Category Archives: Rand Studies

Scholarly Publishing Collective Launches – JARS Free Till March 31st!

A Major Announcement Today:

The Scholarly Publishing Collective (the Collective) is pleased to announce that its online content platform is now live, with content from over 130 journals published by Michigan State University Press, Penn State University Press, SBL Press, and the University of Illinois Press.

Through the Collective, managed by Duke University Press, publishers have access to resources that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive, such as a best-in-class web platform, proven customer relations and library relations teams, and a network of global sales agents with insight into university press content. Journals are hosted on the Silverchair hosting platform, which is home to Duke University Press’s publications as well as publications from the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Wolters Kluwer, and many other distinguished publishers.

Through the Collective’s partnership with Silverchair, publishers benefit from fully responsive journal websites that adapt to any display size and have a user-friendly, easy-to-navigate interface. Features of the platform include support for advance-publication articles; the ability for non-subscribers to purchase access to full issues and articles; the ability to search and filter results across journal, publisher, or Collective content; robust usage statistics; and support for supplemental data files, including media.

“Being part of the Scholarly Collective will take Penn State University Press’s commitment to journals publishing to a new level. We’re excited about this exciting growth opportunity for our society partners, our library friends, our contributors, and the editors of our journals,” said Patrick Alexander, Director of Penn State University Press.

The Collective platform currently hosts the journals content of four publishers migrating from the JSTOR Journal Hosting Program, which is ending after 2021. All content is temporarily free to access until March 31, 2022.

“Duke University Press has developed infrastructure for our own publishing program that we can share with our fellow UP journal publishers and society publishers to support them at a time when sustaining their journals program is critical to sustaining their overall mission. Through the Collective, the partners expand their ability to disseminate, promote, and increase the impact of scholarship. More than fifteen years of investment and experience and skill-building have gone into being able to do this, and we want to leverage our experience for our Collective partners,” said Allison Belan, Director for Strategic Innovation and Services at Duke University Press.

What does this mean for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies? Simple! Go here and check out our contents (going back to 2007; all contents going back to 1999 are still available on JSTOR)—free till March 31, 2022. (And speaking for myself and my coauthor, Pavel Solovyev, check out “The Rand Transcript Revealed” in all its full-color glory on the site!)

JARS December 2021 Now on Project Muse

The December 2021 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies has now made its debut on Project Muse, after being made available on JSTOR. The hard copy will be in the hands of subscribers soon! Don’t miss this important issue, which includes my own essay, co-authored with Pavel Solovyev: “The Rand Transcript Revealed“!

Facebook: Philosophers as Profile Month 2021 (II)

As readers know, I chose Don Lavoie (1951-2001) as my first profile pic for the event, “Philosophers as Profile Pictures Month.” In keeping with the holiday season, however, I’m straying from the rules a bit, and staying with my current goofy profile pic on Facebook. But with a H/T to my friend Cory Massimino, who sponsored this year’s event, I wanted to highlight yet another philosopher, posting a passage that I initially discovered in an essay written by Cory, which is featured in the Routledge Handbook of Anarchy and Anarchist Thought, a worthwhile collection edited by my friend Gary Chartier and Chad Van Schoelandt.* The passage below is from a writer with whom I have some differences, but whose work, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (Crossing Press, 1983), contains so many thought-provoking pieces.

The author is philosopher Marilyn Frye and the passage contains one of the most dialectical formulations of the notion of “Oppression”—the name of the essay from which it is taken—that I’ve ever read. Frye begins by asking us to “Consider a birdcage” …

If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a bird would not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go somewhere. Furthermore, even if, one day at a time, you myopically inspected each wire, you still could not see why a bird would have trouble going past the wires to get anywhere. There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could discover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it except in the most accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in the moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon. (pp. 4-5)


I have to say that I can think of no clearer exposition of what it means to think dialectically about the interlocking social conditions that are inimical to the struggle for human freedom and human flourishing. Personally, I have authored a trilogy of works devoted to understanding the importance to libertarian social theory of grasping the full context of social relations and institutions—from the personal to the cultural to the political and economic dynamics—that constitute the given structural conditions of our world. Oppression is not strictly a personal or a cultural or a structural phenomenon. It is a condition that must be analyzed systemically and dynamically in its full context if it is to be changed radically.

