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Ayn Rand is one of the most widely read philosophers of the twentieth century . Yet despite the sale of nearly thirty million copies of her works, and their translation into many languages (Landrum 1994, 302),1 there have been few book-length, scholarly examinations of her thought. This is hardly surprising since academics have often dismissed her “Objectivist” ideas as “pop” philosophy .2 As a best-selling novelist, a controversial, flamboyant polemicist, and a woman in a male-dominated profession, Rand remained outside the academy throughout her life. Her works had inspired passionate responses that echo the uncompromising nature of her moral vision. In many cases, her audiences were either cultish in their devotion or savage in their attacks. The left was infuriated by her anticommunist, procapitalist politics, whereas the right was disgusted by her atheism and civil libertarianism. Since her death in 1982, interest in her thought has not abated. Respondents to a joint Library of Congress–Book of the Month Club survey of “lifetime reading habits” indicated that Atlas Shrugged was second only to the Bible in its significant impact on their lives.3 Rand’s influence on ­ American political thought has been acknowledged by Martin Anderson, Reagan’s chief domestic and economic adviser; Hillary Rodham Clinton; Alan Greenspan , former chairman of the Federal Reserve; John Hospers, philosopher and one-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate; perennial GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul; Charles Murray, author of Losing Ground; Robert Nozick, ­ Harvard philosopher and National Book Award winner; and­ Clarence ­ Thomas, associate justice of the Supreme Court. Most important, there has been a steady growth in Rand scholarship. In the past decade, a number of collections of her writings were published for the first time, as were several studies of her career and impact.4 The number of reference guides and journals dedicated to the examination of Objectivist ideas continues to grow.5 Discussions of her thought and excerpts from her essays appear regularly in journals and college textbooks.6 In addition, several professional scholarly organizations have been founded to promote the serious study of Rand’s philosophy.7 A new generation of thinkers schooled in the Objectivist , classical liberal, and libertarian traditions has extended and ­ refined the­ Randian legacy. They include Leonard Peikoff, heir to the Estate of Ayn Rand, introduction 1 2 ayn rand who continues to lecture and write on Objectivism; Nathaniel ­ Branden, who­ despite his separation from Rand in 1968, continues to ­ develop the interconnections between neo-Objectivist philosophy and psychology; David Kelley, who has presented a sophisticated realist theory of perception based largely on Rand’s epistemological contributions; Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen, who have combined Randian and Aristotelian insights in their own unique defense of a free society; and Tibor ­ Machan, whose many books reflect a deep appreciation of Rand’s philosophy. Nevertheless, the growth in Rand scholarship and influence has generated few comprehensive, book-length examinations of her thought (rather than her life and cultural impact). Three earlier attempts at extended critique , by Albert Ellis (1968), William F O’Neill ([1971] 1977), and John W. Robbins (1974), were published eight to twelve years before Rand’s death and, hence, did not assess her full contribution. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand, edited by Den Uyl and Rasmussen (1984), is an important anthology of essays written by several scholars who examine aspects of Rand’s epistemology, ethics, and politics, from different perspectives. Peikoff’s Objectivism : The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1991b) is the first systematic statement of Rand’s philosophy, albeit from an orthodox, noncritical vantage point. And Ronald Merrill’s Ideas of Ayn Rand (1991)—recently updated by Marsha Familaro Enright (Merrill and Enright 2013)—presents some original theses, though with a broader cultural orientation. This book is the first scholarly attempt to trace Rand’s roots and assess her place in intellectual history. My central theme is captured by the title: Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, for in this book I address two questions: 1. In what sense can Rand’s philosophy be understood as a response to her Russian past? 2. In what sense can Rand’s philosophy be understood as a contribution to twentieth-century radical thought? The answers to these questions provide a new interpretation of Rand’s Objectivism in terms of its intellectual origins and its significance for the history of social theory. I contend that Rand achieved a unique synthesis by rejecting—and absorbing—key elements in the Russian tradition. She rejected the Marxist and religious...


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