Atlas Shrugged

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Atlas Shrugged  

First edition cover.
Author Ayn Rand
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Philosophical novel
Publisher Random House
Publication date 10 October 1957
Media type print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 1368 (depending on edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-394-41576-0 (hardback edition)

Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the United States. It was Rand's fourth, longest, and last novel. Afterward, she completed only non-fiction works, concentrating on philosophy, politics, and cultural criticism.

Rand believed Atlas Shrugged, at over 1000 pages in length, to be her magnum opus.[1] The book explores a number of philosophical themes that Rand would subsequently develop into the philosophy of Objectivism.[2][3] It centers on the decline of Western civilization, and Rand described it as demonstrating the theme of "the role of man's mind in existence." In doing so it expresses many facets of Rand's philosophy, such as the advocacy of reason, individualism, the market economy and the failure of government.

As indicated by its original working title The Strike, the plot device is a general strike by leading industrialists and businessmen, led by the protagonist John Galt.


[edit] Philosophy and writing

The theme of Atlas Shrugged is the role of the mind in man's life and, consequently, the presentation of a new morality: the morality of rational self-interest.[4]

The main crux of the book surrounds the decision of the "men of the mind" to go on strike, refusing to contribute their inventions, art, business leadership, scientific research, or new ideas of any kind to the rest of the world, as long as those contributions were subject to the government's control. Each man of ability eventually reasons (or is convinced) that society hampers him with restrictive, burdensome obstacles and manipulates his contributions to the world, confiscating the profits and sullying the reputation he has rightfully earned. The peaceful cohesiveness of the world begins to disintegrate as the government exerts more and more control and men of ability are forced out of business or simply choose to disappear. Society loses those individuals whose mental effort allows it to continue functioning. The strikers believe that they are crucial to a government that exploits them, denying them freedom or failing to acknowledge their right to self-interest, and the gradual collapse of civilization is triggered by their strike. This is not to say that they believed that giving the creators their due would cost civilization; rather, the strikers believe that the current irrational altruist/collectivist culture impeded them and therefore the rest of society as well. Thus it would serve no one's interest to continue to allow himself to be exploited, although the strike is not primarily motivated by the harm the current state of society does to others as well.

The novel's title is a reference to the mythical Greek titan Atlas, who was described as holding the celestial globe on his shoulders. In the novel, the mythological allusion comes during a conversation between two protagonists, Francisco d'Anconia and Hank Rearden, near the end of part two, chapter three, where Francisco (convincing Rearden that he is under-appreciated) tells Rearden that if he could suggest to Atlas that he do one thing, it would be to shrug.

This plot expresses Ayn Rand's beliefs in regards to multiple facets of her philosophy. The collapse of society when the "men of the mind" go on strike in response to their exploitation presents Ayn Rand's belief in the necessity to human life of reason, independent-mindedness, individualism, individual rights, and the market economy.

In the world of Atlas Shrugged, society stagnates when independent productive achievers began to be socially demonized and even punished for their accomplishments, even though society had been far more healthy and prosperous by allowing, encouraging and rewarding self-reliance and individual achievement. Independence and personal happiness flourished to the extent that people were free, and achievement was rewarded to the extent that individual ownership of private property was strictly respected. The hero, John Galt, lives a life of laissez-faire capitalism as the only way to live consistently with his beliefs.

In addition to the plot's more obvious statements about the significance of industrialists and mental work to society, this explicit conflict is used by Rand to draw wider philosophical conclusions, both implicit in the plot and via the characters' own statements. Positions are expressed on a variety of topics, including sex, politics, friendship, charity, childhood, and many others. Part of this is the theme that its broad array of ideas are in fact interrelated by their basic philosophy, and the significance of ideas to society and to one's life.

Atlas Shrugged portrays fascism, socialism and communism – any form of state intervention in society – as systemically and fatally flawed. Rand said that it is not a fundamentally political book, but that the politics portrayed in the novel are a result of her attempt to display her image of the ideal person and the individual mind's position and value in society.[5]

Rand argues that independence and individual achievement enable society to survive and thrive, and should be embraced. But this requires a "rational" moral code. She argues that, over time, coerced self-sacrifice causes any society to self-destruct.

Similarly, Rand rejects faith (that "short-cut to knowledge," she writes in the novel, which in fact is only a "short-circuit" destroying knowledge), along with any sort of a god or higher being. Rand urges the rejection of anything claiming "authority" over one's own mind - apart from the absolute of existence itself. The book positions itself against religion specifically, often directly within the characters' dialogue.

[edit] Setting

Exactly when Atlas Shrugged is meant to take place is kept deliberately vague. There are many early 20th century technologies available, but the political situation is clearly quite different from actual history.

In fact, the regime depicted in the book – unlike the Soviet regime which was the background of We the Living – is not formally "socialist" at all. It does not resort to outright nationalizations of private property: when Hank Rearden confronts the government bureaucrats with "Why don't you take over my mills and be done with it", they react with "a jolt of genuine horror" and cries of "Oh no!" "We wouldn't think of it!" and "We stand for free enterprise!" Instead, the regime passes restrictive laws which allow the takeover of the enterprises of the producers. The regime then installs its own choice to run that enterprise.

