Tag Archives | Rand

Agent of Shields

In a recent defense of mandatory national service, establishment media apparatchik Mark Shields writes:

Contrary to Ayn Rand, we all do owe much to each other and to our country. And mandatory two-year national service – civilian or military – is imperative to help us understand the responsibility, as well as the rights, of citizenship and build our connections with our fellow citizens. Two years, with no deferments and no exemptions.

It’s an unintended compliment to Ayn Rand that Shields feels the need to bash her in order to defend slavery.


Éminence Grise

In We the Living, Rand describes a song that was popular in Russia during the early years of the Soviet era:

Historians will write of the “Internationale” as the great anthem of the revolution. But the cities of the revolution had their own hymn. In days to come, the men of Petrograd will remember those years of hunger and struggle and hope – to the convulsive rhythm of “John Gray.” … It was called a fox-trot. It had a tune and a rhythm such as those of the new dances far across the border, abroad. It had very foreign lyrics about a very foreign John Gray …. Its gaiety was sad; its abrupt rhythm was hysterical; its frivolity was a plea, a moan for that which existed somewhere, forever out of reach.

Rand translates the first stanza as follows:

John Gray
Was brave and daring,
Kitty
Was very pretty.
Wildly
John fell in love with
Kitty.
Passion’s
Hard to restrain –
He made
His feelings plain,
But Kat
Said ‘No’ to that!

I’ve long suspected that We the Living’s “John Gray” inspired Atlas Shrugged’s “John Galt” (and likewise that We the Living’s “Café Diggy-Daggy” inspired Atlas’s “Dagny”).

Michael Berliner, in his invaluable article “The Music of We the Living” (in Robert Mayhew’s Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living), tracks down most of the real-life music that Rand refers to in the book. But “John Gray” seems to have eluded him.

In contrast to other cases, he does not identify its composer; he also says that there are “no standard lyrics to this song,” and in evidence he offers some lyrics completely different from those Rand cites:

In a faraway southern land
Where blizzards do not blow
There once was a handsome man
John Gray, the cowboy,
John Gray, strong and rakish
As tall as Hercules
As brave as Don Quixote

But I’ve managed to track down some more info, thanks to the internet and a hazy memory of college Russian, and in fact the song Rand referred to has a known composer, and seems to have canonical lyrics as well; the “cowboy” lyrics, as we’ll see, are a red herring.

The composer is Matvei Blanter (1903-1990), one of the Soviet Union’s most popular composers, who wrote “John Gray” (“Dzhon Grei”) in 1923. And the lyrics, by Vladimir Mass (1896-1979), are the ones Rand cites. Here’s a link to a page with the song’s Russian lyrics, naming Blanter and Mass, followed by a copy of the original sheet music likewise featuring Blanter’s name.

And here’s the song itself:

This is clearly the version Rand discusses. The tune matches her description, and as for the words, one doesn’t need much familiarity with Russian to identify “Kat skazala nyet!

Here are a couple of instrumental versions; the first one does a particularly good job of capturing the “sad gaiety” of which Rand speaks:

(It’s funny how Rand thinks the “John Gray” song sounds so foreign and un-Russian, since to me it sounds utterly Russian, or possibly Russian-Jewish.)

What about the “cowboy” lyrics that Berliner cites? It turns out that they come from a completely different song, with not only different words but different music. The song’s lyrics may mention a “John Gray,” but its title is “In a Far-off Southern Land” (“V Stranye Dalëkoi Yuga”). I haven’t been able to track down any author for the song. But here it is:

As you can see (well, hear), while the two songs have some musical similarity – enough to suggest the possibility of influence (though the direction of influence can’t be determined without knowing the date of “In a Far-off Southern Land”) – the tunes aren’t the same (and to my ear, that of “John Gray” is the more complex and sophisticated of the two).

Well, that’s all.


Kant Unbound!

kant-touch-this

[cross-posted at BHL]

I neglected to post about this while it was actually happening, but I just finished participating in a Cato Unbound exchange on Immanuel Kant’s place in classical liberalism – with digressions on, inter alia, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rand. My interlocutors were a Kantian and two Randians.

Reading it is categorically imperative! Catch the phenomenal action here.


Atlas Shrunk, Part 17: Every Twisted Remnant of Foundations Dug Out

So apparently the makers of the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy are finally admitting that it kind of sucked. And there are some sort of plans afoot to try again.

enright-house-construction

I’d love to see Atlas done right, perhaps as a Netflix series or the like. My chief misgiving is that those behind the potential remake are saying that the chief point of a film adaptation of Atlas should be “to accurately convey and propagate the message.” That makes it sound as though they see Atlas as primarily a propaganda vehicle for Rand’s philosophy.

That’s certainly not how Rand saw her work. As she notes in The Romantic Manifesto:

[S]ince every art work has a theme, it will necessarily convey some conclusion, some “message,” to its audience. But the influence and that “message” are only secondary consequences. Art is not the means to any didactic end. This is the difference between a work of art and a morality play or a propaganda poster.

