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AYN RAND:THE RUSSIAN RADICAL

THE 2013 SECOND EDITION

BLOG POST #1RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  THE COVER (12 August 2013)

In the course of the next week, I am marking the publication of the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, offically scheduled for release on "Atlas Shrugged Day", 2 September 2013—though in this home, we have always known that date as my sister's birthday. Nevertheless, more likely than not, the book will be circulating by the end of September or early October.  Published nearly two decades ago, the first edition is actually celebrating its 18th anniversary this month.  Also reaching its 18th birthday, my first book:  Marx, Hayek, and Utopia.  Tomorrow, I'll provide "The Cover Story," and I'll lots to say about both books.

Today, it's just The Cover.  Over the next few days, we'll have the opportunity to explore the differences between the first and second editions of the book.  But the clearest and boldest symbol of difference is the cover.  The 1995 first edition cover design by Steve Kress provided images of Ayn Rand, philosophy Professor N. O. Lossky, and the Peter and Paul Fortress, where, in 1924, the young Ayn Rand (nee Alissa Rosenbaum) lectured on the fortress's history.

Russian Radical 1.0

 

The second edition's cover design is, if you'll pardon the expression, quite a radical departure from the first edition.  Those familiar with Ayn Rand will recall that her original working title for the book that was to become her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, was simply:  "The Strike."  Considering how strikes were customarily tools of organized labor, Rand was engaging in the kind of linguistic subversion that was characteristic of one of her earliest philosophic influences, Friedrich Nietzsche.  Rand would often use words associated with negative connotations, and totally invert their meaning.  Hence, for Rand, there was a "virtue" of selfishness and capitalism was not a system of exploitation, but an "unknown ideal."  Well, in this instance, her working title for Atlas Shrugged was her way of using a word, "Strike", typically associated with worker revolts against "greedy" capitalists.  For Rand (spoiler alert), Atlas Shrugged explores what happens when "the men of the mind" go on strike, when men and women, mostly innovative business leaders, no longer wish to sanction their own victimhood.  The new cover uses the strike imagery in the color scheme of the country to which Rand emigrated in 1926 (the red, white, and blue of the U.S. flag), while also using banners with touches of red (the background of the Soviet flag) and yellow (the color of that flag's "hammer-and-sickle").  Over the next few days, we'll have an opportunity to delve into the back story of how this second edition took form.  Thanks to the design team at Pennsylvania State University Press, today, it's all about the cover!

 

The Second Edition

 

BLOG POST #2RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  THE COVER STORY (13 August 2013)

It was around the second or third week of August 1995, that both Marx, Hayek, and Utopia and Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical made their first appearance, providing the illusion that this author would be the kind of prolific writer who would be publishing two books a week for the rest of his career. (Okay, okay, I didn't do too badly... but still!)

From the very beginning, however, these two books were conceived as part of a trilogy, which would seek to reclaim dialectics ("the art of context-keeping") in the service of a radical libertarian politics.  The scheme of that trilogy came about in the planning stages of my doctoral dissertation in political philosophy, theory, and methodology at New York University, where I earned my Ph.D. under the direction of Marxist scholar, Bertell Ollman.  There have been few scholars on the left or the right who encouraged me in my work on libertarianism as much as did this dear friend and colleague.  "Toward a Radical Critique of Utopianism:  Dialectics and Dualism in the Works of Friedrich Hayek and Karl Marx" was completed and successfully defended with distinction in 1988.  Two parts of that dissertation—those focusing on Marx and Hayek—became the basis of Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, which was readied and planned for publication in 1989-90 by Philosophia Verlag, a West German publishing house that met its extinction around the time that West Germany itself ceased to exist. (The third part of the dissertation, which focused on the work of the great Murray Rothbard, was revised and expanded considerably, and was later incorporated as part of the culminatinating book of my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy":  Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism.)

With the Marx-Hayek book put on hold temporarily, I decied to begin work on what was to become the second part of the trilogy.  And so began the massive historical and methodological research project that eventually became Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.  Rejected by many university presses who dismissed Rand as a figure not worthy of "scholarly" treatment, and by many trade presses who dismissed a book about a "pop" novelist and "philosopher" as being too scholarly, it eventually found a home with Pennsylvania State University Press. With the brilliant guidance of its director Sanford ("Sandy") Thatcher, the book began the process of dragging academia and Rand's "non-academic" Objectivist philosophy "kicking and screaming" into engagement with one another. 

After a wonderful run of seven paperback printings, the book was one of the all-time Penn State Press sales champs.

Then, in 2012, the new director of Penn State Press, Patrick Alexander, had an inspired idea to re-release the book in an expanded second edition.  More on that below.

In the meanwhile, Marx, Hayek, and Utopia finally found its own home at an American university press (the State University of New York Press), and was published officially on 23 August 1995. And though the official date of publication for Russian Radical is listed as 19 June 1995, take it from me:  both books finally made their way from their respective warehouses to my house in the same week of August 1995. It was an odd coincidence, indeed, to have two books come out simultaneously, but it only made the intensive research and writing of the trilogy's finale, Total Freedom (published officially on 2 November 2000), all the more intellectually urgent to me  I knew that the first two books would generate even more questions that could only be answered by re-reading the history of dialectics and providing a definition of it that would make sense in the context of the radical libertarian political project to which I'd been aligned.

In the nearly two decades since the publication of the first two books of my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy," other projects, of course, took up enormous chunks of my time and intellectual energy; in 1999, I co-edited with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand and became a founding co-editor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. I wrote a couple of monographs, scores of articles for books, journals, magazines, and encyclopedias, and was deeply involved in online discussion forums for a long time, until I decided that there were only so many hours in a day, and opted to focus exclusively on my own work done my own way. That included the development of my own blog (Notablog) and a focus on expanding the breadth, depth, and quality of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS).