The regime's kind of interference with and regulation of economic life are in fact reminiscent of those instituted through President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" – of which Rand strongly disapproved. The Washington bureaucrats depicted in the book are similar to those with which Ellsworth Toohey is involved in the later parts of The Fountainhead – which are explicitly set in the later 1930s, under Roosevelt's New Deal administration.

This is in line with an excerpt from a 1964 interview with Playboy magazine in which Rand states "What we have today is not a capitalist society, but a mixed economy – that is, a mixture of freedom and controls, which, by the presently dominant trend, is moving toward dictatorship. The action in Atlas Shrugged takes place at a time when society has reached the stage of dictatorship. When and if this happens, that will be the time to go on strike, but not until then," thus implying that her novel takes place at some point in the future. The concept of societal stagnation in the wake of collectivist systems is central to the plot of another of Rand's works, Anthem.

The "mixed economy" of the book's present is often contrasted with the "pure" capitalism of 19th century America, wistfully recalled as a lost Golden Age personified in the larger-than-life character of Nathaniel Taggart, founder of the Taggart dynasty.

In Atlas Shrugged, all countries outside the US have become – or are becoming throughout the course of the novel – "People's States," which survive mainly through aid given by the United States. Unlike the United States, these do resort to outright nationalizations – though in at least one case, that of Argentina and Chile, such "nationalizations" are explicitly shown to be a cynical ploy for transferring the seized assets to the hands of an American looter-capitalist (Orren Boyle).

Rand conceived the book and started writing it at the time when the US implemented the Marshall Plan and sent extensive aid to European countries, many of which – while opposed to the Soviet Union – implemented Socialist or Social-Democratic policies of one kind or another. Specifically, a major beneficiary of American aid was Britain under the Attlee Government, which implemented more clearly Socialist policies than any other British Labour Party cabinet, carried out significant nationalizations and instituted the Welfare State. (A minor character in the book, Gilbert Keith-Worthing, is a British novelist who comes to the US and urges his American hosts to nationalize their country's railways.)

While many countries in the world are mentioned in passing, there is no mention of the Soviet Union and no reference to World War II or the Cold War – at its height at the time of writing. Nor is there any mention of other countries under Communist rule at the time of writing and their relation to the America of the book – with the possible exception of a reference to American aid sent to "The People's State of Germany," suggesting that Germany was never split apart or had been united under Communist rule at some time before the book's action takes place.

There are many examples of early 20th century technology in Atlas Shrugged, but no post-war advances such as nuclear weapons or computers. Jet planes are mentioned briefly as being a relatively new technology. Television is a novelty that has yet to assume any cultural significance, while radio broadcasts are prominent (in fact, television only makes its first appearance later on in the book, reflecting the fact that television appeared in the fifties; i.e., during the ten years it took to write the book). Although Rand does not use many of the technological innovations available while she was writing in the book, she introduces some advanced, fictional inventions (e.g., sonic-based weapons of mass destruction, torture devices, as well as static electricity-sourced power plants and a highly advanced strong steel alloy).

Rand's previous work on a proposed (but never realized) screenplay based on the development of the Atomic Bomb, including her interviews of J. Robert Oppenheimer, was utilized in the portrait of Robert Stadler and the novel's depiction of the development of Project X. By this stage in her career, Rand herself knew several leading business figures and economists, and had read several histories of specific industries. In order to do further background research, Rand toured and inspected a number of industrial facilities, such as the Kaiser Steel plant, and even learned to drive the engine of the Twentieth Century Limited Locomotive (and proudly reported that when operating it, "nobody touched a lever except me.")[6]

Most of the action in Atlas Shrugged occurs in the United States. However, there are important events around the world, such as in the People's States of Mexico, Chile, and Argentina, and piracy at sea.

[edit] Plot

The novel's plot is split into three parts. The first two parts, and to some extent the last, follow Dagny Taggart, a no-nonsense railroad executive, and her attempt to keep the company alive despite repeated encroachments by a society moving toward collectivism, altruism, and statism. Throughout the novel, people repeat a platitude Dagny greatly resents: "Who is John Galt?" It is a reflection of their helplessness, as the saying means "Don't ask important questions, because we don't have answers."

The leaders and innovators of industry in the world seem to be disappearing, and the apparent decline of civilization is making it more and more difficult for her to sustain her life-long aspirations of running the trans-continental railroad, which has been in her family for several generations. She deals with other characters who often personify archetypes of what Rand considers the various schools of philosophy for living and working in the world (though they are in most cases often unaware of it).

