Atlas Shrugged

ISBN: 0452011876
ISBN 13: 9780452011878
By: Ayn Rand Leonard Peikoff

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About this book

This is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators?Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies, but against those who needed him most, and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world’s motor — and the motive power of every man? 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 characters in this story. Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life — from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy — to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction — to the philosopher who becomes a pirate — to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph — to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad — to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels. You must be prepared, when you read this novel, to check every premise at the root of your convictions.This is a mystery story, not about the murder — and rebirth — of man’s spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events, a ruthlessly brilliant plot structure and an irresistible suspense. Do you say this is impossible? Well, that is the first of your premises to check.

Reader's Thoughts

Ian

I only gave this book 3 stars because it was so tedious and repetitive. I actually have some things to say in defense of the usual criticisms, but more on that in a minute. Whether or not you agree with her philosophy, Ayn Rand does make some good points in favor of her argument. I can forgive it for it's exaggerated depiction of socialism as a system which rewards the weak and lazy and parasitizes the intelligent and productive. Honestly, if you install any system which allows people to thrive as parasites, plenty of people will take advantage of it. It's just human nature. Unfortunately, this book only seems to be aware of human nature where it guarantees the failure of the system it's trying to shoot down. It never takes into account the inevitable abuses of capitalism by fallible human beings. Special interest groups, politicians making laws which favor corporations they hold stock in, sweat shops, the whole military industrial complex, etc. While the author's point of view is understandable given the communism she came to america to escape, and the fact that the issues I listed above probably weren't in the news as much back then as they are now, I still don't think her long long long argument holds up. The brilliant, attractive, articulate, morally perfect industrialist heroes of Atlas Shrugged are not real people. Ayn Rand herself said, in defense against her critics, they are not man as he is, rather man as he should be. Which would be great in another book, I have no objection to admittedly portraying non-existant ideals if it makes a good point. If such people really existed capitalism could work. Ayn Rand seems perfectly aware of the shortcomings of human nature when they manifest themselves under communism, but then offers as an alternative another system which could only actually work for the non-existant ideal men she made up. So as a piece of propaganda, It doesn't fully convince me. I suppose if I were completely on the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture debate on human behavior, I could have simply bought the idea that installing an economic system based on moral principles could create a better culture and thus better people. Though if there's anything history shows us over and over again it's that no new belief or set of rules has ever succeeded on that front. As a novel, well, it's full of excessively long-winded monologues and drags on. But, it did keep me interested enough to see it through to the end, and forced me to think so I have to give it some credit.

Nandakishore Varma

I read this book as a teenager while recovering from a long bout of viral fever which had left me bedridden for almost a month: I had exhausted all my other books and forced to rummage through old shelves in my house. (Ironically, I read The Grapes of Wrath also at the same time.) My teenage mind was captivated by the "dangerous" ideas proposed by Ayn Rand. At that time, India was having an inefficient "mixed" economy comprising all the negative aspects of capitalism and socialism, and Ms. Rand seemed to point a way out of the quagmire.Almost thirty years hence, I find the novel (if it can be called that - Ayn Rand's idea of fiction is a bunch of pasteboard characters put there as her mouthpieces) to be silly beyond imagination. The premise is laughable; the characters entirely forgettable; and the writing, abyssmal. The idea that governments governing the least and allowing a "winner-take-all" economy to flourish will solve all the world's woes ("Social Darwinism", a word I've heard used to describe her philosophy) will not wash anywhere today, I would wager - even with the hard-core adherents of the GOP in the USA. Especially when we look at Europe, where capitalism has gone into a downward spiral.Ms. Rand, sorry to say, Atlas didn't shrug: Atlas collapsed!

Imogen

Hey, if everybody acts like a total dick to everybody else, then everybody will be happy. Good call, Ayn.

Monica MizMiz

The Concept: Rand follows the lives of society's movers and shakers (first-handers, in her words, and business men, scientists, inventors, and artists in her novel) as they resist the societal pull to become second-handers and to remain true to themselves and their live's work. Meanwhile, something is happening that is shaking the very foundation of society.After reading The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in 2005-2006, my life has been changed for the better. Applying Rand's ideas to my own life has made my mind clearer and has helped me to acchieve goals I thought were unreachable. Rand's ideas have been a big part of "growing up" and getting through the "quarter life crisis" for me. While I read Rand's books for her ideas and to better understand the application of her philosophy, they can also be read on many different levels. Through reading them, not only did I read an amazing story, carefully crafted and well rendered, but I also learned so much. However, one does not have to delve deep into Rand's philosophical background to enjoy The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged -- they are also great stories about human endurance, individualism, freedom, relationships, and integrity.If you are reading this book to gain an understanding of Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, then I would recommend reading this book AFTER reading Ayn Rand's other famous fiction, The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead is a more straight forward place to start that study. I highly recommend this book, and I have a copy to loan if you're interested. When you're reading, we can go out for coffee to talk about the book -- there is much to think about in this one.

