet it's not as good as Battlefield Earth.
posted by Flunkie at 4:32 PM on January 20, 2007


I want them to make a movie version of Telemachus Sneezed.

Pity the one guy who could have done it is no longer with us.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:42 PM on January 20, 2007


Objectivism means different things to different people and it's not clear which interpretation one needs to refute before one has successfully refuted Objectivism.
posted by spock at 4:43 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


davidmsc: I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

As if nobody has?

A notable exception to the general lack of attention paid to Rand in philosophy is the essay "On the Randian Argument" by Harvard University philosopher Robert Nozick, which appears in his collection, Socratic Puzzles. Nozick is sympathetic to Rand's political conclusions, but he does not think her arguments justify them. In particular, his essay criticizes her foundational argument in ethics, which claims that one's own life is, for each individual, the only ultimate value because it makes all other values possible. Nozick says that to make this argument sound Rand still needs to In section 14explain why someone could not rationally prefer dying and having no values. Thus, he argues, her attempt to defend the morality of selfishness is essentially an instance of begging the question and that her solution to David Hume's famous is-ought problem is unsatisfactory.

The irony is that it's not even adequate as a self-help method, but basically functions as a losing sports psychology. Rand assumes that the subject can't be wrong even when defeated on the same terms.

In section 146 the principle is stated explicitly by Dan Conway: "I suppose somebody's got to be sacrificed. If it turned out to be me, I have no right to complain."
posted by Brian B. at 4:45 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

I think the problem most people have is the insistence that the major principles are objective. Arguing that self-interest and capitalism are good things is not inherently obnoxious... but insisting that your conclusions are the only possible conclusions really rubs people up the wrong way.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:48 PM on January 20, 2007


I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so. Yeah, some of Rand's writing was a bit hammy

That's because humanity was done refuting Randian Objectivism years ago - because Freud was a coked up, niece diddling old fraud - because to this date every attempt to reduce the psychological makeup of something as nefarious as "mankind" to a set of reactive idioms has utterly failed - because "mankind" is dynamic, ever changing, and intelligences are - if anything - always unique.

Because Ayn Rand's message was so simplistic and ill-founded, her message has been interpreted in a manner that made men selfish - that their own happiness is all that matters, that man is an island.

And that's just, well, simplistic. And false, and outrageously stupid and arrogant - whether or not it's actually Ayn's message, it's how it's been acted upon and interpreted. No man is an island, and our mutual happiness and contentment is important if you want to be both a happy rational human being and a happy feeling human being.

Rand totally fails to account for complex, dynamic systems - be they ecosystems or organizations. She totally fails to acknowledge symbiosis in it's many forms. She fails to account for ecologies, which go far beyond simple food chains.

Ayn Rand - like Marx, like Frued, like many other ideologues - utterly fails to grasp or even account for the complexity of human existence or experience.

And that's why, here, now, so many years later - we point and laugh. A lot. Because - as commonly applied and intepreted - it's really all quite stupid and destructive.

Allow me to elaborate. To quote Rand directly:
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.
That's a fine, noble statement at first glance, but when you get down into it and start analyzing the language and attempting to define things, it becomes much more complex.

For example - from a simplistic viewpoint - "productive achievement as his noblest activity" is pretty cut and dry, right? Industry or industriousness, productivity, efficiency, making it all go. Captains of industry, or captains of pleasant hobby pastimes, it doesn't really matter for the purposes of this argument.

Production is production is production, right?

Wrong. Because that noble production may cause more havok and damage within the "ecosystem" it is tied to, becoming, ultimately, counterproductive. There are many, many industries and hobbies we currently partake of and tolerate in the grand name of "industry" and "economy" that end up costing us as "humankind" a great deal more energy, money and work sooner or later.

Ecosystems end up damaged, resources squandered and all in all the net sum is a greater impoverishment than enrichment or production.

This doesn't even account for how we've squandered our individualized aesthetic pleasures and comforts for the ease of mass production and the "give me mine, now" consumerist mindset.

And it is for these reasons, and the way here message was interpreted and acted upon - and many more reasons - that Randian Objectivism is a failure.

Because, like always, ideologies are inherently flawed things. Even when perfectly written, language is open to interpretation. And language is itself inherently flawed - a virus, a memetic approximation, a description of some thing or quality. A mere idea.

But the map is never the territory.

Like Marx, Rand had lots of decent ideas. But like Marx, Rand is more often misinterpreted than not. And like Marx, Rand lived in a different age, and being human, cannot forsee the future or our needs nor the possibility that her message may be misapplied and become destructive rather than constructive.

And that's why we laugh at her and her ideas. Because they're quaint and old fashioned and cute to look at and read about, but terrible, outrageously terrible to actually live by and apply on the scales that humanity operates on.


As a counter-virus, I offer the non-partisan happiness-centric psychology of Mihaly Csiksczentmihalyi who wrote (among other things) a book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience which has some of the same tenor of Rand in the matter of hapiness and satisfaction being important to living a fulfilled life, but with a much less aggressive and more personal stance.

Because, you know, happiness is indeed important. For individuals as well as entire cultures.
posted by loquacious at 4:54 PM on January 20, 2007 [19 favorites]


I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

See, to engage this issue (or "issue") with any seriousness is to give Ayn Rand and her followers much more credit than either of them deserve. She wasn't even wrong.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:02 PM on January 20, 2007


davidmsc: I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

Sure, Selfishness for Rand means not only something entirely different from what the word means, but ultimately nothing. She uses selfishness as a catchall for acting to achieve the results that you would prefer even if such an act would require a personal sacrifice and the benefits of the action would be experienced by people other than you.