Some of these are Henry "Hank" Rearden, a self-made businessman of great integrity whose career is hindered by his feelings of obligation toward his wife; Francisco d'Anconia, Dagny's childhood friend, first love, and king of the copper industry, who appears to have become a worthless playboy who is destroying his business; James Taggart, Dagny's brother, president of the railroad, who seems peripherally aware of the troubles facing the company and the country in general, but who almost always makes the most short term and ultimately self-destructive choice; and Dr. Robert Stadler, a Physics professor who was involved with the creation of a "State Science Institute," so that science could be released from the demands of its capitalist sponsors - at the cost of serving the interests of bureaucrats and politics.

As the novel progresses, the myths about the real John Galt, as well as Francisco d'Anconia's actions, increasingly become a reflection of the state of the culture and seem to make more and more sense. Hank and Dagny begin to experience the futility of their attempts to survive in a society that hates them and those like them for their greatness.

Dagny and Hank find the remnants of a motor that turns atmospheric static electricity into kinetic energy, an astounding feat in the light of the physics involved but a useful "literary stretch" that serves the plot; they also find evidence that the minds (the "Atlases") of the world are disappearing because of one particular "destroyer" taking them away. Dagny and Hank deal with the irrationalities and apparent contradictions of their atmosphere, and search for the creator of the motor as well as "the destroyer" who is draining the world of its prime movers, in an effort to secure their ability to live rational lives.

The question "Who is John Galt?" is also answered towards the closing of the novel — John Galt is a man disgusted that non-productive members of society use force (through the law) and guilt to leech from the value created by productive members of society, and furthermore even exalt the qualities of the leeches over the workers and inventors. He made a pledge that he would never live his life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for him, and founded an enclave (Galt's Gulch), separate from the rest of the country, where he and other productive members of society have fled.

[edit] Galt's speech

John Galt's speech is the core of Atlas Shrugged. In it, Galt explains the philosophy of Objectivism. The speech encompasses metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and political ideas. (See main article, Objectivism.)

The speech is very long, spanning 56 pages in one paperback edition (the only interruption occurs after the first paragraph), and appears in the chapter "This is John Galt Speaking" in the third section of the book. (In that edition, the single speech constitutes a full chapter, and the longest chapter in the book at that.)[7] Later in the book, the speech is referred to as being approximately three hours long. In an audiobook version, the speech lasts approximately three hours and forty minutes.

[edit] From The Strike to Atlas Shrugged

In the introduction to the 35th Anniversary edition, Leonard Peikoff writes, "Atlas Shrugged did not become the novel's title until Rand's husband Frank O'Connor made the suggestion in 1956. The working title throughout her writing was The Strike. According to Barbara Branden, the change was made for dramatic reasons––Rand believed that titling the novel “The Strike” would have revealed the mystery element of the novel prematurely.[8]

[edit] Originality

Justin Raimondo observed that there are similarities between Atlas Shrugged and The Driver, written by Garet Garrett in 1922.[9] He reports that The Driver is also about an idealized industrialist who is a transcontinental railway owner, trying to improve the world but fighting against government and socialism. It is unknown whether Rand was familiar with this work, but in "The Driver", the central character is named Henry Galt, whereas in Atlas Shrugged the main character is John Galt. Other important characters in Atlas Shrugged are industrialist Henry Rearden (although he is commonly called "Hank" throughout the novel), and Dagny Taggart, who is vice-president of a transcontinental railway. In "The Driver", at one point, the question is asked "Who is Henry Galt?". In Atlas Shrugged many central and peripheral characters repeatedly ask the question "Who is John Galt?" Whether these were coincidences or an intentional allusion to "The Driver" is not known. Less emphasized by Raimondo are the many profound differences between these stories and their authors' themes.

Rand's literary influences appear to be those she identified herself, notably, Victor Hugo, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Edmond Rostand, and O. Henry.

[edit] Characters



[edit] Social concepts

[edit] Looters and moochers

Rand's heroes must continually fight against the "parasites," "looters" and "moochers" of the society surrounding them.

The looters are those who confiscate others' earnings "at the point of a gun" —often because they are government officials, and thus their demands are backed by the threat of force. Some looters are following the policies of the government, such as the officials who confiscate one state's seed grain to feed the starving citizens of another state; others are exploiting those policies, such as the railroad regulator who illegally sells the railroad's supplies on the side. The common factor is that both use force to take property from the people who produced or earned it, and both are ultimately destructive.

The moochers are those who demand others' earnings on behalf of the needy and those unable to earn themselves. Even as they beg for their help, however, they curse the producers who make that help possible, and are characterized by a hatred of the talented for having the talent they don't possess. Although the moochers seem benign at first glance, they are portrayed as more destructive than the looters—they destroy the productive through guilt, for they, too, make their demands as a matter of moral right, and often motivate the "lawful" looting performed by governments.

