Wednesday, July 9, 2014

REVIEW Snowpiercer: A Reading Through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

In reading this review from Unemployed Negativity more resonances emerged. I love his reading BTW. I am reading the film Snowpiercer through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a sort of different reading.
In the early 1960's I attended Objectivist Lectures in Philadelphia given by Barbara Branden. (1960-1962) and sometimes Rand herself came to the Q and A time after the lecture. I never asked one question in two years. I didn't because I had read her fiction and newly published non-fiction (For the New Intellectual and The Objectivist Newsletter) and any question that was asked I already knew what my answer would be and waited to see what Barbara Branden, Nathaniel Branden, Leonard Peikoff, Alan Greenspan, et al and even Ayn Rand herself would reply.The questions were most often stupid and were posed because, well, IDK why........maybe just so they could stand up and ask her a question?
So while Barbara and Nathaniel were cool and poised, Rand would begin to show irritation, frustration (me too) and would sometimes get angry or at least emotional.

Ayn Rand testifying at HUAC-House UnAmerican Activities Committee
In Mason's speech to the people in the "tail" she perseverates by repeating
So be it.
It is so.
over and over again
When Rand was stressed at a Q&A session being the flyswatter that Nietzsche said he wasn't going to be:
("I am not a flyswatter!")
Rand would say with finality:
A Is A!

So when Tilda Swinton gives her over the top speech as Mason in Snowpiercer, my immediate association was not Thatcher but Rand in all her outrageousness. Her hair, her facial expressions, all exaggerated of course. Much like the teacher in the classroom car is all Reese Witherspoon in her 1999 movie Electionso much so that I thought young Reese was in the movie for a second.

Here is a clip of Tilda Swinton as Mason. A man's arm is being attached to a "sleeve" to plug into its gasket in the train to have the arm held out to the way below arctic freezing temperature outside to demonstrate to the "tail" section the danger in revolting and stepping outside the safety of the train. Mason gives her speech and she is quite mad and wonderful.

Tilda Swinton as Mason in Snowpiercer.

The Sacred Motor is the "sacred" motor Dagny finds at the defunct Twentieth Century Motor Company, where Galt was working and designed it. It is an engine of the future and it is in need of serious repair which Dagny gives to - I forget - to fix. Dagny has plans to put this engine into her locomotives of Taggert Transcontinental. Dagny's engine will ride the rails made of Reardon Metal a metaphorical image irresistible to someone who thinks Lacanian. The engine in Atlas is patterned after Nicola Tesla's engine built for Westinghouse when he was inspiring Edison who stole all his ideas. It was an engine that had no fuel needs, just evidently air, that car accelerated in a few seconds. It was scrapped, its existence hidden, a secret. After all Standard Oil of New Jersey was a powerful corporation at that time. An eternal engine like that would not have been welcomed by the players of the game. Anyway it is gone and we just imagine and guess about it and some try to reinvent it in their garages.

So here it is in all its magic glory in Snowpiercer. A train that circles the earth once each year, like a sort of ground satellite. The Eternal Sacred Engine is everlasting, irreversible, just like Capitalism. It continually goes. The social structure inside the train is confinement of classes. The beggars of the earth are in the "tail" - nice symbolism here - and the Sacred Engine is at the front with its designer who is now getting old. He is wearing out.

The point that Unemployed Negativity brings out is Zizekian thinking. So I urge you to read it. The humans inside the train are confined within the Foucauldian Grid of power/knowledge. Resistance is possible and revolutions do happen but do not overthrow the system. The system devours them like Pac-Man (Marcuse) and is strengthened by them. (Vija Kinski will tell Eric Packer the same thing in DeLillo's Cosmopolis.) Baudrillard will challenge Foucault in his book
telling Foucault to go to the edge of the abyss and continue the pressure until it all implodes into the chasm. Until it commits suicide. 

And this is Snowpiercer, as well as Atlas Shrugged

What Unemployed Negativity says is that no one inside the train can imagine life outside the train in the ice-age out there. And we in our world now cannot imagine our way out of it. Only one person on the train knows about snow. A nice wave to that wonderful novel
Smilla's Sense of Snow
Just in case you never knew this book it is a marvel
The Asian drug addict Kang-ho Song in a wonderful performance has observed that the snow is melting. That they can exist outside the train. 