Second, the prisoners dilemma is real, externalities are real, and monopolies really do cause inefficiencies. The marginal utility a unit of wealth provides a person diminishes. These truths wouldn't be a big deal if she claimed that a Capitalist system was morally the best, but she also claims that it is also practically the best.

Also she rejects a materialistic determinism for no good reason.

Also she likes to claim that people have rights independent of a social contract for no good reason. A single human has no right to life or liberty, getting trapped in a cave or eaten by a bear will prove the lie of any claims to the contrary. Two human beings can work it out that they would both prefer to remove the option of killing from the table in exchange for a smaller chance of being killed. This is not enough for Rand. And she doesn't even have a god to give people rights by magic.

Rand tried to do an awful lot with her philosophy, and I am more sympathetic to her than most academics. But christ, her hubris and that of her followers is staggering and cultlike. No one has it all figured and this dreadful novelist who writes glorified children's books with rape scenes is no exception.

posted by I Foody at 5:13 PM on January 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


I simply must agree.
posted by infini at 5:26 PM on January 20, 2007


I like this review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers.
posted by Buck Eschaton at 5:32 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.
Yes. And after doing so, please try refuting any of the major principles of this, too.
posted by Flunkie at 5:34 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

Sure. Off the top of my head, here are Objectivism's three primary flaws:

1) Assumption of an objective morality
2) Assumption that all economic transactions are zero-sum
3) Assumption of free will

More.
posted by Ryvar at 5:35 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


OK. OK. The architect guy and the newspaper guy are meeting for the first time and the newspaper guy moves toward the architect guy for no obvious reason......but a closer look reveals that the newspaper guy's face was moving into the shadow of the architect guy....twice.....so..you know....Rand musta been on the set that day
posted by wrapper at 5:46 PM on January 20, 2007


I'm with everyone who says Gary Cooper was a crap Howard Roark. Ugh. And Patricia Neal? Double ugh.

I read The Fountainhead when I was 20 and in art school. WORST DECISION EVER TO READ THAT BOOK. Speaking from hindsight, that book can turn a sweet, idealistic art student into an insufferable idiot vehemently obsessed with sticking to their own "brilliant" visions (what does anyone else know!?). You know, that whole Howard "I'd rather blow up my gorgeously perfect building than be a sell out" Roark thing is mighty appealing to an art student. Problem is... at 20 you're too young to REALLY know what the Hell you're talking about sometimes... but you'll stubbornly stick to your "creative guns" when you really should mellow the Hell out. Sigh.

As I matured & memory of the book faded, it all became so clear: life sucks for martyrs with a superiority complex who blow up their own dull-looking architecture. SO much less stressful to just mellow out & pick your battles. Throw in that Palladian window they want, cash your check & build your OWN house the way you want it... and live in it happily.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:52 PM on January 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


that kinda makes sense, actually.
posted by infini at 5:52 PM on January 20, 2007


infini, are you referring to the Time Cube?
posted by Flunkie at 5:55 PM on January 20, 2007


Oh, and that whole atruism thing? It's totally subjective. So in a way, it's bullshit. It's like the golden rule... "doing unto others as you would want them to do unto you" doesn't always work... after all, OTHERS may have totally different taste/needs.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:55 PM on January 20, 2007


Good grief - the Rand-hating around here is absolutely amazing. I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

I can't really say whether or not I'm familiar with the major principles of Objectivism -- I've only read some of Rand's fiction so I'm sortof left to interpolate. But The Fountainhead is pretty interesting to me, however, and I think she did get her finger on a number of ways in which society can be destructive to individuals within it, and if she grew up in Soviet Russia, I don't know if I can blame her for thinking that collectivist thought is a primary source of evil in the world, and I agree that when she's treated here on metafilter she's often treated poorly (and the film version of Fountainhead did suck badly).

At the same time, I'm given to understand -- at least by some of the libertarians I encounter from time to time -- that some of the ideas apparent in The Fountainhead aren't consistent with some of Rand's more expositive writing. I consistently hear that the pursuit of wealth is virtuous, but in fact two characters in the novel are clearly spiritually destroyed because of that pursuit. Which one is Objectivism?

There's also bits that I find to be useful for a inversion of perspective, but facile if taken strictly. For example, the idea that "all sacrifice is useless" is worthwhile if by sacrifice one simply means the choice of the ascetic, giving up someting for the sake of giving it up. On the other hand, it's obvious that giving up something that you want less for something that you want more is not only sound decision making, it's practically at the heart of economics. :) I'd argue that on some level, many if not most people understand that a good sacrifice really constitutes the latter kind of exchange. We often do poorly at that, and so I think the warning to think about why you'd make a sacrifice is generally worthwhile, but there's only so much illumination available there. And worse, if you take it strictly, you can go drastically wrong.

I pick that as an example because it seems characteristic to me of the philosophy I've encountered by reading her fiction. I find her interesting as a critic, but not so good at constructing a philosophy that's practical, perhaps because like some other insistent critics (maybe even Marx), she seems to base her foundation largely on complete inversions. And that's a good way to throw out babies with bathwater.
posted by weston at 6:01 PM on January 20, 2007


She wasn't even wrong.

It's probably apparent from my comment above, but I disagree with this. Largely because I think that if you can avoid drinking the kool-aid wholesale, at the very least you can get illumination out of wrestling some of Rand's themes.
posted by weston at 6:13 PM on January 20, 2007


Save yourself +$10 and several hours — spoiler redux.
posted by cenoxo at 6:23 PM on January 20, 2007


Good grief - the Rand-hating around here is absolutely amazing.

There is nothing amazing about contempt for the contemptible.