In light of my recent series highlighting a new article, coauthored by Pavel Solovyev and me, on another woman philosopher, Ayn Rand, and her Soviet education during the Russian Silver Age, I wish to emphasize that Rand herself would have agreed both methodologically and substantively with this powerful description of the nature of oppression, even if she would have parted company with Frye’s “radical feminism.”

I should point out, however, that in coediting, with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, a 1999 anthology in the Penn State Press “Re-reading the Canon Series,” I am acutely aware of the tension between—and congruence of—Rand’s work with the many stripes of contemporary feminism.

In any event, as a concluding post for “Philosophers as Profile Pictures Month” (even if I’ve not changed my pic), I offer this portrait of Marilyn Frye. The eloquent passage I’ve highlighted is a stern warning of the dangers of reifying a single wire—a single part—as if it were the whole. To shift our vantage points, our perspectives, our levels of generality so that we can truly apprehend the larger cages that inhibit our ability to be free and to flourish is a monumental undertaking. Here’s to the day when our social life encourages, nourishes, and challenges each precious, individual human being to dismantle the cages and take flight, free as a bird.

Marilyn Frye (born 1941)

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* Ah! I knew I’d seen this passage even before Cory introduced me to it! Yikes! It actually appears in a book I coedited, with Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins: The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom. The essay, “Why Libertarians Should Be Social Justice Warriors”, is written by my friend Roderick Tracy Long. Check it out here. As I stated on Facebook:

I honestly did forget the Frye reference in Roderick’s chapter, which preceded my having seen Cory’s chapter in the Routledge anthology. And as coeditor of The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, that’s my bad! Granted, I edited and proofed that chapter back in 2018-19, and the book was published in June 2019, and I coordinated our online Facebook seminar on the book, which ran for the first few months of 2020, in the middle of a pandemic. (And in truth, I’ve been juggling a few personal challenges and professional projects for over a year now… but that’s another story!)

Still, as one who cherishes charitable attribution, I apologize for having forgotten the Frye reference in Roderick’s wonderful chapter. But also, in truth, it was Cory’s terrific paper in the Routledge anthology, which highlighted that passage, and which sparked my interest to actually go out and get the Frye book and read it! And I’m glad I did. Hence, this post.

So my thanks to both Roderick and Cory for alerting me to this writer, and especially, this particularly eloquent passage from a 1983 book of which I was not aware—and yet, which encapsulates the kind of dialectical insights that I’ve been championing for the bulk of my professional life, stretching back more than four decades.

The Rand Transcript Revealed (Part III)

This is the conclusion of a three-part preview to a newly published article coauthored by Pavel Solovyev and me: “The Rand Transcript Revealed” (The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, December 2021, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 141-229). Part One informed readers of the publication of this important article, while Part Two situated it in the growing scholarly literature on Rand’s Russian roots.

In today’s final installment, I’d like to turn attention to what this newly published project offers. In this article, Pavel and I analyze and interpret facsimiles of important original documents—published for the first time—that are deeply relevant to the education of the young Ayn Rand at the University of Petrograd. We contribute what we consider to be a definitive reading of source material that provides a significant documentation of Rand’s courses, teachers, and textbooks—and what she might have learned from them. Other original source materials are revealed to advance further investigations of this key period in Rand’s life. We also include discussion of recent commentary on Rand’s education by other writers (such as Gary H. Merrill, in his book, False Wisdom: The Principles and Practices of Pseudo-Philosophy, which is reviewed in the same December 2021 issue by Roderick Tracy Long).

