I know Zamyatin's We very well. That was his reaction to a Stalinist state which had ordered its sycophantic scientists to look into ways to robotise the populace. Attempts were made, by Stalin's sycophants to train workers to mimic the movements of machines, to replicate the actual robotic movements of mecahnical arms. They believed this increased productivity and solved the problem of discipline. Zamyatin's We was written as a response to that.
I am puzzled, however, by the asociation you make between Zamyatin's We and Rand. While it is almost a crime to have a soul in We, Rand, actually, in her own (spurious?) way tries to save the human soul by making her characters tackle the world objectively..Further, Objectivism doesn't mean the lack of imagination. Indeed, one needs imagination to be Objective.
responsibility. In We, the state hold responsibility. Responsibility exists, however. It is merely transfered onto the state. The state becomes the freudian Father Figure. All other elements are mere automatons. In Rand, there is still responsibility, but it is only for oneself, not for your fellow man.
If i appear to be defending Rand, read carefully. I am actually defending Zamyatin from being associated with Rand.
>>By dionysus (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 01:10)
I understand what you are saying. I was merely making the connection that there seem to be a few of the same issues between the authors. They may not stand on the same leg as far as which end of the issues they stand, but the same issues nevertheless. In my mind, I was observing that Rand seemed to deal with keeping the soul alive through, as you mentined, objectivity, whereas in We the point was to stomp out any flares of a soul, thus linking to imagination (or the lack thereof), and responsibility and so on.
As I mentioned before, I have not read Rand yet , and perhaps I should save my conclusions till after I have. I was simply thinking about We at the time, and noticed the differences between the two on the same subjects.
>>By Farie Child (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 02:14)
of course...You know I wish forums like this have little ways of showing the facial expression of the person writing. It is absolutely natural for two writers of differing concerns such as Rand and Zamyatin to have simlar themes. My comments were directed at the previous discussion...and I guess I was taking a dig at what the others had said...did not come out right..Didn't want it to seem like an attack on you...like I said, I have such a dislike for Rand that I get prickly when someone mentiones another writer in relation to her..
I suppose smileys would have to be introduced in my posts :) :) :) :)
>>By dionysus (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 06:30)
I'm afraid I have to go with Fairy Child on this one Dionysus. I've never read "We" but from the description it sounds like the same ground that is covered in "Anthem". I think both authors had a horror of collectivism.
>>By goddog (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 06:32)
since "we" (which, by the way i havent read) came up, i am reminded of george orwell's 1986.
i dont know if u guys have read the book, but in it again the curbing of individualism is done. people are cut off from other parts of the world and led to believe what the state wants them to believe.this is done by alterations of histories and journals.this happens to such an extent that one day the state is at war with one nation and in the next day with another, and there is not a single person who rises to questions this.
this is the society as it was explained in the book.
it is sort of anti-randian society, dont u think dionsys,goddog,distrust and greenfyre?
i would find them interestting. :)
>>By s.s. (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 21:38)
It's _1984_, but besides that, superficially you could say that it is an anti-randian socitey, but I think thats too much of an easy way out, it certainly was an anti-orwellian society. An anti-randian society could also be a proleterian socialist state, and if Im not mistaken that's what Orwell advocated. Rand's main complaint was the state, but also other man impinging on the freedoms of the individual.
Ive never read this We, but it sounds similar in content. From Faire Child's description it almost sounds like a positive reinforcement of stalinism, correct me if Im wrong.
>>By Distrust (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 23:02)
We begins as a positive reinforcement of Stalinism, but throughout the novel, new fields are explored. The book is written in a narrative diary form, and thus the narrator is the protagonist. The book deals with what happens when someone dares to acquire a soul or to be an individual. It explores the different facets of a would-be utopian society, under the direction of a stalinist. So much control is administered to the "numbers" that even their sexual lives are clearly planned out for them and advocated. However, it quickly becomes a cynical dystopian situation. (note: spoilers ahead) When the protagonist D-503 becomes plagued and ill with a soul, the Great Benefactors are so anxious to remain in their Stalinist society that they operate on him to remove his imagination, and he passionlessly heads the execution of the woman he has come to love with his heart, love being a truly blasphemous and heinous emotion indeed. So ultimately it is an anti-stalinism work, focusing on a society trying to break free of the mechanics of their world and enter into a Randian society. Am I wrong in assuming she deals wih Utopian societies?