And so, when I was approached last year by Penn State Press director, Patrick Alexander, to begin a colalborative publishing project with the press, I jumped at the chance; after all, it would allow the editors of JARS to focus 100% of our energy on editorial functions and would give the press control over the business aspects of the journal (design, page proof preparation, additional copyediting, printing, subscription fulfillment, and mailing), which were absorbing endless hours of my time. 

The first Penn State Press issue of the journal, Volume 13, Number 1 (July 2013) was just published (its actually fulfilled in an arrangement with Johns Hopkins University Press), and our year-end edition, scheduled for December 2013, will include nearly double the number of articles as the first.  I would say that we are receiving now a record level of submissions.

But Patrick had other ideas too; he thought it was about time to publish a second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.  I had done very intensive research into Rand's education after my 1995 book was published, and two of the articles documenting my research were actually published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.  So strong was the evidence, in my view, in support of my overall historical thesis that Rand learned from and was heavily exposed to the dialectical methods central to the cultural milieu of that particular place (Russia) and time (pre-and-post revolutionary), that I agreed:  these essays needed to appear in a second edition, where they would get the kind of exposure they deserved.

So our plan was to include these two articles, plus a new "Preface to the Second Edition," which would enable me to situate the work in the larger universe of expanding Rand studies, and in the particular context of my own dialectical-libertarian project.  Soon enough, however, we'd added a third appendix, enabling me to answer a recent critic of my historical research into Rand's education.  And then they gave me the opportunity to tweak the book from cover to cover, updating some of the scholarship, and, along the way, adding a much-expanded section of Chapter 12 ("The Predatory State") dealing with Rand's radical critique of the welfare-warfare state, so relevant to a post-9/11 generation.  The book was re-keyed, the index was expanded, and before too long, an e-book will be in the offing.

Tomorrow, in my next blog post on Russian Radical 2.0, I'll be discussing some of the specific differences between the first and second edition.

 

BLOG POST #3:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 1.0 VERUS 2.0:  WHAT'S DIFFERENT? (14 August 2013)

The 2013 expanded second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical offers a vastly expanded content over its 1995 predecessor.  I have written a "Preface to the Second Edition," which I will publish here tomorrow; I have added three appendices.  The first two are reprints of two essays that previously appeared in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies:  "The Rand Transcript" (1999) and "The Rand Transcript, Revisited" (2005).  A third appendix answers the recent criticisms made by Shoshana Milgram in an essay of hers that was pubished in the second edition of Robert Mayhew's edited collection, Essays on Ayn Rand's "We the Living."  Milgram, who is Rand's newest "authorized" biographer, actually makes the case that Rand did not study with N. O. Lossky, as I've contended, and that Rand herself contended, not only in the private interviews she conducted with Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, but in the only biographical essay published about her in her own lifetime:  "Who is Ayn Rand?" by Barbara Branden, which appears in the 1962 book of the same title.  Needless to say, I provide what I believe is a defense not only of Russian Radical's historical thesis but of the authenticity and integrity of Rand's own recollections.

A comparison of the content of the 1995 first edition of my book to the newly expanded 2013 second edition can be found in the Table of Contents page of my Russian Radical site.

 

BLOG POST #4:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  THE PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION (15 August 2013)

Recently published on the Pennsylvania State University Press site is a sample chapter from the new 2013 second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.  Today, I publish that excerpt here, on Notablog.

Preface to the Second Edition (2013)

Nearly twenty years ago, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical was published. In its wake came much controversy and discussion, which greatly influenced the course of my research in subsequent years. In 1999, I co-edited, with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, part of the Pennsylvania State University Press series on Re-Reading the Canon, which now includes nearly three-dozen volumes, each devoted to a major thinker in the Western philosophic tradition, from Plato and Aristotle to Foucault and Arendt. In that same year, I became a founding co-editor of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a biannual interdisciplinary scholarly journal on Ayn Rand and her times that, in its first twelve volumes, published over 250 articles by over 130 authors. In 2013, the journal began a new collaboration with the Pennsylvania State University Press that will greatly expand its academic visibility and electronic accessibility

It therefore gives me great pleasure to see that two essays first published in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies---"The Rand Transcript" and "The Rand Transcript, Revisited"---have made their way into the pages of the second, expanded edition of this book, providing a more complete record of the fascinating historical details of Rand's education from 1921 to 1924 at what was then Petrograd State University.

In publishing the second edition of any book written two decades ago, an author might be tempted to change this or that formulation or phrase to render more accurately its meaning or to eliminate the occasional error of fact. I have kept such revisions to a minimum; the only extensively revised section is an expanded discussion in chapter 12 of Rand's foreign policy views, relevant to a post-9/11 generation, under the subheading "The Welfare-Warfare State." Nevertheless, part of the charm of seeing a second edition of this book published now is being able to leave the original work largely untouched and to place it in a broader, clarifying context that itself could not have been apparent when it was first published.

My own Rand research activities over these years are merely one small part of an explosive increase in Rand sightings across the social landscape: in books on biography, literature, philosophy, politics, and culture; film; and contemporary American politics, from the Tea Party to the presidential election

Even President Barack Obama, in his November 2012 Rolling Stone interview, acknowledges having read Ayn Rand:

"Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity---that thats a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America."

The bulk of this book predates the president's assessment, and yet it is, in significant ways, a response to assessments of that kind. First and foremost, it is a statement of the inherent radicalism of Rand's approach. Her radicalism speaks not to the alleged "narrow vision" but to the broad totality of social relationships that must be transformed as a means of resolving a host of social problems. Rand saw each of these social problems as related to others, constituting---and being constituted by---an overarching system of statism that she opposed. My work takes its cue from Rand, and other thinkers in both the libertarian tradition, such as Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Murray N. Rothbard, and the dialectical tradition, such as Aristotle, G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and Bertell Ollman. From these disparate influences, I have constructed the framework for a "dialectical libertarianism" as the only fundamental alternative to that overarching system of statism. In this book, I identify Rand as a key theorist in the evolution of a "dialectical libertarian" political project.

