Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right

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Overview

Worshipped by her fans, denounced by her enemies, and forever shadowed by controversy and scandal, the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was a powerful thinker whose views on government and markets shaped the conservative movement from its earliest days. Drawing on unprecedented access to Rand's private papers and the original, unedited versions of Rand's journals, Jennifer Burns offers a groundbreaking reassessment of this key cultural figure, examining her life, her ideas, and her impact on conservative political thought.

Goddess of the Market follows Rand from her childhood in Russia through her meteoric rise from struggling Hollywood screenwriter to bestselling novelist, including the writing of her wildly successful The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Burns highlights the two facets of Rand's work that make her a perennial draw for those on the right: her promotion of capitalism, and her defense of limited government. Both sprang from her early, bitter experience of life under Communism, and became among the most deeply enduring of her messages, attracting a diverse audience of college students and intellectuals, business people and Republican Party activists, libertarians and conservatives. The book also traces the development of Rand's Objectivist philosophy and her relationship with Nathaniel Branden, her closest intellectual partner, with whom she had an explosive falling out in 1968.

One of the Denver Post's Great Reads of 2009

One of Bloomberg News's Top Nonfiction Books of 2009

"Excellent."
—Time magazine

"A terrific book—a serious consideration of Rand's ideas, and her role in the conservative movement of the past three quarters of a century."
—The American Thinker

"A wonderful book: beautifully written, completely balanced, extensively researched. The match between author and subject is so perfect that one might believe that the author was chosen by the gods to write this book. She has sympathy and affection for her subject but treats her as a human being, with no attempt to cover up the foibles."
—Mises Economics Blog

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." The unblinking individualism of Ayn Rand (1905-82) came alive in Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and other fiction but also in her personal life. In this biography, eight years in the making, Harvard-trained scholar Jennifer Burns tracks Rand's dramatic life from her middle-class childhood in pre-Revolution Russia to her later fame as an American novelist and the founder of objectivism. To plot the evolution of Rand's ideas, Burns draws extensively on the philosopher's journals and private papers.
From the Publisher
Selected as one of the Denver Post's Great Reads of 2009

Selected as one of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Best Reads of 2009

Selected as one of Bloomberg News Top Nonfiction Books of 2009

"Impressive .Burns's excellent book helps us to discover the real Ayn Rand."—American Historical Review

"Excellent."—Time magazine

"A smart assessment of Rand's life and ideas and how they influenced each other... As Ms. Burns successfully demonstrates, Rand's ideas have remained an important part of the American ideological mix, especially in how she honored the creative powers of American business in a free market to improve human lives. Ms. Burns' readers will see Rand still has the power to instruct on the meaning and scary implications of government growth in the age of Barack Obama.—Brian Doherty, The Washington Times

"Burns thoroughly engaging biography of writer, philosopher, and all-around controversial figure Rand delves deeply into both Rands life and her fervent devotion to capitalism and individualism.... Burns clear, crisp writing and piercing insights into Rand and her motivations make this eminently readable biography a must-read not only for Rand devotees but for anyone interested in the merging of literature and politics."—Booklist (starred review)

"Burns... spent 8 years researching the development of Rand's thinking and principles, and she has produced a terrific book—a serious consideration of Rand's ideas, and her role in the conservative movement of the past three quarters of a century, that is empty of academic jargon and accessible to those unfamiliar with Rand's life or ideas."—The American Thinker

"Burns... situates Rand in a rich intellectual and cultural tradition that predated the New Deal and eventually gave rise to a revitalized limited-government movement that culminated in figures such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Burns is particularly sharp at analyzing how Cold War conservatives such as Buckley rejected Rands rationalism but eventually benefited from her popularity with college students during the 1960s. Since the demise of their common foe, the Soviet Union, conservatives and libertarians increasingly find themselves at odds with one another over precisely the same issues that Rand and Buckley fought over decades ago. These range from questions about the proper role of religion in a secular society to whether the state should be used to restrict alternative lifestyles to the legitimate circumstances for military action."—Nick Gillespie, Wilson Quarterly