I was first introduced to Pavel in October 2020, through my friend Marsha Enright, after he posted many of these images to the public Ayn Rand Facebook page. What I found there astounded me—only because I possessed poorer black-and-white photocopies of many of these same images, and here they were, in pristine color, with brief descriptions by Pavel. Contacting him, learning from him, working with him has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. He has become not only a colleague and coauthor, but a friend.

Pavel earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry. His “hobby” over the last 10+ years has been research in history, genealogy, and Russian and foreign archives. Some “hobby”! I was so deeply impressed by Pavel’s meticulous research, which, over our many months of working together, produced an overwhelming amount of information—the raw material—for use in this article.

Every time we came upon a puzzling detail, somehow, someway, Pavel would discover a startlingly new piece of information that opened promising paths as our research project unfolded. Based on his painstakingly accurate translation of key sources and his remarkable ability to decipher signatures on Rand’s university records—and then to track down matching signatures to authenticate them (images of which are also provided in the article)—we were able to diligently analyze, contextualize, and interpret this material. His superb detective work is an invaluable contribution to our understanding—such that no future scholarship on Rand’s university years will move forth without reference to it. Indeed, the publication of this important project is simultaneously an invitation to other scholars to critically examine and evaluate, so as to widen the community for interpretive analysis and discussion of this significant period in Rand’s formative intellectual development.

Rand certainly bore the scars of her Russian past but she also absorbed gems of wisdom bestowed on her by professors of significance. It’s all in the article—including information with regard to whether or not Rand studied with Kareev or Karsavin or even Lossky—a mystery that we devote much space to. We offer short biographies of every professor whose name appears on Rand’s matricula. Our work confirms that the overwhelming majority of those who were signatories to the matricula were among some of the finest teachers that Petrograd University had to offer.

But the story that unfolds is also a portrait of a very precarious time for intellectuals in the years after the Bolshevik Revolution. As we write:

An omnipresent thread that runs in the tapestry of academic life during the period of Alissa Rosenbaum’s university education was the politicization of scholarship, in which some professors targeted their colleagues as “counterrevolutionaries,” leading to their dismissal from teaching posts or exile abroad, only to be attacked later by university and state administrators who rewarded their formerly “loyal” informants with internment in prisons and concentration camps or execution by firing squad. As we will see, the lives of many of Rand’s professors at Petrograd University—regardless of their political beliefs or affiliations—were affected profoundly by this tragedy of mounting proportions, which devastated an entire intellectual generation.

Back in 1997, in reply to the many critics of my historical work on Ayn Rand, I freely admitted that on the basis of limited evidence, I had “engaged in an empirical investigation with a dose of judicious speculation.” As that evidence has unfolded over the years, we have gotten closer and closer to understanding more and more of what Rand studied and with whom she studied. In an appendix to the article, we present a table in which readers can see how our knowledge of Rand’s education has evolved over these last 2+ decades of research.

And that is as it should be. I’ve always viewed this research project as open-ended. Speaking for myself, I got a lot right, and some wrong—that’s what a learning experience is all about. In the end, however, I firmly believe that the data, though still incomplete, fully supports my argument that Rand was exposed to something of great value from her teachers—a profoundly dialectical way of looking at the world—and that this mode of inquiry would have an enormous impact on her life’s work.

For those who have been offended by the mere suggestion that Rand could have learned anything of value from her Russian teachers, all I could say in reply is to quote Hegel: “No one . . . can escape the substance of his time any more than he can jump out of his skin.” Rand proclaimed that she was a “radical” thinker, a person who sought to go to the root of so many important issues. But not even the most radical among us exists—from some Archimedean standpoint—outside the world we seek to change. Even as we seek to shape the world, we are shaped by it. Part of what it means to be dialectical is to accept what is as the basis for all that could be.