I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

The obsession with "logical proof" and "logical refutation" is one of Objectivism's greatest weaknesses. They claim that the entire systems stems from a single axiom "A is a", yet none of the rules of logic can be used to infer anything more from that single statement. In fact, she doesn't even mention any of the other rules of logic. Mathematically, her system of logic is pure crap, self-refuting.

Ayn Rand's version of "logic" is crap, and nothing can be proven to people who have crap for logic (unless they want to believe it)
posted by delmoi at 6:25 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


What i want to know is... WHO in the world is it to play Wesley Mouch? I've heard Andy Richter's name being mentioned, but in the end, only Philip Seymour Hoffman can do him justice...
posted by ELF Radio at 6:34 PM on January 20, 2007


Flunky, I meant what what wrapper said.

on who should play whom, ooo can I play Frisco? if not then dagny at sixteen.
posted by infini at 7:02 PM on January 20, 2007


I don't understand why anyone would compare Rand to Marx, much less to Freud.
posted by clockzero at 7:03 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Aside from my distaste for cheese triangle objectivism, having sat through a Rand play and read some of her books, she's definitely one of those writers who Wants To Get An Idea Across. She went from just having unrealistic characters who sat around chatting for far longer than a human being would (Heinlein, I'm lookin' at you), and plunged into the dangerous land of believing that fiction can prove anything. It makes for bad fiction. The movie, if faithfully adapted, would be an exercise in tedium. If not faithfully adapted, the uncompromising nature of her fans would lead to sure disappointment. I can't see this as a win for anyone.
posted by adipocere at 7:13 PM on January 20, 2007


former rand fanatic here, just skimming. Lots of the criticism here is fair. She was a total nut ball, but she also had a lot of wonderful things to say. She was calling racism bullshit in the 20's, 40 years before it even thought about going mainstream. But at the same time, didn't buy evolution wtf?

anyway, just wanted to chime in to say that
2) Assumption that all economic transactions are zero-sum
is dead wrong. She wrote an entire essay about the exact opposite.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 7:13 PM on January 20, 2007


It is my belief that the most amusing dichotomy in all of human nature is the belief that happiness comes from getting what you want, vs. the belief that happiness comes from not getting what you want.

It's greed vs. asceticism, one with conspicuous consumption, the other with conspicuous deprivation. They are mirror images of eachother, but they are so far away from getting the point that it's almost comical to watch them fight.
posted by effugas at 7:15 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why anyone would compare Rand to Marx, much less to Freud.

In a nutshell:

Humanist-pragmatism: A progressive goal-oriented approach that embraces education and fairness as a means to measured improvements, arguing for changes based on evidence or persuasion.

Dogmatic-absolutist: A unified speculative theory for perfection or purity based on simple polar assumptions and appeals to authority or power to defeat its assumed opposite (e.g., communism versus libertarianism).

Romantic-emotional: Impassioned pleas for perfection or purity using cultural appeals to superiority (e.g., Nazism, racial or ethnic national-patriotism movements or anything nostalgic or conservative for its own sake) often using appeals to force, pride or pity.
posted by Brian B. at 7:25 PM on January 20, 2007


"Good grief - the Rand-hating around here is absolutely amazing."

I got nothing against Rand. Never met her. I'm sure she's just like anyone else and a lot of fun to hang with after you get a couple drinks in her.

I hated that damned book of hers. Not cuz of what it was trying to say or whether or not the themes of the book were valid or relevant... I was told it was a great book and that cuz of my opinions about things I'd love the book. I hated the book. If you're going to tell a story, fuckin' tell a story.

Don't parade a dissertation on theoretical economics versus sociological craptology as a novel. Tell a story that matters, and have it end in a significant way. You just don't have all the protagonists run off to some hidden chalet inside a volcano or some shit and hide from the bad guys, and then bore the badguys to death with a satelite feed of some weirdo rambling on for forty-two pages. Jesus Christ! Instead of making a movie, they should just film Dr. Gene Scott for two hours. It'll make about as much sense.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:32 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


But Rand, who had fled the Soviet Union and gone on to inspire capitalists and egoists everywhere, worried aloud, apparently in all seriousness, that the Soviets might try to take over Paramount to block the project.

I'd never heard this. It's hysterical, in both senses of the word.

Ayn Rand's ideas only make sense at all when you see them as a reaction to the terrible experiences she had in her formative years in revolutionary and newly Soviet Rusia. Rand never had a sense of humour, and a sense of humour is essentially a sense of balance and proportion. You see something is out of whack, and it's so wrong and absurd it makes you laugh. Lacking this, there was no real way for Rand to ever recover her mental balance after what she underwent in Russia.
posted by orange swan at 7:39 PM on January 20, 2007


I was one of those high-school kids who voraciously read everything Rand wrote, even her collection of letters. I'm older now, and I realize she made lots of factual mistakes, and some philosophical mistakes. I've come to disagree with some of the conclusions she made. But I still mostly like her as a philosopher, and am really grateful for the influence she's had on my thinking.

It's tempting to trash her, especially because so many of her adherents do have a fanatical, and sometimes dogmatic, devotion to her. But I still think she has a lot to offer if you read her critically, but sympathetically. Off the top of my head:

1. The idea that philosophy itself is really important. This was totally novel to me as a kid, as I believed, as I think most people do, that philosophy was an abstract, ivory tower pursuit that had no bearing on real life. Rand makes the point over and over that your choice of philosophical beliefs, even abstract ones (like free will or the correpsondence theory of truth), ultimately guides the way you live out your life. And that everyone has a 'working philosophy' that's mostly informed by the people around you, and if you want to be an independent thinker, you should try to work it out for yourself. This sounds self-evident to me today, but it was a revelation at the time.

