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Category — Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged: Its Philosophy and Energy Implications (Part II: The Book)

[Editor note: With the Atlas Shrugged movie enjoying a strong opening, MasterResource this week is examining the book (Part II–today), the philosophy behind the book (Part III–Wednesday), the moral obligation of capitalists according to Rand (Part IV–Thursday), and Atlas shrugging in the energy market (Part V–Monday).]

Ayn Rand’s first major novel, The Fountainhead, is the story of a lone architect struggling against the altruistic, collectivist norms of his profession. Atlas Shrugged describes the process by which men and women of accomplishment and honor withdraw their talent to defeat a parasitic, collectivist society.

Rand described her major plot device, an anti-Industrial Revolution:

Reverse the process of expansion that goes on in a society of producers: Henry Ford’s automobile opened the way for industries: oil, roads, glass, rubber, plastics, etc. Now, in a society of parasites, the opposite takes place: a shrinking of industries and productive activities. (1)

Originally titled The Strike, the novel revolves around John Galt, a theorist and inventor in the field of energy who leads the exodus, refuses under torture to save the bankrupt society, and then returns with the strikers to rebuild America on a rational, individualistic basis. “Who is John Galt?” has become a literary phrase that, like “Atlas Shrugged,” is still in use today.

Atlas Shrugged contains a variety of business and business-government situations that impart Rand’s views of positive and negative attributes of firms and their leaders. Although the work is fictional, a number of its insights anticipated the real-life blind spots of major business and political figures from Ken Lay to Barack Obama.

Energy in the Novel

Rand’s book about the anti-industrial revolution finds government and society working against the master resource of energy.

There is John Galt’s abandoned motor, his secret energy, that represents a foregone quantum leap for energy creation and usage.(2)

There is Ellis Wyatt’s oil, which Atlas Shrugged refers to “the black blood … because blood is supposed to feed, to give life….” (p. 9). Rand continues: “[The discovery of oil] had shocked empty slopes of ground into sudden existence, it had brought new towns, new power plants, new factories to a region nobody had ever notices on any map.” [Read more →]

April 19, 2011   7 Comments