He wants to create an explosion

that will avalanche the mountains of snow. Curtis now the Curtis Revolution of 18 (years 

they have been on the train) gives in on continuation when Trainbaby shows him what is 

under a hatchlock. He sees what he will have to continue doing and he cannot.

He agrees to the explosion, gives her the match, and these last few 

huddle together waiting for the detonation.

Then when Trainbaby 

Curtis and Trainbaby born on the train 17 years ago

who knows nothing about what is in the world or how people lived, she is the

tabula rasa, she and the rescued child dress warmly and go outside. Her footsteps

 sink but she does not. Nothing is there but mountains of snow until she sees a white 

movement far off.

 It turns and we see a polar bear. Is the bear out hunting for food? She has no weapons,

 no place to go for shelter as the train was burning inside. She and the child are the only 

survivors. That wonderful moment as she pushes her hood off her head bared to the air.

A helpless human. 

A return to the beginning. Eternal Return - Nietzsche

The last frame is the polar bear looking at us.

This is a gorgeous film made by a visionary auteur director Bong Joon-ho

Chris Evans
Tilda Swinton
Jamie Bell
Ed Harris
John Hurt
Alison Pill
Octavia Spencer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cosmopolis Review: DeLillo and Ayn Rand - Eric Packer and Francisco d'Anconia

Eric Packer:
When he died he would not end. The world would end. (C p.6)
Freud is finished. (dead). Einstein is next. (to die) Their worlds are dead.(C p.6)

Ayn Rand liked to say:
"It is not I who will die, it is the world that will end,"  It is a favorite quote of hers her fans like so much.

Eric PackerThis was the nuance of every poem, at least for him, at night, these long weeks, one breath after another, in the rotating room at the top of the triplex. (C p. 5 )

Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead has his bedroom at the top of his penthouse where it is glassed all around. 

"When she entered his bedroom, she found it was not the place she had seen photographed in countless magazines. The glass cage had been demolished.(F p. 482)

Recognizing that the movement of the system itself is  irreversible, that there's no possible get-out within the logic of the system. That logic is really global, in the sense that it has absorbed all negativities, including the humanist, universalist,  resistance, etc. Pushing to the limit means acknowledging this irreversibility and pushing it to the limit of its possibilities, to the point of collapse. Bringing it to saturation point, to the point where the system itself  creates the accident. Thought contributes to this acceleration. It anticipates its end.  This is the provocative 'commitment', but giving all it's got to imagining the end. (Baudrillard - Paroxysm p. 23)

There is no outside. - Foucault 

Vija Kinski - "But these are not the grave-diggers. This is the free market itself. These people are a fantasy generated by the market. They don't exist outside the market. There is nowhere they can go to be on the outside. There is no outside." (C. p. 90)
"The market culture is total. It breeds these men and women. They are necessary to the system they despise. They give it energy and definition. They are market driven. They are traded on the markets of the world. This is why they exist, to invigorate and perpetuate the system."  (C. p. 90) 
To defy the system with a gift to which it cannot respond save by its own collapse and death. Nothing, not even the system, can avoid the symbolic obligation, and it is in this trap that the only chance of a catastrophe for capital remains. ...For it is summoned to answer, if it is not to lose face, to what can only be death. The system must itself commit suicide in response to the multiplied challenge of death and suicide. (Jean Baudrillard - Symbolic Exchange and Death p. 37)

It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess. - Baudrillard 

My idea was to end this era not over a period of weeks and months as happened, but in one day. - DeLillo /Krasny you tube interview

Here DeLillo is mistaken as he and everyone else regard the 2001 crash (which did take time) as the stock market catastrophe "predicted" by Cosmopolis. My opinion, and others are either following me or changing on their own are now seeing the derivative crash as the "predicted" catastrophe on Wall Street. That weekend during the 2008 presidential election campaign.

But there's something you know. You know the yen can't go any higher. And if you know something and don't act upon it, then you didn't know it in the first place. There is a piece of Chinese wisdom, she said. To know and not to act is not to know.

...That wants you to believe there are foreseeable trends and forces. When in fact it's all random phenomena. You apply mathematics and other disciplines, yes. But in the end you're dealing with a system that's out of control. Hysteria at high speeds, day to day, minute to minute. People in free societies don't have to fear the pathology of the state. We create our own frenzy, our own mass convulsions, .......(C. p85)

You have to understand.”