2. The worldview (she'd have called it a 'sense of life') that working for your own benefit was not only morally acceptable, but virtuous. The idea that running a business could actually be an admirable activity, rather than at-best-morally-shady (which is what I was raised to think). Admittedly, this does not always work out in reality (e.g., Larry Ellison is not John Galt), and realizing this is one of the ways I've come to disagree with her. But I still like the idea (implicit in her novels, explicit in her non-fiction) that a person successfully working for his own benefit can be thought of as flourishing.

3. I think she has a really plausible theory of art, which unfortunately always gets overlooked because everyone wants to talk about her economics (basically, every person develops a lens through which they view the world, which gets developed by their experiences as well as their explicit beliefs; every phenomenon passes through this lens in order to become experience; art is the act of dumping that lens into some medium, like a painting or a book).

Point being, I think Rand made mistakes. But I think if you avoid everything she wrote because you can find a flaw in her reasoning about capitalism (or because she has some kooky followers), I think you're missing out on a really interesting thinker.

(Oh, and that's cool that they're making a movie)
posted by molybdenum at 7:41 PM on January 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


2) Assumption that all economic transactions are zero-sum
is dead wrong. She wrote an entire essay about the exact opposite.


I don't know what the original poster had in mind with this, but Rand made the trickle-down assumption that economic losers were parasites on the winners, rather than the other way around. Hence her apparent opposition to zero-sum to justify this position, but one that contained assumptions about zero-sum entitlement, based on the privilege of amassed money (which was collectively supplied, which is an insurmountable problem to her followers). Her worldview is Biblical, derived from the non-Western thesis that there is only a finite amount of goodness in the world, based on opposition. This is a zero sum worldview, she simply violated it, or lied about violating it as a game theory.
posted by Brian B. at 8:02 PM on January 20, 2007


"Atlas Shrugged" was one of the few books I didn't finish. Started skimming the sermons, even thumbing past them looking to see if anyone else spoke, finally gave up.

As a philosopher... Rand's wrong. period.

If the movie is faithful to the book, it'll suck. Though I think I'd watch Anjolina cut her toenails, if it comes down to that.

Here's what inspires me - open-source. There's no "capital" benefit for the participants, yet without force or direction , people can get together to create something of value (software), that provides a collective benefit for all, not just the participants. I hope that principle catches on in other parts of our lives.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:15 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


molybdenum---
Thank you for your balanced and thoughtful analysis.
And I find your CIVILITY truly refreshing!
I wish others were as respectful of both sides.
(...tried to send this to your e-mail addy listed on your profile, but it kept bouncing back...)
posted by Dizzy at 8:15 PM on January 20, 2007


I was turned on to Atlas Shrugged by a girl friend in college who bought it hook, line, and sinker. I read it over the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, mostly during lunch hours and after coming home from night shifts at a parts warehouse.

What made it tolerable for me was imagining it as a gigantic treatment for a "Classics Illustrated" comic book. Some of the imagery, the trains, the factories, have a sort of art nouveua iconography about them that just scream "comic book"

Jesus, even at 18 I could see that as philosophy it was hopeless. I think Rand is where Treckies turn when the ultimately hit bottom.
posted by hwestiii at 8:21 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've said before, and I'll say it again: if anyone can refute any of the major principles of Objectivism, please do so.

the doorbell rings ... you find a newborn baby crying on your doorstep ... as an objectivist living in a world based upon objectivist principles what is your reaction, keeping in mind the virtues of selfishness and the evils of altruism?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:27 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: the doorbell rings ... you find a newborn baby crying on your doorstep ... as an objectivist living in a world based upon objectivist principles what is your reaction, keeping in mind the virtues of selfishness and the evils of altruism?

Ooh, I know this one! Raise the child, training him in the mysterious arts of Kung-Fu.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:40 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hollywood can't make this film, any more than it could successfully make a film of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep.

*cough* Blade Runner *cough*
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:44 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was one of the writers on the 'long list' for this movie. My agent called me up and asked if I was interested. I said I'd never read it, but would. He told me this book had changed his life.

I got one chapter into it before I gave up. I don't know who got the gig eventually but if they're not a True Believer it's going to be one miserable job, I know that.
posted by unSane at 8:44 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Rand is a toughie.

If you first read her without knowing any background, she’s the “me against the world” kind of thinker that is easy to identify with, especially if you’re a rebel at heart, and most of us like to think that.

But when you read her again, and learn a little more about her background, you start getting the sense that she’s over-doing things. It quickly smells of propaganda.

I’m not a fan of Rand’s, but if they managed to capture that kind of renegade mentality that I had when I first read her, great.
posted by rougy at 8:53 PM on January 20, 2007


I've never found Ayn Rand to be particularly filmable - most likely caused by my misreading - 'The Virtue of Shellfishness'.

What the hell has a mollusk got over me anyways?
(oh yeah, the whole surviving for eons thing, and being mostly delicious.) The future is owned by egoist oysters who love to smoke. . . if I have read her correctly. And here I am landlocked and constrained to the consumption of oysters of the prairie variety.

Aah well, this bleak existence is better than a film adaptation of Atlas Shucked.
posted by isopraxis at 8:58 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'd sit through a movie of Atlas Shrugged, twice, if it meant that a good filmed version of Sewer, Gas, and Electric would get filmed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:01 PM on January 20, 2007


deleted dialogue

Roarke: You put balconies on my design?

Keating: I had to, besides, the tennants wanted them.