Looting and mooching are seen at all levels of the world Atlas Shrugged portrays, from the looting officials Dagny Taggart must work around and the mooching brother Hank Rearden struggles with, to the looting of whole industries by companies like Associated Steel and the mooching demands for foreign aid by the starving countries of Europe. The "Anti-dog-eat-dog" rule, as passed by the National Alliance of Railroads, is an example of this mooching becoming codified into law. "The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule is the logical result of a mixed economy—one in the process of rejecting capitalism. When the government has the power to control and regulate private business, it’s in a position to dispense economic favors."[10]

And one of the novel's heroes, Francisco d'Anconia, indicates the role of "looters" in relation to money itself:

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?... Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or the looters who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil? ... Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into bread you need to survive tomorrow. ... Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values... Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes marked: 'Account Overdrawn.'"[11]

[edit] Sanction of the victim

The Sanction of the victim is defined as "the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of the evil, to accept the role of sacrificial victim for the 'sin' of creating values."

The entire story of Atlas Shrugged can be seen as an answer to the question, what would happen if this sanction were revoked? When Atlas shrugs, relieving himself of the burden of carrying the world, he is revoking his sanction.

The concept may be original in the thinking of Ayn Rand and is foundational to her moral theory. She holds that evil is a parasite on the good and can only exist if the good tolerates it. To quote from Galt's Speech, as presented in the novel: "Evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us," and, "I saw that evil was impotent...and the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it." Morality requires that we do not sanction our own victimhood, Rand claims. In adhering to this concept, Rand assigns virtue to the trait of rational self-interest. However, Rand contends that moral selfishness does not mean a license to do whatever one pleases, guided by whims. It means the exacting discipline of defining and pursuing one's rational self-interest. A code of rational self-interest rejects every form of human sacrifice, whether of oneself to others or of others to oneself.

Throughout Atlas Shrugged, numerous characters admit that there is something wrong with the world but they cannot put their finger on what it is. The concept they cannot grasp is the sanction of the victim. The first person to grasp the concept is John Galt, who vows to stop the motor of the world by getting the creators of the world to withhold their sanction.

We first glimpse the concept in section 121 when Hank Rearden feels he is duty-bound to support his family, despite their hostility towards him.

In section 146 the principle is stated explicitly by Dan Conway: "I suppose somebody's got to be sacrificed. If it turned out to be me, I have no right to complain."

[edit] Social classes

Atlas Shrugged endorses the belief that a society's best hope rests on its adopting a system of pure laissez-faire. John Galt says, "The political system we will build is contained in a single moral premise: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force," and claims that "no rights can exist without the right to translate one’s rights into reality—to think, to work and to keep the results—which means: the right of property." The characters are assessed negatively or positively based on their productive effort (though not necessarily their monetary worth), respect for rights, intellectual honesty, and moral integrity, and this does not necessarily reflect their class backgrounds. Different social classes are represented among both the heroes and the villains of Atlas Shrugged. Among the heroes, John Galt and Hank Rearden are from working class backgrounds, while Dagny Taggart and Francisco d'Anconia are from wealthy families. Among the villains, Fred Kinnan is from a working class background, while James Taggart and Betty Pope are from wealthy families.

Compare: Aristocracy

[edit] Theory of sex

In rejecting the traditional altruistic moral code, Rand also rejects the sexual code that, in her view, is the logical implication of altruism.

Rand introduces a theory of sex in Atlas Shrugged that is based in her broader ethical and psychological theories. Far from being a debasing animal instinct, sex to Rand is the highest celebration of human values, a physical response to intellectual and spiritual values that gives concrete expression to what could otherwise only be experienced in the abstract.

In Atlas Shrugged, characters are sexually attracted to those who embody or seem to embody their values, be they higher or lower values by Rand's standards. Characters who lack clear purpose find sex devoid of meaning. This is illustrated in the contrasting relationships of Hank Rearden with Lillian Rearden and Dagny Taggart, by the relationships of James Taggart with Cherryl Brooks and later with Lillian Rearden, and finally in the relationship between Dagny and John Galt.

Illustrations of this theory are found in:

  • Section 152 – recounts Dagny's relationship with Francisco d'Anconia.
  • Section 161 – recounts Hank and Lillian Rearden's courtship, and Lillian's attitude towards sex.
  • Section 231 – recounts the value for value basis of Dagny's seemingly unconditional love for Rearden

[edit] Companies

[edit] Looter companies vs John Galt's Movement

The companies in Atlas Shrugged are generally divided into two groups: those that are operated by hard working characters who join in John Galt's Movement and those owned by looters and moochers. The first group are usually given the name of the owner, while companies operated by antagonist characters are given impersonal names like Associated Steel.

For example, Hank Rearden's companies are all named after him; Wyatt Oil after Ellis Wyatt; and Taggart Transcontinental and d'Anconia Copper are named after their founders (and, being family-held, their present owners). Nielsen Motors, Hammond Cars and Ayers Music Publishing are also presented as competent. Those who use their own names to name their companies become Strikers, with the minor exception of Mr. Ayers of the Ayers Music Publishing Company.

On the other hand, names which convey a sense of a collective, impersonal entity are those of looter companies: Orren Boyle named his government-dependent, influence-peddling company "Associated Steel." Another example is Mr. Mowen's "Amalgamated Switch and Signal Company, Inc."

