THE AYN RAND CULT by Jeff Walker


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Much adored and much reviled, Ayn Rand finds no sympathy at the hands of Canadian investigative journalist Walker. Like many others, he compares the Objectivist guru and Atlas Shrugged author to a cult leader, while attacking her claims of originality, consistency, literary talent, and morality. Rand’s novels made free-marketeers out of almost as many 1950s and ’60s teens as Kerouac’s On the Road made restless beatniks. At least two generations have been influenced by her loyalty to a peculiarly stark form of individualism, the reification of rationality, and moral approbation of selfish profit-seeking. In the midst of the Cold War, Randian thinking struck a chord, and she, the former Russian Jew Alissa Rosenbaum, attracted a sizeable circle of devoted followers. Too devoted, says Walker, claiming that this philosophical success story tells less than half the tale. He argues that Objectivism garnered intelligent yet sadly impressionable youths, intimidating them into total emotional submission. Interviews with prominent former Objectivists reveal Rand’s repulsively didactic character, her intolerance for criticism or disagreement of any kind, and her vindictiveness when spurned by a disciple. Walker does not stop at characterizing Rand as a cultist. He seeks to discredit her altogether by showing that, despite her brainwashed followers’ claims that Rand was the greatest thinker since Aristotle, everything she wrote was either derivative (from a combination of Jewish tradition, laissez-faire manifestos, and mystery novels), devoid of literary value (he performs a painful count of monstrously overused words in Atlas), or both. That Ayn Rand was inflated beyond her merit will shock nobody but Objectivists, who will never read this book. Walker’s exposÇ is a bit too shrill, repetitive, and even snide to rise persuasively above the people he describes—but he does convey vividly the frightful mess that was Ayn Rand.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8126-9390-6
Page count: 414pp
Publisher: Open Court
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1998


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