BOOK REVIEW – Mathilde Berger-Perrin
“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, 1957
What would happen, in a world where interventionism is rife, and where the masses feed off the creativity and production of a few, if all the entrepreneurs, scientists, businessmen, artists, and working elites went on strike? What if we stopped the motor of the world? What if Atlas, the Greek mythological figure carrying the world on his shoulders, got fed up and simply decided not to care anymore? Such is Ayn Rand’s proposal in Atlas Shrugged. Published in 1957, it has often been considered one of the most influential and controversial American novels of the 20th century. In the traditional scheme of strikes, workers collectivity stop their activity to show their worth to the elite.
Rand reverses this scheme with a what-if: what would a society deprived of capitalist values (e.g., free enterprise, private property, individual rights) look like? And how would those who see the fruit of their labor be taken away from them react? For Ayn Rand, who fled the USSR in the 1920s and embraced the American ideals of the Founding Fathers, such a society is simply not worth living in. Her entire life has been dedicated to defending freedom in all forms, proposing a resolutely individualist perspective on life. In 2009, a year after the financial crisis that was considered by some as the final nail in the American capitalist coffin, Atlas Shrugged sold as many copies as the Bible in the United States.