Ayn Rand or the Passion for Rational Selfishness
Number of pages
In the current political climate, Ayn Rand has again become an important figure. She is praised or criticized, adored or reviled by those who have read and understood her positions, as well as by those who have not. In Ayn Rand or the Passion for Rational Selfishness, Alain Laurent presents an intellectual biography of the controversial philosopher, playwright, and novelist and provides an opportunity for both camps to take a closer look at their own views. Laurent traces the emergence of Rand's thought from her childhood in Russia to the end of her life in the United States.
Twenty-one-year-old Ayn Rand, then called Alisa Rosenbaum, emigrated to the United States from her birthplace in Russia, having witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution and the arrival of Stalinism. Her mind was occupied with the ideas that would become the foundation of her later works and thought. Her path to making her views public was unusual: a longtime fascination with film drew her to Hollywood, where, thanks to a chance encounter with Cecil B. DeMille, she found work. She became a scriptwriter and worked as a film extra and did other odd jobs to make ends meet. The success of her play, Night of January 16th, allowed her to concentrate on her own writing.
Rand's famous ode to individualism, the novel The Fountainhead, was an instant success—a counterpoint to the populist wave sweeping the country with the New Deal. To accompany the book she wrote a work of nonfiction called The Moral Basis of Individualism, which postulated that capitalism was the material expression of the moral law of individualism. Rand, although greatly inspired by Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Kant, was an independent thinker. Laurent recounts the circumstances and inspiration surrounding the creation of Rand's oeuvre, as well as the parallel political and intellectual engagements in which she participated. Laurent is a co-founder of the Ayn Rand Society, and although he is clearly an admirer of Rand, he provides a solid base for considering her views.
Alain Laurent : Alain Laurent is a philosopher and the author of a number of books, including De l’individualisme (PUF, 1985), L’individualsime méthodologique (PUF, 1994), and works on libertarianism, including Le libéralisme américain, histoire d’un détournement (Les Belles Lettres, 2006) and La société ouverte et ses nouveux ennemis (Les Belles Lettres, 2009). He is the co-founder of the French Ayn Rand Society and the publisher of Le nouvel individualiste, a revue modeled on The New Individualist.