Friday, September 6, 2019

On Ayn Rand’s Marxist Style of Philosophizing

Karl Marx has devoted much of his time in criticizing what he hates, capitalism and the bourgeoisie class, but has very little to say about what he loves, the communist utopia. We don’t find in his writings a description of what the communist utopia will be like: What sort of government will be there? Will there be regular elections? How will power be divided between the judiciary and the government? What kind of lifestyle will the people enjoy?

The same problem is there in the writings of Ayn Rand. Like Marx, she spends lot of her time in criticizing what she hates, past philosophers, collectivists, and altruists, but has nothing to say about what she loves, an objectivist utopia. How will the objectivist utopia function? Her book Atlas Shrugged ends at a point where John Galt (her Nietzschean hero) and his followers have defeated their political rivals—the collectivist government has fallen and the country is in a state of chaos. But what’s next? In the 1100 page book, Rand does not offer a single clue about the steps that Galt will take to stabilize the country and make it a better place.

Her essay, “For the New Intellectuals,” is a 42-page rant against almost every major philosopher in history; she spares no one—from Plato to the Logical Positivists. But she has nothing to say about the process by which one becomes an “objectivist new intellectual.” Rand was ideologically against Marxism, but she has followed the Marxist method of philosophizing which consists of thundering against what you hate and remaining silent on the nature of what you love.


Anonymous said...

Probably a rant, for a comment today. This topic of what exactly would the respective utopias consist of has troubled me, leaving me indecisive where on the political or philosophical spectrum I want to align with. The relativist or pragmatic approaches I'd like to steer clear from, reminding me of ethical cowardice. Though this is irrational. Let's take education. Yesterday I read an article in Front Page Magazine by Jason Hill, a professor I believe and quite obviously a strict conservative thinker, Rand would've been proud of. He argued that public and free education was immoral and unethical to the individual philosophy foundation of the US. In theory, (and as an aside here almost every prophet of individualism and collectivism or those in between, rarely adhered consistently in actual practical life to live on and through the values they were respectively advocating for. The ideal couldn't walk too comfortably in mortal shoes. That of course never disuaded them. Their blinders were on tight. And here lay the clue to their inconsistencies-the intricate psyche humans posses ) In theory then the Rand universe, based on her premise of benevolent human nature through the virtuous selfish gene that would effortlessly spread the good for all, we would have productive, educated, free individuals in a wonderful capitalist system. The details, like infrastructure, defense, judicial, policing,bare necessities. Safety net policies would be charity based. Extremely simplified here. Marx, proceeding from his premise that human nature, not quite malevolent but far from benevolent would benefit from the love and live and share and bleed for your neighbour system. Everything almost free, education, health etc. Both systems in theory work and draw zealous advocates and fancy language arguments.Let's see now how a child from low income household would fare in the education field. No school in the capitalist individualist system. No money. A hierarchy eventually forms. In the Marxists, crowding, most likely bureaucratic indifference or ineptness will produce mediocre education.Still simplifying. Immoral from the capitalist view to demand free stuff A big mess from planned economies at the other extreme. Both systems fail to fully understand their subject: human nature. Where definitions are elusive and matter is contradictory and inconsistent and quite messy. Why I love Dostoevsky. The psyche is too complex to fit in either the capitalist or collectivist box. My other concern with the conservatives is their dogmatic assertion that we are and should be islands. One whole composed of distinct parts is blasphemy for them. If education wasn't free or subsididized academics such as Jason Hill would be living and working in echo chambers with gilded mirrors. I'd still be left in a remote village working the fields. Is that unethical for such advocates? Yes. Then ultimately that means they virtously selfishly prefer echo chambers and no dissent in any view. Critical thinking not necessary in the hall of mirrors. And a vast pool of potential lost. Radians etc, arrogant and delusional. Marxists etc bleeding heart thieves. I'm left being a pragmatist cause human nature defies extremes.

Anoop Verma said...

@ Hermione, good points. I agree that the human psyche is too complex to put in any particular category.