Roarke: The tenants?? Fuck the tenants, this is about me.
posted by wrapper at 9:01 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Brian B., regarding this:

So, are you saying that those attitudes are characteristic of each of them?
posted by clockzero at 9:04 PM on January 20, 2007


Rand was definitely not user centred.
posted by infini at 9:08 PM on January 20, 2007


I'd just like to say, having worked extensively with an architect on the house I am building, that I am really fucking glad it wasn't Roark we hired. Can you even imagine?




And as an aside, I'd also just like to say to Ayn Rand, that for encouraging all jobbing architects to think of themselves as proto-Roarks...

...fuck you very much.
posted by unSane at 9:09 PM on January 20, 2007


clockzero, I was only suggesting a standard view that Marx and Rand are on opposite ends of the same absolutism, I should have mentioned that the second part was my point entirely.
posted by Brian B. at 9:10 PM on January 20, 2007


Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism Objectivism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:10 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]




Just remember, kids -- Ayn rhymes with "mine".
posted by dhartung at 9:25 PM on January 20, 2007


the client is the customer is the king. rand never had to sell you see.
posted by infini at 9:25 PM on January 20, 2007


Atlas Shrugged was the bestest Harlequin romance I ever read.

Not only that, it's got some cool philosophy stuff that makes a great co-read with The Communist Manifesto -- by the time I was done with those two books, I really was ready to turn 25...
posted by fairmettle at 9:30 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, do you think that Rand has anything in common with either Marx or Freud, ideologically? Personally, I don't really see any similarities (discounting the fact that they may have been interested in similar or overlapping areas of human experience), and that's why I mentioned that I didn't see the rationale behind the suggestion of some kind of intellectual fraternity.
posted by clockzero at 9:30 PM on January 20, 2007


The intellectual fraternity is not in what they had to say, clockzero, but in that they were willing to say it in the face of inconvenient reality. This is not a hard concept to figure out.
posted by stenseng at 9:45 PM on January 20, 2007


clockzero, I see your point and I for one don't claim they are the same in that sense, but she is obsessed with her enemy and it allows someone to psychologize her obsession or trauma as having too much to prove, as seeing only communist threats in every democratic action. See George Spiggott's response.
posted by Brian B. at 9:49 PM on January 20, 2007


Well, do you think that Rand has anything in common with either Marx or Freud, ideologically?

One thing that sticks out for me, in terms of Rand and Marx (or at least, Rand and Communism) is the emphasis on productivity. Marx spoke about production; it was about production for the common good, or owning the means of production, but in the end your worth as an individual was about the useful work you can do.

As seen in some quotes people posted about, Rand promotes similar ideas; it's all about productivity, profess, useful work, but this time for the good of the individual, not the good of the society.

Neither of them questions the fundamental idea that man can be anything other than another cog in the machine.
posted by Jimbob at 9:59 PM on January 20, 2007


Jimbo: I think maybe you're mistaking Marx's description and/or analysis of the nature of capitalism for something else.

Brian B. - Yeah, I can sort of see how someone who grew up in an environment that excoriated the impulse to be for oneself, while putatively valorizing the worth of the human over that which can be accumulated, might say some of the things she said.

stenseng: Well, I think personally that Marx and Freud differ from Rand in that their work was or at least aspired to be descriptive; Marx vigorously resisted giving any sort of formula for the practical instantiation of his analyses, and Freud (whether one agrees with his analysis or not) was more interested in discovering the basis of psychological pathology than prescribing any particular cure, beyond of course talk therapy, which is more a method than a goal. So I disagree that Marx and Freud were uninterested in reality. I think they had highly original interpretations of it, however, and obviously not everyone agrees with them. That's the difference with Rand: one might reasonably disagree with what Freud thought about ego formation, or what Marx had to say about the nature of worker exploitation under capitalism, for example, but Rand's political thought really is an exercise in disconnected fantasy.
posted by clockzero at 10:23 PM on January 20, 2007


Loquacious:

Boy, you don't seem to like Freud much. Does he remind you of your dad?
posted by clockzero at 10:43 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


All I can add to this is that Al Ruddy was one lucky SOB when he got landed with The Godfather. I hope his luck holds, that is, I hope he doesn't get remembered as the producer of this film. I wouln't wish that bad luck on anyone.
posted by donfactor at 11:00 PM on January 20, 2007


Yep... like I said: Comedy Gold.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:06 PM on January 20, 2007


Previous MetaFilter thread on Atlas Shrugged.
posted by russilwvong at 11:17 PM on January 20, 2007


I don't really see how this explains at all the supposed connection between Marx, Freud, and Rand. Especially Freud. I mean, I can see the Marx/Rand comparison if you are basing it on the fact that each articulated an idealist worldview, but that's about it. As for Freud... that seems way off. Rand's "man is a heroic being, capable of total self-mastery through the application of reasonable selfishness" conflicts with the central theses of Freud's work, namely that humans are a mass of conflicting desires and urges of which we are largely unaware and which are out of are control, and our identities are to a large extent conditioned by our place within social structures, specifically the family. I see Rand as being the complete opposite of both Freud and Marx not only in terms of ideology but in terms of methodology and ultimate goals as well. I also think Marx and Freud made far more valuable contributions to human thought. They each had many faults, omissions, and flaws in their work, but their basic principles and thought processes have been used and refined in valuable ways. I think Rand herself fundamentally misunderstood the basics of her own philosophy and got the whole thing twisted and fucked up, so it's hard to take any valuable nuggets from it (I say this as the archetypal former teenage Rand devotee, now turned leftist-progressive).
posted by papakwanz at 11:31 PM on January 20, 2007


papakwanz, what connection are you supposing between Marx and Rand?
posted by Brian B. at 11:42 PM on January 20, 2007


