Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reading Ayn Rand Through The Foucauldian Cut of Nietzchean Genealogy

I am starting with The Fountainhead just because I am. Atlas Shrugged is even more so. Both these novels incised a Foucauldian "cut" through the best selling literary Dominating Discourse of their day. No neither were literary masterpieces of cultural eminence. No matter. -  Neither were the Campbell Soup Cans of Warhol, but they cut into art history and ushered in POP art.

 Warhol "cut" into  Art History
But that's not the point. Both were "cuts" in the Dominating Discourse. What she wrote was not allowed. The DD determines who can say what, when it can be said, what can be said, how it can be said, who can say it and where it can be said. If this is all new to you then I refer you to the work of Michel Foucault and all his works, the first two being The Order of Things and The Archeology of Knowledge.

Foucault seized upon Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals, saw genealogy as a tool to order knowledge into cuts.

"Knowledge is not for knowing; knowledge is for cutting." - Michael Foucault

Nowhere does anyone see that this is what Rand did. Only she did not universalize it as Foucault did and apply the Nietzchean tool to all knowledge. Instead Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals sank deep in her mind to change the way she thought. Nietzsche puts an end to God by saying God is deadBaudrillard comments on this way of phrasing it. Nietzsche challenged God to appear. He dared God. He did not say there was no God. He said God is dead, a much different meaning.

Rand was completely convinced by Nietzsche's reasoning to declare herself an atheist, and Objectivism held atheism as a tenet. Rand finally broke with her friend, supporter, teacher and much more, Isabel Patterson, over this issue. Patterson believed in a creator, Rand did not, and they argued for years over it, until Rand just distanced herself from Patterson.

It is Nietzsche's tight reasoning using genealogy that interfaced with Rand's mind and her thinking. It did the same with Foucault. It began French post modernism thinking, replacing Levi-Strauss's structuralism theory.

This is how to read Rand through Nietzsche, not by media sound bites of what someone has picked up about Nietzsche. Rand backs away from Nietzsche in her journals, Foucault skims over him until the last years of his brilliant and powerful intellectual career, and finally says that he regretted not acknowledging Nietzsche's contribution to his work earlier in his career. The reason is obvious since no one wanted to stand beside Hitler's praise and misuse of Nietzsche, concerning the Holocaust, which Nietzsche would have disavowed if anyone had carefully read his Genealogy of Morals.

The philosophical, economic, psychological, social, aesthetic Dominating Discourses served to smother these novels as best they could. But when the Dominating Discourse changes, it is total. This is where Kuhn's Paradigm Change often gets confused with Foucault's cut, which is much more comprehensive. These novels cut, they cut through all the discourses of the above. This is its supreme importance. But only thinking genealogically will allow you to observe and see it.

An object does not exist until and unless it is observed. - William Burroughs

Nowhere on any page of these two biographies, or any reviewers, or Rand's disciples, is any of this seen. Foucault is not in the bibliographies nor the texts, nor the footnotes, nada anywhere. In fact neither Burns nor Heller seem aware that there is such a thing as post modern theory. Burns's bibliography is so excessive it is obscene. It's scholarship is an embarrassment. I am not surprised that she was granted access to the ARI archives. She posed no threat at all. She did, however, provide endless tidbits of information. Information is NOT knowing.

Nietzsche is in Burns's bibliography as Thus Spake Zarathustra but no Genealogy of Morals. In Heller Nietzsche is in her bibliography under Beyond Good and Evil. She does mention Genealogy of Morals, but does not include it in her bibliography.

Rand is primarily a post modern theorist, who presented her theory via fiction. When she turned to non-fiction it disappeared. So we have it and at the same time it is masked, camouflaged, revealed and concealed.

1 comment:

seymourblogger said...

Be sure to read darren's comments on the above blog. Soon Parts I and II will appear as posts.