"What University of Virginia historian Burns does well is to explicate the evolution of Rand's individualist worldview, placing her within the context of American conservative and libertarian thought: from H.L. Mencken to William Buckley and later the Vietnam War... Overall, this contributes to an understanding of a complex life in relation to American conservatism."—Publishers Weekly

"Burns... thoroughly analyzes her ideas."—Jonathan Chait, The New Republic

"Burns has assembled a book that will interest anyone who was influenced by Ayn Rand. When a major academic publisher, like Oxford University Press, sets out to explore to the impact of Ayn Rand on American politics, that alone is a significant event... Jennifer Burns has produced a fascinating work. It is the first serious study of Rands ideas that had full access to Rands own papers. As such it is valuable. I would recommend all those interested in Ayn Rand, and Objectivism, to place their order for the book today."—Laissez Faire Books

"One of the most influential, most infuriating figures in the history of American conservatism has finally met her match. Goddess of the Market is both insightful scholarship and a compelling piece of writing. Jennifer Burns has created a model for intellectual biographers to follow."—Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan

"This provocative intellectual biography is must-reading for all those interested in the life and work of one of the most controversial thinkers of the 20th century. Drawing carefully from primary and secondary sources, Jennifer Burns has made a significant contribution to Ayn Rand scholarship."—Chris Matthew Sciabarra, author of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical

"Jennifer Burns has written a brilliant book about Ayn Rand—why many men and women praise her, but others despise her. She places Rand in the intellectual and political history of her times, moving adroitly between Rand's fiction, non-fiction, and the people with whom she interacted."—Martin Anderson, Hoover Institution

"Ayn Rand has always been a difficult figure to fit into the history of conservatism, but surely she mattered—and matters still. This important and beautifully written book shows how. It seamlessly links Rand's operatic personal life with her political ideals and influence of those ideas, conversations, tirades, friendships, fights, and intimacies with finely-drawn and memorable characters. This is biography, intellectual history, and political genealogy that gets the story right, told with drama, skill, and insight."—Paula Baker, Ohio State University

"Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns just arrived. I ripped open the package and got stuck reading and reading and reading. The emails, phonecalls, and IMs just had to wait. Let me just say that this is a wonderful book: beautifully written, completely balanced, extensively researched. The match between author and subject is so perfect that one might believe that the author was chosen by the gods to write this book. She has sympathy and affection for her subject but treats her as a human being, with no attempt to cover up the foibles. It is quite wonderful. I so look forward to getting back to it. It is hard to imagine that it can be surpassed as a history of Rand, her ideas, and life."—Mises Economics Blog

"Burns has the edge, though, in identifying Rand's intellectual legacy. She describes Rand as 'the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right,' elaborating: 'Just as Rand had provided businessmen with a set of ideas that met their need to feel righteous and honorable in their professional lives, she gave young people a philosophical system that met their deep need for order and certainty.'"—Washington Monthly Magazine

"Timely, well-researched"—Bloomberg News

"It seems only fitting that two simultaneously published versions of Rand's life story must battle it out in the free market. She wouldn't have wanted it any other way."—The Tablet.com

"One of the strengths of Burns' book is that she, unlike some other liberal scholars, has an excellent understanding of the issues that divided libertarians and conservatives, and also of the distinctions between different types of libertarianism. Burns' book is a great analysis of Rand's place in history, and I certainly recommend it to anyone interested in Rand or the history of libertarian and pro-free market movements."—The Volokh Conspiracy.com

"A well-written and absorbing biography of Rand, it also places her ideas and influence in three overlapping contexts. Goddess of the Market goes a long way toward explaining both the popularity of Rand's ideas and their somewhat marginalized status.—U.S. Intellectual History