The essence of a dialectical method is that it is "the art of context-keeping." More specifically, it emphasizes the need to understand any object of study or any social problem by grasping the larger context within which it is embedded, so as to trace its myriad---and often reciprocal---causes and effects. The larger context must be viewed in terms that are both systemic and historical.  Systemically, dialectics demands that we trace the relationships among seemingly disparate objects of study or among disparate social problems so as to understand how these objects and problems relate to one another---and to the larger system they constitute and that shapes them. Historically, dialectics demands that we trace the development of these relationships over time---that is, that we understand each object of study or each social problem through its past, present, and potential future manifestations.

This attention to context is the central reason why a dialectical approach has often been connected to a radical politics. To be radical is to "go to the root."  Going to the "root" of a social problem requires understanding how it came about. Tracing how problems are situated within a larger system over time is, simultaneously, a step toward resolving those problems and overturning and revolutionizing the system that generates them.

The three books in my "Dialectics and Liberty trilogy"---of which Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical is the second part---seek to reclaim dialectical method from its one-sided use in Marxist thought, in particular, by clarifying its basic nature and placing it in the service of a radical libertarianism

The first book in my trilogy is Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, which I published in 1995 with the State University of New York Press. It drew parallels between Karl Marx, the theoretician of communism, and F. A. Hayek, the Austrian "free market" economist, by highlighting their surprisingly convergent critiques of utopianism and their mutual appreciation of context in defining the meaning of political radicalism 

Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, the second book in the trilogy, details the approach of a bona fide dialectical thinker in the radical libertarian tradition, who advocated the analysis of social problems and social solutions across three distinctive, and mutually supportive, levels of generality---the personal, the cultural, and the structural (see especially "The Radical Rand," part 3 of the current work).

The third book and final part of the trilogy, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, was published in 2000 by the Pennsylvania State University Press. It offers a rereading of the history of dialectical thinking, a redefinition of dialectics as indispensable to any defense of human liberty and as a tool to critique those aspects of modern libertarianism that are decidedly undialectical and, hence, dangerously utopian in their implications.

That my trilogy places libertarian thinkers within a larger dialectical tradition has been resisted by some of my left-wing colleagues, who view Marxism as having a monopoly on dialectical analysis, and some of my right-wing colleagues, who are aghast to see anybody connect a libertarian politics to a method that they decry as "Marxist," and hence anathema to the project for liberty. Ironically, both the left-wing and right-wing folks who object to my characterization of a dialectical libertarian alternative commit what Rand would have called "the fallacy of the frozen abstraction."  For Rand, this consists of substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs. Thus, the left-wing and right-wing critics both freeze and reduce the concept of dialectical method to the subcategory of one of its major historical applications (i.e., Marxism). They both exclude another significant subcategory from that concept, whether to protect the favored subcategory (as do some conservatives, libertarians, and Objectivists) or the concept itself (as do the leftists). Ultimately, they both characterize dialectics as essentially Marxist. It is as if any other variety of dialectics does not or cannot exist. In each case, the coupling of dialectics and libertarianism is denied. The left-wing dialecticians don't want to besmirch "their" methodology by acknowledging its presence in libertarian thinking, while the right-wing proponents of liberty don't want to sully their ideology with a "Marxist" methodology.

But as I have demonstrated in my trilogy, especially in Total Freedom, it is Aristotle, not Hegel or Marx, who is the "fountainhead" of a genuinely dialectical approach to social inquiry. Ultimately, my work bolsters Rand's self-image as an essentially Aristotelian and radical thinker. In doing so, my work challenges our notion of what it means to be Aristotelian and radical. 

I am cognizant that my use of the word "dialectics" to describe the "art of context-keeping" as a vital aspect of Rand's approach to both analyzing problems and proposing highly original, often startling solutions, is controversial. My hypothesis---in this book and in the two additional essays that now apear as appendices I and II of this expanded second edition---that Rand learned this method from her Russian teachers has generated as much controversy. Rand named N. O. Lossky as her first philosophy professor. Questions of the potential methodological impact on Rand that Lossky and her other Russian teachers may have had, and the potential discrepancies between Rand's own recollections with regard to Lossky and the historical record, were all first raised in Russian Radical. These issues, nearly twenty years after they were raised, have resulted in Rand's prospective "authorized" biographer arguing that Rand's recollections were mistaken. In my view, however, this turn in historical interpretation is itself deeply problematic. I discuss these issues in a new essay, which appears as appendix III, "A Challenge to Russian Radical---and Ayn Rand."

I am genuinely excited that the Pennsylvania State University Press has enabled me to practice what I dialectically preach: placing Russian Radical and its cousins in the larger context both of my research on Rand and of my Dialectics and Liberty trilogy enables me to present readers with a clearer sense of what I have hoped to accomplish. Thanks to all those who have made this ongoing adventure possible. 

Chris Matthew Sciabarra

1 July 2013   

[Notes and in-text citations have been eliminated from the above excerpt; they can be found in the new expanded second edition of this book.]

 

BLOG POST #5:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  SUPPLYING ANSWERS, RAISING QUESTIONS (16 August 2013)

This week's discussion of the forthcoming publication of the new, expanded second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical has provided me with an avalanche of enthusiastic feedback from many people. I hope to answer the email in time, but I just wanted to thank everyone for a show of support. (And a shout out especially to Danny at Penn State Press for his nice blog post on this week's Notablog festivities.)

Much more information on this book will be posted in the coming weeks and months. If you'd like to receive an email that will inform you of the publication of the paperback, its price and availability at Penn State Press, Amazon.com, Independent Bookstore, Powell's Books, etc., sign up here.

I would like to end this week-long series of introductory blog posts on the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by addressing a question that has been asked by quite a few individuals in personal correspondence and discussion over the past week.