We invite you to check out our project. Yep, and here’s the sales pitch: It’s currently on JSTOR. I will announce its appearance on Project Muse shortly. And it will be in the hands of JARS subscribers soon—though the full color images can only be found on e-platforms. To subscribe to the journal, see here.

One final teaser … taken from a page of the article: An image of the title page of Alissa Rosenbaum’s Second Matricul …

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Postscript: And check out the public Facebook discussion that followed. In one thread, one commentator stated that in many ways, Rand was like an “inverted Bolshevik”—with her emphasis on the opposition between productivity and parasitism. I responded:

A very interesting observation (and in many respects, my reconstruction of her thought in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical shows the very inversion you allude to).

I should point out of course that some of the worst “parasites” in her novels, especially The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are “capitalists” of the crony kind, part of “the aristocracy of pull” peddlers, using government to gain privileges and wealth. But her antipathy toward business extended as well to the stifling atmosphere of corporate conformity—against which Howard Roark (her protagonist in The Fountainhead) must struggle. In fact, her earliest published writing (while she was still in the Soviet Union) on Hollywood films and film stars contain some strong indictments of studio owners. A recent two-part article by Shoshana Milgram quotes Rand as follows:

“But directors have an enemy. An omnipotent and indomitable enemy. An enemy whom it is difficult to fight — the firm’s owner. At any moment in his work, any director may be interrupted by the appearance of a decisive businessman, who states categorically: ‘This must be changed. This must be cut. This character must be omitted entirely. Cut out the ending.’ And the studio’s sovereign dares not argue.” The owners and presidents of film studios force their views and demands on the directors. They greedily pursue the public’s tastes. Like obedient slaves, they strive to satisfy every desire of the omnipotent public. They want to release only that which is popular. They are frightened by the new and unusual.”

Milgram’s article is in two parts:

‘Capitalism’: When and How Ayn Rand Embraced the Term (Pt. 1)

‘Capitalism’: When and How Ayn Rand Embraced the Term (Pt. 2)

In a follow-up reply, that pertains to the differences between the views of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand on productive work, I said:

There’s a section in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical that speaks to the issue … [of] Rand exhibiting traits of the ‘inverted Bolshevik’. I’ll quote a long passage from the book (pp. 271-73):

Interestingly, Rand enunciated a principle that Marx would have accepted in starkly different terms. For Marx, capitalist “exploitation” is a direct outgrowth of the separation of the product from the producer. In the production process, the laborer endows the product with its value and receives in return only enough for his or her own subsistence. The extraction of surplus value makes possible capitalist accumulation. But it is symptomatic of a condition in which the capitalist consumes value without producing it. In this regard, Marx views the capitalist qua capitalist as a parasite on the production process.

Paradoxically, Rand’s criticism of the Marxian doctrine of exploitation illustrates her own endorsement of a form of the labor theory of value. Rand presents a caricature of the classical labor theory, when she argues that in Marx’s view, “the material tools of production” (that is, “machines”), determine thinking, and that it is “muscular labor” which “is the source of wealth” (New Intellectual, 33). As we have seen, Marx’s conception of human labor was far richer than Rand presumed. Nevertheless, Rand criticized Marx for obscuring the intellectual praxis at the foundation of production. For Rand, an innovation, an idea, is the creative force behind the production of material values. The implementation of creative ideas are a permanent benefit to the day laborer, much more valuable than the hourly expense of merely physical work that extends no further than the range of the immediate productive process.

Rand presented a view of the capitalist as creator, inventor, and entrepreneur. It is the creator who stands at the top of the intellectual pyramid of ability, contributing “the most to all those below him,” but receiving far less in material payment than his or her innovations make possible. In Rand’s view, even though day laborers contribute their energy to the production process, they would starve outside the wider social context because they depend for their employment on the innovations introduced by those above them. Even the machines that laborers use are “the frozen form of a living intelligence,” expanding the potential of the laborers’ lives by raising their productivity (Atlas Shrugged, 1064–65).

