Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (EPUB)


Ebook Info

  • Published: 2005
  • Number of pages: 1188 pages
  • Format: EPUB
  • File Size: 1.22 MB
  • Authors: Ayn Rand


Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s magnum opus: a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller—nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.Who is John Galt? When he says that he will stop the motor of the world, is he a destroyer or a liberator? Why does he have to fight his battles not against his enemies but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves?You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the amazing men and women in this book. You will discover why a productive genius becomes a worthless playboy…why a great steel industrialist is working for his own destruction…why a composer gives up his career on the night of his triumph…why a beautiful woman who runs a transcontinental railroad falls in love with the man she has sworn to kill.Atlas Shrugged, a modern classic and Rand’s most extensive statement of Objectivism—her groundbreaking philosophy—offers the reader the spectacle of human greatness, depicted with all the poetry and power of one of the twentieth century’s leading artists.

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⭐The Objectivists may dislike my review because it criticizes philosophical elements of the novel and progressives may dislike my review because it praises the book as a work of fiction. So go ahead and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my timeI tried to read Atlas Shrugged with a sympathetic eye, which as I understood it put me at a considerable disadvantage. It was worth the effort. This is an outstanding novel. In my mind it is only effective as such, and not as a manifesto.I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised at how engaging and satisfying it was. Anyone who wishes to understand American politics in a nutshell and libertarian or fiscal conservative cyphers like ‘job creators’, ‘business friendly’, ’hand-outs’, ‘47%’, ‘entitlements’ and ‘the American dream’ owes it to themselves to read this book. I would also recommend it to anyone who would like an engaging read with business, biology , philosophy and sociological themes. Her diction in her intrapersonal ruminations is praise-worthy.First I must define sociopathy in how I use it. To me sociopathy is the lack of sympathy for the intrinsic value of other people. Not only that but it is even the inability to understand other people as anything other than physical tools of obstruction or enrichment.In a nutshell Atlas Shrugged is a preachy objectivist manifesto couched in a stunningly entertaining narrative. It posits that not only is sociopathy the only moral framework by which men are to govern their lives but the only framework by which anything of value can be produced in the economy or the personal sphere. That’s kind of the long and the short of it. If you want more detail, read on.The books main characters (in my opinion):Dagny Taggart-A steel minded, ambitious, passionate industrialist with a strong command of herself and her direction in life. She has no concept of anyone’s value except as they relate to her own personal benefit. Highly successful and a model businesswoman in many respects. A loner. It’s very easy to admire and respect her drive and commitment to excellence.Francisco D’Anconio-A man who comes from money but “lives up to it” genuinely by being the best in all his endeavors. Strongly morally motivated like Dagny and Hank. Extremely skilled.Jimmy Taggart-Dagny’s hand wringing ‘socially conscious’ brother who is president of the Taggart railroad. Utterly incompetent, idiotic, corrupt, lazy and possesses the reasoning skills of a drunkHank Rearden-Owner of Rearden steel. Almost a male mirror of Dagny. He finds his family worthless and his society’s social contract disgusting. He has a great deal of admiration for Dagny but is in danger of capitulating to the destructive collectivist ideology hammered into him by his family over the yearsJohn Gault- Who is this guy? One of the least fleshed out characters. He is more sure of himself than Hank.SPOILERS BELOW: (Though not much more than what’s contained in novel’s summary)The Randian world is populated solely by superior creators and inferior leaches who contribute nothing. The plot consists of one of the “prime movers” and “creators” of the world putting a stop to the ‘motor of the world’. The railroad enterprise (especially Taggart Rail) is used as a proxy for enterprise in general and the novel consists of the perceived effects of what would happen when the minority competent retreat to an area where every man is an island and no moochers can benefit from their excellence, except themselves. It is a vilification of evolutionary cooperation and an exaltation of competition alone as the desired engine of human society both implicitly and explicitly stated throughout.The plot is exciting and I do it little justice in saying that essentially Taggart Transcontinental is trying to build a superior railroad. The leaches a.k.a. ‘the public’ and ‘the government’ try to bring it down through various corrupt obstructionary tactics because they fear the excellence