Two companies' names seem to belong to neither category:

  • The name of the Phoenix-Durango Railroad - run by a competent entrepreneur who becomes a Striker in his own way without joining the actual Strikers in Galt's Gulch - indicates that it was originally a local, one-line company (linking, presumably, Phoenix, Arizona with Durango, Colorado), which extended its operations in the Southwest US only due to the vacuum left by Jim Taggart's mismanagement of his giant company's lines in that area.
  • The Twentieth Century Motor Company was founded and originally run by Jed Starnes - also a competent entrepreneur. Mismanagement of the Twentieth Century in the hands of Starnes' heirs first seeds the thoughts of a strike in John Galt's mind. Given the fact that events in this company clearly have a symbolic significiance for the world in general, its name might indicate that the company's name shows it to reflect Rand's view on the development of world history during the Twentieth Century. The Starnes heirs are a different breed of "looters" from Jim Taggart, Orren Boyle etc. On the one hand, they sincerely try to implement outspoken socialist principles ("From each according to his ability, to each according to his need") which other looters don't; on the other hand, the Starnes heirs do this with their own factory, left to them by their father, and without asking for any government help - not even when facing complete bankruptcy.

[edit] Comparison with real-life railways

James Jerome Hill (1838– 1916) was known as the Empire Builder and built the Great Northern Railway (U.S.) that is in many ways similar to Taggart Transcontinental; for example, it was constructed entirely privately and profitably in sharp contrast to The Northern Pacific Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad all of which failed in the Panic of 1893. The Great Northern reached Seattle, Washington from St. Paul, Minnesota, crossing the continental divide through Marias Pass, James J Hill's railroad crossed the Rockies at their lowest point, much like the fictional railroad. The Great Northern like the fictional Taggart Transcontinental, also crossed the Mississippi River, through the Stone Arch Bridge (Minneapolis). However St. Paul is not New York, and the Great Northern was not in fact a transcontinental railroad. Many railroad references in the book point to locations on, and equipment operated by, the New York Central Railroad. Its president at the time that "Atlas Shrugged" was published, Robert R. Young, was reputedly a fan of Ayn Rand's work.

[edit] Comparison with real-life railway industry

In actuality, there had never been a US railway company as the one described in the book, maintaining tracks of its own all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Rather, in the United States, the term transcontinental railroad usually refers to a line over the Rocky Mountains between the Midwest and Pacific Ocean, and such companies tend to have the area of the Mississippi River as a transfer point with other companies active in the East.

Taggart Transcontinental in the later part of the book is driven to act in a like manner and rely on other companies for the western part of its traffic; that is, however, an emergency measure which is part of the gradual collapse of the company (and the entire world) and Dagny is far from pleased with the need to resort to it.

By 1957, the date of the book's publication, railways in the USA were facing a decline that had begun in the 1920s. Passengers were increasingly switching to road transport which, unlike the railways, was subject to market competition, developing quickly to the benefit of consumers.[12] Air transport was also growing quickly, with the restrictions of Government intervention and regulation coming later to the aviation industry than to trucking or railroads.[13] (For details, see Amtrak)

[edit] Fictional technology

Because the book centers on industrial capitalism, Ayn Rand mentions many technologies throughout the book. In addition to normal technologies, she introduces several fictional inventions, including refractor rays (Gulch mirage), Rearden Metal, a sonic death ray ("Project X"), motors powered by static electricity, and a sophisticated electrical torture device. The depiction of progress coming in leaps and bounds at the hands of heroic entrepreneurs is similar to Joseph Schumpeter's theory of Creative destruction (expressed in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy).

[edit] Rearden metal

Rearden metal is a fictitious metal alloy invented by Hank Rearden. It is lighter and stronger than traditional steel, and is to steel what steel was to iron. It is described as greenish-blue. Among its ingredients are iron and copper, two metals seldom found together in real-world alloys.

Initially, no one is willing to use Rearden metal due to an unsupported but nonetheless damaging report by the State Science Institute which implies the metal is weak and prone to breaking. The introduction of the metal is seen as potentially damaging to the already established steel industries. Dagny Taggart, regardless of the public opinion, places an order for Rearden metal when she needs rails to rebuild the Rio Norte Line which is in disrepair. Once the metal is proven in the Rio Norte Line, the "looters" seek both to place it on the market for everyone, and to deny it to the industrialists who would make the most profitable use of it. Later, the formula for the metal itself is extorted by way of blackmail from Rearden and dubbed "Miracle Metal". It is noted, by Hank Rearden, that the looters designation "Miracle Metal" is appropriate because they considered any achievement in technology to be mystic, not a product of man's mind.

[edit] Project X

Project X, also known as Project Xylophone, is an invention of the scientists at the State Science Institute, requiring tons of Rearden metal. It is a sonic weapon, capable of destroying everything in a 100-mile radius. The scientists claim that the project will be used to preserve peace and quash rebellion. The mechanism is destroyed towards the end of the book, and emits a sonic pulse that destroys everything within a hundred mile radius, including Cuffy Meigs and Dr. Stadler, as well as half of the Taggart Bridge, which spanned the Mississippi River, and was, effectively, the lifeline of New York City.

