Rand, Ayn

orig. Alice Rosenbaum or Alissa Rosenbaum

born Feb. 2, 1905, St. Petersburg, Russia
died March 6, 1982, New York, N.Y., U.S.

Russian-born U.S. writer.

She immigrated to the U.S. in 1926 after graduating from the University of Petrograd and worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood. She won a cult following with two best-selling novels presenting her belief that all real achievement comes from individual ability and effort, that laissez-faire capitalism is most congenial to the exercise of talent, and that selfishness is a virtue, altruism a vice. In The Fountainhead (1943), a superior individual transcends traditionalism and conformism. The allegorical Atlas Shrugged (1957) combines science fiction with her political message. She expounded her philosophy, which she called objectivism, in nonfiction works and as editor of two journals and became an icon of radical libertarianism.

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▪ American author
born Feb. 2, 1905, St. Petersburg, Russia
died March 6, 1982, New York, N.Y., U.S.

      Russian-born American writer who, in commercially successful novels, presented her philosophy of objectivism, essentially reversing the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic.

      Rand graduated from the University of Petrograd in 1924 and two years later immigrated to the United States. She initially worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and in 1931 became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Her first novel, We, the Living, was published in 1936. The Fountainhead (1943), her first best-selling novel, depicts a highly romanticized architect-hero, a superior individual whose egoism and genius prevail over timid traditionalism and social conformism. The allegorical Atlas Shrugged (1957), another best-seller, combines science fiction and political message in telling of an anticollectivist strike called by the management of U.S. big industry, a company of attractive, self-made men.

      The political philosophy of objectivism shaped Rand's work. A deeply conservative philosophy, it posited individual effort and ability as the sole source of all genuine achievement, thereby elevating the pursuit of self-interest to the role of first principle and scorning such notions as altruism and sacrifice for the common good as liberal delusions and even vices. It further held laissez-faire capitalism is most congenial to the exercise of talent. Rand's philosophy underlay her fiction but found more direct expression in her nonfiction, including such works as For the New Intellectual (1961), The Virtue of Selfishness (1965), Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1967), and Philosophy: Who Needs It? (1982). She also promoted her objectivist philosophy in the journals The Objectivist (1962–71) and The Ayn Rand Letter (1971–76).

      Rand's controversial views attracted a faithful audience of admirers and followers. She was working on an adaptation of Atlas Shrugged for a television miniseries when she died.

Additional Reading
Rand's correspondence is collected in Letters of Ayn Rand ed. by Michael S. Berliner (1995). Discussions of Rand's life and work include Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand (1986); James T. Baker, Ayn Rand (1987); and Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995).

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Universalium. 2010.

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