Atlas Shrugged by Ayn RandAtlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged

byAyn RandIntroduction byLeonard Peikoff

Paperback | August 1, 1999

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Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s magnum opus: a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller.

Who is John Galt? When he says that he will stop the motor of the world, is he a destroyer or a liberator? Why does he have to fight his battles not against his enemies but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves?

You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the amazing men and women in this book. You will discover why a productive genius becomes a worthless playboy...why a great steel industrialist is working for his own destruction...why a composer gives up his career on the night of his triumph...why a beautiful woman who runs a transcontinental railroad falls in love with the man she has sworn to kill.

Atlas Shrugged, a modern classic and Rand’s most extensive statement of Objectivism—her groundbreaking philosophy—offers the reader the spectacle of human greatness, depicted with all the poetry and power of one of the twentieth century’s leading artists.
Born February 2, 1905, Ayn Rand published her first novel, We the Living, in 1936. Anthem followed in 1938. It was with the publication of The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) that she achieved her spectacular success. Rand’s unique philosophy, Objectivism, has gained a worldwide audience. The fundamentals of her philosoph...
Title:Atlas ShruggedFormat:PaperbackDimensions:1192 pages, 6 × 9 × 1.8 inPublished:August 1, 1999Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0452011876

ISBN - 13:9780452011878

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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Can I give zero stars please? Honestly, Rand's writing is beyond terrible; and I find her philosophy very reprehensible. It is perfect for an ultra conservative republican in the USA. Definitely skip this book and go for a more subtle, nuanced and artistic written book that deals with issues of capitalism and self determination.
Date published: 2017-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do I bought this a month ago and so happy I did.
Date published: 2017-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant Fantastic alternate history bringing in all the various philosophical, humanities,, and social science disciplines. An intelligent intellectual story that raises many questions.
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book Took me a little while to get through this book due to a busy schedule. When I did complete the book I was amazed and I quite enjoy her views of the world. I am not going to spoil this book by writing a long description about it. All I need to say is that it was a great eye opener, and made me look at the world in a different way. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Neither great philosophy nor literature #plumreview Far too concerned with her politics and philosophical objectivism than crafting a well written novel, Ayn Rand creates nothing but all-too-perfect Supermen and straw men to be mocked and easily cut down.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Philosophy first, story second For anyone who doesn't already know, the main point of the novel was always to demonstrate the philosophy of Objectivism; Rand's notes mention that it elaborates on the points she brought up in The Fountainhead. So with that in mind, it's an excellent story, and you either like the philosophy or hate it; I happen to like it. What's keeping me from giving it 5 stars is just Rand's writing style. Brevity is apparently not a very big part of Objectivism; towards the end of the book, a character delivers a monologue that consumes an entire chapter, and later acknowledges that he had been speaking for three hours straight.
Date published: 2015-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome read! I couldn't put the book down. This is the first book that I read of Ayn Rand and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would highly recommend this to my friends.
Date published: 2015-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Atlas Shrugged The ideas, concepts, and philosophy of the story are different The concepts and philosophy of the story are disturbing. The book is a long, slow read, but one you can't just leave. I was stunned to see so many correlations to what is going on today! I only hope ..."Who is John Galt, now?" Every young adult should be reading this book.
Date published: 2014-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great great book One of the greatest books ever written!
Date published: 2014-07-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Atlas shrugged, so do I What to say? Who is john Galt? I think keeping in mind the time and place it was written and the background of a clearly brilliant author helps to understand the undertones of this novel. I think the readers digest version would have done away with much of the harlequin romance type bits and focused more on the plot which really is timeless...I'm still conflicted as to whether this was a dystopian or utopian fiction...I guess it depends on who's point of view you relate to. I'm glad I read this book but damn I'm glad I'm done...time to go back to some lighter fare for a month or so...but I'm really glad I read it.
Date published: 2014-06-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Still relavant Although sometimes preachy, a good story and still relevant today.
Date published: 2014-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comentário Rand's masterpiece dystopia presents a failing world when liberty and freedom of enterprise are replaced by collectivistic views of "we need to help those in despair" or like "from those according to its ability to those according its need". It is particularly great when the simple views of "we trade because we exchange value" or "I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine" are introduced and confronted with the destroyers. Only man knows what is best for himself. This could not be more up-to-date, when current policies are justified because they are for the good of society. The is book was written in the 40's. Excellent read, not only because of the great story but because of the message and values it conveys.
