Reading Ayn Rand in New Delhi

Culture and Media

Its the 100th birth anniversary of Ayn Rand. There are more than 4500 posts on her on the blogs. The New York Times has an article on her and she has many followers:

Her moral justifications of capitalism shaped the thinking of the young Alan Greenspan (now Federal Reserve Chairman) and other conservative acolytes. She declared it permissible to proclaim I want” and to act to fulfill that demand. But the question remains, what did she really want?

Good question. The Reason has a very good article describing the beliefs, appeal and contradictions of Ayn Rand:

Liberals shrink from her defiant pro-capitalist stance, conservatives from her militant atheism, and conservatives and liberals alike from her individualism. Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand’s ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild. In her insistence that political philosophy must be based on a proper epistemology, she rejected the libertarian movement, which embraced a wide variety of reasons for advocating free markets and free minds, as among her enemies.

As a teenager I tried to read Ayn Rand. I found her prose turgid and bombastic and after valiantly reading thirty pages of The Fountainhead gave up, it bored me. But she had plenty of admirer’s among my classmates and friends, interestingly only the women. What was common to a lot of them was their emotionally burdensome relationship with their families, and their timidity in social relationships. Ayn Rand gave them courage to assert themselves, and seems to have helped them find a language of resistance. So Ayn Rand may be better understood against the background of modern Indian domestic arrangements…

Interestingly, most of my friends have grown to deeply distrust capitalism and would probably cringe if I reminded them of their Ayn Rand phase. In any case, if Rand-y-ism (excuse that lowly form of witticism, the pun) is a phase of adolescence, think of all the people running around who are adolescents:

Fifteen million copies of her books have been sold. The Fountainhead” and Atlas Shrugged” still sell 130,000 to 150,000 copies a year.

Or a more frightening thought, those who haven’t come out of adolescence and are buying copies of Ayn Rand well into their twenties and thirties!