>>By Farie Child (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 23:58)
Yes, as far as being unrealistic she deals with utopian societies, but mostly she develops the characteristics of her "ideal man" (not nec. male). In Atlas Shrugged she creates a utopia of sorts, where industry leaders create their own purely capitalistic society. Gold is the only currency, no taxation, complete patent rights etc. etc. Most of the posts here seem to point out that not many of us actually agree with her (can we get a supporter in here to voice an opinion). But I do think her novels at least make interesting reads. This We sounds worthwhile as well.
>>By Distrust (Thursday, 13 Nov 2003 18:17)
even though i am one of the most ardent supporters of rand, i cannot object on the fact that what she has written is impractical in ways. but as i said before also, impracticality is often a limitation of time only.
but that is second guessing and can be eternal so i'll let it alone.
yes she is impractical no doubt, yes she made a utopia in atlas shrugged, but arent most fictions exaggerated?
as for We and 1984(thx distrust for the correction) they seem to follow more or less similar story lines because in 1984 also the protagonist in the end is forced to betray his love because the state makes him face his biggest fear.and after this the protagonist betrays his love and his love does the same to him, hence their will is taken.
and yah distrust that was the easy way out coz i was in a hurry though i agree on ur last post up.
>>By s.s. (Thursday, 13 Nov 2003 23:35)
I have only read one book by Rand, "For the New Intellectual" and all I can say is that it was trash, to be blunt. I didn't like it very much because in this book she says that today there is no new thought or new "creations". I disagree with that because even though there are a lot less people thinking, there are a lot more that are thinking. Take everyone in this forum for instance. Dionysus, whom I've chance to talk with a few times and Persevere who has really good points and who's discussions I enjoy reading. To someone else it may very be just people talking but its more than that. It seemed to me that Rand belittled that saying our world today isn't as inventive or growing as it was back then. I see it as this, we're still exploring, the depths of the ocean and space, and we are still THINKING! There may not be as many genius's now as there was then but we are not at a standstill. Another thing that irked me was how Rand catagorized people as being emotionally controlled or physically controlled, the Witch Doctor and the Atilla the Hun theory. I'm neither so what does that make me? I know for fact I don't fall into any catagory and I don't think anyone else does either. We are merely people. What was her new philosophy? Perspectivism? something like that. I think its unfounded because how do you base a philosophy on not following a philosophy? Thats a contradiction. The short of it two thumbs down. I'll read the other books before I comment on how the writer is as a whole.
>>By T_Sweety (Monday, 24 Nov 2003 19:22)
Objectivism, that's her philosophy
>>By T_Sweety (Wednesday, 26 Nov 2003 18:48)
Hmm. One would think she struck a chord; this party's gone on for two-going-on-three pages.
Addressing the first question WAY back on page 1, I'd have to check the lit. on this but I think Rand wrote "Anthem" as an overt answer to problems she saw with Orwell's "1984". Specifically, I think she agreed that a less free society would be economically wasted, but he believed that technology would continue developing itself unabated. Rand countered with the contention that technical change was the result of the free exchange of ideas, and if one cut that off, a condition rather akin to the Taliban would result (although, of course, that political entity didn't exist at the time; my example).
The passivity of the female character I took to be symptomatic of the social controls described.