Jimbob- I'll differ from you a bit on your interpretation of Marx. Marx's concern with work comes from his status as a Hegelian. He's a phenomenologist; our identities as humans come not from some infused nature (that is merely the animal self) but from the work that we do. In the ideal society, we are free to work at anything we wish -- I can be a fisherman in the morning, a painter in the afternoon, and a gardener in the evening if I want -- and that work is artistic rather than productive. It's not about making money or surviving (although as a materialist, Marx is always focused on humanity's material existence), but rather the constant reexpression and rediscovery of ourselves through the process. The problem with the capitalist system is that our work is not free. We must sell it, thus selling ourselves, in order to survive. We're alienated from ourselves because we only understand ourselves through the product, not the process, of work. I'm leaving out some crucial elements, but I think this is why it's different from the way Rand articulates it, but ironically perhaps closer to the essence of what Rand might have meant had she not become so enamored with the free market and the accumulation of wealth as a good in and of itself.

The philosophical Marx of, say, "The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844" is far more interesting and more worthwhile than the political activist Marx of "The Communist Manifest", in my opinion, and its stuff that will stick with you longer, not just in your early 20's rebellious phase.
posted by papakwanz at 11:44 PM on January 20, 2007


I think maybe you're mistaking Marx's description and/or analysis of the nature of capitalism for something else.

Well, I did make a disclaimer in my comment in that it referred more to Communist practice than the writings of Marx. Which is what surprised me given that Rand is supposedly rallying against the Commies.

If we take the old creed;

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."

That "From each according to their ability" part - the man still wants something from you. To the maximum of your ability. For the greater good. Productivity. Service. You are a worker - a worker united with his comrades, but a worker no less. Look at the old posters; people represented by their function, bravely holding their hammers and scythes.

There's no encouragement to quit your job and slack off in either philosophies.
posted by Jimbob at 11:44 PM on January 20, 2007


Brian B.: I'm not supposing one at all. My point was that people keep lumping in Rand, Marx, and Freud together, and I don't see it, except perhaps in very broad strokes... so broad, that you could throw in just about any other political or philosophical writer in the group, thus making it not a very valuable comparison.
posted by papakwanz at 11:45 PM on January 20, 2007


My exposure to Rand's thought is all indirect. As I understand it, she describes selfishness as a virtue and altruism as evil. I'd describe this as an extreme example of the doctrine of the harmony of interests (which in less extreme form is a cornerstone of liberal political philosophy).

E. H. Carr, writing in The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939:
It was the laissez-faire school of political economy created by Adam Smith which was in the main responsible for popularizing the doctrine of the harmony of interests. The purpose of the school was to promote the removal of state control in economic matters; and in order to justify this policy, it set out to demonstrate that the individual could be relied on, without external control, to promote the interests of the community for the very reason that those interests were identical with his own. ... The individual "neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it.... he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention." ... "We now know," wrote Mr. Henry Ford as recently as 1930, "that anything which is economically right is also morally right, There can be no conflict between good economics and good morals."
Carr goes on to describe how flawed this doctrine is, in the realm of international politics.
posted by russilwvong at 11:52 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Point-blank comparison between philosophies and cuisine:

Immanuel Kant : Brillat-Savarin / Jacques Derrida : Ferran Adria

::

Ayn Rand : On-the-job Nose-Picker @ your local Mickey D's.

(Love that Ronald! Such an independent guy! So whimsical!)
posted by objet at 12:04 AM on January 21, 2007


Rand having grown up in the early Soviet Union, it's not hard see why the rest of her life would be a be an absolutist reaction to a tyranny of mediocrity, since that's in essence what daily life in the Soviet Union was.

"Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:58 AM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jimbob:

One thing that sticks out for me, in terms of Rand and Marx (or at least, Rand and Communism) is the emphasis on productivity.

Yeah, I see what you're saying. Marx and Rand did both speak about production and work, but their interests in even discussing them were wildly divergent, to say nothing of the actual content of their explication of such.

That "From each according to their ability" part - the man still wants something from you. To the maximum of your ability. For the greater good. Productivity. Service. You are a worker - a worker united with his comrades, but a worker no less. Look at the old posters; people represented by their function, bravely holding their hammers and scythes.

I think you're conflating some different things. The maxim you're referring to is part of a response to a more or less comprehensive interpretation of capitalist practices, so I think it makes sense that there's a consideration of another way of doing things. It's not so much that Marx wants anything from people, it's that labor is just a necessity in the world, and there is more than one way to organize its execution and the distribution of its products; honestly, I don't see the connection between this idea and the propaganda you mentioned.

There's no encouragement to quit your job and slack off in either philosophies.

Well, most people who read philosophy don't have real jobs anyway. That aside, though, I think that calling Randism a philosophy is like referring to comic books as mythology.
posted by clockzero at 1:16 AM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Look at the old posters; people represented by their function, bravely holding their hammers and scythes.

The Russian posters were produced first in a society that was straining to feed itself while engaged in a bloody and expensive civil war, and later in a society that was trying furiously to become a fully industrialised nation overnight after centuries of semi-feudalism. Neither has much to do with Marx's (brief and vague) ideas on what work would be like in a communist society, which, the way he wrote about it, sounded sort of like one of those weirdo high schools where you just sit around and fingerpaint at your own pace.
posted by stammer at 2:12 AM on January 21, 2007


I don't understand why anyone would compare Rand to Marx, much less to Freud. posted by clockzero

Well said. Marx has had an influence on subsequent social thought that dwarfs Rand. One need not be a "Marxist" to consider Marx's political economy theoretically important work. Marx is still read as social science for a very good reason: it is. Marx analyzed objective facts, proposed testable hypotheses, made predictions (some of which have failed, others of which were dead on, and some of which it's too soon to tell), and presented the data upon which he based his arguments. He could also, er, um, . . . write.