Brett

Atlas Shrugged is a ferocious defense of the concept of capitalism. Although Rand depicts capitalism from her objectivist perspective and makes monumental over-exaggerations, she succeeds in demonstrating the importance of such basic social necessities as self sufficiency, personal responsibility, accountability, punctuality, and hard work. She equally condemns such economic poisons as socialized industry, redistribution of wealth, laziness, entitlement, and incompetence. Rand shows how these economic poisons also have the power to poison the human soul, embodied in the character of James Taggart. The ideas discussed in Atlas Shrugged are of monumental importance and Rand successfully unveils the consequences of a large-scale destruction of capitalism and how and why such destruction could become reality.Aside from the political implications inherent in Atlas Shrugged, the book is also an excellent work from the fictional literature perspective. Critics condemn Rand’s bipolar use of almost godly heroes and devilish villains, claiming this as a failure to create human characters. This misconception is obviously false, based on the fact that Rand includes a Greek god’s name in the title. Creating god-like characters to emulate is not failure, it is an effective tool Rand used to establish a moral framework in a mythological industrial era. The only real criticism I can offer of this masterpiece is the use of repetitive, far too lengthy orations on objectivism, which culminates in John Galt’s two-hour speech over radio waves near the end of the book. This book could have, and probably should have, been shorter than it is. That said, I couldn’t put the book down for the first two-thirds of the story. The last couple of hundred pages were arduous, but the ending was worth the effort.I recommend this book to adult readers of all ages, creeds, and political interests. The story is gripping, and the concepts it teaches are of great value. The enjoyment and enlightenment found in the over one thousand pages of this book are well worth the time and effort it takes to get through it.

Deb Seksay

** spoiler alert ** I personally have a deep attachment to this book, and am less confused about why people call me Dagny...I am oft accused of having little emotion or being 'stand offish' because I am direct when making a point. I must admit, in modern society, it is quite a disadvantage to know philosophy, math, physics, and literature, but not purses and shoes, while being a woman.It isn't for everybody. Some people get more reward from a community atmosphere, and as the girl kicked out of the smart people classes for refusing to work in groups, it is little wonder I enjoyed this piece.Is it philosophically over loaded? Yes, I will grant you that. I worry that people see this behemoth, and dive into it before reading her more direct works like The Virtue of Selfishness, which is short and to the point. Don't let a behemoth of a book that changes the lives of others bring you away from the heart of appreciating another philosophical opinion. You cannot argue for or against a thing you don't understand. To be honest, I think I'm rather appalled at people that admit they think they were lobotomized by the book. As an advocate of self-censorship, I must ask: Why did you do it? When you figured out it wasn't right for you, why did you keep going? Are you one of those people that calls the radio stations about topics you find offensive because you simply refused to change the channel? For me, though philosophical, this book makes sense when taken that way. Women have always hated me, and in recent years, I discovered that a large portion of their frustration comes from the fact that I don't get hints or passive-aggressive biting remarks, I cannot be moved by misleading speech because I see through it, and I'm smart enough to hold conversations with their men about things they just smile and nod about without ever understanding at all. I can relate to Dagny, and her confusion about interacting with 'Washington' people, and her distaste for the poor because of my life experiences. And her debut...I understand that disappointment all too well. Having been to enough parties to understand that no one there was celebrating, but hiding from lives that they hated but continued to plod through day in and day out with no effort made to change.Wordy? Yes. Preachy? Yes. Still enjoyable for me because of my unique set of experiences? Absolutely. Not enjoyable for everyone because some people aren't over keen of capitalism because of how it has been distorted and bastardized in this country? Damn skippy.Good food for Deb's brain? Yes. Would I recommend it around? Sure would. Would I tell people it is a must read? No, silly. I'm a libertarian. I don't believe that a country full of individuals should like the same things. Arguing is so important! We should always have a reason to...its how minds get sharper.

