Anviliciousness Isn't Always Bad
I am an Objectivist so yes, I agree with Rand. Let's get that out of the way first. I am not going to review this book on it's philosophical merits (which I believe this book has in spades, Your Mileage May Vary
of course), but rather as a piece of literature.
Yes, it is didactic, Anvilicious
, the opposite of subtle. Rand will use fifty allegories to demonstrate a principle, then she will lampshade the principle, THEN will have a character give a speech on the principle before finally abandoning the hectoring. So yes, this is NOT the kind of book to read if you like subtle allegory that is open to reader interpretation. Some of the characters are cardboard cut-outs, although not all of them are (I strongly disagree with the position that Dagny Taggart is a Mary Sue
. Escapist Character
, yes, but this is a work of epic fiction! Are Superman, Gilgamesh, Achilles etc. all Marty Stu's? Dagny is an idealized female character, but she is on par with the heroes in the fiction (hence not a God Mode Sue
) and nor does the logic of the world around her bend and twist (Black Hole Sue
)). Rand's writing is about the ideas she is discussing; characters are just vehicles to show the ideas off.
So yes, the lectures can get annoying (even I find it hard to get through The Speech in one reading), the characters aren't always the most intriguing, and there is a significant chance you will hate it if you disagree with its message.
Now for the good points:
The plot is phenomenal, fast paced and rife with tension. It is a long book but for some reason you simply cannot put the book down. It manages to make its philosophical ideas comprehensible (albiet at the cost of some oversimplification). Rand's tone is strident and bitter but I love this: the utter defiance with which Rand manages to state her views with total lack of guilt or apologeticness.. Atlas Shrugged
is one giant "fuck you" to the entire Judeao-Christian-Altruist moral tradition and the way it makes its case so defiantly is thrilling. It is also more accessible and fast-paced than The Fountainhead
, probably due to its relative lack of subtlety. It also manages to produce a character that is a model of a competent, heroic woman: Dagny Taggart (even Women's Studies courses have started including Atlas Shrugged on their reading lists).
Your Mileage May Vary
, but give Atlas a chance before you dismiss it.
8th Oct 09
(edited by: Cliche)
You are entitled to your opinion, YMMV and all that. However, I found Atlas much more fast-paced than The Fountainhead.
As for the economics of it all, Atlas Shrugged is not meant to be a dry treatise on the economic role of the labor force. Speaking here as an economist, if one were to write a dry treatise on the role of the labor force, I'd say that Atlas may not be perfect but it does get some very important things right. Specifically, it is brain power, not muscle power, that actually creates the vast majority of the the wealth of western civilization (a position which is supported by many economists, including Ludwig von Mises, Frederich von Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter). Yes, Rand deliberately overdoes it for dramatic purposes, but again, Atlas is epic fiction, not dry non-fiction.
Also, most human beings these days have significant free time in which to think and, yes, 'invent great things.' The struggle for survival is no longer the back-breaking subsistence living it was back merely two or three centuries ago. It is true that for many people even in the western world, work takes up a lot of time, but compare this to how things are in less fortunate nations or even the western nations about 200 years ago. There has been incredible improvement, mostly due to productivity gains due to technological advancement.
Rand is not arguing that she realistically portrays corporations. First, most of the businesses she deals with are proprietorships and partnerships rather than corporations, and secondly, the vast majority of corporations are happy to depend on government priveliges and friends in high places (which is very un-Capitalist conduct). Yes, Rand idealizes businesses (and only some of them!), but as stated before, Atlas is not meant to approximate reality. The nasty facts of real life are glossed over when they get in the way of the ideas Rand wants to discuss and given her purpose was to portray ideas, I don't blame her.
In many cases you are correct about some of the unfortunate implications with regards to conformity, but they are unintentional. First, Rand deliberately focussed on the plotting with Atlas and purposefully did not focus on characters so much as the storyline. So she didn't intend to send the message you think is implied. However you are right, many people have taken that unfortunate implication and believed it to be part of Rand's philosophy. As I am an Objectivist I find that a very unpleasant truth. The Objectivist movement has in the past been very repressive and conformist. However, this is thankfully being repaired.
Finally, as for the scene when Dagny first arrives in Galt's Gulch, I know what you are concerned about. I recommend you read "Who Is Dagny Taggart" by Karen Michalson (Published in "Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand"). She addresses all of your concerns in far more detail and accuracy than I could.
8th Oct 09
14th Oct 09
(edited by: wit)
11th Nov 09
29th Nov 09
Well, look. Even if you're not an Objectivist but are just tired of rich businessmen being kitten murdering psychopaths in everything you read, watch and listen to, you have precisely one author's output you can read in order to get a differing opinion. I even like the book, but I don't think it would be all that popular if there were any diversity of opinion amongst the crowd that produces fiction.
7th Dec 09
Any port in a storm mark. Although liking the same book (a single book) doesn't mean they have the exact same tastes in literature.
10th Jan 10
Individualism (or social noncomformity) isn't about what you do or what you like, but WHY you do it and WHY you like it.
Simple example: Everyone wears white T-shirts. Someone decides to wear a black T-shirt. If said person wears the black T-shirt because
other people are wearing the white T-shirts, he is not being a nonconformist but rather a reverse-conformist
. If they just happen to prefer black, or think they look better in the mirror, then its an example of nonconformity rather than reverse-conformity.
Vice-versa, if someone chooses to wear a white T-shirt like everyone else, they aren't necessarily being a conformist unless they are wearing said T-shirt because
everyone else is.
And for the record, many Objectivists including myself can point out flaws in Atlas Shrugged
. John Galt, for instance, is such a Platonic ideal of a character that he lacks any distinctiveness at all. Additionally, for someone that is
familiar with the issues Rand is dealing with, the infamous eighty-page Author Filibuster is
exceedingly long. However, for a layman reader with little knowledge of philosophy or economics (which was Rand's Target Audience
), who lived in a society where the belief system opposite
to Rand's was never questioned by any of the cultural elite, it was arguably a necessity.
And no, not all Objectivists have the same taste in literature. I for one like Anne Rice's first three Vampire Chronicles, and most Objectivists would consider them bad books.
Feel free to criticize the novel. But attacking Objectivists as people is an example of Complaining About People Liking The Show
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