The Intellectual Activist
An Objectivist Review
A Look at the Reception of Ayn Rand
Categories: Ayn Rand, Objectivism

During her lifetime, Ayn Rand authored both fiction and non-fiction novels as well as screenplays. She was as well known for her philosophical movement of objectivism as she was for her literary works. During her lifetime, the reaction to Ayn Rand and her work was usually either quite positive or very negative with little in between.

A Novel of Conviction

At the time of the release of Atlas Shrugged in 1957 many reviews of the book centered around the ideas and philosophy it perpetuated, as well as its literary merit. Whitaker Chambers of National Review described the novel as aggressive atheism and higher morality that was shrill without any appeal (Schneider & Horton, 2012). Hedda Hopper was a syndicated columnist who wrote that the novel, although 1,168 pages long, was one she could not put down. She also believed that readers would think the events depicted could never happen in America, but stated, “it’s happening every day and we sit still while watching our rights as humans being whittled away” (Schneider & Horton, 2012). These two reviews truly demonstrate the love or hate dichotomy felt by most reviewers.

Philosophical Revolution

By Ben Pinchot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ayn Rand was perhaps most well known for her views of objectivism, for which she even received an honorary doctorate degree. She philosophized that man was conceptualized as a heroic being with the moral purpose in life to achieve his own happiness, his noblest activity lies in achieving productivity, and with his only absolute in life being reason (Rand, 1964). She grew a devoted following during her time and although she rejected political labels was touted as a huge influence on libertarian politics.

Much like her writing, people tended to have either overwhelmingly negative perceptions or exceedingly positive ones on Ms. Rand’s philosophical theory and political opinions. She had many that loved her for her ideals and her view that laissez-faire capitalism was the only moral social system, meaning that the government should not be in control of private party transactions. Others felt that she was evil and attempting to inspire anarchy.

During her lifetime, Rand received little attention from the academic community. Much of her success and notoriety came after her death in 1982. Several institutes and foundations were founded after her death to share her teachings and literary works with younger generations. Many people from politicians to economists continue to believe in her philosophy and life’s work.

References:
Rand, Ayn (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness. New York: Penguin.
Schneider, C. and Horton, S. (2012). Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: What the critics had to say in 1957. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/26/opinion/la-oe-schneider-atlas-shrugged-reviews-20120826

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