Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right


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Throughoutly researched and, despite the title, not as corny as it sounds.

Goddess of the Market, Ayn Rand and the American Right - Wabash College 9/28/2010 Pt. 1

Burns shows that the myth of a decontextualized, ever cold and reasonable Ayn Rand, like libertarians would have you believe, is fake. Nor was the movement cohesive enough. How can you advocate a collective of individualists? At surface level there are other topics like Ayn Rand's reaction to libertarians, anarchists, conservatives, feminists and A good source to know the complexities and contradictions of Ayn Rand. I disagree profoundly with what Ayn Rand had tried to foster, and her morals whether Nietzschean, selfish-egoist, utilitarian, reckless or outright evil, but I do feel a deep compassion for her.

In the beginning, few people did ever believe that the USSR was not the paradise it was reported to be. In addition, this book made the current libertarian fever and the consequential conservative endorsement of them less understandable to me as becoming familiar with the libertarian movement made me understand they were little more than teenagerish anarchists. On to less heavy things, now, I suppose! Jan 27, Jim Becker rated it really liked it. Very good. Combines an overview of her thought, a history of her life, and Rand's interaction with conservative thinkers of her day.

Very helpful. Jan 01, Dinah rated it it was amazing Shelves: nonfiction , history , americana , biography , politics. This book, this book, it would not end. As a general rule if I've "been reading" something for three months, that shit has been long since tabled. But this biography stayed with me, it was just difficult. By that I don't mean the language was hard or the history complicated to place although I abandoned footnotes early on, would have never made it through.

I mean this woman, Ayn Rand, is so difficult and contradictory and inflammatory and zealous and flawed, that reading about her life and This book, this book, it would not end.

I mean this woman, Ayn Rand, is so difficult and contradictory and inflammatory and zealous and flawed, that reading about her life and work required a lot of energy devoted to content and context. Burns, the biographer, deserves major credit for what I can only assume is the most unbiased account possible of a philosopher more often thrown out as a straw-woman in debate than discussed for her actual merits, accomplishments and ideas.


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The sources are diverse and numerous, and leave me feeling confident that I've been given a multi-faceted picture of Rand. Oh, Ayn Rand. The philosophy of selfishness.

Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Even reading those words makes my brain hurt, but damn if she didn't try to live it to the teeth. Selfish with her lovers, selfish with her ideas, selfish with friends and enemies a lot. It makes sense, in retrospect, that the consummate Capitalist would be a stickler for intellectual property, and thus that Rand would try to control the dissemination and use of her ideas even as she doggedly worked to spread them wide through America. It's this sort of contradiction, the desire to share genius and simultaneously guard it fiercely, that characterizes Rand in this biography.

A woman so loyal to the ideas of individuality and independence that she cannot acknowledge those who contributed to her success. Disavowed by both mainstream conservatives and libertarians, for her audacity in defending atheism and rational thought and the utility of government, albeit limited in scope and power. A lonely, quarrelsome woman who attracted a cult following with strict hierarchies, inner circles, heroes and betrayals. A survivor, a writer, a user of amphetamines and cigarettes, a person hellbent on living her life as she believed she ought to, at the expense of her own happiness and that of those around her.

On the other side of this page tome, I don't like Rand's ideas any better, and feel no less contemptuous toward those of my generation who defend their selfishness with her ideals. But I do sympathize with Rand the person, a fascinating figure of America's political landscape and a remarkably independent, adventurous woman.

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By extension, I even sympathize with those who were swept up by the dynamism of her ideas in their heyday, even if they should have known better. And that's an interesting contradiction in itself. If nothing else, reading this biography frees me from any obligation I might have felt to read Rand's actual novels. I tried with Atlas Shrugged, I really did, but what with all the sympathy for rich folks and insistence that they're capable of acting morally, I couldn't suspend disbelief for more than a few hundred pages. So kudos to Burns, who will enable me to speak about the books in the context of their author's politics and reception with confidence, without sitting through the damnable things.