This doesn’t mean that Rand didn’t hope her fiction would influence people’s philosophical ideas; of course she did. But she was able to achieve that goal only because it wasn’t her principal goal; the persuasive power of her fiction writing comes first and foremost from her artistic vision. To quote Manifesto again:

Let me stress this: my purpose is not the philosophical enlightenment of my readers, it is not the beneficial influence which my novels may have on people, it is not the fact that my novels may help a reader’s intellectual development. All these matters are important, but they are secondary considerations, they are merely consequences and effects, not first causes or prime movers. My purpose, first cause and prime mover is the portrayal of Howard Roark or John Galt or Hank Rearden or Francisco d’Anconia as an end in himself – not as a means to any further end. … The simple truth is that I approach literature as a child does: I write – and read – for the sake of the story.

Likewise, what I most want to see in an adaptation of Atlas – and most missed in the one we were given – is the evocation of the world Rand created, her “sub-creation” in Tolkien’s sense. (That’s why the naturalised dialogue and 21st-century milieu of the movies bugged me so.)

Now I’m not saying, as I’ve heard some others say, that an adaptation of Atlas should drop the philosophy and just focus on the story. The philosophy needs to be there, not because it’s true (after all, it’s only partly so) but because it’s crucial to the story.

I’ve also heard people say that a new film should change Taggart Transcontinental from a railroad to an airline, to make it up to date. Why should it be up to date? Let Atlas be its own distinctive sub-created Hopperesque alternative universe.


Molinari Review 1.1: What Lies Within?

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

The Molinari Institute (the parent organization of the Center for a Stateless Society) is proud to announce the publication of the first issue of our new interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal, the Molinari Review, edited by yours truly, and dedicated to publishing scholarship, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, very broadly understood. (See our original call for papers.)

You can order a copy here:

Print Kindle
Amazon US Amazon US
Amazon UK Amazon UK
CreateSpace Store

It should also be available, now or shortly, on other regional versions of Amazon. And later on it’ll be available from our website as a free PDF download (because copyright restrictions are evil).

mr1-1-coverphaze

So what’s in it?

In “The Right to Privacy Is Tocquevillean, Not Lockean: Why It MattersJulio Rodman argues that traditional libertarian concerns with non-aggression, property rights, and negative liberty fail to capture the nature of our concern with privacy. Drawing on insights from Tocqueville and Foucault, Rodman suggests that privacy is primarily a matter, not of freedom from interference, but of freedom from observation, particularly accusatory observation.

In “Libertarianism and Privilege,” Billy Christmas charges that right-wing libertarians underestimate the extent and significance of harmful relations of privilege in society (including, but not limited to, class and gender privilege) because they misapply their own principles in focusing on proximate coercion to the exclusion of more indirect forms of coercion; but, he argues, broadening the lens of libertarian inquiry reveals that libertarian principles are more powerful tools for the analysis of privilege than privilege theorists generally suppose.

In “Capitalism, Free Enterprise, and Progress: Partners or Adversaries?,” Darian Nayfeld Worden interrogates traditional narratives of the Industrial Revolution. Distinguishing between capitalism (understood as a separation between labour and ownership/management) and free enterprise, Nayfeld Worden maintains that the rise of capitalism historically was in large part the result of a suppression of free enterprise, and that thanks to state intervention, the working-class benefited far less from industrialisation and technological innovation than they might otherwise have done.

In “Turning the Tables: The Pathologies and Unrealized Promise of Libertarianism,” Gus diZerega contends that libertarians misunderstand and misapply their own key concepts, leading them to embrace an atomistic vision of society, and to overvalue the market while undervaluing empathy and democracy. (Look for a reply or two in our next issue.)

Finally, Nathan Goodman reviews Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire, an anthology edited by C. B. Daring, J. Rogue, Deric Shannon, and Abbey Volcano. Goodman praises the book for its illumination of many aspects of the intersection between anarchist tradition and the LGBTQ community, with particular emphasis on the tension between LGBTQ activists who seek to dismantle oppressive institutions and those who merely seek inclusion within them; but in the area of economics, he finds its authors to be too quick to dismiss the free market or to equate it with the prevailing regime of corporatist privilege.

Want to order a copy? See the ordering information above.

Want to contribute an article to an upcoming issue? Head to the journal’s webpage.

Want to support this project financially? Make a donation to the Molinari Institute General Fund.


Purgation Insertion

Just noticed today: the most recent edition of We the Living has something new; at the beginning of chapter I.16, the words “THE PURGE,” previously appearing in ordinary typescript, now appear in handwritten form:

WTL-purge

I’m guessing that the text is in Rand’s handwriting, borrowed from her original manuscript – I can’t imagine they’d do this otherwise. But there’s no announcement or explanation of the change. (Which, alas, is typical of the Randarchs; more drastic changes than this have previously passed in silence, from the deletion of a section of Rand’s introduction to The Fountainhead discussing Frank O’Connor’s painting Man Also Rises, to the deletion of the original ending of Night of January 16th.)


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes