January, 2001 -- In the culture wars of our time, the culture that shaped our world has had no voice.
A distinctive culture was born in the historical era we know as the Enlightenment, a culture of rational individualism. It is a culture that values reason, science, technology, and the material prosperity they bring. It welcomes innovation and progress. It regards the pursuit of happiness in this life as a cardinal moral value. It affirms the sanctity of the individual and his right to freedom of conviction, speech, and action. It gave us the classical liberal social philosophy of economic freedom, a market economy, limited government, and the rule of law.
This culture created America and is spreading in fits and starts throughout the world. It is a culture that millions of people embrace implicitly when they enjoy the fruits of new technology, when they seek happiness and fulfillment in their personal lives, when they work and shop in the marketplace, when they settle conflicts by suits at law instead of suits of armor.
Yet it is a culture that has few spokesmen. Intellectuals on both the cultural Right and the cultural Left have taken aim at the culture of the Enlightenment and its constituent values. They denounce reason as an enemy of faith . . . or a Western tool of oppression. They disparage the pursuit of happiness as shallow, selfish, materialistic, and anti-social, undermining traditional communities . . . or ethnic and racial solidarity. The conservative Right defends capitalism with a tepid two cheers, while the Left still seeks to destroy it.
I don't need to belabor the point. In previous issues of Navigator we have outlined our analysis of the culture wars as a battle between the premodern Right and the postmodern Left, united in their opposition to Enlightenment values (see my article " The State of the Culture ," September 1997; Stephen Hicks, " Postmodernism ," and Roger Donway, " Market Research Discovers the Three Subcultures ," February 1999; ). We have also noted that Objectivism is the only explicit and philosophically consistent defender of these values.
As we begin a new year and a new volume of the newsletter, we have committed ourselves to the goal of making Navigator a public voice for the culture of rational individualism. Though we are conscious of our historical legacy, our focus will not be historical. Our aim is to join the present battle and fight for a brighter future. And though we rely on the philosophy of Objectivism as our chief intellectual asset, our focus will not be theoretical. Our aim is to present Objectivism as a new cultural vision by spelling out its meaning and implications in every field of cultural significance: intellectual trends, the arts, psychology and personal growth, social manners and mores, business, law, and politics.
This publication began life in 1991 as the IOS Journal, the newsletter of the Institute for Objectivist Studies. It was published three times a year to report on the Institute's work and thank its members for their support. From the outset, however, it also included interviews, articles, book reviews. It brought new ideas and new voices into the Objectivist movement, reflecting the Institute's early mission of creating an independent branch of the movement. Under the editorship of Walter Donway, and now of Roger Donway (1997-), the newsletter became a monthly publication, tripled in size, and changed its name to Navigator.
Last year, the Institute itself changed its name to The Objectivist Center, reflecting a new and broader mission of reaching beyond the movement and making Objectivism a cultural force. The change in Navigator's focus is intended to serve that goal. By the end of this year, we aim to make it available by subscription and market it as widely as we can. We hope it will attract the attention of people who share our basic values-whether or not they are members of the center, indeed whether or not they are Objectivists-and who want an alternative to the tired, superficial views that now dominate cultural debates.
This does not mean that we will abandon our commitment to Objectivism. On the contrary: Our goal is to gain wider exposure and support for the philosophy by showing how its principles illuminate contemporary issues, and by exposing the irrational assumptions and false dichotomies of our cultural opponents. But this goal does require a shift in our editorial focus. Navigator will not include material that is purely theoretical, or requires a systematic understanding of Objectivism, or is of interest only to Objectivists (except for our news section, where we will continue to report on activities at the center and elsewhere in the movement). Ayn Rand wrote in a way that was accessible and interesting to thinking people as such, regardless of whether they already agreed with her whole system. We aim to do likewise.
The issues we want to address as cultural activists cover a wide range: the culture of the new information economy, political correctness on campus, educational trends and standards, assaults on the rule of law, and individualism versus tribalism in civil rights, to name a few. We will review books that are making a cultural impact, or that offer value in the pursuit of happiness. We want to identify and celebrate the achievers who embody our values.
We think this new focus will better serve the interests that drew our members to the center and enable us to achieve the cultural impact you want to see. Please let us know what you think.
This article was originally published in the January 2001 issue of Navigator magazine, The Atlas Society precursor to The New Individualist.