Ken

This book was the most overrated piece of crap of the twentieth century. It spars only with Dianetics and in its absolute absurdity.The characters are absolutely idealized 'heroes of capitalism' action figures. I wonder if Rand imagined some of these great barons of industry coming to her rescue when she immigrated away from the vile pit of communism that she left behind. You know, during the time where she forged her citizenship papers and depended on the generocity and kindness of a liberal, open society.If only she had us all her irritating, long winded, repetative tales of woe for the monied class of brilliantly handsome, powerful super geniuses.She bases all of this on her objectivist claptrap, claiming rationality as her own private high ground. But this is a general critique of her works. Specifically this book is completely overwritten and serves as flak cover for all the wrong people. The Jack Welch's and Phil Knights that imagine themselves to be the heroes of this book.This book has done more to create a generation of self interested greedy mindless zombies than any other book I can think of.

Tara

Favorite QuotesHe walked, groping for a sentence that hung in his mind as an empty shape. He could neither fill it or dismiss it.She sat listening to the music. It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean, and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance.He, too, stood looking at her for a moment--and it seemed to her that it was not a look of greeting after an absence, but the look of someone who had thought of her every day of that year. She could not be certain, it was only an instant, so brief that just as she caught it, he was turning...But this was that view of human destiny which she had most passionately hated and rejected: the view that man was ever to be drawn by some vision of the unattainable shining ahead, doomed ever to aspire, but not to achieve. Her life and her values could not bring her to that, she thought; she had never found beauty in longing for the impossible and had never found the possible to be beyond her reach.

David

** spoiler alert ** “Check your premises” the major characters are told. Well let’s check the premises of Ms. Rand’s story.The first (false) premise is that there are only a dozen or so people in the country who are worth a damn. They have well above-average intelligence, have worked hard and have been lucky enough that their work has paid off in oodles of money (which they don’t enjoy or even care about because they are too busy working). But they can’t bear the thought of paying taxes to support the services they receive and depend upon.The second (false) premise is that every government employee is a lazy no-good who has nothing on his mind but pillaging the bank accounts of the lucky dozen. But beyond that, the government is inherently evil, to the point of passing laws that inflict major economic damage and suffering on virtually everyone in the country with the exception of the privileged government leaders. This evil government is all-powerful and has total control over every newspaper, television and radio station. Fat chance. Obviously the author’s image of government derives from her formative years in the USSR. She has no concept that other governments have not tolerated the oppression that she found there.The third (false) premise is that the rest of the people of the U.S. are mostly a bunch of lazy morons who blindly accept the statements of the evil government and their patsy press. Further, they have no ability or process to provoke change. They wander around like a bunch of sheep being led to the slaughter. If only they were weren’t so stupid and lazy they would all be as rich as the “lucky dozen elite”. Since they didn’t have the ability (or intensity or luck) to become one of the elite, they all think that the elite should support them so they don’t have to work. The country has a middle class composed of about 24 people who are the trusted, loyal assistants of the elite. They are good enough to do everything their masters ask, but not good enough to join their masters in “Atlantis”. When the elite disappear (on strike), their trusted assistants are left behind to bear the misfortune of the rest of the poor slobs.This is all set on a stage of poor science fiction, which includes such things as a magic “motor” generating vast amounts of energy out of nothing. The author doesn’t seem to know the difference between a motor and a generator and uses the terms interchangeably. Then there is a magic “ray” that makes large areas of land invisible, powered, of course, by the magic “motor”. These magic things were, of course, invented by the intelligent elite who use them to help wreak havoc and despair on the rest of the 200 million people of the country in order to punish the evil government.Then there’s the (obligatory) sex. Dagny Taggart, the heroine and only intelligent woman in the universe, has sex with three of the elite. She dumps the only real relationship (with Rearden) in favor of the demi-god John Galt (who she barely knows) along the lines of a teenage girl throwing herself at one of the Beatles. Her favorite encounters are sado-masochistic.In the end, after they have succeeded in destroying the economy of the world and most everyone’s life, the elite magnanimously plan to sashay back into the real world and rebuild the hundred years of technology that they just destroyed. Isn’t that a brilliant idea? They think the only path to change is to take their football and go home. You have to wonder how brilliant these people really are.The author spends great quantities of print describing and re-describing thoughts and feelings of the characters ad nauseum. The redundancy is overwhelming.This poor attempt at science fiction with a supposed moral message demonstrates how a 350 page book can be padded to become a 1200 page behemoth. Elitists, libertarians and others paranoid about the government will undoubtedly enjoy this book. Paramilitary groups will love it. Most of the rest of us will ask ourselves “What the hell was she was thinking?”

