ROBERT SHELTON, UTOPIAN STUDIES 8, no. 1 (1997)
In a review essay examining Sciabarra's book, as well as the 50th anniversary edition of Anthem, Shelton recognizes the movement toward scholarship on Rand. Yet, while these books seek to provide a scholarly take on Rand, they say little about her popular appeal, something he views as a "mistake." Still, Sciabarra's book remains the only one on Rand listed in recent editions of the MLA Bibliography. Shelton examines "Sciabarra's oddly titled" book -- "what makes her 'the' Russian radical?" -- and argues that "on the more general, histori-cultural level," Russian Radical "works fairly well." But he finds it "less convincing" in its attempts to link the foundations of Objectivism to Rand's brief philosophical education. He laments the fact that Sciabarra pays little attention to the influence of Rand's Hollywood experiences on her development.
Shelton praises Sciabarra's attempts to understand Rand as a contributor to twentieth-century radical thought. He finds Sciabarra's discussion of the Objectivist view of monopoly and the Federal Reserve Bank "clear and interesting," but regrets that the author did not discuss the "irony of Alan Greenspan becoming the head" of the Federal Reserve Board. Overall, Shelton sees the "major problem" with the book to be this: "at any point where the discussion can be made more culturally relevant or more academically recondite, it takes the latter, less interesting path."
Finally, Shelton believes that Sciabarra "slips" in his Introduction. As Shelton sees it, Sciabarra suggests that he wants not to demonstrate the validity of Objectivism, but he demands that the philosophy be "taken seriously and treated with respect." In the manner that we might take The Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf, and the Unabomber Manifesto seriously -- perhaps, says Shelton. "[B]ut with respect?" -- Shelton thinks not.
Robert Shelton, Michigan State University
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