Many readers know that I spent an inordinate amount of time answering critics left and right, high, low, and sideways, almost every day, every week, for years, in the wake of the enormous controversy that was generated on questions both historical and methodological, by this book's 1995 first edition. And those discussions took place on various friendly and hostile online forums, Internet lists, and Usenet newsgroups, etc. Lord knows that the avenues for discussion have now multiplied exponentially with the expansion of social media, and it is almost impossible to keep count!

In addition to the almost daily engagement, I also replied to many formal and informal reviews, which were published online and in print. These are archived on my site (yes, the positive and the negative criticism can be found right there... by what right would I have to call this the "Dialectics and Liberty" site when dialectics itself originated in dialogue?!). The archives can be found here.

I also wrote a more extensive review essay, published in the 1997 issue of Reason Papers, which can be found here. That essay, entitled "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical - A Work in Progress," sums up, and advances, much of the dialogue.

The subtitle also sums up something that is still applicable even to a second, expanded edition of this book: This is a "Work in Progress," and it will generate new questions that may require new answers. But we need to do a reality check: I can't and won't be able to do what I used to do, jumping from forum to forum and responding here and there to everyone left, right, center, high, low, and sideways. Occasionally, I will have something to say here at Notablog. But my time and energy are very different in 2013 at age 53, than they were in 1995, at age 35, when Russian Radical first appeared. And I've also got a lot of other "works in progress," that require my attention, including the enormously important work I'm doing with Penn State Press on The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

But there is a more important point to be made about "Works in Progress," a point that I have made several times in the second edition of the book, a million or so times online, and now, here again: As long as information is out there on Ayn Rand that has not yet been found or translated or interpreted or documented, there is work to be done by historians of many stripes. Some of this information is still to be found hidden deep in Russian archives long closed off to outside access. And some of this information also resides behind the walls of the Ayn Rand Archives. So I'd like to paraphrase the words of a President who stood before the walls that symbolized the closed environment that defined all that was Russian and Soviet: Tear Down Those Walls!

Yes, there is an enormous difference between the closed society of the former Soviet Union and the material that is rightly proprietary behind the walls of the Ayn Rand Archives, which has every right to set access policies. But archivists should not use these policies to stonewall those who may not share the views of the orthodoxy. Independent historians will never be able to assess the accuracy of what is coming forth, especially in published, edited form from those whose orthodox allegiance is not in question. Those of independent stripe need to see the original materials, unedited, unaltered, untouched by the visible hands of ambitious editors. I raised these questions first in 1998 in Libertymagazine, but my suspicions were confirmed by Jennifer Burns in her 2009 book, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. Burns writes:
Unfortunately, there are grave limitations to the accuracy and reliability of the putatively primary source material issued by Rand's estate. Discrepancies between Rand's published journals and archival material were first publicized by Rand scholar Chris Sciabarra, who noticed differences between the Journals of Ayn Rand (1999) and brief excerpts published earlier in The Intellectual Activist. After several years of working in Rand's personal papers I can confirm Sciabarra's discovery: the published versions of Rand's letters and diaries have been significantly edited in ways that drastically reduce their utility as historical sources. (Goddess of the Market, 291)
The Ayn Rand Archives deserves credit for having given Jennifer Burns access to its collections, but the multitude of legitimate scholars who have been kept out of its hallowed halls is utterly shameful.

Something here needs to be emphasized about the art of historical investigation and interpretation: The material in the Archives are calling out for the kind of detective work and interpretive work that cannot be done by those who are of an almost single orthodox mind-set. Facts are facts, but two people looking at the same material can come away from it with enormously different interpretations, because each scholar operates from a highly individualized context, with vastly different skill sets, and that means that many scholars looking at the same things can help to shed light where previously there was darkness.

It is my hope that the second, expanded edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical will provide additional light on the historical evolution and analytical importance of Rand's unique contribution to twentieth-century radical social thought. Even if it didn't benefit from any access to any source material from the Ayn Rand Archives.

I'm glad to have had the opportunity to have published this five-part introduction to the forthcoming second edition. But there's lots more work to be done. Stay tuned.

BLOG POST #6:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  12 SEPTEMBER 2013 RELEASE DATE (2 September 2013)

Last month, in these five blog posts, I announced the publication of the second expanded edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.

I didn't have the opportunity to thank Paul Hornschemeier, for designing a cover that is as fresh as the content to be found in the new edition; here is a snapshot of the front and back cover design:

The book's official release date is now 12 September 2013. I look forward to seeing the final product myself!

 

BLOG POST #7:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  IT HAS ARRIVED (12 September 2013)

As I've been discussing in various entries on Notablog (see the introductory discussion that begins here), the date of publication for the new expanded second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical was shifted from 2 September 2013 to 12 September 2013, which means that today, this author has given birth to a twin (albeit 18 years after the first of the twins). Oh, it's not quite a twin (trace the differences here), but like all my books, it's always exciting to see one of my babies make it into the world, even if in reincarnated form.

I see that it is now to be found at Penn State Press, Amazon.com, and it is mentioned by Irfan Khawaja on the website of his exciting new project, which has resurrected a familiar name, while taking things into a provocative new direction: the Institute for Objectivist Studies.

I've not yet received the book, but it was to arrive at the warehouse today... which means, the bouncing baby book will reach me soon, and I'm looking forward to holding it in my arms.

 

BLOG POST #8:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  A KINDLE EDITION AND REVISED REVISIONS (8 January 2014)

I recently published a Notablog series on "Russian Radical 2.0" as I've called it: the newly published second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical:

Part 1: The Cover
Part 2: The Cover Story
Part 3: 1995 vs. 2013: What's Different?
Part 4: Preface to the Second Edition
Part 5: Supplying Answers, Raising Questions
Part 6: 12 September 2013, Release Date

Today, I'd like to note the publication of a new Kindle edition, which can be purchased at amazon.com [online link here].

