Monday, March 5, 2012

Reading Ayn Rand Through Nietzsche

1957 Edition

Jorge Luis Borges

“A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

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

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”
 Ayn RandThe Fountainhead 

She meant it. Her diaries from that time, while she worked as a receptionist and an extra, lay out the Nietzschean mentality that underpins all her later writings. The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. … Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should." She called him "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy," shimmering with "immense, explicit egotism." Rand had only one regret: "A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough."

In her Journal she makes the astounding statement that Hickman was condemned to death, not for what he did, but for what he said. In other words, here Rand is attacking the Dominating Discourse of the judicial system while Foucault was still a child, long before he identified it and deconstructed it.

So Rand has been tarred with writing this about Hickman for all her life and even now after her death. See the full article at Slate. It also indicates her study of Nietzsche at the time and her particular emphasis on his thinking and writing. 

Here we see how Rand has been interpreted through Nietzsche by everyone who has written about her. They all start trudging through the swampy sewer of psychological interpretation. And more than just Nietzsche. Freud too is called upon to  have words and quotes torn out of his mouth. 

I am also including her two recent biographers, Jennifer Burns and the much better Anne Heller. But perhaps another time for them.

What Rand wrote with the killer William Hickman was akin in feeling to what Foucault did with Pierre Riviere in the book compiled of Riviere's account of his crime. I, Pierre Riviere, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother.... Foucault's team in a seminar at the College de France spent a year on Riviere's crime, studing the crime , the memoir, the court documents and all the court records including the medical reports by the leading figures in contemporary psychiatry and forensic medicine: Esquirol, Marc, Orfila, etc and an urban physician in charge of a large asylum. They all differed.  Pierre Riviere was twenty years old and by his own admission was almost illiterate. The beauty of his account captured Foucault and students of his at the College de Paris undertook the study of Riviere and his crime as it intersected in time with the criminal system and the increasing foray of the medical profession into crimes of this sort in 1836. The prevailing Discourse, the Dominating Discourse, was the focus. 

The fact that Hickman cut up the body of the child and sent it in pieces to the police authorities links these two crimes.

Foucault's interest in these bizarre crimes were highlighted in his genealogy Discipline and Punish, a genealogical study of crime, discipline and punishment during approximately 300 years of history, up to the modern, in France specifically. Foucault's debt to Nietzsche was Nietzsche's A Genealogy of Morals, which said that God was dead, in which the master genius laid out an original way of re-seeing history discontinuous from chronology. Foucault then continues with discontinuity, the end of linear time, the end of progressive history, and his detailed study of discourse as the dominating factor. He goes on to the grid of power/knowledge in The Archeology of Knowledge, and the dominating role of the prevailing discourse in determining who, what, how, where,when,and the why of saying what will be said and written and thought. in any given era.

Rand changed the Dominating Discourse. No Atlas Shrugged was not a literary masterpiece. It was a "cut" in the Dominating Discourse of political, economic, psychological and aesthetic discourses. Just as Warhol changed the Dominating Discourse 
of art history by breaking with it, and Schoenberg and Stravinsky in music. I have been maintaining that Meyer's Twilight (Tristan and Iseult) has been another such cut in sexual rituals. The far more literary Tristan and Iseult was written by Updike in Gertrude and Claudius, the back story of Hamlet, but it did not affect the Discourse at all.

All this is preliminary to undoing the prevailing discourse concerning Ayn Rand. What lies in the folds of the discourse is hidden until the archivists happen to dig it out. Or not.  This is what Foucault spent his life doing with dusty, hardly legible, poorly written, fading scraps of paper. Changing the way we think, the way we look at all human behavior. Changing the Dominating Discourse of psychology, history, science, economics and language.

Rand did it fictionally, then Nathaniel Branden influenced her to do it in non-fiction form in her philosophy of Objectivism. Both were necessary conditions. In the latter she was less successful intellectually, but much more so financially, until she crashed it. Nietzsche again. Obliterate and disappear it. She did. 

Eric Packer does this to the currency markets in Cosmopolis. He takes down the speculative trading in numbers and crashes his own fortune to do it. Neither is a self-destructive or loser action. It is Nietzchean. Lacan disbanded his Psychoanalytic Institute at his death. He disappeared. No endless interpretive psychological arguing Lacanian theory. We now have his analysis of "floating signs" in its place. 

