Francisco Ferrer

Did Marx Teach Rand How to Think About Capitalism?

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from "Judaism, Capitalism, and Marx" by David Gordon

Before turning from Marx on capitalism and the Jews, I allow myself one conjecture. Marx said that the essence of capitalism was egoism. Could awareness of this claim have influenced the young Ayn Rand, who after all grew up in Soviet Russia, where the writings of Marx were abundantly available in Russian translation? I ask because she of course also thought that capitalism was in essence egoism, though she embraced exactly what repelled Marx and ignored his identification of Judaism with capitalism.

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Though I'm not familiar with Gordon or Marx, I doubt this, since she didn't start thinking systematically about economics until she started to work on Atlas Shrugged in the 1940s.

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Marxian influence on Rand was the creation of Soviet Russia.

Sciabarra claimed commonality in dialectic philosophical roots.

--Brant

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Though I'm not familiar with Gordon or Marx, I doubt this, since she didn't start thinking systematically about economics until she started to work on Atlas Shrugged in the 1940s.

True, but must a systematic understanding of economics precede the hypothesis that capitalism is egoism in practice?

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Though I'm not familiar with Gordon or Marx, I doubt this, since she didn't start thinking systematically about economics until she started to work on Atlas Shrugged in the 1940s.

True, but must a systematic understanding of economics precede the hypothesis that capitalism is egoism in practice?

If your conclusion is "no," did you just prove it? :smile:

--Brant

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Though I'm not familiar with Gordon or Marx, I doubt this, since she didn't start thinking systematically about economics until she started to work on Atlas Shrugged in the 1940s.

True, but must a systematic understanding of economics precede the hypothesis that capitalism is egoism in practice?

If your conclusion is "no," did you just prove it? :smile:

--Brant

With regard to the theory that Rand was driven to capitalism by Marx's description of it, I offer nothing remotely resembling proof. It's entirely possible she got the egoism-capitalism connection not from Marx but Adam Smith:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

The trouble is Smith was ultimately interested in the good of society, which for Rand was never a priority.

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Maybe she hit on it herself. Somebody has to do this if we're to avoid infinite regress.

If she did get it from Marx or from Smith, show us the evidence. As Lennox pointed out in his review of Sciabarra (http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/rad/PubRadReviews/ioslennox.htm - see the part about Darwin and Malthus), hard documentation is the standard when you impute influences or borrowngs. This might be a public statement, a draft or journal, a letter or a well-corroborated eyewitness account (not an exhaustive list); coulda/mighta/musta isn't up to the standard.

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from "Judaism, Capitalism, and Marx" by David Gordon

Before turning from Marx on capitalism and the Jews, I allow myself one conjecture. Marx said that the essence of capitalism was egoism. Could awareness of this claim have influenced the young Ayn Rand, who after all grew up in Soviet Russia, where the writings of Marx were abundantly available in Russian translation? I ask because she of course also thought that capitalism was in essence egoism, though she embraced exactly what repelled Marx and ignored his identification of Judaism with capitalism.

Makes sense to me, Frank.

The very same egoism which would be anathema to a collectivist like Marx... an individualist like Rand would revel in it.

...and Capitalism certainly has roots in the soil of Judeo/Christian ethics.

Greg

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Maybe she hit on it herself. Somebody has to do this if we're to avoid infinite regress.

If she did get it from Marx or from Smith, show us the evidence. As Lennox pointed out in his review of Sciabarra (http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/rad/PubRadReviews/ioslennox.htm - see the part about Darwin and Malthus), hard documentation is the standard when you impute influences or borrowngs. This might be a public statement, a draft or journal, a letter or a well-corroborated eyewitness account (not an exhaustive list); coulda/mighta/musta isn't up to the standard.

There is no evidence that I'm aware of, and probably never will be. Intellectual historians point to currents in the air during a period of cultural or political upheaval. Much of it is only the suggestion of possibilities. No claims are made or implied in the use, or results by the use of the theory herein.

However, it is interesting to observe that both Rand and Marx treated egoism as the ethical foundation of capitalism. We can no longer say that Rand is the first to have asserted that connection.

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I think Rand got the anti-altruism thing from Nietzsche in her youth. Then extended this to ego, economics, etc.

Her early thinking is more class-based between an elite and the masses. That I believe she got from her Maxist surroundings.

Michael

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However much she evolved she never completely gave up Nietzsche--strongest in The Fountainhead.

In Atlas Shrugged there were no "masses" except a vague sprinkling or a few souls run in as extras, usually to their regret. She couldn't have written a novel about mass starvation with millions dying consequent to a "strike." Even Project X was like a reverse neutron bomb destroying structure but no people except the fools in the control room.

--Brant

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Yeah, but she was for it and he was against it.

...but he was for it before he was against it.

Oh wait... never mind. That was someone else.

Greg :wink:

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The vital point here is the connection between egoism and capitalism. That linkage did not come from the classical liberals (who were largely utilitarian) and certainly not from Nietzsche, who regarded the rise of the West as the triumph of slave morality.

That Marx rejected egoism-capitalism does not negate the possibility that Rand embraced it in reaction to Marx.

