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Mint, India Friday, April 9, 2010

Jennifer Burns has taken the enormously complex task of Objectively presenting the life of Ayn Rand, and how she relates to the American Right. Ayn Rand, she says was a socially isolated precocious child. She never got the respect she creaved for all her life. The United States as present is moving far from her principles, writes Monica Halan in Mint.

That it has taken till 2010 for the biography of a person who has influenced the intellectual agenda of capitalism to come out, is in itself proof of the challenge any biographer of Ayn Rand would face. To document a controversial life that has a cult following at one level and is dismissed as bad writing on the other, and a life of stark public and personal dichotomy, is no easy task. While one may bow to Rand intellectually, her personal life, caught in the rigid grid of her own philosophy, makes her irrationally human.

In her biography Goddess of the Market—Ayn Rand and the American Right, Jennifer Burns manages to do the unthinkable: She keeps her opinion out of the book so that the reader has the liberty to react to facts, to the contradictions and the duality.

Rand came into the world as Alisa Rosenbaum, the eldest child from a wealthy household in tsarist Russia that would transform into a Communist nation in a few years. As a child with a precocious intellect, she was socially isolated; she was “serious and stern, uncomfortable with gossip, games, or the intrigues of popularity”.


The magnificent intellect turned this social isolation into a belief system that made her see herself as a victim, being punished by mediocrity.


The transformation of Alisa Rosenbaum to Ayn Rand began when she became a junior Hollywood scriptwriter who struggled to survive as an immigrant who had escaped from Communist Russia.


But what began as the Night of January 16th in 1933 and We the Living a year later would carry the seeds of what would become a powerful but rigid ideology variously called libertarianism, conservatism and objectivism. It was an absolute philosophical system that insisted on primacy of reason and the existence of knowable and objective reality implicit with the belief that the moral purpose of man is his pursuit of individual happiness or rational self-interest. Extended into an economic system, it is a textbook of free markets with minimal government control.

... ...

The person and the philosophy were at odds, where a tight rational system had in its core an emotionally unstable person who could suffer no doubt.


Rand never got what she deeply wanted: intellectual acceptance from academics. Dismissed as a novelist by the peer group, her own abrasive and combative stance did little to ease the way.

... ...

In 2010, Rand would be out of place in the country she adopted and wanted to transform into a working example of the success of her intellectual belief that had no place for altruism, social welfare and service to others. Pure Randian thought now seems based on a premise that was flawed.

This article was published in the Mint on Friday, April 9, 2010. Please read the original article here.
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