Who is Ayn Rand? This is the title of one of the books on this most controversial of writers whose books still make the best-seller charts. And this is 50 years after her first — Atlas Shrugged — was published, with millions of readers all over the world deeply influenced by the theories that her over-perfect characters have thrown up.
For most of us who read Ayn Rand’s We The Living, Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and Anthem over and over again in our very impressionable years, it is surely an eye opener to find these books edging out current potboilers on display racks in the leading bookstores. So, who is reading Rand and why? And could some of her tenets be applied to the work lives of corporates today?
Judging by some of the ideas that were thrown up by the small, but extremely select group of individuals who had read, researched and been influenced by Rand’s theory of Objectivism, the author’s ideas continue to strike contemporary and pragmatic notes that could once again form a swathe of influence for the corporate world.
Held last week at the Crossword bookstore, it was a discussion masterminded by Barun Mitra, founder and director of the Liberty Institute, a non-profit, independent public-policy research and educational organisation. The peg? The 50th anniversary celebrations of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
The method used that evening worked marvels, as individuals were called up randomly to share their reactions to Rand’s writings. Possibly the most surprising inputs came from two young students in their teens; guys whom we would never expect to read Rand, leave alone be savvy enough to get up and discuss their anxieties and their beliefs.
The mind went back to my own post-graduate days in USA, when we started reading Ayn Rand because it was the positive thing to do. We also started attending a series of talks to discuss Rand’s philosophy — the Nathaniel Branden lectures. Branden was only 19 when, as a fan, he met Ayn Rand. They went on to develop a nearly two-decade long professional (and also romantic) relationship and Branden actually spearheaded the Objectivist movement for a long time. Today, as a psychotherapist, his writings on self-esteem make a lot of sense for just about everyone.
Ayn Rand was once asked if she could present the essence of Objectivism while standing on one foot. Her answer was:
Metaphysics: Objective Reality;
She then translated those terms into familiar language:
“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” “Man is an end in himself.” “Give me liberty or give me death.”
To Rand, the pursuit of rational self-interest should be the highest moral purpose of life.
Perhaps we need to have a few corporate sessions to discuss these systems of belief. Self-esteem could be top of the charts, along with debate on the fact that money is not the root of all evil. But for this, we need to re-read Atlas Shrugged and also, ask and answer ‘Who is John Galt?’
This article was published in The Telegraph, Calcutta on 24 October 2007. Please read the original article here.