Jewish Biography

Related Links

Jewish Memoirs
List of Jews
List of Rabbis
Actors & Actresses
American authors
Jewish Chefs
Chess Players
Computer Scientists
Film Directors
Jewish Americans
Jewish Comedians
Jewish CEOs
Jewish Comics
Jewish Dancers
Jewish Engineers
Jewish Head States
Jewish Magicians
Jewish Models
Jewish Producers
Jewish Poker Players
Jewish Philosopher
Jewish Theater
Jewish TV
Jewish Radio
Motion Pictures
Music businessmen
Jewish Poets
Jewish Cartoonist
Jewish Women
Featured Jews
Harry Houdini
Hogan's Heroes
Marx Brothers
The Three Stooges

-- Jewish Links --

Jewish Books
Jewish Links
Jewish Catalogs
Jewish Posters
Jewish Stories
Jewish Videos
Kosher Wines
Jewish Biography --> Biographies --> List of Jews --> Jewish Authors

Ayn Rand (pronounced /ˈaɪn ˈrænd/; born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum; February 2 O.S. January 2 1905 – March 6, 1982), was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, Rand immigrated to the United States in 1926. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. She first achieved fame in 1943 with her novel The Fountainhead, which in 1957 was followed by her best-known work, the philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand interview by Mike Wallace Interview 1959 part 1

Rand's political views, reflected in both her fiction and her theoretical work, emphasize individual rights (including property rights) and laissez-faire capitalism, enforced by a constitutionally limited government. She was a fierce opponent of all forms of collectivism and statism, including fascism, communism, socialism, and the welfare state, and promoted ethical egoism while rejecting the ethic of altruism. She considered reason to be the only means of acquiring knowledge and the most important aspect of her philosophy, stating, "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."

Early life

Rand was born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (Russian: Алиса Зиновьевна Розенбаум) in 1905, to an upper middle-class family living in Saint Petersburg. She was the eldest of the three daughters (Alisa, Natasha, and Nora) of Zinovy Zakharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum, largely non-observant Jews. Her father was educated as a chemist and became a successful pharmacist, eventually owning his own pharmacy and the building in which it was located.

Rand was twelve at the time of the Russian revolution of 1917. Opposed to the Tsar, Rand's sympathies were with Alexander Kerensky. Rand's family life was disrupted by the rise of the Bolshevik party. Her father's pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets, and the family fled to the Crimea, which was initially under the control of the White Army during the Russian Civil War. She later recalled that while in high school she determined that she was an atheist and that she valued reason and intellect. She graduated from high school in the Crimea and briefly held a job teaching Red Army soldiers to read. She found she enjoyed that work very much, the illiterate soldiers being eager to learn and respectful of her. At sixteen, Rand returned with her family to Saint Petersburg.

A black-and-white engraving shows a large building along the bank of a river, with numerous people and carriages nearby

She enrolled at Petrograd State University, where she studied in the department of social pedagogy, majoring in history. At the university she was introduced to the writings of Aristotle and Plato, who would form two of the greatest influences and counter-influences respectively on her thought. A third figure whose philosophical works she studied heavily was Friedrich Nietzsche. Her formal study of philosophy amounted to only a few courses, and outside of these three philosophers, her study of key figures was limited to excerpts and summaries. Of the writers she read at this time, Victor Hugo, Edmond Rostand, Friedrich Schiller, and Fyodor Dostoevsky became her perennial favorites. Along with other non-Communist students, Rand was purged from the university shortly before graduating. However, after complaints from a group of visiting foreign scientists, some of the purged students were allowed to complete their work and graduate, which Rand did in October 1924. She subsequently studied for a year at the State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad.

