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Knives Out: The Public Reception of Ayn Rand and Hannah Arendt
February 5, 2022 at 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm EST
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In this salon, Daniel Golliher examines the reception that both thinkers received in their own time, and how it compares to their legacies in the present.
This salon is the first of three in a mini-series comparing the thinkers Ayn Rand and Hannah Arendt.
Hannah Arendt, ever the enemy of totalitarianism, kept a wary eye on the encroachment of politics, the realm of the state, into other realms of human existence. Said just like that, most people would approve of her. But most people are probably not aware of their own preference for the expansion of state power, especially when it is used in service of things they like. We’ll be diving into Arendt’s theory of the proper scope of politics in human life, and where her views run into opposition in the America of the 1950’s and the 2020’s.
Ayn Rand made her name with her fiction, most famously The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, the latter of which is perpetually trending (most recently in American football). But how many people actually read those works closely? Rand painted worlds of epic heroes and detestable villains, styled as either masterworks or soap operas, depending on who you talk to. Why such strong reactions, and whose characterization is correct? We’ll look at how 1950’s America responded to Atlas Shrugged in particular, and how that work is received today.
Arendt is received relatively warmly, until readers really dig into her work. Rand draws everyone’s knives out immediately, until some decide to sheath them.
Reading List (the first two are about Arendt, the rest are about Rand):
- “Hannah Arendt on Anti-Racism as a Totalitarian Ideology: The case of forced desegregation in Little Rock” from Tablet (2021)
- “Reflections on Little Rock” from Dissent, by Hannah Arendt (1959)
- “Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’: What the critics had to say in 1957” from the Los Angeles Times (2012)
- “Big Sister is Watching You” from National Review (1957)
- “A Parable of Buried Talents” from The New York Times Book Review (1957)
- “Ayn Rand: Novelist with a Message; An Appreciation” from The New York Times (1982)
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