He said, “What?”

“The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind. This is what the protest is all about. Visions of technology and wealth. The force of cyber-capital that will send people into the gutter to retch and die. What is the flaw of human rationality?”

He said, “What?” (C. p. 91)

“It pretends not to see the horror and death at the end of the schemes it builds

Testifying before Congress Greenspan admitted a flaw in his system. The flaw is rational self-interest (Ayn Rand). Why would these financiers destroy their financial empires? 

“How will we know when the global era officially ends?”

He waited.

“When stretch limousines begin to disappear from the streets of Manhatten.... “(C. 90-91)

......It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stations - and that the lights of New York had gone out.

She remembered the story Francisco had told her: "He had quit the Twentieth Century. He was living in a garret in a slum neighborhood. He stepped to the window and pointed at the skyscrapers of the city. He said that we had to extinguish the lights of the world, and when we would see the lights of New York go out, we would know that our job was done. (AS p. 1060)

It was exhilarating, his head in the fumes, to see the struggle and ruin around him, the gassed men and women in their defiance, waving looted Nasdaq T-shirts, and to realize they’d been reading the same poetry he’d been reading.”

He sat down long enough to take a web phone out of a slot and execute an order for more yen. He borrowed yen in dumbfounding amounts. He wanted all the yen there was.(C.96-97)

He thought Kinski was right when she said this was a market fantasy. There was a shadow of transaction between the demonstrators and the state. The protest was a form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating. It attested again, for the ten thousandth time, to the market culture's innovative brilliance, its ability to shape itself to its own flexible ends, absorbing everything around it. (Marcuse's apt metaphor of Pac-Man here.)

Now look. A man in flames. Behind Eric all the screens were pulsing with it. And all action was at a pause, the protesters and riot police milling about and only the cameras jostling. What did this change? Everything, he thought. Kinski had been wrong. The market was not total. It could not claim this man or assimilate his act. Not such starkness and horror. This was a thing outside its reach. (C. pp. 96-98)(Kathy Chang(e) was a performance artist whose outrageous public performances and leftist politics were largely ignored by the University of Pennsylvania students she performed for, until she set herself on fire. Her 1996 self-immolation prompts an inquiry into the effectiveness of public suicide as a mode of political performance.)

This is Eric Packer's Epiphany. The Burning Man is the pivotal point in the novel.

The car was parked outside the hotel and across the street from the Barrymore where a group of smokers gathered at intermission, tucked under the marquee. He sat in the car borrowing yen and watching his fund's numbers sink into the mist on several screens. Torval (lav-rot/rat) stood in the rain with arms folded. .....

In Foutainhead - the novel and the film - we see Gail Wynand wandering around Hell's Kitchen in the rain after he has caved to his Board of Directors and reversed his defense of Roark. A sodden banner lies in the street as he picks it up (in the film), a broken man having given up his fight. This is resonating with Eric packer's wandering around Hell's Kitchen. DeLillo turns it into Gethsemane for Packer, his transcendence.

The yen spree was releasing Eric from the influence of his neocortex. He felt even freer than usual, attuned to the register of his lower brain and gaining distance from the need to take inspired action, make original judgments, maintain independent principles and convictions, all the reasons why people are fucked up and birds and rats are not.

The stun gun probably helped. The voltage had jellified his musculature for ten or fifteen minutes (and here we have the "near death" experience where your life before and after separate and diverge, growing farther and farther apart. His Double now is more separated in time than it has been, as we will see in the end.)and he'd rolled about on the hotel rug, electroconvulsive and strangely elated, deprived of the faculties of reason. (Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar is echoed here as she writes a first person narrative of suicidal depression, the electro-convulsive experience and its immediate and long term aftermath.)

But he could think now, well enough to understand what was happening. There were currencies tumbling everywhere. Bank failures were spreading. He found the humidor and lit a cigar. Strategists could not explain the speed and depth of the fall. They opened their mouths and words came out. He knew it was the yen. His actions regarding the yen were causing streams of disorder. He was so leveraged, his firm's portfolio large and sprawling, linked crucially to the affairs of so many key institutions, all reciprocally vulnerable, that the whole system was in danger. 