In the fall of 1925, she was granted a visa to visit American relatives. She left Russia on January 17, 1926, and arrived in the United States on February 19, entering by ship through New York City. After a brief stay with her relatives in Chicago, she resolved never to return to the Soviet Union, and set out for Hollywood to become a screenwriter. While still in Russia she had decided her professional surname for writing would be Rand, possibly as a Cyrillic contraction of her birth surname, and she adopted the first name Ayn, either from a Finnish name or from the Hebrew word עין (ayin, meaning "eye"). Initially, she struggled in Hollywood and took odd jobs to pay her basic living expenses. A chance meeting with famed director Cecil B. DeMille led to a job as an extra in his film, The King of Kings, and to subsequent work as a junior screenwriter. While working on The King of Kings, she intentionally bumped into an aspiring young actor, Frank O'Connor, who caught her eye. The two were married on April 15, 1929. Rand became an American citizen in 1931. Taking various jobs during the 1930s to support her writing, Rand worked for a time as the head of the costume department at RKO Studios. She made attempts to bring her parents and sisters to the United States, but they were unable to get permission to emigrate.

Early fiction

See also: Night of January 16th, We the Living, and Anthem (novella)

In the late 1920s, Rand worked on a number of writing projects, including movie scenarios, short stories, and a novel called The Little Street. The hero of The Little Street was described as having "the true, innate psychology of a Superman" and was to be based on an idealized portrait of child killer William Edward Hickman. Rand scholars have interpreted her notes for this book as evidence of her early admiration of the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. The novel was never completed and none of the other projects were produced or published during Rand's lifetime.

Rand's first literary success came with the sale of her screenplay Red Pawn to Universal Studios in 1932. Josef Von Sternberg considered it for Marlene Dietrich, but anti-Soviet themes were unpopular at the time, and the project came to nothing. This was followed by the courtroom drama Night of January 16th, first produced in Hollywood in 1934, and then successfully reopened on Broadway in 1935. Each night the "jury" was selected from members of the audience, and one of the two different endings, depending on the jury's "verdict," would then be performed. In 1941, Paramount Pictures produced a movie version of the play. Rand did not participate in the production and was highly critical of the result.

Her first novel, the semi-autobiographical We the Living, was published in 1936 by Macmillan. Set in Communist Russia, it focused on the struggle between the individual and the state. In the foreword to the novel, Rand stated that We the Living "is as near to an autobiography as I will ever write. It is not an autobiography in the literal, but only in the intellectual sense. The plot is invented, the background is not..." Without Rand's knowledge or permission, We the Living was made into a pair of Italian films, Noi vivi and Addio, Kira, in 1942. Rediscovered in the 1960s, these films were re-edited into a new version which was approved by Rand and re-released as We the Living in 1986.

Her novella Anthem was published in England in 1938 and in America seven years later. It presents a vision of a dystopian future world in which collectivism has triumphed to such an extent that even the word "I" has vanished from the language and from humanity's memory.

The Fountainhead and political activism
See also: The Fountainhead and The Fountainhead (film)

During the 1940s, Rand became involved in political activism. Both she and her husband worked full time in volunteer positions for the 1940 Presidential campaign of Republican Wendell Willkie. This work led to Rand's first public speaking experiences, including fielding the sometimes hostile questions from New York City audiences who had just viewed pro-Willkie newsreels, an experience she greatly enjoyed. This activity also brought her into contact with other intellectuals sympathetic to free-market capitalism. She became friends with journalist Henry Hazlitt and his wife, and Hazlitt introduced her to the Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises. Both men expressed an admiration for Rand, and despite her philosophical differences with them, Rand strongly endorsed the writings of both men throughout her career. She also developed a friendship with libertarian writer Isabel Paterson. Rand questioned the well-informed Paterson about American history and politics long into the night during their numerous meetings, and gave Paterson ideas for her only nonfiction book, The God of the Machine.

Rand's first major success as a writer came with The Fountainhead in 1943, a romantic and philosophical novel that she wrote over a period of seven years. The novel centers on an uncompromising young architect named Howard Roark, and his struggle against what Rand described as "second-handers"—those who attempt to live through others, placing others above self. It was rejected by twelve publishers before finally being accepted by the Bobbs-Merrill Company on the insistence of editor Archibald Ogden, who threatened to quit if his employer did not publish it. While completing the novel, Rand began taking the prescription amphetamine Benzedrine to fight fatigue. Her use of the drug enabled her to work long hours to meet her deadline for delivering the finished novel to Bobbs-Merrill, but when the book was done she was so exhausted that her doctor ordered two weeks rest. Her continued use of it for several decades also may have contributed to volatile mood swings observed by her associates in later years.