"Hardly anything else in the world can be interesting if you are reading Jennifer Burn's biography of Ayn Rand called Goddess of the Market. It's the kind of book that while reading a bomb could go off around you and you wouldn't notice. It is that engaging, page after page. She manages to be once objective and compelling, reconstructing Rand's amazing life and work along with her relations with colleagues. It is also a fascinating psychological portrait of an ingenious but fallible self-made intellectual who had a far larger impact on American life than most people know." —Mises Economics Blog

"Burns, a professor of history, more ably situates Rand within and against the world of American conservatism."—The New Yorker

"A lovingly crafted piece of scholarly work, thrifty and concise, that follows Rand's shifting sands of ideology."—News Blaze

"Historian Jennifer Burns's GODDESS OF THE MARKET—the stronger of the two [biographies]—situates Rand in the 20th-century American political scene, painting her as an influential advocate for capitalism and freedom."The Weekly Standard

"Although it is hard to imagine that Rand would have been pleased with either of these biographies, both should have satisfied her desire to be treated respectfully, as a woman of ideas. The two books cover much of the same ground despite their methodological differences: Heller relies more heavily on interviews, whereas Burns has done more work in the archives (both Rand's and those of other conservative thinkers). Heller's book also emphasizes the affair with Nathaniel Branden, which has been explored before in memoirs by both Brandens. Burns seeks instead to tell the story of Rand's intellectual development, situating her in the constellation of postwar conservatism, and in this way her more academic treatment is also the more original."

"Burns does a remarkable service by shedding light on Ayn Rand's long-neglected early career...This sets the scene for an Ayn Rand much closer to the political mainstream than her reputation has suggested." —History News Network

"An important study... Burns's dispassionate intellectual history makes a persuasive case that Ayn Rand was no joke; she was a forceful and original thinker, and a gifted manipulator of fictional conventions for ideological ends."-Elaine Showalter, Times Literary Supplement

Publishers Weekly
Ayn Rand's most famous books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, continue to sell in the hundreds of thousands every year,decades after they were issued. She was a significant influence on Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Craigslist's Craig Newman. Rand remains many things to many people since her death in 1982, as she did throughout her prickly, anxiety-laced, amphetamine- and nicotine-fueled life. This biography and critique is exasperatingly detailed and slow-going at times. But what University of Virginia historian Burns does well is to explicate the evolution of Rand's individualist worldview, placing her within the context of American conservative and libertarian thought: from H.L. Mencken to William Buckley and later the Vietnam War—her opposition to it drove most conservatives crazy. Burns does not give short shrift to the men in Rand's life: her longtime husband, Frank O'Connor, and intellectual partner and lover, Nathaniel Branden. Overall, this contributes to an understanding of a complex life in relation to American conservatism. 12 b&w photos. (Oct.)
The New Republic
Burns . . . thoroughly analyzes her ideas.
—Jonathan Chait
Laissez Faire Books
Burns has assembled a book that will interest anyone who was influenced by Ayn Rand . . . .When a major academic publisher, like Oxford University Press, sets out to explore to the impact of Ayn Rand on American politics, that alone is a significant event . . . . Jennifer Burns has produced a fascinating work. It is the first serious study of Rand's ideas that had full access to Rand's own papers. As such it is valuable. I would recommend all those interested in Ayn Rand, and Objectivism, to place their order for the book today.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195324877
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/19/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Burns is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. A nationally recognized authority on Rand and conservative thought, she has discussed her work on The Daily Show and Book TV and has been interviewed on numerous radio programs.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Part I. The Education of Ayn Rand, 1905-1943
Ch. 1. From Russia to Roosevelt
Ch. 2. Individualists of the World, Unite!
Ch. 3. A New Credo of Freedom
Part II. From Novelist to Philosopher, 1944-1957
Ch. 4. The Real Root of Evil
Ch. 5. A Round Universe
Part III. Who Is John Galt? 1957-1968
Ch. 6. Big Sister is Watching You
Ch. 7. Radicals for Capitalism
Ch. 8. Love is Exception Making
Part IV. Legacies
Ch. 9. It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand
Epilogue Ayn Rand in American Memory
Notes
Essay on Sources
Bibliography

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