Category Archives: Periodicals

The Rand Transcript Revealed (Part I)

It gives me great pleasure to announce that JSTOR has published the December 2021 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Project Muse will be publishing this issue soon.

Today, I’d like to begin a series of posts discussing the lead essay in the current issue. That essay, “The Rand Transcript Revealed,” coauthored by Pavel Solovyev and me, is currently available on the JSTOR site. For the benefit of all future scholarship on Ayn Rand, the article provides 28 archival images pertinent to Rand’s education in the Soviet Union. The images appear in color on all e-platforms, and in black and white in the printed hard copy that will be mailed to subscribers soon.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this essay. My own former detective work, which investigated Rand’s education at the University of Petrograd (formerly the University of Saint Petersburg, later the University of Leningrad, and now the University of Saint Petersburg again), began with my book, published in 1995, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (Penn State Press). In that book, I made a lot of educated guesses on what Rand studied and with whom she may have studied, based on my understanding of the enormous changes that were instituted at the University of Petrograd in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution. I drew much from Rand’s own recollections, as recorded in a series of biographical interviews conducted by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden in 1960-1961, as well as from contemporaries of Rand and scholars of the historical period in question.

A lot of what I suggested in that first approximation was given evidential support in the essay that opened the very first issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: “The Rand Transcript,” published in the Fall of 1999, based on the Leningrad State University diploma of the young Ayn Rand, born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum. That was followed in the Fall of 2005, with “The Rand Transcript, Revisited,” an analysis of much more in-depth records of Rand’s courses, generously provided to me by Anne C. Heller, who wrote the biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made (2010). Both of these articles were subsequently republished in 2013 as the first two of three appendices in the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. (The third appendix addressed criticisms of my historical work, followed by another “Reply to Critics” [pdf] published in the December 2017 JARS.)

Unable to digitally reproduce poor photocopies of all the records I had examined, I was elated to discover that in October 2020, Pavel Solovyev had begun to post to a public Ayn Rand group on Facebook many of those same documents, which he had obtained—in pristine color—through the website of the Saint Petersburg Archive. Subsequently, Pavel and I struck up a wonderful collegial friendship, which enabled us to work together toward the publication of this article.

I will have a lot more to say about the article—and the trailblazing analysis of the documents that it contains—over the next few days. For now, on behalf of Pavel and myself, I’d just like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the JARS editorial board and the entire Penn State Press family, especially Joseph Dahm, Rachel Ginder, and Komal Ganjoo, for their helpful guidance in the production of this important project.

Though some on Facebook may have previously seen this image (below), I reproduce here the cover of the personal file of Alissa Rosenbaum (as it appears on page 145 of our journal article)—still rendered in the pre-1918 alphabet—from the Saint Petersburg State Archive. Stay tuned … so much more to come!

Postscript: And check out the public Facebook discussion that followed.

DWR (2): Hayek as Democratic Socialist?

Les Leopold has a Common Dreams essay entitled “Was Frederick [sic] Hayek a Bernie Sanders Socialist?” that checks off the many areas in which Friedrich A. Hayek favored social welfare “safety net” protections that are on a par with the policies advocated by many “progressives” today.

My friend Ryan Neugebauer shared the article on his Facebook Timeline (so a H/T to him!). And it prompted a productive exchange between us. This is the second in what I’ve called my DWR (“Dialogues With Ryan“) series.

Ryan observes correctly that Hayek was “a strong proponent of governmental countervailing power within a capitalist economy,” much “closer in line with [Bernie] Sanders than … with Ayn Rand or [Ludwig von] Mises.” For Ryan, “as long as Statist Capitalism exists (the only form that has ever existed), some form of Social Democratic project is in order.” He therefore favors “a synthesis of libertarian and social democratic thought, … promoting bottom-up dual-power/mutual aid projects [that depend] on the state less and [that build] ‘an alternative society in the shell of the old.'” He argues, correctly in my view, that “it makes no sense to take away the crutches before you strengthen and heal the broken leg.”