>>By Dan Day (Friday, 5 Dec 2003 19:09)
I am adding an addendum to some of my previous comments. Dionysus has
wondered at my connection between Ayn Rand's works and the novel We
by Yevgeny Zamyatin. If have recently read Anthem and have discovered
that it is actually quite similar to Zamyatin's We in its content and style, and
are linked by the fact that they are both objective pieces. They deal with
the same issues of communism and Stalinism; people who live in a controlled
society. Although We has quite a desparaging finale, Anthem has a much
happier ending. In Anthem and We the main character discovers the meaning
of the word "I" and the benefits of individuality. They both come to
this discovery through human error and the wonderful passion of love. Had it not
been for the women in their lives, neither would have discovered their
soul. Cleary, a connection can be made, and in fact, both books are usually taught
in conjunction with each other in public schools.
>>By Farie Child (Friday, 5 Dec 2003 23:35)
I come to this discussion very late. A few points that, after reading a number of Rand's works, gave me a different take on her ideas.
First, remember that above all else, Rand is writing to forward Ojectivisim. She does this by writing about the collision of two worlds: the objectivist and as someone mentioned, a more and more liveral leaning society. This is done within the vaccum of a philosophic ideal embedded in the novel. The philospohy needs to remain pure to its ideal in order to represent it. We, though, generally do not think so sperately about the philosophy. We attach it, immediately to the ascendant culture of the time in which live
Second, I think that Rand's tough mindedness about poverty and lack of achievement is not represented well in most discussions. Again, we view it from the perspective of today's society. Rand's novels are so hypothetical in nature as to exist only to clearly mark the turf of Objectivism. Applying those principles to our world just doesn't work. We have created too many inequities.
I don't think Rand intended to wholesale junk our culture in a single move (although she'd have been glad to have that happen if it were possible). She wanted this dialog. She wanted vigorous and hotly contested debate. Major changes short of nuking a society out of existence never happens.
I think Rand felt that if her ideals were the ascendant ideals of a culture, then poverty, lack of desire to achieve, dependency, etc., would not exist. Again, a philosophic ideal, not a plan. If we had a clean slate and individual achievement was the role model, many of the horrors of society might not exist. No one will ever know.
Rand was about the latent potential of every human being and the burden of the achiever to not look back, to hold his or her ground as someone who uses the talents inherent in every individual. Or so I hope that is what it all is about.
Works such as The Virtue of Selfisness stopped Rand from getting a fair listening. The average person simply cannot get past the title without passing judgement. Rand is quick to dismiss the negativity of selfishness, as she uses the term, but in genreal we have not been willing to arrest our understanding of the word. She meant to break what is an archtypal definition of acting in one's elf interest, not promote more of what we generally think of as selfishness.
Grasping philosophies of such sweeping nature is always an intellectual exercise frought with the pitfalls of our own orthodoxies. Orthodoxies are never doubted by believers. we generally can't put them to rest long enough to examine other thinking.
I might be all wet, but I think that Rand's ideas of human achievement and potential (don't forget she felt we each had potential) have some merit. Think of where we'd be today if achievement was an ideal set upon us wherethere was not a victim. I think most creators have that ideal. They are focused and single minded. It is the corporations that take achievement and then cross it into shareholder quarterly profits...that abberation of capitalism demands the sad state we live in today.
I'm yammering now...so thanks for such a wonderful discussion I've been allowed to join!
>>By Al C (Saturday, 6 Dec 2003 12:25)
Very well put, her ideas are impractical in this world, and I think that is what makes her a very dangerous read for the many who will not understand what she is saying. i think the scariest thing comes from what greenfyre posted a ways back, a website that linked to this: http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/booklists.html. The Library of Congress surveyed _Atlas Shrugged_ as the second most influencial book next to the bible.
>>By Distrust (Sunday, 7 Dec 2003 01:37)
I did not know that. I found Atlas to have some positive effects on my life and how I approach work and creativity. Again, I think that we bring all our current tools to bear on our thinking about what Rand wrote. That's where we fail. I believe Rand might have said that at one point.
John Steinbeck said some things very similar in East of Eden, but the words come off less harsh and much less all encompassing. I'll dig the book out and post a few of those sentences...or at least paraphrase them.