of others. Our objectivist heroes take their ball and go home and society collapses because only superior sociopaths can make society function. The idiotic leachers (consisting the only other segment of the population) are left to breathe through their mouths and behold how wrong and silly they are. John Gault appears and gives a 61 page speech which was done more succinctly in Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko ‘greed is good’ speech.Atlas Shrugged is initially a world that rewards stupidity and collectivism and punishes achievers. The achievers of the novel vaguely hope that a mysterious Uebermensch will one day appear and turn the world upside down. That man is John Gault. Throughout the novel “Who is John Gault?” is used as a retort to an unanswerable question similar to “What is the Matrix?”. You’ll have to be patient to see him as he doesn’t show up until the 3rd section of the novel. Personally I liked the suspense of that.Although Rand’s stated objective is to write a novel, not an ideological screed, this book is clearly a vehicle for expounding her Objectivist philosophy. Her characters and dialogue are extremist straw men and not reflective of the dynamics of the real world. That having been said it is a thoroughly entertaining novel with excellent prose especially when describing intra-personal feelings and objects. In the arena of the interpersonal her characterizations fall flat and seem to be describing an alien ersatz world. If you want to have an intimate view of the inner world of a textbook sociopath I imagine this novel is more useful than all the characters printed in the DSM-5. In this specific case I say that without contempt, as it is illuminating and interesting to understand her thinking style. One characterization I had of sociopaths is that they are luddites in terms of intrapersonal contemplation but Rand’s novel and her characters strongly rebut my prior belief.Rand divides people into a false dichotomy of individualists/capitalists and collectivists/socialists. She ascribes to the former with only positive character traits (according to her world view) and the latter with only negative character traits. She makes some age-old virtues (like altruism) into vices, and some vices (like anti-social behavior) into virtues with some impressive mental gymnastics. In crafting her characters she divides the world into intelligent, ambitious and competent sociopaths and incompetent, corrupt, uncompetitive, moocher, irrational wishy-washy collectivists. Atlas Shrugged is a vision of a world of perfect meritocracy where people who exhibit desirable character traits are finally rewarded and people who exhibit undesirable character traits are finally punished. Seeing as we have never seen such a society function as such, it is a little much to hope for, but if we take her work as merely a novel it becomes quite satisfying and fitting for fiction. You truly come to hate the collectivists because as she describes them, they truly are leaches and completely useless. As a German I loathe inefficiency and lack of ambition so Dagny’s brother went into my bad books from the moment he opened up his obstructionist cake-hole.Corporations and individuals compete, but they also cooperate, in the former case in terms of price fixing and union busting etc so there’s a case to be made that individuals and corporations have a poor survival probability if they fail to compete *AND* cooperate. This is not possible in Atlas Shrugged universe because the ‘cooperators’ are not only useless but collude to destroy any kind of meaningful capital.A deliciously ironic example of her dichotomization of character (onto 2 poles) is when Dagny is rebuked early in the novel for “missing the human element”. The irony being that the cipher for demonstrating it is itself a straw man in that she implies that those who consider the human element must be both also irrational in conceptualizing what that element is and also useless in producing anything of value. Anyone who lauds the benefits of compassion and cooperation is immediately dismissed in her novel as also possessing only negative character traits. Personally I believe Dagny is a stand in for Rand who must have been told countless times that she is “missing the human element” and her frustration from not understanding what that term meant resulted in part in this book.The founder of the railroad in question also threw someone down a flight of stairs for offering a government (a.k.a evil) loan when the company was short on capital. While this could potentially happen it seems very odd behavior for a believable character and almost made me laugh out loud. When the flip side of the individualist coin, “the moochers/collectivists” ever express any concern for social ramifications of their business decisions their navel gazing is always portrayed to be wildly ludicrous and incompetent suggesting that those concerned with the public good are also all idiots of the highest order. While yes, I may disagree with this philosophically I would have liked to see Ayn Rand to make her points with these characters in a more believable way. She certainly has a point that government often (maybe always?) fails to solve our problems but the grade-school