Vladimir Shlapentokh: How is Elitist Ayn Rand a Tea Party Hero?





[Vladimir Shlapentokh is one of the founders of contemporary Soviet sociology. After emigrating to the United States from the USSR in 1979, he published several dozen books, as well as many articles on various sociological issues in Russian and American societies. His upcoming book (with Joshua Woods) is "Feudal America: The Elements of Middle Ages in Contemporary Society."]

...At tea party rallies, posters and praise single out the usual suspects: Thomas Jefferson, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck. But there’s another person who figures prominently at these rallies, one who serves as the intellectual fountainhead ... Ayn Rand. And that should concern all Americans.

Tea partiers portray themselves as ordinary Americans fed up with an out-of-control, deeply indebted welfare state. Many no doubt see Ms. Rand – the 20th-century writer and philosopher who railed against state power and collectivist thinking in such novels as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” – as a posthumous compatriot.

But by clinging to the superficial commonality of hostility to welfare, tea partiers fail to see (or willfully ignore) something critical: Rand espoused an elitist, oligarchic philosophy that is both fundamentally antiAmerican and deeply at odds with the tea party's own “we the people” cause....

While tea partiers commend Rand as the champion of individualism, they conveniently forget that in her novels, the only people who seemed to benefit from her aim to protect individualism and the unlimited freedom of action were her Nietzschean tycoons. Indeed, Rand was fully indifferent to the workers in her novels, whom she described as primitive beings – “savages” in the words of Atlas’s steel mogul Hank Rearden, arguably one of Rand’s most beloved personages....

We have seen this kind of selective championing of an ideologue before. In the 1960s, Vladimir Lenin was considered by many Russian dissidents to be their ally in the fight for the liberalization of Soviet society, simply because they agreed with one single item in his ideological heritage: his relative tolerance of the differing views of his party comrades.

At the same time, these neo-Leninists ignored the fact that their icon was a constant foe of the free election process and of liberal freedoms, in addition to being the founder of the infamous Soviet Gulag....

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John Pattillo - 3/1/2011

I challenge Mr. Shlapentokh to substantiate this attribution: "Indeed, Rand was fully indifferent to the workers in her novels, whom she described as primitive beings – “savages” in the words of Atlas’s steel mogul Hank Rearden, arguably one of Rand’s most beloved personages".
He will not be able to because neither she nor Hank Rearden ever said it. That makes it a smear.


Erskine Fincher - 10/15/2010

Ayn Rand was an advocate of individual rights for all people. She never claimed that there was a social elite that had the right to violate the rights of others. From the novel, Atlas Shrugged, here is the vow that the inhabitants of Galt's Gulch must take in order to live there:

"I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." [Emphasis added.]

That's plain enough for anyone with basic reading comprehension. Non-elite tea partiers, like myself, are capable of understanding it, even if Mr. Shlapentokh is not.

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