Ryan points out further that it was the reactionary conservative “Otto von Bismarck who erected the modern welfare-regulatory state in response to Socialist revolutionaries agitating for change in Germany during 19th century Industrial Capitalism. When people are distressed by poor working conditions, poor pay, and see no end in sight, they agitate for radical change.” Though he embraces long-term anarchist goals, he argues that as long as you have “a situation where a nation state is … affected by crony interests and a distorted banking sector, having a form of social democracy is the preferable option in my eyes. … In contrast to many Progressives and State Socialists, I prefer polycentric systems and multiple option arrangements/escape potential.” He provides a key example:

I would prefer a situation where Trans individuals wouldn’t be dependent simply on the public system, which could restrict their options due to political control, and instead be able to access alternative private options if they should choose or are able to get support to access. I would prefer people being able to access different forms of schooling and not be forced to attend a public school system. Given that the political mechanism is often captured by right-wing interests, it does not make sense to crowd out alternatives, require “public only” arrangements, and simply count on always having “the right people in”, as many Progressives and State Socialists do. I gave a few examples, but I typically prefer having more options than less and power distributed as much as possible.

One can achieve that while maintaining a robust social insurance system. It just will likely always be up for grabs such as long as it is attached to a political system that is easily captured by nefarious interests.

In the Facebook discussion that followed, I wrote:

This is a very nice discussion about the kinds of alternatives that people—who favor freedom and flourishing—must face given the conditions that exist. While Hayek most assuredly was not a strict libertarian on matters of government “intervention”—and I put this in scare quotes because the state has always been intimately involved with all things economic—I think there are two important takeaways from The Road to Serfdom that advocates of more benign social-democratic measures forget at their peril.

The first is this: Politics in general and the state in particular have always been central to the constitution of class structures in society. The more political power comes to dominate social life, the more it becomes the only power worth having (which is why I applaud your support of bottom-up, polycentric, decentralized models of social decision-making). In Hayek’s view, however, the growth of political economy engenders a process in which “the worst get on top” necessarily. And “the worst” are, for Hayek, almost always those drawn from those predatory business-class interests within capitalism that had the most to gain from the regulatory, welfare-warfare state.


Given this reality, even the most benign of social-democratic “safety net” measures that Hayek favored could not escape a class character. Historically, as you suggest, “safety net” measures have often been enacted to not only benefit certain elements of the “ruling class”, but to undercut working class revolts (a la Bismark). (As an aside: I’d go so far as to say that historically, confrontational labor strikes and unrest have been intimately tied up with the depressionary phase of the boom-bust cycle, which both Marxists and Austrians root in the state-banking nexus. Pardon the plug, but on this, see my own undergraduate history honors thesis.


The second takeaway is Hayek’s view that extensive government control produces a socio-psychological alteration in the character of individuals within the larger culture. This social-psychological corruption is both a reciprocally related cause and effect of advancing political economy, a process of mutual reinforcement that undermines accountability, personal responsibility, and the autonomy of the individual’s moral conscience.

As a long-term alternative, Hayek advocated social change for sure, but with a dialectical sensibility; he believed that it could only occur through a slow and gradual change in cultural mores, traditions, and habits, which are often tacit. Like you, he argued that trying to impose such change “top-down,” without the requisite cultural foundations, is doomed to fail. And yet despite this almost Burkean emphasis on slow and gradual change, Hayek adamantly declared he was not a conservative. He embraced the essence of a radical approach. “We are bound all the time to question fundamentals,” he said; “it must be our privilege to be radical.”

I think this was a worthwhile discussion … and wanted to preserve it on my Notablog.

JARS: New December 2021 Issue is a Blockbuster!

The December 2021 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (Volume 21, Number 2) is in production and it’s a blockbuster!

First and foremost, the issue is dedicated to the memory of Advisory Board member and JARS contributor, the late Steven Horwitz. It also introduces four new Advisory Board members: Laurence I. Gould, Kirsti Minsaas, Aeon J. Skoble, and Edward W. Younkins — as well as a new Associate Editor: Roger E. Bissell.

And as we have done with every issue that we’ve ever published, we introduce at least one new contributor to the JARS family. This time, it’s two new contributors: Winton Bates and Pavel Solovyev, with whom I’ve coauthored the lead essay. Here’s our line-up:

Introduction: Dedicating — and Rededicating – Chris Matthew Sciabarra

The Rand Transcript Revealed – Chris Matthew Sciabarra and Pavel Solovyev

The Lady and the Stamp – Amos Wollen

Reviews

Flourishing in a Risky World – Winton Bates (a review of Freedom, Eudaemonia, and Risk, by Kathleen Touchstone)

The First Russian Biography of Ayn Rand – Anastasiya Vasilievna Grigorovskaya (a review of Ayn Rand, by Ludmila L. Nikiforova and Mikhail B. Kizilov)

Hunting the Pseudo-Philosopher: Perils and Pitfalls – Roderick T. Long (a review of False Wisdom, by Gary H. Merrill)

Check the JARS site for article abstracts and contributor biographies!

