Toby Manhire wrote about the latest Atlas Shrugged movie the other day, and ended on this note:
For all that, the high-priestess of individualism still has a strong following. “Devotees are mostly American,” says the Economist, but Rand remains popular, too, in Britain, Scandinavia and Canada.
And India, where the Rand “craze” has attracted include well-known businesspeople, footballers, and Bollywood stars. “And – perhaps most gratifyingly of all for those who loathe collectivism and prize the verdict of the market,” says the Economist. “Rand’s books outsell Karl Marx’s 16-fold.”
16-fold seems kind of low to me, since Rand is currently in vogue on the right side of the political spectrum, whereas Marx is really only relevant to political and economic historians. But that stat got me thinking that while Ayn Rand disagrees with Marx on economic issues, politically and philosophically she’s basically a Marxist. You could write a long, not-too-boring essay on this, but briefly:
Rand, like Marx, believes that society is dominated by a parasitical bourgeois class, who produce nothing of value themselves. All value is created by a specific group – for Marx it’s the workers, for Rand it’s Objectivists, ie people who endorse her beliefs – and most is then stolen by their oppressors.
The prevailing social and economic conditions will lead to total systemic collapse (although Rand, like Lenin, believed that an unelected ‘revolutionary vanguard’ could hasten this collapse).
The post-collapse utopia will involve a ‘withering away of the state’, which is the ultimate tool of repression.
Rand grew up in St Petersberg/Petrograd/Leningrad/St Petersberg, and studied history at the university after the revolution, so it’s reasonable to assume this involved a considerable amount of Marxist theory. Obviously her economic beliefs were a reaction against the collectivism of the Soviet Union (just as Marx’s were a reaction against the boom and bust capitalism of Victorian England) but politically she seems to have clung onto the basic precepts of Marxism and embedded them into her work.