>>By Al C (Sunday, 7 Dec 2003 12:56)
To address some of the comment from Al C and others:
As to exactly how popular Rand's ATLAS is by comparison to other books, there are many surveys that appear to conflict. It's obvious, though, that she's widely reported due to one book or another charting on almost all longer-range lists (yearly or decade-wide as opposed to monthly or weekly in sample).
As to a motive on her part to further "Objectivism", this isn't literally the case for much of her career, since as far as I know, codification efforts didn't begin until about halfway through her life, while from her earliest days she'd primarily wanted to write short stories, novels and such. It was in the mid-1950's that she settled on the term "Objectivism" after (according to one story) backing away from some other candidate names including "Existentialism". I suspect that she must have seen NYT or TIME coverage of the now-well-known French movement just in the nick of time. Fortunately for her, there was (and continues to be) no competing use of the term other than the technical distinction in Western philosophy of "objectivism and subjectivism" and the subcategory "ethical objectivism". The Encyclopedia Of Philosophy (MacMillan) has the contemporary consensus positions with respect to both terms.
Of course, Al is correct to divine a purpose in Rand's nonfiction publications in that she certainly does pursue her propositions in an interested fashion. In the case of the earlier, fictionally-oriented efforts, though, the motivation moves oppositely (is that a word?): When Rand created people that were in conflict due to opposing motivation, she knew that some codification of ideas was needed to describe what world views led the fictional figures to be in conflict in the first place. Apparently she was forced to philosophise since no treatise she could locate reflected any major conviction of hers (save Aristotle, obviously).
>>By Dan Day (Sunday, 7 Dec 2003 21:29)
I have read both Atlas Shrugged (twice) and Fountainhead, and I think some of the comments here miss the point, when they suggest that she is "dangerous". What is dangerous about what she says? That it may influence people to question some socially liberal viewpoints that some people hold dear? I understand Rand's main point to be that in order for the creativity of the human spirit to flourish, people (individuals) must be free. And in order to be truly free they must be responsible for themselves. In other words, taking responsibility for someone else robs them of their right to be responsible for themselves. And when the government deamnds that one individual be responsible for his neighbour, it sqaushes both of their individual spirits. I also don't se it as purely idealogical, since I believe we all see this play out to some degree in our society today. There is plenty of room for argument about how far a society can actually go in implementing her ideas in society, but I do believe that we see parallels between the scenarios in her stories and what we see in real life.
>>By kneehog (Sunday, 23 May 2004 09:37)
I would be interested to know peoples opinions on the issue of Ayn Rand and objectivisim in relation to the current Bush administration. From what I hear many believe that her philosophy offers a moral and philosophical backbone to their actions, currently in Iraq and in general toward terrorism. My point is that the potent idea she introduces of the 'looter' and his mentality of gaining wealth and power by force (embodied by Jim Taggart, Orrin Boyle etc..) in Atlas Shrugged describes accurately the actions and motivations of G.W. Bush et al? In fact as I've discovered by visiting their websites, objectivist are divided on the Iraq question.
Personally I agree with many of the author ideas and although flawed Atlas Shrugged works best in completely debunking Communism/Socialism and the ideas of Collectivisation whether Economic or religious.
>>By Macker (Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 01:15)
If Macker is interested, I suggest a reading of "For the New Intellectual"--which appears to be shunned by almost every advocate of Ayn Rand and her philosophy. I believe the following quote from the book will explaim any relationship: "No advocate of reason can claim the right to force his ideas on others. No advocate of the free mind can claim the right to force the minds of others. No rational society, no co-operation, no agreement, no understanding, no discussion are possible among men who propose to substitute guns for rational persuasion."