Contrary to Rand’s assumptions, Marx did not endorse a vulgar version of the labor theory of value. Marx postulates all sorts of complex labortime derivatives, such that the labor-time expended by a skilled worker, even by a capitalist in his capacity as a skilled innovator, is a multiple of simple labor-time. And for Marx, it is obvious that the material forces, the “machines” as Rand puts it, do not strictly determine consciousness. In Marx’s view, “Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules, etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified” (Grundrisse, 706).

Rand grossly distorted the mature Marxian perspective. But in contrast to Marx, she offered a more sophisticated view of the creative process. As I have suggested in previous chapters, Rand saw creativity as a constellation of rational and emotional, conscious and subconscious, articulated and tacit elements that cannot be quantified as complex multiples of simple labor-time. Creativity is the lifeblood of human action. It is the very fuel of the capitalist system. It is an expression of the individual’s integrated nature as a rational being, and it is the source of values for human consumption and enjoyment. Indeed, as Barry (1983, 109) remarks, there are times in which Rand seems so awestruck by the creative qualities of the innovator and the entrepreneur that she occasionally “slips into a crude intentionalist explanation of the free economy; as if it were the virtues of capitalists that produced the system.” This, however, is not Rand’s view, but it does underscore Rand’s conviction that capitalism as a social system rewards such virtues, raising people to a higher standard of living, and challenging them to greater knowledge and greater achievement. Such a system enriches the efficacious, self-esteeming individual. It promotes the mastery of particular skills, even as it beckons the laborer to expand his or her capacities and earn the values that sustain life.

The Rand Transcript Revealed (Part II)

Yesterday, in “The Rand Transcript Revealed (Part I)“, I discussed the publication of my new Journal of Ayn Rand Studies article, coauthored with Pavel Solovyev, which features 28 archival images in color (and four tables), documenting—as never before—the details of Ayn Rand’s Soviet education at the University of Petrograd.

Today is the second of three posts previewing our newly published article.

My 1995 book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, was the first scholarly work to argue that Rand had a deep intellectual debt to the Russian context within which she came to intellectual maturity. This debt didn’t relate merely to some substantive similarities with ideas current during the Russian Silver Age of Rand’s youth. It was a distinctly methodological debt, which she owed to the dialectical modes of analysis that were endemic to virtually every school and tradition she would have encountered during that period. As my own work on Rand’s education at the University of Petrograd documented, these dialectical motifs were present in Rand’s coursework, textbooks, and in the lectures given by the teachers with whom she most likely studied.

To reiterate for the umpteenth time: Dialectics is the art of context-keeping. It demands that the theorist never disconnect a single event, issue, or problem from its relationships to other events, issues or problems, all existing within a larger context, examined across time.

My seemingly innocuous argument that Rand learned something from her teachers was initially met with a firestorm of criticism—from Rand-haters who viewed her as outside the Western canon of legitimate thinkers and from Rand-acolytes who viewed her as having sprung ahistorically from the head of Zeus as a modern-day goddess of wisdom.

Ironically, those acolytes, who accept Rand’s own acknowledged debt to Aristotle and even the early influence of Nietzsche, drop historical context, since even Hegel, Marx, Engels, and Lenin viewed Aristotle as the “fountainhead” (Hegel’s term) of dialectical inquiry. Moreover, Nietzsche’s influence on the Russian Silver Age was one of its defining cultural characteristics.

In the years that followed the publication of Russian Radical, a growing number of writers have been exploring Rand’s Russian roots. I’ve discussed these in previous articles, such as my “Reply to the Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: The Dialectical Rand” and in my essay, “Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism” in The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom.

Other discussions of Russian influences on Rand have appeared in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, including essays by Peter Saint-Andre and Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal. More encouraging is the appearance of recent Russian-language books by Ludmila L. Nikiforova and Mikhail B. Kizilov and Anastasiya Grigorovskaya, each exploring Rand as a Russian émigré writer. And a new book by Aaron Weinacht, Nikolai Chernyshevskii and Ayn Rand: Russian Nihilism Travels to America, is a “profoundly significant” contribution to Rand studies—as I state in a blurb that I provided for the book. (Weinacht previously published in the July 2017 issue of JARS.)