The Fountainhead eventually became a worldwide success, bringing Rand fame and financial security. In 1943, Rand sold the rights for a film version to Warner Brothers, and she returned to Hollywood to write the screenplay. Finishing her work on that screenplay, she was hired by producer Hal Wallis as a screenwriter and script-doctor, and her work for Wallis included the Oscar-nominated Love Letters and You Came Along, along with research for a screenplay based on the development of the atomic bomb. This role gave Rand time to work on other projects, including the publication of her first work of nonfiction, an essay titled "The Only Path to Tomorrow", in the January 1944 edition of Reader's Digest magazine. Rand also outlined and took extensive notes for a nonfiction treatment of her philosophy, although the planned book was never completed.

While working in Hollywood, Rand extended her involvement with free-market and anti-Communist activism. She and her husband purchased a house designed by modernist Richard Neutra and an adjoining ranch. There, Rand entertained figures such as Hazlitt, Morrie Ryskind, Albert Mannheimer and Leonard Read. A visit by Paterson to meet with Rand's California associates led to a final falling out between the two when Paterson made comments that Rand saw as rude to valued political allies, and also revealed that she had refused to do a review of The Fountainhead in the newspaper for which she worked. Despite their break, Rand continued to promote Paterson's The God of the Machine.

While in California, Rand also became involved with the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a Hollywood anti-Communist group, and wrote articles on the group's behalf.

In 1947, during the Second Red Scare, Rand testified as a "friendly witness" before the United States House Un-American Activities Committee. Her testimony described the disparity between her personal experiences in the Soviet Union and the portrayal of it in the 1944 film Song of Russia. Rand argued that the film grossly misrepresented conditions in the Soviet Union, portraying life there as being much better and happier than it actually was. When asked about her feelings on the effectiveness of the investigations after the hearings, Rand described the process as "futile".

After several delays, the movie version of The Fountainhead was released in 1949. Although it used Rand's screenplay with minimal alterations, she "disliked the movie from beginning to end," complaining about its editing, acting and other elements.

Atlas Shrugged and later years

See also: Atlas Shrugged and Objectivist movement

After the publication of The Fountainhead, Rand received numerous letters from readers, some of whom it had profoundly influenced. In 1951 Rand moved from Los Angeles to New York City, where she gathered a group of these admirers around her. This group (jokingly designated "The Collective") included future Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, a young psychology student named Nathan Blumenthal (later Nathaniel Branden) and his wife Barbara, and Barbara's cousin Leonard Peikoff. At first the group was an informal gathering of friends who met with Rand on weekends at her apartment to discuss philosophy. Later she began allowing them to read the drafts of her new novel, Atlas Shrugged, as the manuscript pages were written. In 1954 Rand's close relationship with the much younger Nathaniel Branden turned into a romantic affair, with the consent of their spouses.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, was Rand's magnum opus. Rand described the theme of the novel as "the role of the mind in man's existence—and, as a corollary, the demonstration of a new moral philosophy: the morality of rational self-interest." It advocates the core tenets of Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and expresses her concept of human achievement. The plot involves a dystopian United States in which the most creative industrialists, scientists and artists go on strike and retreat to a mountainous hideaway where they build an independent free economy. The novel's hero and leader of the strike, John Galt, describes the strike as "stopping the motor of the world" by withdrawing the minds of the individuals most contributing to the nation's wealth and achievement. With this fictional strike, Rand intended to illustrate that without the efforts of the rational and productive, the economy would collapse and society would fall apart. The novel includes elements of mystery and science fiction, and it contains Rand's most extensive statement of Objectivism in any of her works of fiction, a lengthy monologue delivered by Galt. Atlas Shrugged became an international bestseller. Rand's last work of fiction, it marked a turning point in her life, ending her career as novelist and beginning her role as a popular philosopher.