straw men she paints are so facile that it takes away from the enjoyment of the novel. She could still have made a strong case with richer more complex characters even if those characters are metaphorical representations of ideological purism.There are also instances in which characters self-contradict, which lends credibility to the believability of the characters. For instance when Dagny and Hank are speaking about the future of both of their businesses they initially speak as if they mean to outcompete each other and try to kill each other’s businesses. They do so with pleasure as they both love competition and respect each other’s drive. However later in this same exchange Hank (intentionally or not) gives Dagny valuable information by which she would be able to save her business by switching to airlines, giving her an informational advantage that might reduce Hank’s revenue in train steel. And the notorious anti-looters of the book contradict themselves like when Dagny steals liquor from an employee or when they do favors for each other. That’s the kind of thing I like to see in a good novel but I’m not sure Rand intended it as such because such a move would either show incompetence (whereas individualists are 100% competent) or cooperation (which individualists loathe).The sociopath is not willfully ignorant of what the human element means but is unable to comprehend it at all. As such her portrayal of it is badly formed and then having been malformed, rightly destroyed. Her objection that love should only be given to people who can render one a personal service is again a hallmark of sociopathy. Not only is this implied but explicitly stated when Hank Rearden is criticized for being anti-social and the book later rationalizes love away as a condition of the weak and of the leechers. Naturally someone incapable of feelings of love would exasperatedly claim it is irrational since it makes no sense to them. To those of us who are able to feel it, much like those who can’t we find post-hoc rationalizations to explain why we feel it or not.In her about the author she states “I trust that no one will tell me that men such as I write about don’t exist. That this book has been written—and published—is my proof that they do”. The little fact that Hank Rearden was a chemist, chemical engineer, civil engineer, procurement specialist, CEO, CTO, head of operations of a tremendously successful national corporation and Rand was only an author never having ran even a small business seems to have escaped her. Her reductionism and straw man representation of people expressing social concerns are the books biggest weaknesses. She states she accomplished everything by herself which is a ‘cool story bro’ considering she went to a state funded university and collected social security. It’s also delightful that the Ayn Rand institute was looking for volunteers and the Atlas Shrugged movie enterprise went to kickstarter to beg for handouts, but I digress.Objectivism may be attractive to those who believe the economy is a meritocracy and make the assumption that poor people are poor simply because they are not trying. In such a world I too would be an objectivist. At my age after all I’ve seen and done I don’t believe that a true meritocracy exists anywhere on earth. Force, deception and inefficient markets will always exist. Perhaps publically funded academic institutions can be meritocracies but even then some people will simply be unable to compete due to disabilities or lesser abilities. Furthermore I only need to look at my personal life to disprove that the world is a perfect meritocracy. I used to earn $2.50/hr delivering newspapers in the rain, sleet, snow and tornadoes. A few years ago I earned $120k plus bonus potential for essentially hitting a button at 6pm every day. Such is life.Her work makes perfect sense when viewed through her lenses. Rand I believe after reading her works was a sociopath with origins in Russia. In my opinion she had an inability (not willful rejection) of compassion. Furthermore those who proclaimed collectivism in her country of origin implemented a system rife with injustice, so it comes as no surprise that her economic pendulum swung so heavily towards the hyper-capitalist extreme. It concerns me somewhat that this flawed and juvenile manifesto informs contemporary leaders but I’m also disappointed that more people don’t give this book a chance. Yes it’s long but it’s also informative politically, psychology and wonderfully entertaining.I respect Rand for writing a very strong and praiseworthy female character fully in charge of her mind and body. She is also to be lauded for steamy erotic scenes that are downright scintillating with heat without the unbuttoning of a blouse taking place. I nearly got a chubber on the train and then how would I explain that situation while holding Atlas Shrugged?There’s a reason this book has such staying power and I think it is because it is well written and presents a just-world motivation to strive for excellence and to reject mediocrity. I get her point. We should all be ambitious about being the best and not be moochers. I think we can all agree on that. To over or underestimate this work is doing yourself a disservice in my humble opinion