He smoked and watched, feeling strong, proud, stupid and superior. He was also bored and a little dismissive. They were making too much of it. He thought it would end in a day or two .....and looked more closely at one of the women standing there. (C. p. 115-6)
!IMPLOSION! - Baudrillard through Nietzsche

After seeing Elise outside the theater, eating dinner with her.

He knew he was going in. But first he had to lose more money. ...Then he went about losing the money, spreading it systematically in the smoke of rumbling markets. He did this to make certain he could not accept her offer of financial help. …..but it was necessary to resist, of course, or die in his soul....He was making a gesture of his own, a sign of ironic final binding. Let it all come down. Let them see each other pure and lorn. This was the individual’s revenge on the mythical couple. ….The number seemed puny....But it was all air anyway. It was air that flows from the mouth when words are spoken. It was lines of code that interact in simulated space.

Great financiers know that money does not exist.Gamblers know that money does not exist.
The Jesuits know that God does not exist.- Baudrillard

Didi Fancher - "Money for paintings. Money for anything. I had to learn how to understand money," she said. "I grew up comfortably. Took me a while to think about money and actually look at it. I began to look at it. Look closely at bills and coins. I learned how it felt to make money and spend it. It felt intensely satisfying. It helped me be a person. But I don't know what money is anymore." (C. p. 29)

Vija Kinski - ....Because money has taken a turn. All wealth has become wealth for its own sake. There's no other kind of enormous wealth. Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself. (C. p. 77)

He watched the president of the World Bank address a chamber of tense economists. He thought the image could be crisper. Then the president of the United States spoke from his limo in English and Finnish.....He knew they would figure it out eventually how he'd made it happen, one man, bereaved and tired now.(C. p. 140)

Eric Packer will end up in Hell's Kitchen where he grew up, where he goes for a haircut, where he is hunted by his assassin where Gail Wynand was when he was young and prey and where he goes when he caves in to save The Banner, betraying Roark. Eric Packer will die there and Gail Wynand will have Roark build the skyscraper with his name there.
But it was the threat of death at the brink of night that spoke to him most surely about some principle of fate he’d always known would come clear in time.

Now he could begin the business of living.“(C 107)
Dagny has gone to the Wayne-Faulkland Hotel to confront Francisco as the San Sebastion Mines have been seized by the People's State of Mexico.

I came here to ask you a question. ...The San Sebastian disaster....You did it consciously, cold-bloodedly and with full intention.

What was it I did with full intention? he said.

The entire San Sebastian swindle.

What was my full intention?

That is what I want to know.

...Don't start telling me that you gained nothing. I know it. I know you lost fifteen million dollars of your own money. Yet it was done on purpose.

You didn't give a damn about that Mexican government,...because you knew they'd seize those mines sooner or later. What you were after is your American stockholders.

...That's part of the truth....It was not all I was after. ...They thought it was safe to ride on my brain, because they assumed that the goal of my journey was wealth. All their calculations rested on that premise that I wanted to make money. What if I didn't?

...If you didn't want to make money, what possible motive could you have had?

Any number of them. For instance, to spend it.

To spend money on a certain, total failure?

How was I to know that those mines were a certain, total failure?

How could you help knowing it?

Quite simply. By giving it no thought. 

...Did you intend for me to notice that if you think I did it on purpose, then you still give me credit for having a purpose?

...didn't you enjoy the spectacle of the behavior of the People's State of Mexico in regard to the San Sebastian Mines? Did you read their government's speeches and the editorials in their newspapers? They are saying that I am an unscrupulous cheat who has defrauded them. They expected to have a successful mining company to seize. I had no right to disappoint them like that.....

He laughed lying flat on his back: his arms were thrown wide on the carpet, forming a cross with his body; he seemed disarmed, relaxed and young. 

It was worth whatever it cost me. I could afford the price of that show....

And that's not all they didn't know, he said. They're in for some more knowledge. There's that housing settlement for the workers of San Sebastian. It cost eight million dollars. Steel-frame houses, with plumbing, electricity and refrigeration. Also a school, a church, a hospital and a movie theater. A settlement built for people who had lived in hovels made of driftwood and stray tin cans. My reward for building it was to be the privilege of escaping with my skin, a special concession due to the accident of my not being a native of the People's State of Mexico. That workers' settlement was also part of their plans. A model example of progressive State Housing. Well, those steel-frame houses are mainly cardboard, with a coating of good imitation shellac. They won't stand another year. The plumbing pipes - as well as most of our mining equipment - were purchased from dealers whose main source of supply are the city dumps of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. I'd give those pipes another five months, and the electric system about six. The wonderful roads we graded up four thousand feet of rock for the People's State of Mexico, will not last beyond a couple of winters; they're cheap cement without foundation, and the bracing at the bad turns is just painted clapboard.  Wait for one good mountain slide. The church, I think, will stand. They'll need it.