[edit] Galt's motor

John Galt invented a new type of electrical apparatus described in the book as a motor. This motor is revolutionary because it uses static electricity from the atmosphere as its main source of energy, requiring only a small amount of conventional fuel to run the conversion mechanism. The motor is described as super-efficient, and capable of revolutionizing the industry of the world. This approximates a perpetual motion machine of the second kind, a machine which spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work (versus conventional heat engines, which convert thermal energy into mechanical work by transferring thermal energy from one reservoir to another). The theory is that the power is drawn from the environment.

The book gives the source as static electricity from the air, and suggests that a new physics was necessary to tap it. Additionally, the motor could be seen as a metaphor for a person who, like Rearden and Dagny, has the ability to convert dispersed energy and resources into useful materials.[citation needed]

Dagny discovers a discarded prototype of the motor, and it is superficially described in section Part 1, Chapter 9. In Part 3, Chapter 1, Dagny learns that Galt is using a working version of the motor to generate electricity for Galt's Gulch.

[edit] Project F

A torture device invented by Dr. Floyd Ferris is introduced towards the end where John Galt is tortured. It consists of having the victim tied to a mattress with electrodes attached to the wrists, the ankles and the hips. Electricity is passed in various combinations (wrist-to-wrist, ankle-to-hip) to inflict pain on the victim. The current being passed through the victim is calculated to cause maximum pain without inflicting any permanent physical damage to the victim, though during a session an irregular heartbeat is quite possible, and death is a risk. Due to the risk, the victim's health is very closely monitored during the session. It is located in a small underground building alongside the State Science Institute.

[edit] Other

Rand also mentioned technologies that were unavailable at the time, but which have since been invented. Examples are voice activated door locks (Gulch power station), palm-activated door locks (Galt's NY lab), and oil from shale.

[edit] Reception

Atlas Shrugged was generally disliked by critics, despite being a popular success[citation needed]. According to a 1991 United States survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged was the book that made most difference in readers' lives after the Bible.[14]

[edit] Early reception

It was reviewed shortly after its publication in 1957 by many major newspapers and magazines. The initial reviews were largely negative, criticizing both the book's literary qualities and its political vision.[15]

[edit] Criticism

In the conservative magazine the National Review, Whittaker Chambers wrote a critical review of Atlas Shrugged, in which he argues against, among other things, the novel's implicit endorsement of atheism whereby "Randian man, like Marxian man is made the center of a godless world."[16] Chambers also wrote that the implicit message of the novel is totalitarian ("To the gas chambers go!"), despite Rand's explicit and consistent advocacy in the novel of political, economic and personal freedom–and despite her own flight from dictatorship as a young woman. The Intellectual Activist's Robert Tracinski published a reply nearly 50 years later, arguing that Chambers did not actually read the novel, as he misspells the names of major characters, and never uses quotations from the novel itself [6].

Former Ayn Rand associate Nathaniel Branden argues that Atlas Shrugged "encourages emotional repression and self-disowning" and that it, along with Rand's other major Objectivist novel, The Fountainhead, contains contradictory messages. Though he notes that the book shows that Rand understood the human need for social interaction, Branden claims that "rarely you find the heroes and heroine talking to each other on a simple, human level without launching into philosophical sermons," which he believes increases the reader's self-alienation. He further criticizes the potential psychological impact of the novel, stating that John Galt's claim that contempt and moral condemnation are appropriate responses to wrongdoing clashes with the recommendations of psychologists, who say that this kind of behavior only causes the wrongdoing to repeat itself.[17] Rand herself, however, would not have regarded a novel as needing to portray such "ordinary" human interaction at all, even if an entire philosophy of life does need to address this.[18] Indeed, since Branden's critique was published, Rand's private journal entries regarding Branden have been released, and they show that, in actuality, Rand herself had warned Branden against such "self-disowning" traits.[19]

[edit] Praise and influence

Howard Dickman of Reader's Digest wrote that the novel had "turned millions of readers on to the ideas of liberty" and said that the book had the important message of the readers' "profound right to be happy."

The libertarian Cato Institute held a joint conference with The Atlas Society, an Objectivist organization, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged.[20]

In a three-month online poll[21][22] of reader selections of the hundred best novels of the twentieth century, administered by publisher Modern Library in 1998, Atlas Shrugged was voted number one, ahead of The Fountainhead (#2), Battlefield Earth (#3), The Lord of the Rings (#4) and To Kill a Mockingbird (#5), while the list chosen by the Modern Library panel of authors and scholars did not include the book.[23] The list was formed on 217,520 votes cast.[24]

The C-SPAN television series American Writers listed Rand as one of twenty-two surveyed figures of American literature, though primarily mentioning The Fountainhead rather than Atlas Shrugged.[25]

Rand's impact on contemporary libertarian thought has been considerable, and it is noteworthy that the title of the leading libertarian magazine, Reason: Free Minds, Free Markets is taken directly from John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, who argues that "a free mind and a free market are corollaries."