There's a reason Rand appeals to teenagers, and Marx doesn't. There's a reason I'll be teaching Marx in a grad seminar this semester, but I don't think I've ever seen Rand on a serious social science syllabus. Just because Rand stood for "anti-Marxism" doesn't make her Marx's equal.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:18 AM on January 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Because, if it isn't clear, Rand wrote fiction.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:19 AM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


BAD fiction, at that
posted by pyramid termite at 5:42 AM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Perhaps melodramas would be closer to the mark...
posted by fairmettle at 6:22 AM on January 21, 2007


Bad melodramas, in which the mustache twirling millionaire monstrosity tying the woman to the sawmill is actually the hero.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:28 AM on January 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Also, people outside of the US have heard of Marx.
posted by Abiezer at 6:52 AM on January 21, 2007


Oh, and that whole atruism thing? It's totally subjective. So in a way, it's bullshit. It's like the golden rule... "doing unto others as you would want them to do unto you" doesn't always work... after all, OTHERS may have totally different taste/needs.

What's needed is more visibility for what we could call The Golden Ouroboros:

Do unto others as you would want them to want you to do unto them. And they should be damned grateful, too.
posted by cortex at 10:04 AM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


What I think is so funny about the discussion on this thread (or any thread about Objectivism that has appeared on Metafilter) is that it goes in one of two directions: "Rand Sucks! Objectivists are evil!" or in an incredibly epistemolgoical, academic direction that is truly...well, academic. And by academic I mean: only relevant in the ivory tower.

Rands ideas tend to elicit a lot of academic criticism and yet achieve wide popular support, and not just on Wall Street. I think that is because many people are able to distill a lot of the truly ridiculous points of Rand's philosophy out and to walk away with the good ideas that she has built in her stories.

I do mean "stories" - she writes interesting stories and interesting characters that, I agree, are very exaggerated and pedantic, but I think are drawn heavy-handedly and one-dimensionally on purpose to make her points.

As to her "philosophy" - that's a question for the academics to dispute, and frankly, I could care less about such debate. Her story in Fountainhead, that of 'man versus the status quo' is excellent, as is her story in Atlas Shrugged of 'the value of producers to the world'. Sure, they're heavy handed, and sure she's writing a utopian vision that neglects the existence of complex systems (as someone else here pointed out), and sure lots of her writing is sophomoric and heavy handed. I think that many people that read her works realize these faults and the pitfalls of the philosophy she preaches. But it doesn't take away from the message of freedom, liberty, productivity and ultimately, happiness. What did I take away from her books? That you should live for youself and not others - make yourself happy, not others, but never take advantage of people and subjugate them in order to achieve your happiness.

But, by exhibiting my support above, I'm going to be branded as a simple-minded Ayndroid by many of the Metafilter members contributing to this thread, and that's sad - because I think there is a lot of good that can be taken from her writing.

I'll agree that many of her followers are very single-minded and not open to disagreement, but that is the same with many other followings, now isn't it? We have fundamentalist Christians who drive me nuts, but being a good Catholic, I sure got a lot of good things out of the Bible after years of Sunday school without becoming a fundamentalist bible-thumper myself. I believe in helping others and have spent most of my life doing that - but Rand also gave me a great appreciation for productive labor and for ignoring the naysayers. Both halves have helped get me very far in life without being a simple-minded asshole.

It's possible to take away lots of good from Rand without being simple, evil, or stupid.
posted by tgrundke at 11:37 AM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ayndroid

Never heard that one before, but me liking...
posted by fairmettle at 11:41 AM on January 21, 2007


I went back and observed in this thread how Rand was being compared to Marx and discovered that none of their ideas were ever being compared. It was the wrong question.
posted by Brian B. at 11:48 AM on January 21, 2007


I'm thankful I read Gurdjieff and Ouspensky when others were reading Rand.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2007


Krishnamurti is much more worthwhile also.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:39 PM on January 21, 2007


As to her "philosophy" - that's a question for the academics to dispute, and frankly, I could care less about such debate.

no, it really is not. she is not considered a philosopher by academics.

I'll agree that many of her followers are very single-minded and not open to disagreement, but that is the same with many other followings, now isn't it

I think most of the people who dislike ayn rand for this reason also dislike fundamentalist xtianity or scientology, etc, so, sure, there are other cults besides ayn rand, but so what? that doesn't make hers any better... I addressed some of this in another thread and on another site at a time when my sister got into this stuff.
As I said on that second link: It sounds to me as if the whole lot of ayn rand's claims are shot through with that kind of half-assedness: egoism, so long as it fits with what we consider "right"; "objective" meaning whatever I think is true; individual, meaning actually, heros, as only heros are real individuals, and leftover schmucks are just schmucks... etc. - basically, she just comes across ignorant, self-aggrandizing, simplistic, and generally spiteful.

What did I take away from her books? That you should live for youself and not others - make yourself happy, not others, but never take advantage of people and subjugate them in order to achieve your happiness.

eh, read nietzsche, or emerson, or sartre... or shakespeare, or aristotle or basically any writer on the human condition, although, of course, they will have more nuanced positions, recognizing that "making yourself happy" and "making others happy" are not mutually exclusive and often even go together.
posted by mdn at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2007


Rands ideas tend to elicit a lot of academic criticism and yet achieve wide popular support, and not just on Wall Street.

they haven't even been able to take over the libertarian party, much less get elected ... that's not what i'd call wide popular support

she should be grateful for the attention academics give her ... many other people, once they hear where she's at will just say "she's a selfish bitch who wants the little people to get fucked" and leave it at that

as a philosopher of personal relationships and self-realization she had an interesting point of view ... when she tried to expand it to say the whole society should work that way, she fell flat on her face
posted by pyramid termite at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2007


This thread has wormed it's way into the cockles of my heart. I couldn't ask for better refutations.