Francisco, she whispered, did you do it on purpose?

...Whether I did it on purpose, he said, or through neglect, or through stupidity, don't you understand that that doesn't make any difference?

...She looked at him blankly. What are you trying to say?

I am saying that the workers' settlement of San Sebastian cost eight million dollars,...The price paid for those cardboard houses was the price that could have bought steel structures. So was the price paid for every other item. That money went to men who grow rich by such methods. Such men do not remain rich for long. The money will go into channels which will carry it, not to the most productive, but to the most corrupt. By the standards of our time, the man who has the least to offer is the man who wins. That money will vanish in projects such as the San Sebastian Mines.

...Is that what you're after?


Is that what you find amusing?


I was thinking of your name, she said....It was a tradition of your family that a d'Anconia always left a fortune greater than the one he received. (Here's the "gift" and the "counter-gift".) 

Oh yes, my ancestors had a remarkable ability for doing the right thing at the right time - and for making the right investments. Of course, 'investment' is a relative term. It depends on what you wish to accomplish. For instance, look at San Sebastian. It cost me fifteen million dollars, but those fiftteen million wiped out forty million belonging to Taggart Transcontinental, thirty-five million belonging to stockholders such as James Taggart and Orren Boyle, and hundreds of millions which will be lost in secondary consequences. That's not a bad return on an investment, is it, Dagny.?

And here's Nietzsche embedded in Rand's mind: The inversion of the concept investment from profit to the success of loss. This is what Eric Packer does in Cosmopolis. This is Nietzche.

She was sitting straight. Do you realize what you are saying?

Oh, fully! Shall I beat you to it and name the consequences you were going to reproach me for? First, I don't think that Taggart Transcontinental will recover from its loss on that preposterous San Sebastian Line. You think it will, but it won't. Second, the San Sebastian helped your brother, James, to destroy the Phoenix-Durango, which was about the only good railroad left anywhere. 

..Do you _ you know Ellis Wyatt?


Do you know what this might do to him?

Yes. He's the one who's going to be wiped out next. (AS pp. 115- 121)

There are more resonances for the reader to find if she wishes. After reading this does anyone dare to say that Francisco d'Anconia was a self-destructive suicidal loser who lost hundreds of millions? No? I thought not. And if anyone had dared say that, Rand would have chopped her up in teeny tiny pieces. 

Why then have all the reviewers, all the academics, Cronenberg, and all blogs on Cosmopolis said that Eric Packer is a self-destructive loser? Are there really that many people out there who have misread DeLillo's book?

Yeah. I guess so.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ZIZEK: The Actuality of Ayn Rand: Journal of Ayn Rand Studies; vol 3;no. 2 (Spring 2002)

X-ray and curioushairedgal have had a running disagreement about a statement of Rand's: So if the Roark character figuring in the text corpus The Fountainhead,  Roark was to her "as man should be", one can infer that she meant what she said.  I am forced to side with x-ray in this incredibly and astonishing closure of this discourse. I am not agreeing with x-ray because she quotes Rand as "meaning what she says," but because of Zizek's intricate Lacanian analysis of the distinction between desire and drive.

If x-ray had stopped at the end of the quote, she would have secured her point. This statement about Roark comes from Nietzsche's Overman, his ubermensch. To stay in context Rand is still reading Nietzsche, (going on about 20 years now) making entries in her Journal during the planning and writing of Fountainhead.

Now to move on to Zizek!

The entire article is here.


The_ Actuality of Ayn Rand- The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
Ayn Rand'. Slavoj Zizek. Ayn Rand's fascination for male figures displaying absolute, unswayable determination of their Will, seems to offer the best ...