In 1958 Nathaniel Branden established Nathaniel Branden Lectures, later incorporated as the Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI), to promote Rand's philosophy. Collective members gave lectures for NBI and wrote articles for Objectivist periodicals that she edited. Rand later published some of these articles in book form. However, Rand's "charismatic personality" began "to tip Objectivism into quasi-religious territory." In Jennifer Burns' Goddess of the Market, one Nathaniel Branden Institute student remembers that during this time, members were subjected by Rand to an increasingly rigid intellectual atmosphere and "puritanism", noting:

"There was more than just a right kind of politics and a right kind of moral code. There was also a right kind of music, a right kind of art, a right kind of interior design, a right kind of dancing. There were wrong books which we should not buy, and right ones which we should ... And on everything, absolutely everything, one was constantly being judged, just as one was expected to be judging everything around him ... It was the perfect breeding ground for insecurity, fear, and paranoia."

Despite such developments, throughout the 1960s and 1970s Rand developed and promoted her Objectivist philosophy through her nonfiction works and by giving talks, for example at Yale University, Princeton University, Columbia University, Harvard University and MIT. She received an honorary doctorate from Lewis & Clark College in 1963. She also began delivering annual lectures at the Ford Hall Forum, responding afterwards in her famously spirited form to questions from the audience.
A twin gravestone bearing the name "Frank O'Connor" on the left, and "Ayn Rand O'Connor" on the right
Grave marker for Rand and her husband

In 1964 Nathaniel Branden began an affair with the young actress Patrecia Scott, whom he later married. Nathaniel and Barbara Branden kept the affair hidden from Rand. When she learned of it in 1968, though her romantic relationship with Branden had already ended, Rand terminated her relationship with both Brandens, which led to the closure of NBI. Rand published an article in The Objectivist repudiating Nathaniel Branden for dishonesty and other "irrational behavior in his private life."


A heavy smoker, Rand underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1974. Several more of her closest associates parted company with her, and during the late 1970s her activities within the Objectivist movement declined, especially after the death of her husband on November 9, 1979. One of her final projects was work on a television adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. She had also planned to write another novel, but did not get far in her notes. Rand died of heart failure on March 6, 1982 at her home in New York City, and was interred in the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York. Rand's funeral was attended by some of her prominent followers, including Alan Greenspan. A six-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign was placed near her casket. In her will, Rand named Leonard Peikoff the heir to her estate. With her endorsement of his 1976 lecture series, she had recognized his work as being the best exposition of her philosophy.

Main article: Objectivism (Ayn Rand)

Rand developed an integrated philosophical system called "Objectivism." Its 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." Objectivism has been described pejoratively as "pseudophilosophy".

Rejecting faith as antithetical to reason, Rand embraced philosophical realism and opposed all forms of mysticism or supernaturalism, including organized religion. Rand also argued for rational egoism (rational self-interest), as the only proper guiding moral principle. The individual "must exist for his own sake," she wrote in 1962, "neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself."

Rand held that the only moral social system is laissez-faire capitalism. Her political views were strongly individualist and hence anti-statist and anti-Communist. Rand was strongly opposed to many liberal and conservative politicians of her time, including prominent anti-Communists. She rejected the libertarian movement, although Jim Powell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, considers Rand one of the three most important women (along with Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson) of modern American libertarianism. Rand rejected anarcho-capitalism as "a contradiction in terms", a point on which she has been criticized by self-avowed anarchist Objectivists such as Roy Childs. Philosopher Chandran Kukathas said her "unremitting hostility towards the state and taxation sits inconsistently with a rejection of anarchism, and her attempts to resolve the difficulty are ill-thought out and unsystematic."

She acknowledged Aristotle as a great influence and found early inspiration in Friedrich Nietzsche, although she rejected what she considered his anti-reason stance. Ronald E. Merrill and David Ramsay Steele point out a difference between her early and later views on the subject of sacrificing others. For example, the first edition of We the Living contained language which has been interpreted as advocating ruthless elitism: "What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?"