Although not an Objectivist, the popular conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh makes frequent positive reference to "Atlas" on his radio program, and former President Ronald Reagan described himself as an "admirer" of Rand in private correspondence written in the 1960s.[26] Conservative Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas cites Atlas Shrugged as among his favorite novels.[27]

For a more complete indication of the influence of the novel and its author, see the article, "Bibliography of work on Objectivism."

[edit] Renewed popularity

In the wake of the late 2000s recession, sales of Atlas Shrugged have sharply increased, according to The Economist magazine and The New York Times. The Economist reported that the fifty-two-year-old novel ranked #33 among's top-selling books on 13 January, 2009 and that its thirty day sales average showed the novel selling three times faster than during the same period of the previous year, outselling even the newly elected Barack Obama's latest title. With an attached sales chart, The Economist reported that sales "spikes" of the book seemed to coincide with the release of economic data. The reason given by Republican Congressman John Campbell was: "People are starting to feel like we’re living through the scenario that happened in [the novel]... We're living in Atlas Shrugged," echoing Stephen Moore in an article published in The Wall Street Journal on 9 January, 2009, titled "Atlas Shrugged From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years." Subsequently, on 2 April, 2009, Atlas Shrugged ranked #15 at Amazon, and they ranked the novel their #1 seller in "Fiction and Literature."[28][29][30][31][32]

[edit] Film adaptation

Atlas Shrugged has been in "development hell" for over 35 years. In 1972, Albert S. Ruddy approached Ayn Rand to produce a cinematic adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. Rand insisted on having final script approval, to which Ruddy would not agree. Consequently the project was shelved.

Rand received other offers and in 1978 Henry and Michael Jaffe negotiated a deal for an eight-hour miniseries on NBC. Michael Jaffe hired screenwriter Sterling Silliphant to adapt the novel and he obtained approval from Rand on the final script. However, in 1979 with Fred Silverman’s rise as president of NBC, the project was scrapped.

Rand, a former Hollywood screenwriter herself, began writing her own screenplay but died in 1982 with only a third of it finished. She left her estate to her student Leonard Peikoff who sold an option to Michael Jaffe and Ed Snider. Peikoff would not approve the script and the deal fell through.

In 1992 investor and Objectivist John Aglialoro bought an option to produce the film, paying Peikoff over $1 million for full creative control.

In 1999, under Aglialoro’s sponsorship, Albert Ruddy negotiated a deal with TNT for a four-hour miniseries but the project was killed after the AOL Time Warner merger. After the TNT deal fell through Howard and Karen Baldwin obtained the rights while running Phillip Anschutz's Crusader Entertainment. The Baldwins left Crusader and formed Baldwin Entertainment Group taking the rights to Atlas Shrugged with them. Michael Burns of Lions Gate approached the Baldwins to fund and distribute Atlas Shrugged. Baldwin Entertainment Group purchased the film rights in 2003.

The film is currently in active development by Baldwin Entertainment Group and Lions Gate Entertainment. A two-part draft screenplay written by James V. Hart was developed into a 127-page screenplay by writer-director Randall Wallace.[33]

Angelina Jolie has been confirmed to play the role of Dagny Taggart, and there are discussions with Russell Crowe to play the part of Hank Rearden.[34] Brad Pitt is rumored to be cast in a yet unspecified role. Both Jolie and Pitt are fans of Rand's works.[35] The role of the mysterious John Galt is likely to be played by an unknown.[34] Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog) had been confirmed to direct,[36] but as of June 18, 2008 is no longer attached to the project.[37] Lions Gate Entertainment picked up worldwide distribution rights. The film was expected to be released in 2011.

Jolie's 2008 pregnancy and Perelman's departure has cast the project into doubt.[38] As of November 2008, the Internet Movie Database lists the film's development status as "unknown".[37]