Date published: 2014-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Book Great book. Ive recommend it to all my friends
Date published: 2013-07-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really made me stop and think I'll be honest, I appreciated this book more for it's philosophical ideas rather than Ayn Rand's writing talent. Which isn't to say that she's not a good writer, although until you get past the first hundred pages or so nothing really happens.
Date published: 2012-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A dose of Distopian Utopia Today I will review the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand first published in 1957. I came to know about this book from the modern librarys top 100 books and it was rated number one by readers. As you know, Atlas is the Greek God who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders and this book discusses a dystopia where how all the smart and hardworking people are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and how all the lazy, unsuccessful “looters” are riding on the coattails of their success. The Atlases of the world are considered cold hearted, calculating, greedy and the looters are portraying themselves as the ones looking out for the goodwill of society. So what will happen if Atlas shrugs? The whole world will fall and crash so in this novel all the minds and the hard workers and the geniuses of the whole world decide to shrug , go on strike and disappear and leave the looters to fend for themselves. I felt that this book is all about defending capitalism to the core; how competition leads to a better society, where a socialist society leads to the loss of ambition and consequently laziness. I do have to say that Ayn takes this idea too far in my opinion since she portrays capitalism as being pure and good all the time. Some of my favorite quotes: - Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where the gun begins - “If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders—what would you tell him to do?” ” To Shrug.” - “Contradictions do not exist”. “Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises”. “You will find that one of them is wrong” - The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence. Man’s mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God. Man’s standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man’s power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith. The purpose of man’s life is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question. - 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 of 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? This book is long, 1000+ pages and not for the faint of heart but REALLY GOOD. I do not agree 100% with the philosophy of it but I highly recommend you read it. I shrug and give it a tow thumbs up
Date published: 2011-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting The size of the book was a little daunting at first but you go through it surprisingly quickly. I was glad I finally got to reading it because it was a very interesting read. Seeing the effects of policy changes on the economy was really cool and a lot of the characters were interesting. Just beware of a 55 page speech! Only part that was a little painful to get through. :)
Date published: 2010-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never mind the objectivism, enjoy the book! This was on the top of my “To Read When I Get Time” list. I was worried the novel would be a delivery system for the philosophy but I was very happy to discover the book was full of fantastic characters and plots and mysteries. There is Galt’s speech and many other such moments, but by that time you are so involved in the novel it doesn’t feel like having a philosophy spoon-fed to you. A great book that still makes you think years after it was written. Read it.
Date published: 2009-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from one those books have to be read in your lifetime! At first I thought my god, look at the size of this! But once I got going, I had a tough time putting it down. I love the characters and the concept of the book. I know that Ayn Rand has her philosophies but the plot is very plausible--especially with what is going on in the world today. Some of the characters are fascinating, and you want to cheer them on, and there are others you wish you could rip out of the book and hit them and tell them how ridiculous they are. I reccommend it as a book that while its long, you will be glad that you did read the 1060 page book, and read such a fantastic story!
Date published: 2009-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very relevant & influential book Rand winds an crisp well-written fictional tale around a unique and forward-thinking philosophy called Objectivism. Set against the background of the Industrial Revolution in 1957, Rand's vivid dipiction of how the capable support the greed of the lazy and incapable is relevant, perhaps not still, but again. A pageturner through every one of the 1000+ pages. Highly recommened.
Date published: 2008-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intense. I read Atlas immediately following The Fountainhead. It set me down the path of deeper philosophical explorations, as well as political. I no longer agree with Objectivism, but nevertheless it's a fine read. It may cause you to think, which never can be a bad thing. Setting aside the philosophy, it's an enjoyable story.