I want to mention that in preparing this note today, I had to make a change in Part 2 of the above series, because things have changed on the official website of the Ayn Rand Institute. When I was preparing Appendix III of the new second edition of my book, I accessed "this page" on 11 February 2013, wherein the Ayn Rand Institute characterized a forthcoming book as the "authorized biography of Ayn Rand by Shoshana Milgram" as "in preparation." This has now been changed [accessed today, 8 January 2014]: to "Biography of Ayn Rand by Shoshana Milgram (in preparation)." Note how the word "authorized" has been dropped in the online description. Airbrushing reality is not something new with the Institute. It doesn't change the facts. As I note in my book (page 466, note 2):
Impact, the newsletter of the Ayn Rand Institute (1994), announced in "A Look at the Future," in its April 1994 General News column, that Ayn Rand in Her Own Words: The Authorized Biography was "being prepared for publication in 1996." It was to be "edited by Richard E. Ralston (ARI Academic Affairs Officer and former book/newspaper publisher)." The text was to consist of "Ayn Rand's own story of her life compiled from various sources, including her journals, correspondence, and interviews[,] . . . supplemented by interviews with Leonard Peikoff, Mary Ann Sures, and others." The plan was abandoned, but the title was later used for a 2011 documentary on Rand's life (see my preface herein, 401 n.3).

More than a decade later, in June 2004, it was announced by Impact (Journo 2004a, 1) that Shoshana Milgram was "working on an in-depth biography of Ayn Rand," for which the author herself projected completion "at the latest by 2008" (in Journo 2004b, 4). ARI currently identifies the "authorized biography of Ayn Rand by Shoshana Milgram" as "in preparation." See http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_ayn_rand_archives_projects , accessed 11 February 2013.

Whoops. Guess we're no longer "authorized." Oh, well.

Postscript: For those who doubt that there was an earlier manifestation of this page, in which Milgram's forthcoming biography was characterized as "authorized," we have the Internet Archive Wayback Machine: a 6 February 2013 snapshot, closest in proximity to my 11 February accessing of the page and the 5 September 2013 snapshot, the last time that the word "authorized" was seen on that ARI page. The change seems to have occurred somewhere between September 2013 and October 2013, since the dropping of "authorized" is apparent in the 5 October 2013 snapshot.

Remarkably, this is coincident with the exact publication date of the second expanded edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Cause? Effect? Reciprocal dialectical causation? You be the judge.

 

BLOG POST #9:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  REVIEWS AND RETROSPECTIVES (7 August 2015)


It's been awhile since I've reported on the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, so now that I have a little break in-between editing issues of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (I handed in the December 2015 issue just yesterday!), I figure now is just as good a time as any to give an update.

First, for those of you who don't know much about the second expanded edition of this book, I provide here an index of relevant Notablog posts:

Part 1: The Cover
Part 2: The Cover Story
Part 3: 1995 vs. 2013: What's Different?
Part 4: Preface to the Second Edition
Part 5: Supplying Answers, Raising Questions
Part 6: 12 September 2013, Release Date
Part 7: A Kindle Edition and Revised Revisions

Today's report on the second edition could not be more timely, since, after all, it was literally twenty years ago this month, yes, you read that right: TWENTY YEARS AGO, that the first edition of the book was published by Pennsylvania State University Press. As Carlin Romano puts it in his 2012 book, America The Philosophical:
Nineteen ninety-five also saw the publication of the first scholarly study of Rand published by a respected university press, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (Penn State) by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, a political scientist [ed: I actually prefer to call myself a "political theorist" or "social theorist," since I received my Ph.D. in political theory, philosophy, and methodology, and New York University, bless them, has a Department ofPolitics, not a Department of Political Science!] That book spurred debate with its novel claim that Rand, who came to the United States in 1926, is best understood as a thinker whose roots in Russian philosophy and Marxism's dialectical tradition account for the unique syntheses of her later work. Since then, scholarly interest in her has significantly spiked, if not boomed, fanned by the wide theatrical distribution of Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, a 1997 Oscar-nominated documentary approved by the Ayn Rand Institute, and such studies as What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi. The Chronicle of Higher Education, in an overview of Rand's place in academe, reported many more books on Rand's thought on the way (including a study by [the late Allan] Gotthelf), as well as a journal devoted to Randian literary [ed: and philosophical] studies.
I would like to think that my first edition not only rode the wave of that boom, but was at least partially responsible for creating it. (In reality, my work on Rand was the first book-length study published by a university press; I have always given credit to my dearest friends and colleagues, Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen, co-editors of The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand (1987), published by the University of Illinois Press; the fact that both of these extraordinary scholars sit on the Board of Advisors of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies is no accident. Their encouragement and support of my work has been immeasurable!)

The first edition of Russian Radical was published the same week as another work of mine: Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, which was actually Part I of what would become my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy."Russian Radical constituted Part II of that trilogy; in 2000, Part III concluded the study: Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. Taken as an "organic whole," the three books were designed to reclaim a dialectical mode of inquiry as an indispensable tool in the construction of a radical libertarian analytical approach.

Nevertheless, getting back to the second edition of Russian Radical, not many reviews have been published. That's fairly typical of second editions, but the "Dialectics and Liberty" site will be updated periodically to reflect any reviews that appear in online or print form. Thus far, one can take a look at the index of reviews for the second edition, where one will find excerpts and abstracts for two reviews (the first appearing on the site of the Center for a Stateless Society, the other appearing in the July 2015 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies).

My own reply to the review that appears in the current issue of JARS, written by my friend and colleague, Wendy McElroy, will appear in the July 2016 issue of the journal, along with a reply written by Roger E. Bissell.

In any event, I am happy that I've stuck around long enough to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the first two books of my trilogy; I'll be positively ecstatic when I mark the centennial anniversary!

