Tuesday, May 10, 2011

“A thousand pages of ideological fabulism. I had to flog myself to read it.”

Following on my somewhat recent post about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged, here's a clip of William F. Buckley talking to Charlie Rose in 2003. He discusses Rand, her influence, and a negative review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers that Buckley commissioned:

Chambers' review of the novel ran in the Dec. 28, 1957, issue of National Review, and it's well worth reading in full, partly because it's hard to imagine a widely read conservative publication making a case like this today. Here's a piece:
[Karl Marx], too, admired “naked self-interest” (in its time and place), and for much the same reasons as Miss Rand: because, he believed, it cleared away the cobwebs of religion and led to prodigies of industrial and cognate accomplishment.

The overlap is not as incongruous as it looks. Atlas Shrugged can be called a novel only by devaluing the term. It is a massive tract for the times. Its story merely serves Miss Rand to get the customers inside the tent, and as a soapbox for delivering her Message. The Message is the thing. It is, in sum, a forthright philosophic materialism. Upperclassmen might incline to sniff and say that the author has, with vast effort, contrived a simple materialist system, one, intellectually, at about the stage of the oxcart, though without mastering the principle of the wheel. Like any consistent materialism, this one begins by rejecting God, religion, original sin, etc. etc. (This book’s aggressive atheism and rather unbuttoned “higher morality,” which chiefly outrage some readers, are, in fact, secondary ripples, and result inevitably from its underpinning premises.) Thus, Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a godless world.
(via Open Culture)


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