Date published: 2008-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A book you should read... Even if you don't like Ayn Rand Let me start this review by saying that I am not in agreement with everything argued by Ayn Rand, either in this particular book or in general. I am not even certain whether I am in agreement with the majority of her theory, or even with its core thesis. That said, I was quite impressed by "Atlas Shrugged". I read it out of a sense of obligation. Much in the way people eat their broccoli, I read "Atlas Shrugged". I was surprised to find myself enjoying the writing style and the story as well. It didn't follow the normal story flow or conventions and as such I was not able to easily anticipate what would happen next, which was a pleasant surprise for a long-time voracious reader like myself. Furthermore, I was please by the extent to which Rand was willing to let the story explain itself. It took me a long time to realize that the story was in fact set in a slowly decaying future. Part of my confusion had to do with the fact that it is a future imagined more than 50 years ago, and as such is a fairly 'retro' looking future. But even so, Rand's willingness to let the setting slowly unfold and let the reader make assumptions and then find themselves forced to revise them is, in my opinion, one of the books strengths. I am aware that this book engenders strong feelings in people, including people who have never reader the book. A friend of mine felt that it had no subtle elements, that all of the good guys were purely heroic (in the manner that Ayn Rand defines heroism) while all of the bad guys were weak willed and slimy to the point that the page seems to drip when they enter a scene. To be honest, I found that no different than most works of fiction that center around a hero. Certainly the hard literature that wins Booker Prizes and is discussed in book clubs has characters so conflicted that finding the hero is like rolling dice, odds are equal towards anyone being the 'hero'. I like the clarity given by Rand's choice of unambiguous characters. I am also aware that Ayn Rand's attitude toward woman is still infamous. I'm not going to defend this attitude and it is present in the the book. I will say that I didn't find Rand's less than laudable view of women does not weaken her female lead, and does not hurt the book's narrative. I was also impressed with Rand's ability to let the plot simmer. She didn't pull plot points out and stuff them in our mouths until they were properly done. We could see things buildings and multiple fronts, but Rand was patient, only introducing these developments as they became ready. I though her pacing, and her ability to sustain interest and tension through a book this long was extraordinary. The ending is a great mass of winter fog with only an implied sense of closure, which works well given Rand's purpose and the book's thesis. The ending is inconclusive with out being a letdown or feeling like a cop out. This is one of the few really big books out there that I would be willing to sit down and read through again just for fun. As I said in the beginning, I don't know if I agree with her argument, but I quite enjoy her story.
Date published: 2008-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from atlas shrugged An incredibly difficult book to get into, and an even harder book to put down. Rumor has it that there will be a movie of this book released in 2008. Hurry up and read this book before before Hollywood ruins it...and you better start readig it quickly because it is over 1000 pages long. Good Times!
Date published: 2008-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read!! This book is fiction people. I might add a GREAT piece of fiction. It has the power to question everything you know about yourself and the world you live in. It was written with the beauty of pure sight. Yes, it's long, maybe needlessly, but I wouldn't trade a word of it. A book I believe everyone should read!
Date published: 2008-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Literature You'll seldom find a book which has more polarization in the opinions of it than Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Online-forums on the net are filled with reviews that both praise and laud the book, but for different reasons. Opponents of Atlas Shrugged seem to jeer solely at the philosophies presented by author, ignoring the literature altogether. (Its also my personal experience that many who claim to hate the book have not even read it themselves, basing their opinion on online reviews such as this one) Whether or not you agree with the author's views, I feel this is great fiction (and I MUST emphasize the word fiction on this) that has stood the test of time. Enemies of Christianity, philology and oompa-loompas can still enjoy and appreciate the works of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Dahl respectively. While it is a long read, it is also a great read in my opinion and I do suggest everyone pick up a copy of their own to make their own mind up.
Date published: 2007-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from . The first time I came across the mysterious name Ayn Rand was in a coffee shop I used to spend my days in while skipping school. Future philosophers, artists, laborers and drug dealers would swap their wares and play cards over nursed cups of coffee. One pretentious young thing I did not care for was reading a thick doorstop called Atlas Shrugged. I asked her if it was good, she awkwardly quoted Nietzsche, I went back to my card game. The first time I attempted to read Atlas Shrugged, I was travelling through Ireland with my girlfriend and her mother. Despite my desire to shack up in Dublin, read Joyce, stay out late with the locals, and subsist on a diet of haddock and Guinness, the ladies had planned a very strict itinerary. So said, not much time for Ayn. I did manage to make it 300 pages into the book (somewhere between Belfast and County Claire), and didn't feel too bad about putting it down. The story had reached it's apparent end, passing through the normal landmarks of a novel; introduction, plot development, conflict, resolution, climax, dénouement and closure. Dagny