« Song of the Day #1264 | Main | Rand: Big in Japan, Romania, Poland, Russia, Etc., Etc., Etc. »

Russian Radical 2.0: Reviews and Retrospectives

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 of Politics, 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!