 

BLOG POST #10:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  THE THREE Rs (18 July 2016)

Today's post will discuss the Three Rs, as they relate, ironically, to the second edition of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian RadicalReviews, Rand Studies, and Rape Culture.

As readers of Notablog know, my 1995 book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, went into a grand second edition in 2013, on the eve of its twentieth anniversary (readers can see all the blog posts related to the second edition on a new page added to the Russian Radical site).  As is the fate of most second editions, even vastly expanded ones like the current book, few reviews seem to surface. But it has been a pleasant surprise to see that the book has made an impact on the ever-growing Rand scholarly literature.  I have updated the review section of the Russian Radical page to reflect some of the reviews and discussions of the book in that literature. My own reply to critics ("Reply to Critics:  The Dialectical Rand") will not appear until July 2017 in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (Volume 17, no. 1).  The delay in that reply has been primarily due to the fact that we, at the journal, have been working relentlessly on what promises to be, perhaps, the most important issue ever published by JARS:  a double-issue symposium, due out in December 2016 (Volume 16, nos. 1-2):  "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy."  It is a book-length version of the journal that will be print published and available online through JSTOR and Project Muse, and to those who wish to purchase single print copies or single copies of the first e-book and Kindle editions of JARS ever published.  We are proud of the final product, which includes sixteen essays by people coming from a wide diversity of disciplines and perspectives, including political and social theory, philosophy, literature, film, business and leadership, anthropology, and, of course, academic and clinical psychology. It also includes the most extensive annotated bibliography of Branden works and of the secondary literature mentioning Branden yet published.

What makes this issue so important is that it will bring to a wider audience the work of many writers who have never appeared in any Rand-oriented periodical, while also bringing attention to the work and legacy of Branden to the community of clinical and academic psychologists.  It is an issue that only JARS could have produced.  Such a study would never come forth from the "orthodox" Objectivists, who have virtually airbrushed even Branden's canonic contributions to Objectivism out of existence (the new Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand a notable exception), or from the established orthodoxies of the psychological community who have dismissed Branden's work as "pop" psychology--in much the same way that the established scholarly orthodoxies locked out Rand from the Western canon by referring to her as a cult-fiction writer and pop philosopher, an attitude that has slowly been eroded over the years by increasingly serious work on her corpus, something to which JARS has contributed with pride.

In any event, readers can find excerpts from some of the commentaries made on Russian Radical in the recent scholarly literature by checking the updated review pages here.

Ironically, among the reviewers is Wendy McElroy, who discussed Russian Radical in the pages of JARS (in a review that appeared in the July 2015 issue).  I'm happy that Wendy had the opportunity to review the book, given that she has been so hard at work on so many worthwhile projects.  One of those projects was just published:  a truly provocative new book, entitled Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women.  I've just posted a mini-review of the 5-star book on amazon.com; here is what I had to say (which relates directly to my view of "The Dialectical Rand"):

Wendy McElroy's new book, Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women, is certainly one of the most provocative books on this subject ever written. The freshness with which McElroy approaches the subject is in itself controversial, though it is hard to believe that approaching any subject with reason as one's guide could possibly be controversial.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with any particular point made by McElroy, what she accomplishes here is to show the power of a nearly all-encompassing ideology to corrupt the very subject it seeks to make transparent.  The power of her analysis lies in the intricate ways in which she approaches not only the problems of rape culture ideology but in the documentation and analysis that she uses to undermine many of the arguments that its proponents put forth to support their various positions. It is a startling display of analytical power so strong that it must challenge people on all ends of the political spectrum.
The sad part of the Politically Correct doctrine of the "rape culture," however, is that it actually undermines the power of some doctrines that I, as a social theorist, accept, with provisos.  For example, the doctrine that "the personal is the political," rejected with good reason by McElroy, is used by PC feminists in a way that does not illuminate the mutual implications of the personal and the political; rather, it folds everything personal into the political.  That such a doctrine could have emerged out of postmodern New Left thought is doubly disturbing, however, given the Marxist penchant for so-called "dialectical" analysis, that is, analysis that aims to grasp the wider context of social problems by tracing their common roots and multidimensional manifestations and undermining them in a radical way.  The same penchant exists, in my view, among many of those in the libertarian and individualist traditions, including in the work of the self-declared "anti-feminist" Ayn Rand, who, for all her anti-feminism, may have done more to empower women than any PC feminist could have ever dreamed… this, despite her views of man-woman relationships or of homosexuality, both of which one can take issue with, while not doing fundamental damage to her overall philosophic system.
The fact is that even Rand believed that there were mutual implications between the personal and the political; one's view of oneself, how one uses one's mind, the methods of one's thinking processes (so-called "psycho-epistemology", etc.) and the origins of the doctrine of self-esteem, and of the self-esteem movement championed by her protege, Nathaniel Branden, show how certain cultural, educational, and political institutions have virtually conditioned individuals to accept authority and certain destructive ideologies in ways that ultimately undermine their ability to think as individuals and accept self-responsibility, thus paving the way for the rule of coercive political power. Rand and her intellectual progeny have grasped these phenomena by showing how they operate in mutually reinforcing ways across disciplines and institutions within a system, and across time.

I don't think McElroy would disagree with this, even if she fundamentally questions the doctrine of "the personal is the political," for she, herself, shows that there are indeed both personal and political consequences to the ways in which that doctrine is used by its so-called champions.  But that is the kind of fundamental rethinking McElroy's book provokes for any reader who approaches her work with a critical mind.  Bravo!

 

BLOG POST #11:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  THE RAND-MARX PARALLELS (1 October 2016)

The second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical has continued to spur discussion in print media and online. I will be responding to many of the commentators in a forthcoming essay, "Reply to Critics: The Dialectical Rand," which will be published in the July 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

Today, I wanted to provide a link to an interesting discussion that has been provoked by writer Anoop Verma, on the blog, For the New Intellectual. His discussion and many responses can also be found among those who have access to Facebook. I've added an excerpt from his blog post, which is not a formal review, but a few provocative thoughts about one particular aspect of the book highlighting some of the parallels between Karl Marx and Ayn Rand: "Is There a Connection Between Ayn Rand and Karl Marx?"