had her railroad, Hank had his steel, they both won, and everyone else lost. And they kissed. The End. The superfluous 800 pages tucked in at the end struck me as a somewhat long-winded epilogue, and probably not worth reading at that. Five years later, my general manager told me why his key chain was shaped like a dollar sign. I scoffed. He pointed the last line on the last page of the book. I scoffed. He shrugged. I decided I would have to finish the book. (You know, I've always believed in the old maxim Keep your friends close...) I did not want to enjoy the writing of Ayn Rand. The combination of the first 300 pages of the book I did get through, and the etymology of her pen name convinced me she was a militant capitalist, and a crummy writer. Her name derives from a foreshortening of Aryan and her Rand (pronounced 'rained') typewriter. Her characters are badly disguised vessels for her dialectical arguments against socialism. The commies are always "pudgy", "sweaty", "awkward", "shrill voiced", etc., while the capitalist heroes are rugged, gorgeous, determined and successful. It is long winded and pedantic. But beyond that, the novel investigates a very important relationship that exists between human beings on all levels of society: the very real difference between thinking and doing. This manager friend of mine tried to explain Rand's Objectivism with a metaphor: "If you had a loaf of bread, and someone else did not, you would not gain from giving your food to them, because you would starve, and they would not have earned it". (This rings of the other old maxim, Give me a fish I eat for a day, teach me to fish I eat for years) I, Satan's socialist advocate, asked "If I had more bread than I could ever eat, is it better to give it away (despite no lesson learned,) or to keep it as a matter of principle?" And in that question is the crux of Ayn's distopia. In Shrugged, there is superfluous wealth, but the question as to how to redistribute it never arises. Redistribution is an evil, not to be suffered by those who have created wealth. It is to be suffered by those who were not strong enough, not smart enough, not determined enough to become wealthy. Why? Because, as happens in most businesses today, those who work hard and intelligently within a group of peers will always be singled out and expected to carry more of the burden than their co-workers, simply because they can. The message in Shrugged is that a comunist society (in reality, not on paper,) rewards hard work with more hard work, while those who are lazy are asked for less. How often have I imposed duties upon the person in my team who I know can rise to the job, while the rest maintain the status quo? (I'm not proud.) When too many hard-working, intelligent people are asked to do too much for too little, there will be revolt. I see many employees come and go because they are lazy or can't keep up; I see fewer (but still an alarming amount,) go because they realize they are being taken advantage of. They usually go on to start their own companies, or skip a few steps up another corporate ladder to a position worthy of their creativity. If this ability to promote (and be promoted) were sufficiently curtailed, as it is in Shrugged, we might see Ayn's philosophy, perhaps even her dystopia, come to light. So, finally, I see the allure this book has to dis-disillusioned teenagers; at the naive age of sixteen, every youth believes that they are right, the rest of the world is wrong, and that Objectivism supports their belief. I look back on the black-clad philosophers in the Second Cup I used to haunt and smile, knowing what only reality, and perhaps a 1,100 page book, can teach you: There is no substitute, nor preparation, for hard work.
Date published: 2007-09-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Excellent Door Stopper! I didn't like this novel at all...I know some individuals see this as the Bible of Western canon and that self interest can give you the greatest success, but it's basically a guide to Fascism written by a warped mind derived from Communism, seeking the exact opposite...thus it creates Objectivism, a strange philosophy about individualism. The interpretation of women in this novel is sickening, and it's riddled with flawed logic with a twisted agenda. You don't need to read this. Basically, believe you're an elitist and that emotion is a weakness and intelligence is the pinnacle of existence. That's what this novel is about in twelve hundred pages, blended with Rand's capitalistic ideology. If you do choose to read it, as I did; you'll find that John Galt's ridiculously long speech is an excellent cure for insomnia, and if you're ever freezing to death....this book should be the first to burn. A threat to democracy, and Hitler would have enjoyed it. Open your mind, don't close it.
Date published: 2007-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take it as it is. I'm not going to go into a long rendition about how spectacular this book is, on the review page of a website. It would do neither your judgement, nor the book (which I've read 3 times,) justice. I would simply like to tell you this: If you do read it, which I would suggest, don't consider anything you've heard about Ayn Rand anywhere else. Read the book for what it is, and take the ideas/dialogue as they are in the context of the plot, which is how one should approach a fiction novel filled with ideas. After you have read it, then I suggest that you, if you like, consider how the ideas presented in the book might be relevant to your life. I'm confident that if one judges the story itself independently, one will appreciate it as the compelling, throught-provoking, masterpiece that I believe it is. It has influenced my life, and it's one's own job to see whether or not it will influence theirs.
Date published: 2006-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A life-altering book I have never read a more riveting book nor one that has affected me as much. The search for perfection in ourselves, the pride in creating...this book makes you yearn for a life that is pure and unadulterated. All her books are excellent, but I will never forget the opening line of Ayn Rand....and her great character, John Galt!