Mike

** spoiler alert ** Mike Reads Rand, Ep. 1I've always felt that you shouldn't take positions on things you don't know anything about. So while I'd heard plenty of people talk about Ayn Rand's phonebook-sized novel, they were always conversations I'd had to stay out of. Finally my curiosity got the best of me, and I picked up Atlas Shrugged on a trip to Barnes & Noble. When dealing with a book I know nothing about, I open it up to a random page, read it and, if it's enjoyable, I'll give the book a shot.I opened up on a page of John Galt's speech.I did not leave the store with a copy Atlas Shrugged that day.Several years later, my nagging curiosity finally overwhelmed my better judgement and I started off. It's a relatively easy read despite the size, mainly because of the straight-forward nature of the story, but don't let that fool you - this book can be one of the most torturous slogs you'll ever endure for the simple reason that Rand doesn't have any characters in Atlas. Instead, she populates her book with a series of shambling automata that spout three-page long lectures supporting whatever ideology they're meant to represent at the drop of that hat. Ignoring all the other problems with her characters, people simply do not act this way. Every conversation tangents off into lectures thinly veiled as dialog, and it gets progressively more ridiculous every time it happens. Galt's 50-page speech (no, really) is the most egregious example, but Francisco is another common violator - get ready to settle in for a symposium any time he shows up. I realize that this is a philosophical novel, but first and foremost a philosophical novel should be a novel. Plot and writing should never be sacrificed for you to make your point. If you can't manage that and your book devolves in to simple pedagoguery, then maybe non-fiction is the format for you? Rand may as well use the naming scheme from The Pilgrim's Progress for all the subtlety she displays here. Everyone in Atlas is either pure as the driven snow, righteous and good-natured beyond reproach, or ridiculously evil cartoons, twirling their moustaches while they tie Capitalism and Liberty to the railroad tracks. It also goes without saying that all the good guys are to a person handsome, athletic supermen, while the bad guys are all balding and overweight or cringing weaklings. And of course, when Dagny finally makes it to the striker's hide-out in Galt's Gulch, both the town and its inhabitants are flawlessly perfect and happy.Which ties directly to the next problem - Rand never shows, she tells. By which I mean to say that even beyond the characterization, she always leads you by the nose. You're never allowed to infer anything; instead, she spells it all out in big crayons so you're sure to get it. If it's tiresome in her characters, it gets even more so when it's drawn out in to her writing in general. For someone who's based her entire philosophy on the intelligence and ability of the individual, she seems amazingly unwilling to trust us to figure things out on our own. She also undermines her own case by beating you over the head with her ideas so constantly. After awhile you start to dread hearing someone talk about personal responsibility or the sanction of the victim.Which is all a shame, because there are the bones of what could have been a really great book here. The concept of all the creative, productive members of society going on "strike" and abandoning civilization is an interesting one. Rand doesn't do too bad of a job setting the scene either. She manages to create a surprisingly pervasive sense of despair in the book - this is a world that's grinding to a halt and it shows. Also, she does an impressive job of not tying the book to any definable time period. Sure, the prevalence of passenger rail travel and the fact that TVs appear only briefly towards the end is something of a give-away to people reading it today, but otherwise it's a story with remarkably little to demarcate when it should take place. I also have to give her credit for the first half of the book, where Dagny and Rearden start to piece together what's going on and try and to find the inventor of the discarded, revolutionary motor they find. This section actually reminded me somewhat of The Crying of Lot 49 - there's the same sense of a grand conspiracy just beyond view and the nagging suspicion that the conspirators are all around them. And the entire book does move briskly when people aren't speechifying - there's always some new scheme or plot twist going on. But then the last half ruins what little goodwill the book may have eked out in the beginning, as the book slams to a halt for Galt's speech and the "moochers" (groan) ratchet up their vaudevillian evil to even greater heights. It's genuinely funny to watch as they progressively screw things up worse and worse every time they try to solve a problem, but it's the loud abrasive humor of a pulp novel, not the bitting satire Rand so clearly intended it to be. Which is a good metaphor for the story in general - it reads like a pulp. And while I love pulps, they're not the vehicle for getting across arguments about the nature of truth and beauty. Like I said earlier, I feel that these sorts of works should be novels first, and I'm rating her novel, not her philosophical arguments. Rand's ideas are certainly interesting and she does make her case here, but her book pays a huge price to do so.Also, Rand has some weird ideas about sex and that's all the farther I'm going to touch that one.

Stephanie

When I first put this book on my "to-read" list, I really had no idea what it was. Now that I do know, I recken it would be a collosal waste of my time, and just make my head explode from seething anger.......But again, if I suffered through it, I could write an amazing vitriolic review that would gain many of votes.What to do, what to do.