She remarked that in the history of philosophy she could only recommend "three A's"—Aristotle, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand. Among the philosophers Rand held in particular disdain was Immanuel Kant, whom she referred to as a "monster" and "the most evil man in history". Rand was strongly opposed to the view that reason is unable to know reality "as it is in itself", which she ascribed to Kant, and she considered her philosophy to be the "exact opposite" of Kant's on "every fundamental issue". Objectivist philosophers George Walsh and Fred Seddon both argue that Rand misinterpreted Kant. In particular, Walsh argues that both philosophers adhere to many of the same basic positions, and that Rand exaggerated her differences with Kant. Walsh says that for many critics, Rand's writing on Kant is "ignorant and unworthy of discussion".

Rand scholars Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen, while stressing the importance and originality of her thought, describe her style as "literary, hyperbolic and emotional." Similarly, philosopher Jack Wheeler says that despite "the incessant bombast and continuous venting of Randian rage," Rand's ethics is "a most immense achievement, the study of which is vastly more fruitful than any other in contemporary thought." In 1976, she said that her most important contributions to philosophy were her "theory of concepts, her ethics, and her discovery in politics that evil—the violation of rights—consists of the initiation of force."

Contemporary reception

When they were first published, Rand's novels were derided by some critics as long and melodramatic. They became bestsellers largely due to word of mouth. The first reviews Rand received were for her play Night of January 16. Reviews of the Broadway production were mixed, and Rand considered even the positive reviews to be embarrassing because of significant changes made to her script by the producer. Rand herself described her first novel, We the Living, as not being widely reviewed, but Michael S. Berliner says "it was the most reviewed of any of her works," with approximately 125 different reviews being published in more than 200 publications. Overall these reviews were more positive than the reviews she received for her later work. Her 1938 novella Anthem received little attention from reviewers, both for its first publication in England and for subsequent re-issues.

Rand's first bestseller, The Fountainhead, received far fewer reviews than We the Living, and reviewers' opinions were mixed. There was a positive review in The New York Times that Rand greatly appreciated. The Times reviewer called Rand "a writer of great power" who writes "brilliantly, beautifully and bitterly," and it stated that she had "written a hymn in praise of the individual... you will not be able to read this masterful book without thinking through some of the basic concepts of our time." There were other positive reviews, but Rand dismissed most of them as either not understanding her message or as being from unimportant publications. Some negative reviews focused on the length of the novel, such as one that called it "a whale of a book" and another that said "anyone who is taken in by it deserves a stern lecture on paper-rationing." Other negative reviews called the characters unsympathetic and Rand's style "offensively pedestrian."

Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged was widely reviewed, and many of the reviews were strongly negative. In the National Review, conservative author Whittaker Chambers called the book "sophomoric" and "remarkably silly". He described the tone of the book as "shrillness without reprieve" and accused Rand of supporting the same godless system as the Soviets, claiming "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber—go!'" Atlas Shrugged received positive reviews from a few publications, but Rand scholar Mimi Reisel Gladstein later wrote that "reviewers seemed to vie with each other in a contest to devise the cleverest put-downs," calling it "execrable claptrap" and "a nightmare;" they said it was "written out of hate" and showed "remorseless hectoring and prolixity."

Rand's nonfiction received far fewer reviews than her novels had. The tenor of the criticism for her first nonfiction book, For the New Intellectual, was similar to that for Atlas Shrugged, with philosopher Sidney Hook likening her approach to "the way philosophy is written in the Soviet Union" and author Gore Vidal calling her viewpoint "nearly perfect in its immorality". Her subsequent books got progressively less attention from reviewers.

During Rand's lifetime her work received little attention from academic scholars. When With Charity Toward None: An Analysis of Ayn Rand's Philosophy, the first academic book about Rand's philosophy, appeared in 1971, its author William F. O'Neill declared writing about Rand "a treacherous undertaking" that could lead to "guilt by association" for taking her seriously. A few articles about Rand's ideas appeared in academic journals prior to her death in 1982, many of them in The Personalist. One of these was "On the Randian Argument" by Harvard University professor Robert Nozick, who argued that her meta-ethical argument is unsound and fails to solve the is–ought problem posed by David Hume.1 Some responses to Nozick by other academic philosophers were also published in The Personalist.1 Academic consideration of Rand as a literary figure during her life was even more limited. Gladstein was unable to find any scholarly articles about Rand's novels when she began researching her in 1973, and only three such articles appeared during the rest of the 1970s.1


