Ayn Rand belongs to Russian history, not American?

The views of Ayn Rand has long inspired Americans, especially during times of economic hardship.

Now referencing Anne Heller’s biography of Rand, Anthony Daniels offers a pretty scathing critique of Rand.

First, her outlook is almost entirely Russian, and reactionary to the Soviet system that she came from.

Although she wrote in English, and her two most famous books are American in subject matter and location, she remained deeply Russian in outlook and intellectual style to the end of her days. America could take Rand out of Russia, but not Russia out of Rand. Her work properly belongs to the history of Russian, not American, literature—and nineteenth-century Russian literature at that.

She had a narrow and rather absolute view of the world, and is a hardened ideologue whom had little time for self-reflection, a trait perhaps similarly reflected in the outlook of her most ardent admirers.

Her intelligence was narrow rather than broad. Though in theory a defender of freedom of thought and action, she was dogmatic, inflexible, and intolerant, not only in opinion but in behavior, and it led her to personal cruelty. In the name of her ideas, she was prepared to be deeply unpleasant. She hardened her ideas into ideology. Her integrity led to a lack of self-criticism; she frequently wrote twenty thousand words where one would do.

Her belief of rationalism over rationality, and her adherence to intellectual principle over humanity, is reflected in her personal relationships with others.  Will Wilkinson also raised his objection over this aspect of Randian egoism.

Rand believed all people to be possessed of equal rights, but she found relations of equality with others insupportable. Though she could be charming, it was not something she could keep up for long. She was deeply ungrateful to those who had helped her and many of her friendships ended in acrimony.

For Rand, there was no ambiguity in the world: if it is true that man has free will and is responsible for his conduct, it cannot also be that there is a condition such as dementia that robs a man of his capacity for choice. Hence her husband’s lapses were wilful and deliberate, to be corrected by Randian brainwashing. This is authentically horrible.

Her megalomaniac pursuit of ideology confines her worldview to a very narrow criterion.  And in Daniels’ view, almost Soviet.

Like any Stalinist despot, Ayn Rand considered herself to be totally unprecedented and quite without parallel. Like Kim Il-Sung and Howard Roark, she sprang into the world with her philosophical genius fully formed, not needing any support from any other thinker, despite the fact that (in fact) no element of her thought was entirely original.

In her expository writings, Rand’s style resembles that of Stalin. It is more catechism than argument, and bores into you in the manner of a drill. She has a habit of quoting herself as independent verification of what she says; reading her is like being cornered at a party by a man, intelligent but dull, who is determined to prove to you that right is on his side in the property dispute upon which he is now engaged and will omit no detail.

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  • DoctorJ

    I agree completely that Ayn Rand was a typical Russian reactionary, with neither a proper respect nor understanding of American democracy and American civil society. Her egoism indulged a Russian form of authoritarianism that only seems to understand the extremes of human nature and human intolerance. Her outlook is just the flip-side of collectivist Marxism — a dogmatic form of capitalist individualism that was utopian and elitist. Her “philosophy” is incomplete and contradictory, and decidedly un-American. I don't understand why more people who have read her do not recognize the essentially Russian nature of her outlook. She was no more American than Karl Marx.

  • Pru

    Agree with your last sentence: She was no more American than Karl Marx.
    However, she did represent Russia’s very European side rather than Asian side, and I consider that Euro civilization is more advanced than the American one, while a few Russians could even be more European than EU people.

    Rand never forget about her miserable motherland and spent all her life fighting against the Asian side of Russia-and the Asian side of America as well, which showed that she was a true and pure European. Her arch weapon is the promotion of industrilization, only through which can the very ideal of the ancient Greeks be fulfilled, and Russia does have a few drops of blood from the Hellenistic culture.