Date published: 2005-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Daunting Feats of Man This is great. This is the epitomy of non-fiction at its finest!!! Words cannot describe the beauty woven into these words. It makes Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol look like a haiku written by a demented 2 year old!!! FIVE STARS!!!!! WWWWOOOOOOO!!!!!
Date published: 2005-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A book for the worthy intellectual Ayn Rand's masterpiece is disliked only by those unintelligent enough to grasp her controversial philosophy. Though this novel presents her idea of 'objectivism', its uses well developed characters and plot to convey her ideas without boring the reader. This is a great novel for any student wishing to find direction in life, as well as a great novel for anyone who desires to enjoy some terrific sexual fantasies balanced with intelligently interwoven characters. The political and industrial concepts involved in this book are well described and easy for any beginner. Upon finishing this novel, any first time Rand reader will have a new perspective on thought and human ability.
Date published: 2004-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from kevin thought I read Atlas Shrugged about 10-15 years ago. I never forgot it. Then life got in the way and reading became secondary. I swore to myself that if (when) I picked up a book again it would be written by Ayn Rand. It was. It was the Fountainhead. And once again I am content.
Date published: 2004-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Atlas ''Amazing'' Atlas Shrugged is the most amazing book that I've ever read. I've read it so many times that the books is literally falling apart. I own 2 copies of the hardcover version and have just purchased a new paperback. Atlas Shrugged is the book that has affected my life the most. It can make me feel very angry or very happy, depending on what is happening in my life at the time I read it. ''I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for mine'' is my life motto. I have a family and I work - but I do it for me. The sign of the dollar is a symbol of all that is good and all that can be accomplished. I think one of the things that I liked most about this book is the fact that Dagny Taggart succeeds in a man's world doing a man's job . John Galt's speech is powerful and the ''Original Sin'' part was what caught me most. I recommend this book every time someone asks about the dollar sign hanging on my neck.
Date published: 2003-09-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ponderous Junk This is a book that takes more than 1000 pages to tell a story that isn't worthy of 300 pages. Some of the "objectivist" rants go on for pages and accomplish little more than restating a silly philosophy that gets repeated over and over and over and over and over.....(yawn). The characters are one dimensional, the philosophy is vigorously anti-religious, and the ideas are born of an - anti-commmunist and captains of industry era - that disappeared long long ago. The most facinating thing is less the book and more the hyperbolic reader reviews that claim "life changing" results, and commonly protray the book as "literature" or "the best book ever written". This is shallow, largely discredited philosophy that is attractive to few but objectivist zealots. Don't waste yout time.
Date published: 2000-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from deja vu There is new relevance in Atlas Shrugged as young intellectual powerhouses bravely take on (and win over) the fusty old economy. This is a definite must-(re)read!
Date published: 2000-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The most important book ever written Ayn Rand's remarkable story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world - and did. Atlas Shrugged is the dramatic concretization of Miss Rand's Objectivist philosophy - an unparalleled defense of reason, individualism and capitalism that represents the climax of more than two thousand years of western thought. Here at last is what men of reason have always sought - a philosophy of life on earth brought to vivid life in one of the most dramatic, suspenseful novels ever written.
Date published: 2000-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant and inspirational Atlas Shrugged is a brilliant and inspirational novel, both a template for an energizing philosophy and a bracing story well told. For readers who believe that they have a right to their own lives, and that they have a right to the product of their own labours, Atlas Shrugged will be one of the greatest stories they ever encounter. Its characters are vivid and its plot dynamic, but the strongest argument in favour of reading A.S. is the power and coherence of its philosophy. Written in the fifties, A.S. is particularly relevant to Canadians, because the events it dramatizes--namely the malignant efforts of a bloated government and the consequence of a 'strike' by the men of ideas--are beginning to have strong parallels to Canada today. This book is worth your time.
Date published: 1999-12-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Atlas Yawned. If you support the idea that the pursuit of self-interest develops greatness in individuals, which in turn fuels the economy and is the essence of morality and love - you will probably love this book. Atlas shrugged devotes more than 1000 pages to the basic philosophy of self interest. The philosophy will appeal to those who like the polarized world of good and evil (good being those who "contribute something" - bad being those who have a lot to say but contribute nothing). If you strongly support this idea the book can be exciting, fast paced and as some say "life changing". The lectures about cigarettes are silly seen in light of the current knowledge of tobbaco and cancer. Today International Corporations and their hired CEO's are the great powers of economic interest in the world. New products are the result of team efforts and the financial return is commonly to the promoters, and financeers, not the inventors. This would be a dangerous world without government environmental protections and health & safety regulations. If the main thesis is that people should enjoy the true value of their personal economic production - few would argue. But the book is Trojan Horse full of bad economics, and outdated and impractical ideas.