>>By Meliorism (Saturday, 29 Jan 2005 07:01)
Before I was 18, I had read every book Ayn Rand published — fiction and essays alike — most, more than once. I considered myself an objectivist and went to objectivist meetings, where we listened to tapes by Rand and Nathanial Branden. Then I went to college and read real economics, politics, literature, history, and, most of all, philosophy. I went on to become a college professor. I can honestly say that no childhood obsession of mine embarrasses me more than my involvement with the mindless religious philosophy of Rand. Of course, I know what an affront to her and her acolytes it is to refer to their worldview as "mindless" and "religious": they pride themselves on imagining they ground all their actions and opinions in rational philosophical analysis. The word "mystic" is one of Rand's cherished insults. Yet I can think of no word that better expresses the dogmatic group-think that Randians wallow in. "A is A." "Man is a rational being." "Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values." " Neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims." "Evil requires the sanction of the victim." "Contradictions do not exist." Randians repeat these platitudes as if they actually had, um, "objective" meanings. They don't. They're bromides that obscure meaning and promote group sentiment. They depend entirely on ridiculous, ignorant, and tendentious definitions of "reason," "happiness," "sanction," etc. The fact is that human life is beset by contradictions, irrationally held opinions, values grounded in love, family, community, tradition, mutually experienced pleasures. People sacrifice themselves for other people and values they love all the time. Lifelong Randians find themselves screaming at each other "A is A!" over whether the U.S. should be in Iraq, whether Mozart is better than Philip Glass, whether Shakespeare or Dostoevsky knows more (or less) about the human condition. Rand is irrelevant to such discussions, because they cannot be reduced to the fantastically oversimplified terms that make her feel happy and smart.
Her fiction works because she's a great storyteller. But her stories are nothing more than comic books with religious resonance. Their purpose is to bring a group together by defining a set of ritual phrases and "values" — a language, a set of opinions, a disposition towards the world — that give weak people the feeling of power over the vicissitudes of life, a sense of belonging to something higher than themselves (even while proclaiming nothing is higher than themselves!), the heady rush of moral and intellectual superiority over the unenlightened, the certainty of knowing — if not the answer to all life's problems — the single set of sentences to use to figure it out.
The depressing thing is that in the name of deep, independent, rational thought Rand, as one of the great charismatic gurus of modern times, has done more to stop deep independent rational thought (and replace it with vacuous sloganeering) than most people in human history.
>>By mikamichaela (Saturday, 2 Sep 2006 10:37)
(remove spaces if you care enough to put this in the url bar.
This is where I heard of this author.
Wow. I'd be interested to see why everyone hates her so much.
But probably not interested enough to read something by her.
>>By Flagg (Tuesday, 12 Sep 2006 16:46)
I generally admire Rand on a more personal level rather than politics, mainly for her encouragement of honesty, virtue, pride, confidence, work for yourself, rely on yourself. I It was uplifting to read her novels, especially Atlas Shrugged, to observe the motivation and ambition of Dagny Taggart, and see her defeat any challenge that dared to stop her. I believe Rand's philosophy is great to lightly take notice of; too much, however, will lead to a cold, loveless, selfish life, considering it's mainly all about YOU. I wish Rand's dream world of honesty and success could be played out in ours, but for now I'll intertwine bits and pieces of her philosophy into mine. Through it all, she is my favorite author.
>>By MagentaStraberry (Thursday, 17 May 2007 21:27)
Anthem was assigned to us in English class, and I just finished reading it the other day. To reply to a comment made about the text, I don't agree that Ayn Rand was advocating the subjection of women. You have to look a little deeper than that. The woman's name was "Liberty." Liberty is subjective to our will, not vice versa. Man has to choose to embrace Liberty, but liberty will not force itself on Man nor will it break his chains when he does not wish it so, and when Man and Liberty unite together, Man is truly Man, because he is free. That is why Liberty seems subjective in the book---it is not because she is portrayed as woman, least not to me anyway.