Jason Pettus

Would you like to hear the only joke I've ever written? Q: "How many Objectivists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" A: (Pause, then disdainfully) "Uh...one!" And thus it is that so many of us have such a complicated relationship with the work of Ayn Rand; unabashed admirers at the age of 19, unabashedly horrified by 25, after hanging out with some actual Objectivists and witnessing what a--holes they actually are, and also realizing that Rand and her cronies were one of the guiltiest parties when it came to the 1950s "Red Scare" here in America. Here in Rand's second massive manifesto-slash-novel, we follow the stories of a number of Titans of the Industrial Age -- the big, powerful white males who built the railroad industry, the big, powerful white males who built the electrical utility companies -- as well as a thinly-veiled Roosevelt New Deal administration whose every attempt to regulate these Titans, according to Rand, is tantamount evil-wise to killing and eating babies, even when it's child labor laws they are ironically passing. Ultimately it's easy to see in novels like this one why Rand is so perfect for late teenagers, but why she elicits eye rolls by one's mid-twenties; because Objectivism is all about BEING RIGHT, and DROPPING OUT IF OTHERS CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT, and LET 'EM ALL GO TO HELL AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED, without ever taking into account the unending amount of compromise and cooperation and sometimes sheer altruism that actually makes the world work. Recommended, but with a caveat; that you read it before you're old enough to know better.

Robb

I guess I can't hate this book. After reading The Fountainhead, I found myself crushing on Objectivism and Rand's brand of rugged self-reliance. Intrigued, I picked up Atlas. 1000 pages later I closed the book, opened my window and threw it into the street. This book cured me forever of this flat, willingly shortsighted b*llshit religion.I've had my run-ins with the devout and the dogmatic fans of Rand and the big O and their reluctance to even nod towards the notion that saying A is A and that Objective Reality is Real is so much wasted air surprises me. How can a person interrogate the real to such a degree, be engaged in the real so deeply so as to love it and come to rely on it the way an Objectivist *must* and not see how any deep dive into the Universe always, *must* produce nothing but doubt? Mystifying, really. It's turtles the whole way down, that's what I always say.The characters are awful, beyond cartoonish and they do nothing but mouth Rand's words. All the people that care about their fellow humans are evil. Any motive but self-interest is evil. All situations point to the inevitable and quick demise of any collectivist pursuit or charity. John Galt finally delivers a 50 page long radio speech to the entire country at the end and changes everyone's mind with his words about selfishness and we are led to believe that things begin to really look up after this.But seriously. What a crock. This book was written when Roosevelt's actions during the Depression were recent memories and the ultra-wealthy (well, at least by the standards of the time) were all hot to further centralize wealth. Well, guess what? They got what they wanted and everything sucks. Yay.

Christopher

As Ayn Rand's immortal opus, Atlas Shrugged, stands as a tome to a philosophy that is relevant today as it was in her time. Basically, the major moral theme is that there are two types of people in the world: the Creators and the Leeches.The Creators are the innovators who use the power of their will and intelligence to better humanity. The first person to create fire is often referenced as the paradigm for these people. In the book, each of the major protagonists also represent Creators improving the human condition with their force of will.The Leeches (my word) are the people who create nothing, but thrive off feeding on the Creators. In Rand's view, they are the bureaucrats, politicos, regulators, etc. Throughout human history she tells us, these people have benefited through no ingenuity of their own, but merely from piggybacking on - and often fettering - the success of the Creators.Where the conflict in this book arises is when the Creators decide they have had enough and revolt. I won't spoil the book by describing specifics, but let's just say it causes quite the societal drama. For Leeches can't feed where there's no blood.All that is fairly significant and involved and worth the read to begin with, but where this book really stimulates me is in the fact that it is still relevant. Today we have Creators and we have Leeches. Some titans of industry and technology move our culture forward and others hold it back to their own benefit. I work in Silicon Valley and I see this all the time. That's why in many ways I consider this voluminous novel to be as important to a business education as Art of War.To cite other readers' posts, you don't have to agree with what Rand is extolling, but I think you'd be foolish to try and deny the existence of this struggle since it is ingrained in humanity. Yes, Ayn does get long winded and arrogant in parts as she draws the battle lines, but I don't think an author could have crafted such a powerful conflict without copious quantities of ego to accentuate the differences.

Seth

This book, as much as I detest it, is actually rather useful. Those who have read it tend to be those whom I most especially desire to avoid. Because those who have read it are invariably proud of the fact--ostentatiously so--it is even easier for me to keep my life free and clear of delusional egomaniacs. Thank you Ayn Rand.

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