The properly subversive dimension of her ideological procedure is not to be underestimated. Rand fits into the line of "overconformist" authors who undermine the ruling ideological edifice by their very excessive identification with it. Her over-orthodoxy was directed at capitalism itself, as the title of one of her books (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal; Rand 1967) tells us; according to her, the truly heretical thing today is to embrace the basic premise of capitalism without its communitarian, collectivist, welfare, etc. sugar-coating. So what Pascal and Racine were to Jansenism, what Kleist was to German nationalist militarism, what Brecht was to Communism, Rand is to American capitalism. (The Actuality of Ayn Rand;Slavoj Zizek;JARS 3,no.2;215-227.)

....We have thus Roark as the being of pure drive in no need of symbolic recognition (and as such uncannily close to the Lacanian saint - only an invisible line of separation distinguishes them), and the three ways to  compromise one's drive: Wynand, Keating, Toohey. The underlying opposition  here is that of desire and drive, as exemplified in the tense relationship between Roark and Dominique, his sexual partner. Roark displays the perfect indifference towards the Other characteristic of drive, while Dominique remains caught in the dialectic of desire, which is the desire of the Other: she is gnawed by the Other's gaze, i.e., by the fact that others, the common people totally insensitive to Roark's achievement, are allowed to stare at it and thus spoil its sublime quality.  (218)

Here in Zizek's article he takes on Rand's characterization of Dominique at the level of desire in the dialectic.

The only way for her to break out of this deadlock of the Other's desire is to destroy the sublime object in order to save it from becoming the object of the ignorant gaze of others:

You want a thing and it's precious to you. Do you know who is standing ready to tear it out of your hands? You can't know, it may be so involved and so far away, but someone is ready, and you're afraid of them all.....I never open again any great book I've read and loved. It hurts me to think of the other eyes that have read it and of what they were."(F 143-44 )

And is this not what Sasha is saying about Barthes: The Lover's Discourse:

Owning Roland Barthes

Two of my friends are currently reading Roland Barthes. One keeps hurling invectives at the page. The other, whom I see almost every day, likes to send out snippets on Twitter, professing her endless love for Barthes’ words, swearing against life itself that this book is hers, it knows her, no other writer could come close to what she tries, in vain, to say about love. This friend asks me, “You remember what he said about absence?” And I itch to rid of the conversation, of her questions, of her testimonials about how fated she and this book are. She offers, “It’s so hard to talk about, no? It’s so personal.” And I itch to rid of the conversation. I think her unworthy, I think her views unworthy, I think her identification with my words unworthy. I think anyone undeserving of this book. I think of everyone who comes to A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments as an intruder to my love affair with it, its captivation of me, my willing enslavement to it. I have known this for four and a half years, perhaps felt it for longer:A Lover’s Discourse is mine.
Doesn't this resonate with Kristen Stewart's refusal to discuss her relationship with Robert Pattinson? "They covet him," she says.  "Why would I discuss something that means the world to me with a perfect stranger?" 
These "other eyes" are the Evil Gaze at its purest, which grounds the paradox of property: if, within a social field, I am to possess an object, this possession must be socially acknowledged, which means that the big Other who vouchsafes this possession of mine must in a way possess it in advance in order to let me have it. ....this gaze of the Other that oversees me in my desiring capacity is in its very essence "castrative," threatening.

....So, for Dominique, the greatest sacrilege is to throw pearls before swine: to create a precious object and then to expose it to the Other's Evil Gaze, i.e., to let it be shared with the crowd. And she treats herself in precisely the same way: she tries to resolve the deadlock of her position as a desired object by way of willingly embracing, even searching for, the utmost humiliation _ she marries the person she most despises and tries to ruin the career of Roark, the true object of her love and admiration. .....she will become his true partner only when her desire for him will no longer be bothered by the Other's gaze _ in short, when she will accomplish the shift from desire to drive.

Shifting now to Atlas Shrugged: 

What the hystericized prime mover must accept is thus the fundamental existential indifference: she must no longer be willing to remain the hostage of the second-handers' blackmail. ("We will let you work and realize your creative potential, on condition that you accept our terms"). She must be ready to give up the very kernel of her being, that which means everything to her, and to accept the "end of the world," the (temporary) suspension of the very flow of energy that keeps the world running. In order to gain everything, she must be ready to go through the zero-point of losing everything. (And here we have Nietzsche! Emphasis mine.) And, far from signaling the "end of subjectivity," this act of assuming existential indifference is, perhaps, the veryb gesture of absolute negativity that gives birth to the subject. What Lacan calls "subjective destitution" is thus, paradoxically, another name for the subject itself, i.e., for the void beyond the theater of hysterical subjectivizations. 
     This subject beyond subjectivization is free in the most radical sense of the word.. This is why Rand's "prime movers" are not characterized primarily by their positive properties (superb intelligence, etc.); their innermost feature is their lack of the false guilt feeling, their freedom from the superego vicious cycle - when you are caught in this cycle, you are guilty whatever you do. (Z;222)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ayn Rand, Michel Foucault and Atlas Shrugged:The Power/Knowledge Relation