Unfortunately, Weinacht’s superb book was moving toward publication as our own article was already in page proofs, so we were unable to discuss his thoughts on Rand’s education. It’s worth noting that Weinacht worked in the Ayn Rand Archives and his book benefits from access to its collections. Among those collections are documents that my coauthor Pavel Solovyev was able to secure independently from the Saint Petersburg Archives. Pavel’s superlative detective work will be the subject of my concluding post tomorrow.

Of all the professors that Ayn Rand may have studied with, only one—Nikolay Onufriyevich Lossky—was named by her in the Branden Biographical Interviews (specifically in Interview 6, conducted on 3 January 1961). I devote a full chapter to Lossky’s life and thought in Russian Radical. Weinacht writes:

As Sciabarra has noted, it is impossible to prove conclusively that Losskii was one of Rand’s teachers, as she claimed, but it seems likely that she took at least some instruction from him, albeit in an unofficial capacity. Losskii was banned from teaching at his St. Petersburg State University post in 1921, the same year Rand entered the university, and was exiled in the fall of 1922, along with Nicholas Berdiaev, Semen Frank, and Sergei Bulgakov of the Vekhi group (among others). I am inclined to agree with Sciabarra’s judgment that Rand had no compelling reason to lie about her connection with Losskii, particularly given her usual reticence to mention any thinkers other than herself. Additionally, Losskii’s mother-in-law Mariia Stoiunina ran a girl’s school, that was located at #20 Kabinetskaia Street in St. Petersburg. Rand lived in two main locations in St. Petersburg, one of which was approximately two-thirds of a mile southwest of the school, and the other less than half-mile northwest of the school. Between Rand’s own mention of Losskii and the fact that she lived in two locations that were within close walking distance of a school with which Losskii was personally connected, the suggestion that Rand took some unofficial instruction from him does not seem implausible. (p. 17)

On the Stoiunin gymnasium, I should note that there is firm evidence that Rand attended the school—something I first proposed in Russian Radical and documented in my follow-up essays on her education. This was subsequently substantiated in 2010 by Anne C. Heller in Ayn Rand and the World She Made (pp. 17-20, 26), and Shoshana Milgram in Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living” (second edition, 2012, pp. 108-10, n. 23).

Weinacht hypothesizes that also among Rand’s teachers was

the well-known Russian historian N. I. Kareev* [who] was on the university faculty in St. Petersburg when Rand was a student there. … Rand’s college transcript lists a total of sixteen history courses she took at the university, and also contains the signatures of the courses’ instructors. The signatures on twelve of Rand’s history courses are illegible, and circumstantial evidence would suggest a high likelihood that Kareev was the professor of at least a few of these courses, and probably at least one non-history course, as well. (p. 17)

Weinacht expresses his “thanks to Professor Cynthia Ruder, of the University of Kentucky, for assistance in deciphering the signatures on Rand’s transcript. Sciabarra has made similar conjectures as to Kareev’s teaching” (p. 29, n. 90).

Tomorrow, in the conclusion of this miniseries, I will discuss how my colleague and coauthor, Pavel Solovyev, not only deciphered the signatures, but provided us with the most conclusive evidence yet of those with whom Rand studied—and what they taught.

For now, I’ll leave you with another archival image from our article … a photo of the young Alissa Rosenbaum taken from her second matricul (“matricul” is the name of a document certifying the admission of a student to the university, and also serving as the examination book).