I adored this book,and despite the fact that I hate assigned work, I am glad I was assigned this, or I would have never known about this author. Now I want to own all of her works. There are two parts that stand out to me. The first of those is when Equality (whatever the number is after that) said that he "did not want to spill that pain more precious than pleasure." When you truly explore the limits of your mind, it does bring a sort of peace and satisfaction; however it is bittersweet, because that hunger in us to know is never trully fufilled, and we can never reach that point of being fufilled completely. But despire this, it is still better than never exploring at all, never knowing, and never seeking, even if that difference creates in us a distance from others who cannot possibly understand why we are the way we are, why we even care about these things at all. The second part I liked is when Equality_____ was saying that he did not know what curse was upon him to make him so unlike the rest, that made him seek what he knew not what. He said he only knows that he must know.
I love Ayn Rand. I never read an author I so understood. I would have to say Anthem is among the best philosophical books I have ever read.
Thank you, Ayn Rand, for your gift and your understanding.
>>By Mind of Manumission (Tuesday, 9 Oct 2007 00:13)
Oh dear, I think MagentaStrawberry said it all, she loves Ayn Rand "despite the fact that I hate assigned work" Now there's a good advertisement for a book! .........That she and ss are so young gives me hope though, we've all been infatuated with some odd stuff as teenagers and it does, thankfully, fade away in time. God, I even thought tDH Lawrence knew about women when I was 17!
>>By BarbaraH (Wednesday, 21 Nov 2007 03:03)
I read Anthem for the first time when I was 15. I really enjoyed it, although I did not completely understand the ideas portrayed. I am currently reading "We The People" and I will agree with what several people have said, Rands books are not easy to read in the fact that they aren't written in a conventional story format where you have one or two main characters and there's a problem which is solved and in the end the characters learn from what has happened. I think that Rands books were written the way they were to portray the way people really are, maybe even magnifying the downfalls of human nature.
>>By Magical Bando (Tuesday, 27 Nov 2007 18:28)
I had a phase in college, I started acting up like Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden. I remember reading the book, and in a way it had an influence at me during that time, I will probably never read Atlas Shrugged anymore, it took me 3 months to finish, it was excruciatingly long! I looked at a post in my blog after reading the book and yeah, it did remind me of how long it is ("she could have condensed 2 very, very long paragraphs into a single sentence.") and how extreme her philosophies were, such as the one about self-interest.
I do agree about her beliefs against collectivism. I think if everybody lives the way she envisions it to be the world may be a better place, but it isn't, people don't live that way and the attitude of the condescending "movers" suck. And not everybody can be categorized like movers, moochers, looters, etc.
I still think she's a great thinker, I wouldn't caller her work trash, it does make sense. One thing I do not like is how thing are always measured in mercantilistic means, I think that's one thing that turned me off mostly.
Maybe I should read some of her other books if I have time.
>>By jeeper (Sunday, 2 Dec 2007 03:07)
I liked all of her fiction besides anthem. The impersonal viewpoint really turned me off. Mika, I'm not sure if you didn't like Rand, it seems more likely that you didn't like the extreme interpretation that your 18 year old self gave her. I liked her fiction as fiction, and the case she made against collectivism and false altruism. by which I mean altruism with other peoples money. Like communists, socialists, or the American democratic party. Personally, I'm sort of a Neitzschean existencialist, but I liked her advocacy of personal responsibility, and I think it fairly likely that most people do feel some happiness by expressing themselves through personal achievement, however they define it. On the other hand, I think she was idealistic and naive, it may have been the times or the communist thesis that she was trying so hard to be the antithesis of. Enlightened self interest is great, moral, and a workable basis for society but the extent she was taking it to was Utopean, and just as unrealistic as "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his means". Keeping it at a more reasonable level, what she's saying is in the spirit of the constitution and basic American philosophy. Whether it's objectively true or not, these are the beliefs that have made America a world power and the freeest country in the world. GWB called his policy compassionate conservatism, which translates in plain english to a socialist domestic policy and an imperialist foreign policy, plus religious inhibitions. It's a pretty big stretch to blame her for that.
>>By Verikt (Monday, 20 Jul 2009 12:03)
The discussion board is currently closed.