Date published: 1999-12-21

Read from the Book

INTRODUCTION Ayn Rand held that art is a “re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments.” By its nature, therefore, a novel (like a statue or a symphony) does not require or tolerate an explanatory preface; it is a self-contained universe, aloof from commentary, beckoning the reader to enter, perceive, respond.Ayn Rand would never have approved of a didactic (or laudatory) introduction to her book, and I have no intention of flouting her wishes. Instead, I am going to give her the floor. I am going to let you in on some of the thinking she did as she was preparing to write  Atlas Shrugged.Before starting a novel, Ayn Rand wrote voluminously in her journals about its theme, plot, and characters. She wrote not for any audience, but strictly for herself—that is, for the clarity of her own understanding. The journals dealing with Atlas Shrugged are powerful examples of her mind in action, confident even when groping, purposeful even when stymied, luminously eloquent even though wholly unedited. These journals are also a fascinating record of the step-by-step birth of an immortal work of art.In due course, all of Ayn Rand’s writings will be published. For this 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged,however, I have selected, as a kind of advance bonus for her fans, four typical journal entries. Let me warn new readers that the passages reveal the plot and will spoil the book for anyone who reads them before knowing the story.As I recall, “Atlas Shrugged” did not become the novel’s title until Miss Rand’s husband made the suggestion in 1956. The working title throughout the writing was “The Strike.”The earliest of Miss Rand’s notes for “The Strike” are dated January 1, 1945, about a year after the publication ofThe Fountainhead.  Naturally enough, the subject on her mind was how to differentiate the present novel from its predecessor.  Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike.This means—a picture of the world with its motor cut off. Show: what, how, why. The specific steps and incidents—in terms of persons, their spirits, motives, psychology and actions—and,  secondarily, proceeding from persons, in terms of history, society and the world.The theme requires: to show who are the prime movers and why, how they function. Who are their enemies and why, what are the motives behind the hatred for and the enslavement of the prime movers; the nature of the obstacles placed in their way, and the reasons for it.This last paragraph is contained entirely in The Fountainhead.  Roark and Toohey are the complete statement of it. Therefore, this is not the direct theme of The Strike—but it is part of the theme and must be kept in mind, stated again (though briefly) to have the theme clear and complete.First question to decide is on whom the emphasis must be placed—on the prime movers, the parasites or the world. The answer is: The world. The story must be primarily a picture of the whole.In this sense, The Strike is to be much more a “social” novel than The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead was about “individualism and collectivism within man’s soul”; it showed the nature and function of the creator and the second-hander. The primary concern there was with Roark and Toohey—showing  what they are. The rest of the characters were variations of the theme of the relation of the ego to others—mixtures of the two extremes, the two poles: Roark and Toohey. The primary concern of the story was the characters, the people as such—their natures. Their relations to each other—which is society, men in relation to men—were secondary, an unavoidable, direct consequence of Roark set against Toohey. But it was not the theme.Now, it is this relation that must be the theme. Therefore, the personal becomes secondary. That is, the personal is necessary only to the extent needed to make the relationships clear. In The Fountainhead I showed that Roark moves the world—that the Keatings feed upon him and hate him for it, while the Tooheys are out consciously to destroy him. But the theme was Roark—not Roark’s relation to the world. Now it will be the relation.In other words, I must show in what concrete, specific way the world is moved by the creators. Exactly how do the second-handers live on the creators. Both in spiritual matters—and (most particularly) in concrete, physical events. (Concentrate on the concrete, physical events—but don’t forget to keep in mind at all times how the physical proceeds from the spiritual.) . . .However, for the purpose of this story, I do not start by showing how the second-handers live on the prime movers in actual, everyday reality—nor do I start by showing a normal world. (That comes in only in necessary retrospect, or flashback, or by implication in the events themselves.) I start with  the fantastic premise of the prime movers going on strike. This is the actual heart and center of the novel. A distinction carefully  to be observed here: I do not set out to glorify the prime mover (that was The Fountainhead). I set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers, and how viciously it treats them. And I show it on a hypothetical case—what happens to the world without them.In The Fountainhead I did not show how desperately the world needed Roark—except by implication. I did show how viciously the world treated him, and why. I showed mainly what he is. It was Roark’s story. This must be the world’s story—in relation to its prime movers. (Almost—the story of a body in relation to its heart—a body dying of anemia.)I don’t show directly what the prime movers do—that’s shown only by implication. I show what happens when they don’t do it. (Through that, you see the picture of what they do, their place and their