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John Galt in Europe: The Reception of Ayn Rand in Europe and Her Influence on European Political Thought

abstract Ayn Rand (1905-1982), who was born in Russia as Alisa Rosenbaum, was already during her lifetime one of the best known novelists and intellectuals in the United States. Her popularity persists to date thanks to her novels’ mixture of fast paced, yet romantic writing style and the propagation of indivi-dualism and laissez-faire capitalism. The opening phrase “Who is John Galt?” of her greatest literary success, Atlas Shrugged (1957), has likewise become a commonly known phrase. In her opus magnum and her non-fictional tracts, Rand developed her own philosophy, to become known as Objectivism. Inspired by Aristotelian thought, Objectivism maintains that a reality independent of an individual’s perception does exist, and that the individual can experience and understand this reality thanks to his or her sensory organs and reason. These premises are then combined with Rand’s stark individualism and libertarian ideas.

While Objectivist organizations do exist in Europe, they have received little attention compared to their American counterparts, and Rand’s life and oeuvre is generally less well known in Europe than in the United States. The reasons for these different degrees of perception are just as unknown as the overall reception history of Rand’s works in Europe. This project aims to close this gap, by retracing the European reception history of Ayn Rand and by detangling her intellectual links to Europe, meaning both European influences on her thought and her influences on European thinkers. In the course of this study, the links of Rand to the Austrian School of Economics shall be explored and a first history of the European Objectivist movement is to be written. The results of this study shall contribute to a better understanding of an aspect of America’s intellectual history and its political culture that is widely unknown in Europe, but has likewise left its traces here.
   
keywords Ayn Rand; Objectivism; Libertarianism; Liberalism; Capitalism
   
partner
type habilitation project
status ongoing
start of project 2010
end of project 2013
additional informations
topics Ayn Rand; Objectivism; Libertarianism; Liberalism; Capitalism
methods archive research; textual analysis; interviews
contact Claudia Franziska Brühwiler