There was a time, when Ayn Rand’s new essays came out monthly and, as often as not, mentioned or enthusiastically recommended some writer or specific book, that her readers immediately tracked down every work by that writer. Mickey Spillane, Donald Hamilton, Ira Levin, Ian Fleming, and dozens more were added to the Objectivist canon as recommended reading. In fact, sometimes the only lead was the appearance of a new book for sale by the Nathaniel Branden Institute bookstore. I once ordered almost two dozen to be shipped to me at Brown University, where I was a sophomore. I am virtually certain that that did not happen in the case of the Polish Romantic novelist, Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916). In her essay, “Bootleg Romanticism,” available in The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand promoted Sienkiewicz to the Pantheon: The (implicit) standards of Romanticism are so demanding that in spite of the abundance of Romantic writers at the time of its dominance, this school has produced very few pure, consistent Romanticists of the top rank. Among novelists, the greatest are Victor Hugo and Dostoevsky, and, as single novels (whose authors were not always consistent in the rest of their works), I would name Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. That is called “making the shortlist.” Strangely, neither in that essay nor anywhere else, as far as I know, did Ayn Rand ever mention Sienkiewicz again. And yet, there is evidence that...
Because it is so titillating and provocative, Brown’s piece on Branden’s sexuality is the most memorable part of the opening section. Even its title—“Nathaniel Branden’s Oedipus Complex”—invites controversy. Brown is concerned with Branden’s memoir, Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand. “I am,” she submits, “primarily interested in the narrative truth that Branden himself has constructed and how it lends itself to an oedipal interpretation.” Although Branden was a psychologist, or perhaps because he was one, Brown’s invocation of Freud seems both fitting and surprising. Freud, like Branden and Rand, was educated in philosophy. But Freud’s oedipal theories remain divisive and contested, not to mention opposed by both Branden and Rand. At least since Richard Webster’s publication of Why Freud Was Wrong in 1995, and probably much earlier, consensus among psychologists has held that Freud’s theories, many of them anyway, have been discredited. Yet Brown gives them full and unequivocal expression in her treatment of Branden. Having left behind the phallic stage, transfixed by an unconscious castration anxiety, aroused by his loving mother and threatened by her loyal closeness to his father, the sexualized developing male child, in Freud’s paradigm, represses his feelings towards his mother or transfers them onto another female, one who is more appropriate for pursuit. When he reaches puberty, his excited feelings for his mother are reanimated; if left unresolved, they can cause eventual...
This week, the opposition forces in Venezuela are still in the streets, struggling with government forces, to protest last week’s lurch of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s government toward dictatorship. Thousands of people blocked the main Caracas highway on April 6,  chanting "No more dictatorship!" It appeared that the demonstrators might march on the office of state “ombudsman,” the government's so-called “human rights advocate.” An opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, put it succinctly: "The human rights advocate has to stop being the Socialist Party advocate!" But government forces blocked the march, clashing with young protesters in a scene repeated over and over again in the past 15 years. Protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails and government forces fired tear gas. It appears that the opposition may continue its protests for now, but socialism in Venezuela is far advanced. Venezuela has triple-digit inflation, shortages of even basic foods and medicines, and one of the world's highest murder rates. For the record, the Maduro's government has said that a U.S.-backed business elite is responsible for the economic downturn, trying to foment a coup to impose right-wing rule. Just a week ago, it seemed official: The Socialist revolution begun in Venezuela less than two decades ago by the avowed Marxist, Hugo Chávez, has ended in dictatorship. The 34-member Organization of American States (OAS), to which Venezuela belongs, held an emergency meeting in Washington, DC,...
Has the United States become truly and thoroughly “polarized”? Two camps (very broadly speaking) face each other with extreme positions, implacable in their intent to defeat the other, incapable of tolerance for the opposing view, and screaming insults and shaking fists? If this isn’t polarization, what is? Ayn Rand believed that the answer to that question was fundamental and urgent enough to justify devoting her first issue of The Ayn Rand Letter (October 11, 1971) to “Credibility and Polarization.” Almost always, a controversy that won that kind of attention from Ayn Rand involved epistemology—specifically, the nature, pivotal importance, and (often) abuses of concept formation. “One of their methods,” she wrote, speaking of modern intellectuals, “is the destruction of language—and, therefore, of thought and, therefore, of communication—by means of anti-concepts.” An anti-concept is a word attached to a compound of vaguely related examples, an aura of emotional disapproval, and an approximate meaning. It is destructive to clear thought because its intended meaning, what it is meant to convey without naming it, remains implicit. “Polarization” was in vogue, back then, because President Richard Nixon seemed to be challenging the liberal consensus (not very effectively, it turned out!). People no longer conducted their discussions mostly in terms of the “New Frontier,” “Great Society,” and, going back further, “New Deal” consensus. The liberals had assumed, mistakenly, that that...
The idea for a symposium on the life and thought of Nathaniel Branden came in 2012, two years before Branden’s death. Branden himself knew about and approved of the symposium but never saw it completed before he passed away. The editorial board of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies conceived of this symposium as a wide-ranging, probing treatment of Branden’s vast and complex career, not just of his years with Ayn Rand. The response from potential contributors exceeded their expectations; they were inundated with submissions. What was supposed to be one volume became two. The once-slender manuscript grew to over 300 pages bearing the title “Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy.”  This is the first such work of its kind to assess Branden as a central figure in both philosophy and applied psychology in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although the contributors to this collection come from various disciplines and represent different, sometimes incompatible positions, the editors received no contributions from the more “fundamentalist” Objectivists, and none from scholars associated with the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). The editors emphasize this fact in their prologue not to display resentment or animus, it seems, but as a sort of disclaimer—and explanation for the largely positive tone that characterizes much of the content here. I have striven for impartiality regarding the Branden-Rand split and have, I think, made a good-faith effort to maintain the critical detachment...

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