I am going to have a lot more to say about the coauthored lead essay, “The Rand Transcript Revealed” in the coming days and weeks. One of its sparkling characteristics is the first-ever publication of 28 images of original archival documents (in color for all electronic formats of the journal; rendered in black and white for our print version).

For now, let me just extend my deepest appreciation to our readers as we complete our twenty-first volume. We remain the only scholarly, double-blind peer-reviewed, biannual, interdisciplinary, university-press published periodical devoted to the study of Ayn Rand and her times.

Folks can subscribe to the journal here.

The December 2021 Issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

A New Translation of Zamyatin’s “We” …

There is an interesting review of a new Bela Shayevich translation of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the Silver Age dystopian novel that is said to have influenced both George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ayn Rand‘s Anthem. (For a fine discussion of the possible impact of We on Anthem, see especially Peter Saint-Andre’s essay, “Zamyatin and Rand” (The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Spring 2003).

As Jennifer Wilson points out: “‘We’ has the distinction of being the first novel officially banned in the Soviet Union.” Check out the full review here.

How NOT to Read an Article

It was really late last night, after a long, eventful day, and I decided to open up Friday’s copy of the New York Daily News (Friday the 13th, no less!), and was thumbing through the newspaper, and the Sicilian in me caught the headline on page 18: “119.8 degrees in Sicily is eyed as European record” (by Nelson Oliveira). Wow! — I said to myself.

I gravitated to the center of the article, where something odd caught my eye:

Lucifer was expected to bring more heat and dry weather to Italy and neighboring countries, possibly causing additional wildfires.

WTF?? The West coast is burning, Greece is on fire, and now Lucifer is in on the act “causing additional wildfires” in Italy and elsewhere.

This couldn’t be, I said to myself. “Must be a misprint,” I muttered aloud. Now I’m looking back through the article to see how it is that somehow, on top of pandemics and global unrest, Lucifer has made an appearance to make matters even worse! And I found the answer!

Sicilian authorities said the mind-boggling [temperature] reading was recorded in the town of Siracusa on Wednesday afternoon as the region was hit by a brutal heat wave and an anticyclone dubbed “Lucifer.”

Okay. So at the very least, could we put “Lucifer” in quotes next time!

John Dewey H.S.: A Love Letter …

On Facebook, my friend Stephen Boydstun, made the following query:


You attended the John Dewey high school in Brooklyn, and I was wondering if there were differences in that school compared to other high schools that were advertised and how did its specialness stack up in your experience of it. Your 1977 yearbook is online, though not with very clear images. It indicates you were awarded a Regents scholarship. Does that mean a scholarship to go to college? The high school was free, right? Do you have a clear senior picture you could show us? Perhaps you have already written about some of this and could direct me to that spot.

I’ve only written in passing about my experiences at John Dewey High School (50 Avenue X, in Brooklyn, New York). But there’s so much to say.

As background, folks can indeed check out the John Dewey High School Archives here. Available on that site are my 1977 senior yearbook (my own yearbook is somewhere in my apartment, but my high school photo [ugh!] can be found on page 88), Graduation Program, and Senior Recogntion Night Program. I was indeed the recipient of a small Regents scholarship, though, more importantly, I received a Regents-endorsed diploma, because I successfully completed the necessary Regents exams to qualify (in Biology, English, Geometry, Social Studies, and so forth).

John Dewey was an extraordinary “free” public high school. I don’t know how my experiences in high school compare to those of others in standard high school curricula throughout the New York city public school system. But I can say that my high school years were among the most remarkable educational experiences of my life. The school stressed individual responsibility within a nourishing social environment, with gifted teachers who cared, and who offered challenging courses and extracurricular activities on a sprawling college-like campus. Check out “The John Dewey High School Adventure” (October 1971, volume 53, no. 2, Phi Delta Kappan International) by Sol Levine, who was the principal of the school when I was in attendance. A 1977 New York Times article also highlighted the school’s unique character.