⭐This book is way too long, even by standards of 60 years ago when people had longer attention spans and fewer electronic distractions. Rand is, of course, forgiven most of this, not only because it’s a classic, but because she’s writing things hardly anyone had written before, She counters the century’s trend towards collectivism with the values of personal freedom, fulfillment, responsibility and productivity. She elucidates and seeks to justify a whole new way of looking at life.Her characters talk things to death, but she dramatizes ideas many readers, then or now, have never heard. She shows our protagonists’ pursuit of work and excellence to the exclusion of most other elements in life.She defends how they live and shows how critical they are to a society which meanwhile disparages them for selfishness and fails to acknowledge the significance of what they contribute – and at the end of the day regulates them to death, seizes their wealth or both.Characters like Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden make no excuse for being “selfish” in pursuit of work and productivity. They do it to make money for themselves and stockholders, and make no bones about that: it’s reason enough. But they also do it because it’s beautiful, in their minds, the highest personal endeavor. They’re the ones that keep society running and provide its necessities, although society can’t admit it.There are many, many long, long, LONG conversations as Rand seeks to turn prevailing modern assumptions on their head: That we’re here primarily to help others. That allowing people to control their own property is selfish. That the government does a better job of running society and the economy.At a more personal level, Rand does her best to inject different ideas into the mix. Her protagonists despise dependence upon others as well as any sense that you live for others. Dagny, in her burgeoning affair with the married Hank, regards him as owing her nothing. Her independence is refreshing. She’s not independent in a postmodern, feminist sense of rebelling resentfully against the men closest to her. She’s independent in that she can fend for herself, expects others to do the same, and doesn’t want a man to cling to her, either.Our protagonists decry society’s looters and moochers – those who punitively tax the productive and those who whine to be helped.Rand uses the great length to portray inside business and political dealings, less melodramatic but more complex than what’s usually portrayed elsewhere. It takes her a while to get around to it, but you finally see where she’s going: the government injects itself more and more into the process. Every owner here must answer to officials who look more and more like commissars. Every owner tries to get by using Washington fixers to keep the government off his back, but in the long run fails. The government starts dictating who gets what raw materials, how much they can produce and who to ship it to. Producers produce less and less, their industries start to fall apart, and thus so does society.Rand’s prolixity is put to good use in descriptive passages finding the beauty of industry – of blast furnaces, of gleaming rail stretching across plains and hills, of fabulous new bridges and skyscrapers. These are the things people build, beautiful in themselves and in what they represent: ideas proved right, energy, will, intelligence, investment, hard work, science, technology. These industrial artifacts are usually portrayed as ugly from a postmodern or environmental perspective by the ‘we’re raping Mother Earth’ school.What was gained by such industry – steel, transportation, habitats and offices – and what was gained by all those – more places to live one’s life and seek one’s dreams, and a larger world to do it in – is often ignored and forgotten. And you can’t forget that. Those who want you to give it up, and will institute regulation or revolution to force you to, never seem to say how they’d substitute for it. And when given the chance to – Communist countries with complete and dictatorial control – they invariably fail. Your typical revolutionary couldn’t run a candy store, let alone a railroad.There was a film called “Koyaanisqatsi” back in the 1980s, an American Indian word that meant “world out of balance”. It consisted entirely of video, much of it time-lapse, of human construction upon the planet. We were supposed to perceive it all as ugly. But the bands of light, say, streaming from thousands of cars moving in mesmerizing lines at night along urban highways was actually beautiful, which is why anyone watched the movie until the end. It disproved its own point.The book has numerous flaws, more than a classic normally should, but it is so unique, it’s worthwhile despite it. There are too many endless conversations and interior monologues. Rand disparages feelings, as opposed to thought, but much of the book consists of her characters emoting. Well, OK, they’re thinking, the protagonists anyway (the bad guys, particularly near the end, are shown panicking, in ways they can’t verbalize, thought having succumbed to emotion) but it’s a very fine line. This book would be better at half or a third of the length. I have read that Rand used benzedrine, a stimulant, for three decades; if so, this book bears evidence of it. It would explain why so many of her passages go on for so long, far longer than it takes to actually explicate the thoughts in question, and counterproductive to the causes of holding readers or communicating, which I imagine she’d in normal circumstances have held dear.John Galt’s legendary speech – said in the book to take three hours, but I imagine this would take even longer to actually read aloud; it’s 60 pages in one hardcover version – is in its own category. Rand lays out her philosophy the way philosophers do. It will cross the eyes of anyone else, those not greatly concerned with whether, say, existence can prove its own existence. But I’m willing to stipulate that political philosophies at some point and for some fraction of people must be proven in this way.Rand at times writes like a girl; I say this affectionately. Dagny Taggart generally beats the guys (save for a few who are her equals, like Francisco D’Anconia and Hank Reardon) at their own game. She’s tough, competent, decisive and hard-working. But there is a tremendous amount of melodrama attached, not only to her, but to all of them. She’s always appearing at some important scene straight from some party in her formal evening wear, her strapless gown blowing in the wind, a striking, mesmerizing figure. (‘I Dreamed I Smashed The Collectivist Looter State in My Maidenform Bra.’)And all the key men in the book are in love with her! And she has to choose! Oh, what to do, what to do?! It’s so awful! It’s so wonderful! Oh, TAKE ME!It’s a lot of fun, actually, because it’s part of a book that actually says something.