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* The name Kareev shows up in Rand’s fiction (see below). There was also a professor named Lev Platonovich Karsavin in the History department of Petrograd University. Does his name or the name of Kareev show up on the transcript? Readers will find out, but I’ll have more to say in the concluding part of my miniseries preview to the JARS article tomorrow. From Russian Radical (p 414 n37):

Karsavin is a White Army leader who is captured by Andrei Taganov, the idealistic communist soldier. Captain Karsavin is forced to commit suicide. It is possible that Rand modeled the captain after his namesake at the university, who was eventually exiled by the Bolsheviks for his counterrevolutionary ideals. The “Captain Karsavin” episode appears in We the Living, 101–3. Another of Rand’s early Russian characters, from the screenplay Red Pawn, is named “Kareyev.” Kareyev is the commandant of Strastnoy Island. Rand (1931–32), “Red Pawn,” in Early Ayn Rand, 111. Likewise, Rand may have taken the name “Kareyev” from Petrograd history professor, Kareev.

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

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.

Empathy—and Dismay

On Facebook, I gave a H/T to my friend Joshua Zader for his re-posting of this graphic on the subject of “empathy” …

As I wrote on Facebook, this encapsulates one important way by which to celebrate the goodwill of the holiday season: Learning empathy.

I added: “If I’d boxed myself within the conventional left-right continuum, I would never have opened my mind to learning from a Marxist mentor (Bertell Ollman), who both encouraged me and challenged me in my growth as a student of intellectual history. (In fact, Bertell was more encouraging of my work on Ayn Rand than 98% of the folks in Rand-land.) I’ve been enriched by drawing from all parts of the ideological spectrum. The very origins of what it means to be “dialectical”—grasping the full context—emerges from the art of dialogue, and it is through such dialogue with those outside our framework that we evolve intellectually, psychologically, and even emotionally.”

Well, I’d like to say that this message got through loud and clear, but it never ceases to amaze me how consistently people show up to demonstrate the point of the posts—in reverse.

Before you know it, my opinions on the nature of the Enclosure Acts and of the origins of capitalism suddenly took center stage, with one person suggesting that I’m parroting “Marxist” and “totalitarian lies.” I pointed out that in Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, I critique Marx on a number of issues, including his theory of history. I give credit to Marx on a methodological point: the dialectical method applied to the analysis of social problems, a method that goes back to Aristotle and that has been used to varying degrees by thinkers in the classical liberal/libertarian tradition, from Menger to Hayek to Rand. I most definitely reject the materialist theory of history. 

Well, that just took us down a road that had nothing to do with the topic of the thread, but which illustrated what happens when folks refuse to give you the benefit of the doubt or to adopt even a remotely charitable interpretation of your views.

First, it should be noted that empathy doesn’t mean that we are required to empathize with those who are out to kill you. I would limit it to folks with whom we just might have some civil disagreements … not folks looking to gouge my eyes out. In civil discourse, I think much can be learned from Nathaniel Branden, who stated in his essay, “Objectivism and Libertarianism“:

About ten years ago, I came across a saying from the Talmud that impressed me profoundly. I have not been able to stop thinking about it. I have often wondered what might have happened if I’d had the chance to discuss the idea with Ayn—if there would have been any way to break through. Who knows what might have been different in the years that followed?

The line that so impressed me was: “A hero is one who knows how to make a friend out of an enemy.”

After nearly 50 comments, I concluded with the following statement:

Well, before I turn in for the night, I’d like to extend my thanks especially to those who understood the spirit of this post. My empathy is alive and well, not just at this time of year, but all year round.


For those who didn’t quite get the spirit of this post, I’ll repeat what I said above, alluding to my half-Greek, half-Sicilian ancestry: “The ‘Greek’ side of me is always trying to find reasonable common ground with an open heart. The ‘Sicilian’ side of me tells me when no common ground is possible, and I’m like: ‘Fuhgedaboudit! Enough with this!'”


Given that no common ground is possible in some instances here, I’ll therefore conclude with “Fuhgedaboudit! Enough with this!”


Many more threads to follow… to the delight of some and the dismay of others. G’nite, folks!

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.