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December 2004 -- There is much to celebrate on the occasion of the Ayn Rand centenary. Books on Rand and Rand citations in the scholarly literature have multiplied exponentially in the past decade; there's even a Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, of which I am a founding co-editor. In addition, we have witnessed Rand's cultural ascendancy as an iconic figure, as references to her proliferate on television; in movies, plays, novels, and music; and even in cartoons and comic books.
Rand sought to go to the root of social problems, while stressing the interconnectedness of social phenomena within a broader context.
But for those of us who work in the area of social theory, it is Rand's radical legacy that must be preserved and extended. In seeking to understand and change that which she characterized as the "New Fascism," Ayn Rand traced the relationships among such seemingly disparate factors as political economy and sex, education and art, metaphysics and psychology, money and moral values. By examining such elements on different levels of generality and from different perspectives, by grasping their place within a larger system and their development across time, Rand illustrated the power of a profoundly radical method of social inquiry.
Indeed, Rand's radicalism, though political in its implications, was more about the methodology of thinking. Ayn Rand sought to go to the root of social problems, while stressing the interconnectedness of social phenomena within a broader context. Those of us who are inspired by Rand's model have learned to question the fundamentals at work in virtually every social problem we analyze. And it is because of thinkers like Rand that we can appreciate the nature of freedom as a comprehensive achievement, one that has psychological, philosophical, and cultural preconditions and effects.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra is a visiting scholar in the department of politics at New York University. He is the author of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and of two monographs: Ayn Rand: Her Life and Thought and Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation. He is the coeditor with Mimi Reisel Gladstein of Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, and also a founding co-editor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.
This article originally appeared in the December 2004 issue of Navigator magazine, The Atlas Society precursor to The New Individualist.