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Russian Radical 2.0: The Cover Story

Yesterday, it was about The Cover. Today, it's The Cover Story.

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 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 integrated with the East to become, simply, Germany. (One of the parts 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 culminating book of my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy": Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism.)

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

After a truly successful run of seven paperback printings, the book became 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) as part of their series on the "Philosophy of the Social Sciences" (and it is now available as an e-book; the first chapter is on the SUNY site as a sample PDF here). The book was published officially on 31 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; indeed, the second book in the trilogy (Russian Radical) actually made it to my home a few days earlier than Marx-Hayek! 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 for me. I knew that the first two books would generate even more questions than could possibly be answered in either of them, and that it required a re-reading of the history of dialectics and a re-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 an even greater 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 collaborative 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 current one. I would say that we are now receiving 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 intensive research into Rand's education after my 1995 book was published, and two articles documenting that work were actually published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies ("The Rand Transcript," Fall 1999; "The Rand Transcript, Revisited" Fall 2005). I agreed with Patrick; I was (and remain) convinced that the new evidence that I'd investigated and published 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 a particular place (Russia) and time (pre-and-post revolutionary)---needed to appear in a second edition, where it would get the kind of exposure it 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 reply to a recent critic of my historical research into Rand's education (Shoshana Milgram, Rand's newest "authorized" biographer). [Note: When I accessed that page on 11 February 2013, the Ayn Rand Institute mentioned the "authorized biography of Ayn Rand by Shoshana Milgram" as "in preparation"; that has now been changed (accessed 8 January 2014): to "Biography of Ayn Rand by Shoshana Milgram (in preparation)." Note how the word "authorized" has now been dropped in the online description. See my post here, which discusses the change made to the site, and questions its timing.] Moreover, I was given 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-designed and re-keyed, the index was expanded, and before too long, an e-book will be in the offing [it is now available in a Kindle edition on amazon.com].

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 editions.