Liberty & Power: Group Blog
AYN RAND'S "OBJECTIVISM" IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE RANDIANS!
That's the profoundly provocative message of L&P colleague Arthur Silber in his essay"Please Do Not Call Me an 'Objectivist'," at the Light of Reason blog. And it's a message with which I find myself largely in agreement.
I say"largely" because I know, deep down, that, in terms of the fundamentals of Ayn Rand's framework, both Arthur and I are certainly in sync with"Objectivism," the name that Rand chose for her philosophy. It is an integrated system of thought—of realism, egoism, individualism, and capitalism—and it irks me that those of us who embrace it may end up forfeiting the"Objectivist" label to those who undermine its essential radicalism. Given the fact that I've been calling myself a"dialectical libertarian" now for about ten years, I suppose I forfeited that label some time ago.
But it is hard to disguise one's disenchantment with what has become of"Objectivism" in an era of increasing US government intervention at home and abroad. Too many of its most visible spokespeople have become apologists for neoconservatism, at war with Rand's radical legacy, which I discuss here, here, and here.
I, myself, have suggested that there might be a developing distinction between"Objectivism" and"Randianism." As I argue here, it is conceivable that future generations will distinguish between"Objectivist" and"Randian" schools of thought, where the"Objectivist" label would designate strict adherence to every detail of Rand's philosophic framework, and"Randian" might designate"of, relating to, or resembling" Rand's philosophic framework. In this instance, one can say that"Randian" is the broader designation, within which"Objectivist" is one possibility.
Rand herself was a bit uncomfortable with those who would have called themselves"Randians" or"Randists"; she wrote that she was"much too conceited to allow such a use of [her] name." On this point, she expressed"sympathy for Karl Marx who, on being told about some outrageous statements made by some Marxists, answered: 'But I am not a Marxist.'" So, she cautioned:"If you agree with some tenets of Objectivism, but disagree with others, do not call yourself an Objectivist; give proper authorship credit for the parts you agree with—and then indulge in any flights of fancy you wish, on your own."
With that advice in mind, I once entertained writing an article entitled"Why I No Longer Consider Myself an Objectivist." I long suspected that if I'd authored such a piece, my critics would have simply retorted:"Whoever said that you ever were an Objectivist?" Indeed, given my self-conscious absorption of lessons from Aristotle, Carl Menger, Herbert Spencer, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, F. A. Hayek, Karl Marx, and Bertell Ollman, among others, I've long been accused of engaging in eclectic"flights of fancy" by the official, orthodox"guardians" of"Objectivism." But since these guardians themselves have become veritable performance artists in their selective re-creation of Rand's philosophy, bracketing out anything of any lasting radical political value that Rand ever uttered, I'd say"Objectivism" is dead. Long dead. We are all Randians now... even if I'm still convinced, on some level, that some of us are better"Objectivists" than others.
Paraphrasing Ayn Rand's conclusion from her essay,"For the New Intellectual," we might say:"There is an ancient slogan that applies to our present position: 'The king is dead—long live the king!' We can say, with the same dedication to the future: 'The Objectivists are dead—long live the Objectivists!'—and then proceed to fulfill the responsibility which that honorable title had once implied."
Reading Arthur's post reminds me of the heavy burden of such a responsibility, especially in an era when human authenticity, dignity, and freedom are at stake, demanding the integrated, radical response that Ayn Rand pioneered.