Readers can find an excerpt from the blog post here. Also, check out my index of Russian Radical reviews here, as well as an index to all of the blog posts on "Russian Radical 2.0" here.

Enjoy!

Postscript: As one would expect, the discussion on Russian Radical on the Rand-Marx parallels brings out of the woodwork some people who have, for 20+ years, enjoyed crapping on my achievements in that book. I won't let stand some of the wild misinterpretations of the theses presented in that book. Here are some of the comments I made in follow-up on Facebook:

In response to a comment on my understanding of Marx, I wrote:
. . . the picture of Marx that I got was through my NYU Marxist mentor, Bertell Ollman, who wrote THE book on "Alienation" and THE book on the nature of dialectical inquiry, "Dialectical Investigations"; as well as fine works by Scott Meikle ("Essentialism in the Thought of Karl Marx") and Carol Gould ("Marx's Social Ontology: Individuality and Community in Marx's Theory of Social Reality"). I strongly recommend these works to those interested in a more nuanced picture of Marx. My own book, Marx; Hayek; And Utopia, is actually the first book in my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy." The second book is Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and the finale is Total Freedom : Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism.
In continued discussion, I mention the case of Edward Snowden, I remarked:
BTW, there is a scene apparently in the beginning of Oliver Stone's new movie on Edward Snowden, where Snowden admits his admiration for Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand; read Jeffrey Tucker's piece on it.
And in response to a troll who has been using various Internet forums to dump on Russian Radical for 20+ years, I wrote:
Let me make one extended comment about Mr. A IS A. He has been calling this book intellectual claptrap for 20+ years. And yet, at the time, he confided that the entire section on "The Radical Rand" was a remarkable way of integrating a massive amount of material to show just how radical Rand was in her social analysis. He falls into line though with an entire orthodoxy that came down so hard on the book that they made it among the most successful scholarly studies of Rand ever published, having gone through seven printings, and into a second edition, which, btw, includes two "largely biographical" appendices that are the only sources available of the actual courses Ayn Rand took, the professors with whom she most likely studied, and the texts she most likely read. There are no other places in the literature where this information is available.

Moreover, it is the only book in the nearly 50 years since the 1968 break that reintegrates the canoncial essays and lectures of Nathaniel Btanden and Barbara Branden, the works that Rand herself said were still part of the only "authentic" sources on Objectivism even after her acrimonious break with them. One will strain oneself to find a single reference to any canoncical Branden work anywhere among orthodox thinkers who have airbrushed their contribtuions out of the historical record. Finally, there is nothing "inessential" about calling Rand a dialectical thinker if one defines dialectics as an essentially Aristotelian tool fundamentally concerned with the "art of context-keeping." To hold context and to ~understand~ that context on multiple levels of generality and from a variety of vantage points is a way of providing us with an enriched view of the problems being analyzed. This is the only way to get to the "root" of those problems, which is why Rand is essentially and always a "radical" (to be "radical" is to go to the "root"). The only thing I can say is that this book has withstood the test of time; for after nearly 20 years of being ignored, it is finally being grappled with in orthodox circles by scholars such as Shoshana Milgram and Gregory Salmieri in the recent "Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand". [I say in an additional post with regard to this book: It is useful, and it is the first book that begins to grapple not only with Russian Radical, but actually includes critical discussions for the first time in orthodox circles (post-1968) of the contributions of the Brandens to Objectivism. This is a giant step forward in Rand scholarship, and I applaud it.] Milgram actually indicts Rand's recollections of Lossky as her professor, but completely confirms the facts that I unveiled with regard to her college education and her education at the gymnasium of Lossky's in-laws; Salmieri disagrees with characterizing Rand's system as dialectical, but he himself spells out one of the most important characteristics of that which I call dialectical, in his words, her ability to engage in "grand-scale integration across time and across fields in [her] interpretation of the events of her time," something that requires context-holding, an understanding of the facts of reality, and of the law of noncontradiction. On these issues and on others, I have written extensively for years. But I am not going to let Mr. A is A to try to crap all over my achievements and get with away it. Adios!
In a further response to the critic above, I wrote the following:
  • I would like to clear the record with regard to my comment above that the critic above "confided that the entire section on 'The Radical Rand' was a remarkable way of integrating a massive amount of material to show just how radical Rand was in her social analysis." I was going on memory. So I just did a search of my archives and wish to post them here, especially since Mr. Aisa has dismissed the book today as "100% wrong." He admits that he found the first "biographical" section of the book as "interesting," though he largely dismissed it in a post to alt.philosophy.objectivism on Sun. 14 Jan 1996, saying he was "quite perplexed reading the entire first section of the book."
    But he admits back in 1996, that "Sciabarra's regard for Rand is obvious, and there is no evidence he is trying to smear or attack her.." And he even had a couple of kind things to say about the middle section that he now dismisses as claptrap: "The middle section of Sciabarra's book seemed to me to be an honest thinker's attempt to summarize Objectivism and relate it to Rand's fiction." But here's the part I was referring to; his evaluation of Part 3 of the book, back in 1996:
    "The final section [that would be Part 3, "The Radical Rand"] was the only really valuable part of the book, in my view -- an attempt to show the relationship between philosophic ideas and culture, using Objectivism as the subject. I think that many Objectivists could greatly benefit from studying what Sciabarra points out in this section. Philosophic ideas do not exist in a vacuum, and there is a profound interrelationship between culture and philosophic ideas, which is NOT one way. For example, statist political regimes have a very demonstrable effect on what kinds of ideas are taught and promulgated, and free societies likewise. The notions in this section are not absent from Objectivist writings -- for example see: Ayn Rand's essay "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation" (_The Objectivist_, Apr 66) wherein she discusses the relationship between cultural and individual development; and Edith Packer's essay "The Psychological Requirements of a Free Society" (_The Objectivist Forum_, Feb 84), wherein she explains the interrelationship between free thinking people and a free culture -- but some Objectivists seem to latch onto the notion of "philosophy determines history", and not realize the context of that idea, and the profound interrelationships between the spread of ideas, the content of ideas, and individual and cultural practice."
    So said Mr. Aisa in January of 1996; I could not have said it better myself. How all of this morphed into a growing, and hostile dismissal of my work as "100% wrong" is anyone's guess, but that's how it has been for the last 20 years since Mr. Aisa made these statements. I guess we are all entitled to change our minds. If Mr. Aisa felt personally insulted by my comments, after he joined in on a discussion that included character assassinations of me as a loon and a liar [comments since deleted, apparently], followed by his dismissal of my work as "claptrap", all I can say is, I agree with some of what Mr. Aisa said... WAY BACK IN 1996.
    If folks want to get back to discussing the ideas that Anoop raised at the start of this thread, that would be cool. As for me, I've been through these discusssions as to the value of my work and the value of my character for well over two decades now. It's really starting to get old.