Nov 05, Jeff rated it really liked it. I think Objectivists and non-Objectivists alike will find this to be a worthwhile biography and a case study of the formation of an ideological movement, for better and for worse. I had heard many of these stories before, but often from from sources whose personal involvement may have skewed their memories. That said, the one minor criticism of this work is that Burns' detachment made some of the stories seem less engaging than when described by those personally involved particularly in Barbara I think Objectivists and non-Objectivists alike will find this to be a worthwhile biography and a case study of the formation of an ideological movement, for better and for worse.

That said, the one minor criticism of this work is that Burns' detachment made some of the stories seem less engaging than when described by those personally involved particularly in Barbara Branden's Passion of Ayn Rand. Though this book isn't a memoir and is generally more scholarly in tone, some direct quotes might have worked better to bring some of the more dramatic events to life.

Burns' infusion of philosophical ideas do a lot to bring context to the events of Rand's life.

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Though I knew that Nietzsche had been a significant influence on Rand, I never knew quite to what degree. I found Burns' argument that it was rather intense to be persuasive.


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  • This was the most extensive treatment of Rand's early life that I have yet encountered. I think that's one of the main strengths of this book. I haven't yet read the Anne Heller book, also released in , which may also cover this terrain well. That's next on my reading list.

    Outside of the body of the book, the backmatter section, "Essay on Sources," was of great interest.


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    • I've read quite a lot of the works by and about Rand and Objectivism, and it was very useful and sometimes surprising to hear her take on the state of the archives generally quite good and to find out which individuals and institutions were in possession of the materials she used. She also had interesting comments about the degree to which various compilations of source materials had been revised and edited, often to their detriment.

      Dec 05, Donna rated it it was amazing Shelves: biography. First, there's the assumption that people are what they think. In fact, people are what they think and what they feel.

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      By ignoring at least half the motivation of the human race, Rand came up with a half-baked philosophy that is causing chaos in America to the present day. Second, in her arrogance, Rand assumed by her question that she had the "What are your premises? Second, in her arrogance, Rand assumed by her question that she had the right to inquire about and judge the premises of others.

      In fact, the woman who asserted, in an interview with Mike Wallace, that she was "the most creative thinker alive" created a closed system of thought that, as author Jennifer Burns suggests, "left no room for elaboration, extension, or interpretation, and as a social world it excluded growth, change, or development. In Goddess of the Market , she neither endorses nor condemns Rand but acknowledges her importance as a thinker, both historically and in the context of the present struggle for a consistent American narrative.

      Authoritative, nuanced, and highly readable, this is a very important book.

      Review: Goddess of the Market, by Jennifer Burns - The Objective Standard

      Apr 01, Justin Evans rated it really liked it Shelves: history-etc. It can't be easy trying to write an objective biography of the 'founder' of objectivism, in part because it's like writing an objective biography of Marx: no matter how good it is, not matter how objective, at least half of its readers will hate it, because they take 'objective' to mean 'with no independent judgement, in either direction. But Burns does a great job. The early chapters are a bit dull, but then I find the opening It can't be easy trying to write an objective biography of the 'founder' of objectivism, in part because it's like writing an objective biography of Marx: no matter how good it is, not matter how objective, at least half of its readers will hate it, because they take 'objective' to mean 'with no independent judgement, in either direction.

      Burns shows how Rand's ideas developed, debunks some of the myths, does a fantastic job showing how she was mixed up in the resurgence of 'American' conservatism in the post-war U. As a special pleasure, she regularly pulls out gems like this: an editor "advised Rand to prune all unnecessary adjectives, a change that would have gutted the novel. Rand did, however, find some of her suggestions useful.

      But the irony is delicious. These moments are rare, and Burns mostly keeps a straight face, but she picks her spots well. Jan 31, Nancy rated it really liked it Shelves: biography. If you had asked me what I thought Ayn Rand was like just after I finished reading Atlas Shrugged at age 16, I never would have come close to describing the person portrayed in this biography.

      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
      Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right

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