In 1974, I entered the school as a sophomore (a tenth-grader), having graduated from a 2-year SP (“special progress“) program at David A. Boody Junior High School, which consolidated the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades into a two-year timeframe. Instead of the traditional fall and spring semesters, John Dewey High School provided students with five 6-week cycles throughout the academic year. Courses were graded on a pass-fail system, which placed less stress on grade-consciousness and more on augmented learning—though teachers could give students an “ME” (Mastery with Excellence) certificate. The school day was longer (8 am to 4 pm) than the standard NYC high school, which allowed for “free periods” in which we were expected to meet in study groups, clubs (both traditional and nontraditional), and on-campus activities. The school didn’t participate in interscholastic sports team competitions, but encouraged intramural play on its wonderful athletic field.

Sophomore Year

In my sophomore year, in addition to full-year studies of French, Advanced Geometry, Biology, and Business Education (Typewriting), I took courses in the following areas:

English

  • Introduction to Dramatic Literature
  • Introduction to Creative Writing (with Brian McCarthy, who also stoked my interest in science fiction, with the Science Fiction Club and the Palingenesis publication it spawned)
  • Introduction to Journalism
  • Introduction to the Short Story

Social Studies:

  • War and Peace (Twentieth Century)
  • Struggle for Democracy (Up to the French Revolution)
  • American Foreign Policy
  • Consumer Economics
  • Urban Economics

I was medically excused from gym, but took associated courses in “Human Sexuality” and “Psychology of Human Relations”.

Junior Year

I engaged in full-year studies (all five cycles) in French, Chemistry, Trigonometry, and Music (The History of Jazz, 3 cycles of which were attended in my junior year, 2 cycles of which were completed in my senior year—during which I actually taught several weeks on the history of jazz guitar and the history of jazz violin). I also took these courses in the following disciplines:

English

  • Psychological Approach to Literature (2 cycles)
  • Shakespeare (2 cycles)

Social Studies

  • The Kennedy Years & After
  • American People
  • The Holocaust (the first such course ever offered on a high-school level, taught by Ira Zornberg, under whom I came to edit the social studies periodical, Gadfly)
  • Futuristics

I began my studies with the Law Institute, led by two wonderful teachers, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Wolfson:

  • Justice, Judges, and Jury
  • Supreme Court & Civil Liberties
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Business Law

I also took one elective course in “Photography”—where I learned to take and develop photographs, as well as various “DISKS” (“Dewey Independent Study Kits”) in such areas as Medieval History and the Renaissance.

Senior Year

In my final year at John Dewey High School, I undertook full-year studies of Advanced French, Anthropology, three cycles of Calculus, and Advanced Placement American History (taught by Larry Pero, Chair of the History Department, for which I earned college credit with St. John’s University). I also studied the following courses in English:

  • Man, Nature, and Survival
  • Individualism in American Literature
  • Introduction to Film
  • Public Speaking

And I completed my studies in the Law Institute with the following courses:

  • Law in an Urban Society
  • Fieldwork and Legal Research

Never giving a second thought to the issue of “Grade-Point Average,” I fully embraced the enriched atmosphere of learning that John Dewey High School provided for its students. I graduated with honors for growth, personal achievement, and personal contributions in English, French, Music, and Social Studies, and received recognition for my extra-curricular activities.

I also received the English Achievement Award for Excellence in the Communication Arts, the James K. Hackett Medal for Demonstrated Proficiency in Oratory, the Publications Award for Demonstrated Excellence in the Field of Journalism, the John Dewey Science Fiction Club Award, the Chemistry Teachers Club of New York Award for scholarship in chemistry, a certificate of merit from the Association of Teachers of Social Studies of NYC, and the Honorable Samuel A. Welcome Award for Excellence in Legal Studies.

Most importantly, the teachers at John Dewey High School, unafraid to show their own political predilections, encouraged me to develop my own political and intellectual interests, whether or not they agreed with the directions I was taking. Indeed, once I had discovered Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand, while enrolled in my Advanced Placement American History course, the libertarian trajectory of my politics was seeded, nourished, and challenged by my teachers. A greater gift from American educators I could never have received.

From what I understand, the school is more traditional today than it was in its inception, but I’ve retained friends among my former peers and faculty and will always have a depth of love for the high school that more than prepared me for a rigorous and rewarding undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral education at New York University.

C4SS: Homonograph Reviewed

Eric Fleischmann—who is not just a student of my work and a very dear friend, but a very fine young scholar in his own right—offers a critical and provocative review of my monograph Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation on the site of Center for a Stateless Society, which, not coincidentally, is offering the “Homonograph” for sale at its C4SS Store here.