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The vital point here is the connection between egoism and capitalism. That linkage did not come from the classical liberals (who were largely utilitarian) and certainly not from Nietzsche, who regarded the rise of the West as the triumph of slave morality.

That Marx rejected egoism-capitalism does not negate the possibility that Rand embraced it in reaction to Marx.

Sounds like it might be a dissertation proposal, but focus on Marx when you go to your adviser. Afterwards expand it with more Rand.

--Brant

push his Marxist feel-good button

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The vital point here is the connection between egoism and capitalism. That linkage did not come from the classical liberals (who were largely utilitarian) and certainly not from Nietzsche, who regarded the rise of the West as the triumph of slave morality.

That Marx rejected egoism-capitalism does not negate the possibility that Rand embraced it in reaction to Marx.

Francisco,

I have no problem with the ego-capitalism connection, but if you want to crawl into Rand's head and claim Marx was her inspiration for making her own ego-capitalism connection, I believe the best place to check that would be in her Journals, Letters, biographies, etc. And some studies like Merrill's The Ideas of Ayn Rand (or Marsh Enright's revamp, Ayn Rand Explained). I would look at this last before dismissing Nietzsche's input so cavalierly.

I would not try to validate a theory about how Rand came up ideas with simple conjecture and words of others who did not know her, but, instead, I would look at Rand's own words and those of people who did know her.

I see your pattern. It would be cool if it were true, but I have not seen a correspondence in the records of Rand's life and words I have read. But, hey, go for it. Maybe you will turn one up.

Michael

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However much she evolved she never completely gave up Nietzsche--strongest in The Fountainhead.

In Atlas Shrugged there were no "masses" except a vague sprinkling or a few souls run in as extras, usually to their regret. She couldn't have written a novel about mass starvation with millions dying consequent to a "strike." Even Project X was like a reverse neutron bomb destroying structure but no people except the fools in the control room.

--Brant

Project X certainly killed living entities - remember the goat[?] chained by that structure?

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The vital point here is the connection between egoism and capitalism. That linkage did not come from the classical liberals (who were largely utilitarian) and certainly not from Nietzsche, who regarded the rise of the West as the triumph of slave morality.

That Marx rejected egoism-capitalism does not negate the possibility that Rand embraced it in reaction to Marx.

Francisco,

I have no problem with the ego-capitalism connection, but if you want to crawl into Rand's head and claim Marx was her inspiration for making her own ego-capitalism connection, I believe the best place to check that would be in her Journals, Letters, biographies, etc. And some studies like Merrill's The Ideas of Ayn Rand (or Marsh Enright's revamp, Ayn Rand Explained). I would look at this last before dismissing Nietzsche's input so cavalierly.

I would not try to validate a theory about how Rand came up ideas with simple conjecture and words of others who did not know her, but, instead, I would look at Rand's own words and those of people who did know her.

I see your pattern. It would be cool if it were true, but I have not seen a correspondence in the records of Rand's life and words I have read. But, hey, go for it. Maybe you will turn one up.

Michael

Everybody has their own Ayn Rand into her head. That's the power of Rand.

--Brant

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I do not dismiss the early Nietzschean influence, cavalierly or otherwise. But on one point we can be sure: nothing in Nietzsche's work can be construed as a defense of capitalism, which he described as dehumanizing.

As I said before, I do not believe that we will uncover a a smoking gun, i.e. an open admission by Rand that she latched onto egoism in reaction to Marx. The significance of Dr. Gordon's discovery, as I indicated earlier, is that we now know that Rand is not the first philosopher to view egoism as the ethical foundation for capitalism.

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A smoking gun?

That's the frame for this supposition?

Dayaamm!

I've seen theories in search of some reality--just a smidgen of reality--before, and this one is pretty high up there...

This is a perfect example of the normative before cognitive approach, i.e., evaluating before correctly identifying.

Michael

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I say "gun." You say "frame."

Let each man choose his own metaphorical weapon.

Now, regarding the search for reality. I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge the possibility/likelihood Rand did not derive the egoism-capitalism nexus from Marx. Of greater significance, however, is the datum that deriving capitalism from egoism did not begin with Ayn Rand

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Now, regarding the search for reality. I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge the possibility/likelihood Rand did not derive the egoism-capitalism nexus from Marx. Of greater significance, however, is the datum that deriving capitalism from egoism did not begin with Ayn Rand

In which case, it could be argued that great observers of reality see alike. With very dissimilar conclusions. One could surmise Rand derived capitalism from egoism, but Marx 'blamed' capitalism on egoism. Or, maybe, she saw it both ways equally, a priori and a posteriori - anyhow, I liked your earlier "capitalism is egoism in practice".

But why should there be a causal connection for such phenomena between thinkers? Most deterministic, FF...

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Mike Wallace once asked Rand where her philosophy came from. she answered, "Out of my own mind, with the sole acknowledgement of a debt to Aristotle, the only philosopher who ever influenced me. I devised the rest of my philosophy myself."

To accept that, we'd have to believe she learned nothing from her friend and fellow individualist writer, Isabel Paterson. And that her concept of rights came ex nihilo, with no debt to Locke or the Founders.

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