role.) (This is an important guide for the construction of the story.)In order to work out the story, Ayn Rand had to understand fully why the prime movers allowed the second-handers to live on them—why the creators had not gone on strike throughout history—what errors even the best of them made that kept them in thrall to the worst. Part of the answer is dramatized in the character of Dagny Taggart, the railroad heiress who declares war on the strikers. Here is a note on her psychology, dated April 18, 1946: Her error—and the cause of her refusal to join the strike—is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism—in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn’t really understand them and is generous about it.Over-confidence—in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders—but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they’ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.)On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. . . .The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specificmen. First,  it’s not necessary, the creator’s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being.Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man  (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind(as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely—(immensely and diametrically opposed)—different consequences.Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. . . .Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational  being, who acts according to his nature.)It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the “optimism” about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize—and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wantsthem to be better)—and to be tied to the world by that hope.It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it’s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason . . .) [But] here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes—if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an  immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander.Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can’t—and he shouldn’t even wish to try it—and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can . . . somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for  his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. . . .Now, in Dagny’s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can’t be done. This is her crucial error.This is where she fails.Ayn Rand’s basic purpose as a novelist was to present not villains or even heroes with errors, but the ideal man—the consistent, the fully integrated, the perfect. In Atlas Shrugged, this is John Galt, the towering figure who moves the world and the novel, yet does not appear onstage until Part III. By his nature (and that of the story) Galt is necessarily central to the lives of all the characters. In one note, “Galt’s relation to the others,” dated June 27, 1946, Miss Rand defines succinctly what Galt represents to each of them: For Dagny—the ideal. The answer to her two quests: the man of genius and the man she loves. The first quest is expressed in her search for the inventor of the engine. The second—her growing conviction that she will never be in love . . .For Rearden—the friend. The kind of understanding and appreciation he has always wanted and did not know he wanted (or he thought he had it—he tried to find it in those around him, to get it from his wife, his mother, brother and sister).For Francisco d’Anconia—the aristocrat. The only man who represents a challenge and a stimulant—almost the “proper kind” of audience, worthy of stunning for the sheer joy and color of life.For Danneskjöld—the anchor. The only man who represents land and roots to a restless, reckless wanderer, like the goal of a struggle, the port at the end of a fierce sea-voyage—the only man he can respect.For the Composer—the inspiration and the perfect audience.For the Philosopher—the embodiment of his abstractions.For Father Amadeus—the source of his conflict. The uneasy realization that Galt is the end of his endeavors, the man of virtue, the perfect man—and that his means do not fit this end (and that he is destroying this, his ideal, for the sake of those who are evil).To James Taggart—the eternal threat. The secret dread. The reproach. The guilt (his own guilt). He has no specific tie-in with Galt—but he has that constant, causeless, unnamed, hysterical fear. And he recognizes it when he hears Galt’s broadcast and when he sees Galt in person for the first time.To the Professor—his conscience. The reproach and reminder. The ghost that haunts him through everything he does, without a moment’s peace. The thing that says: “No” to his whole life.Some notes on the above: Rearden’s sister, Stacy, was a minor character later cut from the novel.“Francisco” was spelled “Francesco” in these early years, while Danneskjöld’s first name at this point was Ivar, presumably after Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish “match king,” who was the real-life model of Bjorn Faulkner in Night of January 16th.Father Amadeus was Taggart’s priest, to whom he confessed his sins. The priest was supposed to be a positive character, honestly devoted to the good but practicing consistently the morality of mercy. Miss Rand dropped him, she told me, when she found that it was impossible to make such a character convincing.The Professor is Robert Stadler.

From Our Editors

Atlas was the mythological titan condemned by Zeus to carry the world on his shoulders. Now, we have the other great story of a man threatening to stop the motor of the earth. Ayn Rand’s classic story of the death and rebirth of a man’s soul, Atlas Shrugged, now comes to her loyal fans in paperback.