Eric interviewed me for the piece, which places the monograph in its proper context—a nearly two-decade old discussion of the relationship between Objectivism and those in the LGBTQ+ community who were drawn, “like moths to a flame,” to Rand’s uplifting celebration of individual freedom and authenticity “only to be burned in the process.”

Despite some many on-point criticisms of the work, of Rand and her acolytes, and of reactionary elements within the libertarian movement, Eric argues that the “monograph serves as one of the centerpieces in the establishment of thick libertarian ideas. It especially forwards the point that it is not enough that people refrain from trying to use the state against the LGBTQIA+ community. We must go further and combat a culture that breeds both physical and nonphysical violence.”

Check out the review here and other reviews of the work here. And thanks, Eric, for your challenging and wide-ranging examination of the monograph!

The “Homonograph” (Leap Publishing, 2003)

JARS: Dedicating and Rededicating …

Over the last twenty-one years of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, we have lost key members of the JARS family. In 2005, one of our cofounders—the man with the vision to create this journal—Bill Bradford, passed away. This was followed by the deaths of original Advisory Board members Larry J. Sechrest in 2008 and John Hospers in 2011. David Mayer, who joined the Board of Advisors in 2012, died in 2019. And in June 2021, we were greatly saddened to learn that Steven Horwitz, another Advisory Board member from the class of 2012, lost his battle with multiple myeloma.

It is in Steve’s memory that we will dedicate the forthcoming December 2021 issue of JARS, published by Pennsylvania State University Press.

But dedications of this sort require rededications to our mission—as we continue to be the only nonpartisan, biannual, interdisciplinary university-press published, double-blind peer-reviewed scholarly periodical devoted to the critical examination of Ayn Rand and her times. To that end, we are proud to announce the addition of four new Advisory Board members and one new Editorial Board member (and fuller bios for these folks will follow in our December 2021 issue):

We are also pleased to announce that Roger E. Bissell, another prolific contributor to JARS since its debut in 1999, has become an Associate Editor. Roger is an independent scholar living in Antioch, Tennessee. A research associate with the Molinari Institute, he has edited no fewer than ten books and is the author of more than three dozen scholarly essays in philosophy and psychology and four books, including How the Martians Discovered Algebra: Explorations in Induction and the Philosophy of Mathematics (2014) and What’s in Your File Folder? Essays on the Nature and Logic of Propositions (2019). He is also the coeditor, with Chris Matthew Sciabarra (me!) and Edward W. Younkins, of The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom. A lifelong professional musician, he has an M.A. in music performance and literature (University of Iowa) and a B.S. in music theory and composition (Iowa State University).

In welcoming these individuals, we remain profoundly grateful to all of our editorial and advisory board members for their continued support, which is integral to our ongoing intellectual journey.

Stay tuned for what promises to be a blockbuster December 2021 issue of JARS!

JARS July 2021 Now on JSTOR & Project Muse!

Subscribers to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies can now access the new July 2021 issue of the journal on both Project Muse and JSTOR. Hard copies will be in your mailboxes soon enough!

I previously disclosed the contents of the issue here. We remain the only double-blind peer-reviewed biannual university-press published interdisciplinary scholarly periodical devoted to the critical discussion of Ayn Rand and her times.

The Third Decade Begins …

C4SS Store: “Homonograph” and DOL Now Available!

Pardon me for this commercial break!

This being Pride Month, I am happy to announce that my 60+ page-monograph, Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation (2003) is finally available again for sale—though supplies are limited—through the C4SS Store (link to sale page). I donated virtually my entire personal inventory of the work to the store. The book may be out-of-print, but the copies are pristine and being sold for only $5 each!

Available Again thru the C4SS Counter-Economic Store

The “Homonograph” (as I’ve often called it) is a combination philosophical exegesis, sociological study, and political tract, which examines Rand’s impact on the sexual attitudes of self-identified Objectivists in the movement to which she gave birth and the gay subculture that she would have disowned.

I should also mention that our special discount sale of the anthology, The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom (coedited by Roger Bissell, Ed Younkins, and me), is now over, because the book is sold out! It is still available at a higher price (in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle) through Amazon (as well as Google Books and Lexington Books), but why would you pay a minimum of $40 when you can get the book for $18 directly from the C4SS Store (link to sale page)! I’ve autographed all the copies that C4SS is selling. It is also available as part of the C4SS Store’s special collection: “The Intros Bundle” (link to sale page).

I want to thank James Tuttle for making all of this possible. Check it out!