Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rand-om thoughts - 4

Forget about all of the stylistic complaints, the pat ending, the predictability of the plot, the fact that once past page 1000 (in the print I have) one gets the impression that Rand wanted to finish the story.

There are a couple things that need to be said about Part 3.

First is that Rand displays a considerable foresight in her depiction of the collapse of an economy. We have seen it in Russia, in Zimbabwe, it is in many respects an extension of the collapse of the German economy during the 1930’s. The detail might shift – the rise of the crime lords in Russia; the “privatization” of farmland in Zimbabwe; the fascist (but directed so similar in that respect) economy in Germany – and that may well have served as her model. But one has to admire Rand for the picture she paints. Who would have believed that the whole interstate transport system of the US was limited to one rail bridge across the Mississippi? But that is a small carp.

The second is that if Rand had wanted to shorten up the novel, she might have achieved that by leaving out the five separate expositions on Capitalism and Objectivism. They kinda form a book within the book. But again that is a small carp on the detail.

The third thing that really came home needs a step outside of Atlas Shrugged. It is not that long since I read (again, and with some considerable enjoyment) C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. The connection between the two? Lewis’ little novel, the last of the Perelandra series, features the conflict between the natural order (in the form of the planetary spirits or guides) and “the objectivists”. Lewis’ portrayal of the latter is very closely paralleled by Rand’s portrayal of the socialists/communists. Has that coloured my thoughts on Rand and her “objectivist” movement? That is possible. I will sit for a while on that and ponder further. If it is so, then it is a surprise for me as Rand’s philosophy in its broadest sense does connect with some of the outer fringes of my own beliefs.

I have left it to last, but the most interesting thing of all is the series of expositions by the major players – the bits that could perhaps have been left out of the story; the explanations of differing facets of Galt’s (Rand’s) capitalism by the members of Galt’s group, and the forty-odd pages allotted to Galt’s radio broadcast. All of these have been quoted at great length and discussed in even greater detail throughout the blogiverse by any number of devotees and disciples. I have no desire to add to that here.

What does strike me are in fact two minor offshoots.

First is the almost religious zeal of the supporters of Rand and her philosophies. Personally, I would not rate her that highly. I can find nothing in her “teachings” as they exist in Atlas Shrugged that would persuade me to follow her light, any more than Hubbard’s science fiction might convince me that Scientology is the future path of mankind. But there are obviously many – mostly American – who do rate Rand that highly.

The second is recognizing the number of times that Rand’s language and expression comes through the comments and posting of some of the more right wing of the blogiverse. I can not judge whether it is intentional, or purely because the language is “standard American political statement”. If I did not (now) know better, I would have attributed a large part of the expression to the propaganda of McCarthy, The House UnAmerican Activities Committee and similar organs of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s. As I have said, there is nothing that Rand would have taken from any of those sources (or so I am informed) which leaves the question open.

It is mirrored by the black/white nature of debate on the ‘Net. I can not blame Rand for that, it seems to be a fundamental to the American way of things – “My way or the highway” or “You are either with us or against us” if you like.

Finally, and to close this whole thing off, I am disappointed by Atlas Shrugged, given the hype and enthusiasm expressed by many. It is not any of literary significance or quality that is at issue here. It is in part style and content I admit. As I said earlier, there are parts of Rand’s thoughts which form part of my beliefs; there are areas where I could support her ideas. I can not say that Atlas Shrugged has in any persuaded me that she is more right than I. I can not say that I can agree with her philosophy in total by any stretch.

I can not explain that without writing my own philosophy – and that I am not prepared to do at present. It might happen in future.

Not now.


Al said...

Where's the third article? It's either not tagged, the tag isn't working or it's not there. Oh, wait, I can find it. Google, (duh).

I wish I could arrange my life so that I had time for more than just a cursory comment.

And now you've convinced me that I have to read the Perelandra series.

Before I read part 3, I don't think I can say much of importance. I will say that Rand makes much of definitions, and then slops them up a bit.

Something that might help you understand her better is that she considered herself more of an Aristotelian than anything else.

The probligo said...

Al, thanks for pointing out that I had not tagged Part 3 ("Rand-om thoughts - 3). Must fix that.

Actually the "Part 3" I was referring to was actually that part of Atlas Shrugged rather than my third rave.