⭐As a novel it fails completely. The characters are cardboard and the plot so heavily signposted you could probably skip nine pages out of ten and miss nothing. It has the virtue of being written in simple language with short sentences so it is an easy read. That said, this particular edition has irritatingly heavy typeface and a cramped layout.If you fancy yourself as a superhero just read Sun Tzu ‘The Art of War’ or Clausewitz ‘On War’ which make clear and mercifully brief arguments which could actually be useful if you were a senior army officer. Neither of them have much to say of value to anyone running a business or going into politics, although a lot of shallow people assert the contrary.The novel is an attempt to illustrate Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which can be discussed elsewhere if you have the inclination, though few philosophers think it worthy of the time it would take.One could imagine businessmen brandishing this book in the same way Trump brandishes the Bible. It is seen by those who have achieved some success in business as a rationale for rejecting any and all constraints upon their behaviour.

⭐This is a very famous book – all for the wrong reasons. It is deemed as “influential” (and one of the most influential of the second half of the XX Century), but then again it is so flawed it can be read today as a parody of itself, almost a joke.It meant to be a pamphlet against the “evil red empire” at the height of the Cold War, but the message is all wrong – it is not necessary to go to the extreme right to fight the extreme left. It is wrong as it is dangerous.Leaving aside the – completely twisted – political and social “message”, as a novel there’s little one can say about this mammoth of a book (1,170 pages!) except that it is very badly written. The prose is pedestrian, lifeless and plagued with platitudes; the dialogues are unnecessarily long. The plot is not any better. It revolts around four main characters of whom we become tired after 200 pages (with 900 more to go). In not so many words, it is a bore.And the sort of resolution of the plot, the conclusion that we should have been waiting for 1,000 pages is a delirious 60 (you’ve read correctly sixty) pages speech on the greatness of ultra-capitalism and greed.Why the two stars then? You have to give the author a bit of credit for the effort, even if she would have put it elsewhere.

⭐This book should be among everyone’s 100 books. Ayn Rand (who I personally think was not a very pleasant woman) wrote it as a response to communism. However, some of the principles of the book could well apply today. The idea behind the book is that people should be rewarded for their intellect, especially those whi are able to design things for the betterment of mankind and these skills should not be donated for the greater good free of charge. A modern reader will bauk at some of the precedents but the ideas put forward are interesting and thought provoking. What would happen if the brains of the world went on strike.?