An engraving in all capital letters that reads: "Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision." Ayn Rand
A quote from Rand's book The Fountainhead, on the wall directly across from the entrance to The American Adventure rotunda at Walt Disney World's Epcot
See also: Objectivist movement

Rand's books continue to be widely sold and read, with 25 million copies sold as of 2007, and 800,000 more being sold each year according to the Ayn Rand Institute.1 She has also influenced notable people in different fields. Examples include philosophers John Hospers, George H. Smith, Allan Gotthelf, Robert Mayhew and Tara Smith, economists Alan Greenspan, George Reisman and Murray Rothbard, psychologist Edwin A. Locke, historian Robert Hessen, and political writer Charles Murray.

Popular interest

When a 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club asked what the most influential book in the respondent's life was, Rand's Atlas Shrugged was the second most popular choice, after the Bible.1 Readers polled in 1998 and 1999 by Modern Library placed four of her books on the 100 Best Novels list, with Atlas Shrugged taking the top position, while another, The Virtue of Selfishness, topped the 100 Best Nonfiction list. Books by other authors about Rand and her philosophy also appeared on the nonfiction list.1 The validity of such lists has been disputed.1 Freestar Media/Zogby polls conducted in 2007 found that around eight percent of American adults have read Atlas Shrugged.1 Although Rand's influence has been greatest in the United States, there has been international interest in her work.112

Rand has been cited by numerous writers, artists and commentators as an influence on their lives and thought. Rand or characters based on her figure prominently in novels by such authors as William F. Buckley, Mary Gaitskill, Matt Ruff, J. Neil Schulman, and Kay Nolte Smith.2 Other authors and artists, such as Steve Ditko,2 Terry Goodkind,2 and Neil Peart,2 have also cited her as an influence.

Rand and her works have been referred to in a variety of media. References to her have appeared on television shows including animated sitcoms, live-action comedies, dramas, and game shows.2 The Philosophical Lexicon, a satirical web site maintained by philosophers Daniel Dennett and Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen, defines a 'rand' as: "An angry tirade occasioned by mistaking philosophical disagreement for a personal attack and/or evidence of unspeakable moral corruption."2 Her image appears on a U.S. postage stamp designed by artist Nick Gaetano.2 The BioShock video game series includes elements inspired by Rand's ideas.2

Two movies have been made about Rand's life. A 1997 documentary film, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.2 The Passion of Ayn Rand, an independent film about her life, was made in 1999, starring Helen Mirren as Rand and Peter Fonda as her husband. The film was based on the book of the same name by Barbara Branden, and won several awards.33 Attempts have been made to produce a film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, but none have been successful.3

Attacks in popular culture

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason Magazine, has remarked that "Rand's is a tortured immortality, one in which she's as likely to be a punch line as a protagonist" ... with "jibes at Rand as cold and inhuman, running through the popular culture."3 In the Futurama episode "I Second That Emotion" futuristic mutants flush Rand's works down the toilet,3 in the South Park episode "Chicken Lover" Officer Barbrady decides to return back to illiteracy after reading "this piece of shit" Atlas Shrugged,3 and in the 2009 episode of The Simpsons "Four Great Women and a Manicure" Lisa Simpson asks her Mother if Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is the "Bible of right-wing losers?."3

Outside the world of animation, a March 11, 2009, episode of The Colbert Report, featured host Stephen Colbert giving his "The Word" segment on what he deems the "Rand Illusion". During the six minute skit he sarcastically applauds the growing popularity of Ayn Rand's work Atlas Shrugged, while tongue-in-cheekly stating that he wants to "go Galt" and live on an island with the CEOs, hedge fund managers, House Republicans and TV pundits.3 In the spoof self-help book/memoir Asshole: How I Got Rich and Happy by Not Giving a Shit About You, American writer Martin Kihn claims to have found inspiration in the philosopher Ayn Rand, whom he decrees "The asshole's philosopher", while pontificating that "any aspiring asshole could learn a lot from The Fountainhead or The Virtue of Selfishness."3