     

  • In response to the charge that there is no "orthodoxy" to speak of in the philosophy of Objectivism, I wrote:
    The orthodoxy is defined primarily by those who have been affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute and who have had privileged access to the Ayn Rand archives. They have had a history of not citing any Rand scholarship outside of those sources that have been approved by Rand and / or Peikoff and company. They have had a history of not citing any sources outside of the circle of writers who are affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute. And I am NOT referring to Dr. Branden's works after 1968. I am referring to this statement made by Ayn Rand after her break with Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden, in her "Statement of Policy" (June 1968):

    "My role in regard to Objectivism is that of a theoretician. Since Objectivism is not a loose body of ideas, but a philosophical system originated by me and publicly associated with my name, it is my right and my responsibility to protect its intellectual integrity. I want, therefore, formally to state that the only authentic sources of information on Objectivism are: my own works (books, articles, lectures), the articles appearing in and the pamphlets reprinted by this magazine (The Objectivist as well as The Objectivist Newsletter), books by other authors which will be endorsed in this magazine as specifically Objectivist literature, and such individual lectures or lecture courses as may be so endorsed. (This list includes also the book Who is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, as well as the articles by these two authors which have appeared in this magazine in the past, but does not include their future works.)"

    Let's make one thing clear: Nathaniel Branden presented the first systematized and authorized course on Objectivism in the history of the movement, way back in 1958, a 20-lecture course on the "Basic Principles of Objectivism." Those lectures influenced thousands of people worldwide, and propelled Rand into the role of public philosopher. The Nathaniel Branden Institute presented many additional courses, including Barbara Branden's "Principles of Efficient Thinking" which was a virtual primer on Objectivist psycho-epistemology. These courses were recorded and distributed throughout the world by NBI, and heard by thousands of people throughout the 1960s. Nathaniel Branden wrote the first authorized essays on concepts that became part of the entire Objectivist vernacular: "the stolen concept," "psycho-epistemology," and all his work on self-esteem, psychological visibility, and romantic love. All of these essays appeared in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist and they were considered even by Rand after her break with Branden in 1968 as part of the only "authentic" sources on Objectivism.

    And yet, a fine scholar such as Tara Smith, author of Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics devotes 28 pages to the issue of self-esteem and does not mention a single essay written by Branden during his years of association with Rand, and still a part of the Objectivist canon, according to Rand. She refers to Peikoff. I am not referring to anything written by Branden after 1968 here. I'm talking about his pre-1968 writings. This is the kind of "scholarship" that went on for years, where nobody inside of ARI referred to anybody outside of ARI. That's not objectivity; it's partisanship, and it's disgraceful.


    P.S. - The Branden statements on "homosexuality" were in his very early essays; they were deplorable, but no worse than Rand's statements that homosexuality was "disgusting", which she said live in a Ford Hall Forum Q&A session. (I have discussed this in a study of attitudes toward homosexuality in the early Objectivist movement in my monograph, Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation.)
    At least Branden's views on homosexuality evolved over time, and he ultimately accepted gay relationships as mature expressions of human sexuality.

    For those who are interested, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be presenting a book-length symposium called "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy" in December 2016, a double-issue, published by Pennsylvania State University Press, that will also be available in a Kindle edition. It features contributions from nearly 20 authors in disciplines as diverse as cognitive and academic psychology, anthropology, literature, history, political theory, film, and more, discussing everything from the Rand years to the scientific and empirical status and usefulness of Branden's work as the so-called "father" of the self-esteem movement in psychology.

    BLOG POST #12:  RUSSIAN RADICAL 2.0:  AYN RAND ON CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS (10 November 2016)

    Anoop Verma, on his site "For the New Intellectual," has posted a thread dealing with those sections of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical dealing with Ayn Rand's rejection of the conventional conservative-liberal polarity in American politics.

    I just wanted to thank Anoop for bringing attention to this important issue on his site; those wishing to read his discussion should check it out here.

    BLOG POST #13:  THE NEW JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES WEBSITE

    In a Notablog post with regard to the new JARS website, a Facebook attack on JARS and on my work was met with the following response by me:

    But in the meanwhile, I'm violating my own principles here; all I did was post something with regard to a proud accomplishment, a new site and a forthcoming blockbuster issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. And what I've seen in return for this announcement is beyond appalling. Some people in this world should be ashamed of themselves, but I'm not going to litigate a personal matter on a public board. Been there, but will never allow myself to join in on the Sciabarra F---fest. It's getting so old, except for the fact that new people keep busting blood vessels over my very existence. Sorry to disappoint: I'm not dead yet.


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