⭐With a novel with such a strong cult status as Atlas Shrugged, it is difficult to approach the novel from an objective view point (no pun intended). The novel has inspired everything from approaches to laissez faire economics to people’s self pursuit of becoming a Randian hero, essentially Nietzschean like Superman. Ayn Rand’s novels are carriers of her philosophy of objectivisim, but they are ultimately just that, novels, and one has to be prepared to endure the realities of reading a novel. At times an overly long and somewhat disjointed novel. The novel can be difficult reading at times, with often no clear beginning, middle or ultimately end. It is overly heavy on dialogue, much of which seems inconsequential, making the novel difficult to follow at times, and completion can seem like something of a mammoth task. For this reader it took 3 attempts before actually reading the novel all the way through to completion. So, one may wonder, was it worth it? If one is highly motivated to understand Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, then perhaps one could say yes. Similarly, even if one is unacquainted with the notions of Objectivism and one wishes to absorb ideas that challenge one’s mind, then Atlas Shrugged is definitely worth a read. One may ask, what are the key ideas? Well, the novel revolves around a world that is heavily trending toward socialism, with “People’s States” appearing globally and the United States trending toward heavier governmental control. A general zeitgeist can be observed wherein one is pressured toward subordinating their creative and entrepreneurial energies toward the collective and shamed as selfish and irresponsible for resisting the popular notions. However, the regulations are presented as being stifling toward commerce, and ultimately, industrialists begin to retreat and withdraw their energies. The book explores the futilities of philosophical concepts, such as notions that the mind itself does not exist (a notion held by the misguided zeitgeist of the time) only for the ensuing strike of industrialists providing the triumph of the mind. The most famous name associated with the novel, John Galt, does not appear until well into the second half of the book, until then he is a name mysteriously eluded to in conversation, often appearing randomly under the phrase “who is John Galt?” The actual main event of the novel, the strike by industrialists is difficult to discern due to the heaviness of the dialogue, and no clear beginning or end can be discerned within the text, unless one gives their utmost attention to the book. So, one may ask, is all the effort worth it? It depends on one’s motivations. If one wishes to understand Objectivism, this can be done in a far more concise way, however, the novel, if properly read and understood, buttresses Rand’s philosophical notions and explores them in a dialogue all of her own. In some ways similar to Plato’s dialogues, however, far less concise. Think of Atlas Shrugged as being less a casual read, and more of a project. It’s a book that will be with you for weeks, likely months unless one is a quick reader. Patience is required to complete the book, and one needs to read between the lines at times, so for such reasons it is far from an easy read. The book is relevant for our time, or previous ages, as it provides a reminder that one should rely on one’s own instinct and resist the herd mentality of the times. In the book, it is the herd mentality trending toward Socialism, in our day and age it is the herd mentality trending toward medical totalitarianism. Both use shaming, as explored in the novel, and both can stifle the human spirit. The alternative is provided by Rand, man’s own rationalism and pursuit of one’s own interest. Read only if you are highly motivated to immerse oneself in the Randian Philosophy of Objectivism, or are already attracted to popular notions of individualism.

⭐Atlas Shrugged is one of those books that divides its readers. The book is extremely long and does get become unnecessarily long and repetitive at points, but is still a good read nonetheless.The story is set many decades in the past and focuses on a rail executive who finds herself in a world where business leaders are disappearing. The story is interesting and gripping, but not the main reason why people read this book.The story is suppose to express Rand’s “Objectivism” to readers in a way that is easy to understand and convincing. This world view attempts to justify extreme egoism and reject altruism. This is perhaps the only bit of Rand’s Objectivisms that comes through well. Other parts such as her epistemology and metaphysics are easy to understand, but very unconvincing.This book is a commitment to read, but one that everyone should take in their life. This book has influenced countless leaders throughout the world, and it is good to have read it to better understand their thought process.


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