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Rand, Ayn. Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman. (1997) Dutton. ISBN 0525943706 p.704 Harriman quotes from a 1961 interview in which Rand says, "Atlas Shrugged was the climax and completion of the goal I had set for myself at the age of nine. It expressed everything that I wanted of fiction writing."
  2. ^ Michael Shermer. The Mind of the Market. (2008). Times Books. ISBN 0805078320, p. XX
  3. ^ "Scandals lead execs to 'Atlas Shrugged'" USA Today, September 23, 2002
  4. ^ Rand, Ayn. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. (1986) Signet. ISBN 0451147952 p.150
  5. ^ Peikoff, Leonard. "Introduction to the 35th Anniversary Edition," in Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1996/1957) Signet. ISBN 0-451-19114-5 p. 6-8.
  6. ^ David Harriman, edit.,Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 311-344, pp. 566-578, 617; Michael Berliner, edit., Letters of Ayn Rand, pp. 311,378, 381-383, and 457-459, and "letter to Isabel Paterson," Feb. 7, 1948, pp.188-193.
  7. ^ Atlas Shrugged, Centennial Edition, Signet, 1992.
  8. ^ Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand, Doubleday, 1984, p. 291.
  9. ^ Raimondo, Justin. Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, Center for Libertarian Studies (1993), ISBN 1883959004
  10. ^
  11. ^ Atlas Shrugged, p. 410-413
  12. ^ Milton & Rose Friedman, Free to Choose, 1980, University of Chicago Press, p193
  13. ^ Milton & Rose Friedman, Free to Choose, 1980, University of Chicago Press, p200
  14. ^ Michael Shermer. The Mind of the Market. (2008). Times Books. ISBN 0805078320, p. XX
  15. ^ See, retrieved August 9, 2006, for a list of reviews and bibliographical information.
  16. ^ Chambers, Whittaker. "Big Sister Is Watching You." National Review. December 28, 1957.
  17. ^ Branden, Nathaniel. "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand: A Personal Statement". 1984.
  18. ^ Rand, Ayn, Romantic Manifesto, Revised Edition, p. 26
  19. ^ James Valliant, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics (2005) Durban House.
  20. ^ "Cato Events: Hundreds Gather to Celebrate Atlas Shrugged". Cato Policy Report. November/December 1997.
  21. ^ Subject of article: Headlam, Bruce. "Forget Joyce; Bring on Ayn Rand." The New York Times July 30, 1998, G4 (Late Edition, East Coast).
  22. ^ Subject of article: Yardley, Jonathan. "The Voice of the People Speaks. Too Bad It Doesn't Have Much to Say." The Washington Post August 10, 1998, D2 (Final Edition). Retrieved from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  23. ^ "100 Best Novels". Retrieved June 20, 2006.
  24. ^ "100 Best"
  25. ^ C-SPAN American Writers: Ayn Rand
  26. ^ Skinner, Anderson and Anderson, Reagan: a Life in Letters (2003) New York: Free Press, pp.281-282.
  27. ^ Bidinotto, Robert James. "Celebrity 'Rand Fans' – Clarence Thomas". Retrieved May 26, 2006
  28. ^ [1] The New York 3/9/09. Retrieved March 9, 2009
  29. ^ [2] The Economist, 2/26/09. Retrieved March 9, 2009
  30. ^ [3] WSJ Online, 1/9/09. Retrieved March 9, 2009
  31. ^ [4] The Washington 3/4/09. Retrieved March 9, 2009
  32. ^ [5] "" 3/15/09. Retrieved April 2, 2009
  33. ^ Fleming, Michael (2007-09-04). "Vadim Perelman to direct 'Atlas'". Variety. Retrieved on 2007-09-19. 
  34. ^ a b John Aglialoro on the Atlas Shrugged Movie
  35. ^ McClintock, Pamela (2006-04-26). "Lionsgate shrugging". Variety. Retrieved on 2007-09-19. 
  36. ^ Bansal, Shaveta (2008-09-06). "Vadim Perelman To Rewrite And Direct "Atlas Shrugged"". All Headline News. Retrieved on 2007-09-19. 
  37. ^ a b Atlas Shrugged at the Internet Movie Database
  38. ^ Jolie Fears She's Missed Out On Atlas Film With Pitt,

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Publications

[edit] Foreign language translations

  • Chinese:阿特拉斯耸耸肩, 2 vol., published by Chongqing Publishing Group, October 2007, ISBN 9787536686397, Translator: 扬格.
  • Dutch: Atlas in Staking, published by the "De Boekenmaker",, tel: +31-75-61471772 (Krommenie, 2006).
  • French: La révolte d'Atlas, 2 vol. (Paris 1958 et 1959, Editions Jeheber)
  • German: Wer ist John Galt? (Hamburg, Germany: GEWIS Verlag), ISBN 3-932564-03-0.
  • Italian: La rivolta di Atlante, 3 vol. (Milano, Corbaccio, 2007), ISBN 88-797-2863-6, 88-797-2878-4, 88-797-2881-4. Translator: Laura Grimaldi
  • Japanese: 肩をすくめるアトラス  (ビジネス社), ISBN 4-8284-1149-6. Translator: 脇坂 あゆみ.
  • Norwegian: De som beveger verden. (Kagge Forlag, 2000), ISBN 82-489-0083-5 (hardcover), ISBN 82-489-0169-6 (paperback). Translator: John Erik Bøe Lindgren.
  • Polish: Atlas Zbuntowany (Zysk i S-ka, 2004), ISBN 83-7150-969-3 (hardcover). Translator: Iwona Michałowska.
  • Portuguese: Quem é John Galt? (Editora Expressão e Cultura), ISBN 85-208-0248-6 (paperback). Translator: Paulo Henriques Britto.
  • Russian: Атлант расправил плечи (Издательство Альпина Бизнес Букс, 2007 г.), ISBN 978-5-9614-0603-0. Translator: Ю.Соколов, В.Вебер, Д.Вознякевич.

[edit] External links

[edit] Reviews

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