To add a meager contribution: Rand's philosophy would work If and only if everyone one in the society was self-actualized and driven to create.
posted by wires at 5:58 PM on January 21, 2007


I'd be the last person to argue that Rand's philosophy isn't problematic and impractical in many ways. And the book is full of long speeches. But at the core, there's still a story in there about a struggle between smart people who know what they're doing, and idiots who became powerful through corruption and nepotism and who don't really care about anything. There's also some cool stuff about futuristic trains, and a weapon that operates over great distances using only sound; and a motor that pulls static electricity directly from the atmosphere.

The main character is a woman whose railroad magnate father handed the business over to her moron brother; meanwhile she worked her way up to legitimately earn the title of VP of Operations (or something), the most powerful person to be in the company except her brother...and since she's the one who actually knows what she's doing, it's really she who runs it. A lot of the story is about the struggle between her and her cadre of people who have talent and intelligence and integrity, and her brother and his cadre of people who hate themselves and each other.

The characters are by and large drawn in black and white; there are very few weak good people, and there's a lot of support for the gold standard. Rand was more interested in politics than in the nuances of character development, and that's too bad, but she still created a pretty good story. If done properly, it could be a very cool movie.
posted by bingo at 9:41 AM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous wrote: Meh, I don't understand why Objectivism must be the province of deluded, narcissistic teens any more than, say, Marxism. I've met one self-proclaimed Objectivist, and I've met dozens of Marxists, especially back in high school.

This disparity is to be expected. Due to their philosophical differences, Objectivism and Marxism attract different numbers of followers. The ratio you observed is typical. Both groups fail when the ratio is reversed.
posted by ryanrs at 10:40 AM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Speaking for all Smart Lazy people who aren't self actualized. Ayn Rand sucks.
posted by Megafly at 2:41 PM on January 22, 2007


But at the core, there's still a story in there about a struggle between smart people who know what they're doing, and idiots who became powerful through corruption and nepotism and who don't really care about anything.

Which is really the problem with it, for me. I find it philosophically abhorrent (yes, she has kernels of truth, as do all philosophies. But as a whole, it's damn false). But worse than that, it's just fucking awful writing and story telling, to me. Hell, I disagree with the core ideas in Tolkien, but he can tell a story, and I can set my disagreements aside and read him, in spite of the slightly-below-average prose and dopey world view. Rand doesn't give any good story, and spends 10 pages expounding upon philosophical dreck for every one page of plot, so I really find no value in it.

No thanks.

And while I don't know that Marxism is a particularly workable philosophy in reality, it is head and shoulders above the dreck that Rand came up with, both in terms of influence and intellectual achievement.

Rand, she writes a niche form of novel that really happens to appeal to geekey teenagers that fancy themselves brilliant and held back by their stupid peers, and tries to find pure virtue in selfishness and pure evil in community thought.

When she saw the very real horrors of communist revolution in Russia, rather than using her brain, she made the nonsensical and entirely-too-simplitic assumption that anything that talked about the good of the whole or individual sacrifice as evil. And then assumed the quasi-laissez-fair capitalist society she found herself in must bet the answer, and further attributed any shortcoming of that society to it not being laissiez-fair enough, with little thought. Again, no thanks.

And on top of all that, it's inspired a generation of Greenspans to act in ways that are downright anti-social, and their actions have had demonstrably harmful effects on the common good.
posted by teece at 2:19 PM on January 23, 2007


I think those that manage to finish Ayn Rand's books are so invested in the effort that it's hard to write it off as an intellectually shallow waste of time.

How do editors fit in her world view? Communists? Seriously, she could've used an editor to get them down to Harlequin Romance size.
posted by keds at 5:36 PM on January 23, 2007


SUCKERS!

Meh everyone of us has read this book. IT'S SCI-FI.

But more importantly, it's the Christ story re-told. (Duh.)
posted by mongonikol at 1:14 PM on January 24, 2007


It really needs updating. I see Fifty Cent as Roark. Change the name, too. Atlas Thugged
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:25 AM on January 25, 2007


WHO LET THE JOHN GALT
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
posted by cortex at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2007


pyramid termite:the doorbell rings ... you find a newborn baby crying on your doorstep ... as an objectivist living in a world based upon objectivist principles what is your reaction, keeping in mind the virtues of selfishness and the evils of altruism?

Being "selfish" and believing that true altruism is despicable doesn't mean that a person is cold, unfeeling, and downright inhuman, you blockhead. I would do what 99% of all other people would do: pick up the baby, give it some TLC, see a doctor, call the police, and do my best to ensure the baby is returned to the parents. Failing that, I'd work with an adoption agency to find a good home for the tot.

What's so hard to figure about that? Objectivism does NOT mean abject cruelty and mean-spiritedness. That's what so many critics of Objectivism (and Rand) seem to completely not get, and I just don't understand that attitude.
posted by davidmsc at 7:00 PM on January 25, 2007


davidmsc writes "What's so hard to figure about that? Objectivism does NOT mean abject cruelty and mean-spiritedness. That's what so many critics of Objectivism (and Rand) seem to completely not get, and I just don't understand that attitude."

What a stunning display of support for Rand in the face of all the criticisms you asked for and got.
posted by OmieWise at 6:32 AM on February 12, 2007


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