Political influence
See also: Libertarianism and Objectivism

In a large outdoor crowd, a man holds up a poster with the words "I am John Galt" in all capital letters
A protester at an April 2009 Tea Party rally carries a sign referring to John Galt, the hero of Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged

Although she rejected the labels "conservative" and "libertarian", Rand has had continuing influence on right-wing politics, especially libertarianism.3 In a history of the libertarian movement, journalist Brian Doherty described her as "the most influential libertarian of the twentieth century to the public at large."4 The political figures who cite Rand as an influence are most often conservative or libertarian, often members of the United States Republican Party.4 U.S. Congressmen Bob Barr,4 Ron Paul,4 and Paul Ryan4 have acknowledged her influence on their lives, as has Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Clarence Thomas.4 Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan described himself as an "admirer" of Rand in private correspondence in the 1960s,4 and John Hospers, the first presidential nominee of the U.S. Libertarian Party, had a personal acquaintance with Rand in the early 1960s.4

The financial crisis of 2007–2010 spurred renewed interest in her works, especially Atlas Shrugged, which some saw as foreshadowing the crisis.4 Conservative talk show hosts, such as Glenn Beck,4 Neal Boortz5 and Rush Limbaugh5 recommended the novel to their audiences, and opinion articles compared real-world events with the plot of the novel.5 Signs mentioning Rand and her fictional hero John Galt appeared at Tea Party protests.5 During this period there was also increased criticism of her ideas, especially from the left, with critics blaming her support of selfishness and free markets for the economic crisis, particularly through her influence on Alan Greenspan.5


Since Rand's death in 1982, interest in her work has gradually increased.555 Historian Jennifer Burns has identified "three overlapping waves" of scholarly interest in Rand, the most recent of which is "an explosion of scholarship" in the 2000s.5 However, few universities currently include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical specialty or research area, with many literature and philosophy departments dismissing her as a pop culture phenomenon rather than a subject for serious study.5

Some academic philosophers have criticized Rand for what they consider her lack of rigor and limited understanding of philosophical subject matter. Chris Sciabarra has called into question the motives of some of Rand's critics because of what he calls the unusual hostility of their criticisms.6 Sciabarra writes, "The left was infuriated by her anti-communist, procapitalist politics, whereas the right was disgusted with her atheism and civil libertarianism."

Academics with an interest in Rand, such as Gladstein, Sciabarra, Allan Gotthelf, Edwin A. Locke, Robert Mayhew, and Tara Smith, have taught her work in academic institutions. Sciabarra co-edits the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a nonpartisan peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of Rand's philosophical and literary work.6 In 1987 Gotthelf helped found the Ayn Rand Society, which is affiliated with the American Philosophical Association and has been active in sponsoring seminars about Rand and her ideas.6 Smith has written several academic books and papers on Rand's ideas, including Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, a volume on Rand's ethical theory published by Cambridge University Press. Rand's ideas have also been made subjects of study at Clemson and Duke universities.6 Scholars of English and American literature have largely ignored her work, although attention to her literary work has increased since the 1990s.6 In the Literary Encyclopedia entry for Rand written in 2001, John Lewis declared that "Rand wrote the most intellectually challenging fiction of her generation".6 In a 1999 interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra commented, "I know they laugh at Rand," while forecasting a growth of interest in her work in the academic community.6


In 1985 Leonard Peikoff established the Ayn Rand Institute, which "works to introduce young people to Ayn Rand's novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience."6 In 1990 David Kelley founded the Institute for Objectivist Studies,6 now known as The Atlas Society. Its focus is on attracting readers of Rand's fiction; the associated Objectivist Center deals with more academic ventures.6 In 2001 historian John McCaskey organized the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship, which provides grants for scholarly work on Objectivism in academia.7 The foundation has supported research at the University of Texas at Austin,7 the University of Pittsburgh, Duke University and other schools.





Jewish Biography | About Jewish Biography | Search