The 45th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged (Signet 1996) was announced with a new edition and an introduction (1992) by Leonard Peikoff who has wisely let Rand speak for herself in the intro, taking excerpts from her unpublished Journal.

Atlas Shrugged, according to Peikoff's recollections, did not become the title until Frank O'Conner suggested it in 1956. Up until then she had titled it The Strike.

After finishing The Fountainhead and having Nietzsche's quotes scrubbed out of it, Rand probably put her obsessive reading - from age 16 to her late 30's, early 40's - of him aside, as Baudrillard did after he failed his exams on Nietzsche, and Nietzsche went underground in Rand as in Baudrillard. 

The earliest of Rand's notes are dated January 1, 1945, about a year after the publication of The Fountainhead.  Naturally enough, the subject on her mind was how to differentiate the present novel from its predecessor. (p.1)

Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike....

The theme requires: to show who are the prime movers and why, how they function....

First question to decide is on whom the emphasis must be placed - on the prime movers, the parasites or the world. The answer is: The world. The story must be primarily a picture of the whole. ...

In this sense, The Strike is to be much more a "social" novel that The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead's ...primary concern ... was the characters, the people as such - their natures. Their relations to each other   - which is society, men in relation to men - were secondary, an unavoidable, direct consequence of Roark set against Toohey. ...

Now, it is this relation that must be the theme.  therefore, the personal becomes secondary. That is, the personal is necessary only to the extent needed to make the relationships clear;...But the theme was Roark - not Roark's relation to the world. Now it will be the relation. ...

I start with the fantastic premise of the prime movers going on strike.  This is to be the actual heart and center of the novel.  A distinction carefully to be observed here: I do not set out to glorify the prime mover. ...I set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers....what happens to the world without them. ...

This must be the world's story - in relation to the prime movers. ...

I don't show directly what the prime movers do - that's shown only by implication. I show what happens when they don't do it. (Intro pages 1,2,3)

Astonishingly Rand is here applying Platt's famous Strong Inference to her fiction in 1946, almost 20 years before Platt published his famous paper in 1964, the basis of which Crick and Watson posited the  DNA spiral

[PDF] Strong inference

JR Platt - science, 1964 -
Scientists these days tend to keep up a polite fiction that all science is equal. Except for the
work of the misguided opponent whose arguments we happen to be refuting at the time, we
speak as though every scientist's field and methods of study are as good as every other ...

Rand has intuitively identified Foucault's power/knowledge relation so laboriously and elegantly recorded for us in The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, Madness and Civilization, The History of Sexuality, and all his genealogies published and archived now, his great method taken from Nietzsche. Rand does it in one fell swoop in Atlas Shrugged.

Foucault has relentlessly delineated the relation of power and knowledge. Power does not exist by itself. It cannot be given, taken, conferred, lost, held. Power is ALWAYS in relation to knowledge; the two cannot be separated.

Rand has written a fiction whereby she is removing knowledge from the world. She is saying that the knowledge of the prime movers is what powers the world!

Remove the prime movers and knowledge is removed from the world,

but so is power! The world sinks into chaos, starvation, and death.

A resonance here: Is this what brought on The Hunger Games?

She is saying that  -  understand this in relation to the Foucauldian Grid  of power/knowledge (Eric Packer's start-stop in quarter inches in NYC traffic) - knowledge and power are relational in the world. She is saying this in her Journal in 1946, when Foucault is  17 years old, long before he studied Nietzsche and applied Nietzsche's genealogy to human behavior.  

And she is saying this fictionally in Atlas Shrugged published in 1957.

Rand has heralded Foucault's lifetime study of the relational necessity of power/knowledge in Atlas Shrugged. Power and Knowledge are FUSED, inseparable, joined, married to each other!
Ayn Rand