Did Rand know she was following Nietzsche's strategy made crystal clear by Baudrillard? I doubt it. But Nietzsche was so interfaced with her thinking, with her mind, with her arguments that his thought permeated everything she wrote and did. 


seymourblogger said...

Now for Zizek.

abbeysbooks said...

The Randroids are curiously coming out of the woodwork to deny the connection between Nietzsche and Rand. Especially that faux intellectual Hicks of a philosopher.

curioushairedgal said...

 The zen master says: If you want to lose your ego, first bring me an ego to lose.

This indeed is the secret of the soul: only when the hero has deserted
the soul does there approach it in dreams -- the superhero.(Nietzsche- Of Sublime Men)

"I like giving things to you", he said, "because you don't need them."
"And it's not that I want you to have them. I want you to have them from me."
"That is the was I do need them, Hank. From you."
"Do you understang that it's nothing but vicious self-indulgence on my part? I'mnot doign it for your pleasure, but for mine."
"Hank?" The cry was involuntary; it held amusement, despair, indignation, and pity. "If you had given methose things just for my pleasure, not yours, I would have thrown them in your face."
"Yes...Yes, then you would - and should."
"Did you call it your vicious self-indulgence?"
"That's what they'll call it."
"Oh, yes, That's what they'll call it. What do you call it, Hank?"
"I don't know," he said indifferently, and went on intently. "I know only that if it's vicious, then let me be damned for it, but that's what I want to do more than anything else on earth."
She did not answer; she sat looking straight at him with a faint smile, as if asking him to listen to the meaning of his own words.
"I've always wanted to enjoy my wealth,"he said "I didn't know how to do it. I didn't even have time to know how much I wanted to. But I knew that all the steel I poured came back to me as liquid gold and the gold was meant to harden into any shape I wished, and it was I who had to enjoy it.Only I couldn't. I couldn't find any purpose for it. I've found it now. It is I who have produced that wealth and it is I who am going to let it buy for me every kind of pleasure I want - including the pleasure of seeing how much I'm able to pay for - including the preposterous feat of turning you into a luxury object."
"But I'm a luxury object that you've paid long time ago," she said; she was not smiling.
"By means of the same values with which you paid for your mills." (AS, 344)
Dagny, the Dyonisian lover.

From there, I jumped here, for reasons not yet fully known.
"To seduce is to appear weak. To seduce is to render weak.
We seduce with our weakness, never with strong signs or powers. In
seduction we enact this weakness, and this is what gives
seduction its strength.

We seduce with our death, our vulnerability, and with the
void that haunts us. The secret is to know how to play with
death in the absence of a gaze or gesture, in the absence of
knowledge or meaning."

abbeysbooks said...

Aristotle Onassis: Money is only for bestowing on a woman. Without a woman to give it to it would mean nothing. Close, not exact.

On seuction here: I think here Rand means the Production of Seduction which can never be seduction. She has not made the distinction Baudrillard has made. Lotringer tells Baudrillard in an interview that his great original contribution is reversibility. Order of Prouction: irreversibility; Order of Seduction: reversibility.

curioushairedgal said...

I know, it didn't make sense, B took it much further.It just popped into my head,so I followed.

abbeysbooks said...

I read Montessori not long after an she says you o not have the right to seduce the child into learning what you want them to learn, so I was still going on that accepted definition of seduction, until jsut before I read Baudrillard's book Seduction and began to understand. Of course Rob helped - a lot! When I saw that he couldn't be produced. In BD he isn't at all IMO. The edge is gone between them as they are satisfied and they are aware how silly BD is as a movie.

How could Twilight ever be redone! Impossible!

curioushairedgal said...

And it's so easy sometimes with children, your authority unquestioned, unless you're the one questioning it. What B would call an easy solution.Or was it DFW and that graduation speech.

The best of B is that with him it's always not the meaning but everything around the meaning.I still slip into the accepted with him.
It's 4.30. am, gonna turn into my photoshopped version for couple hours at least, can't think clearly no mo.

abbeysbooks said...

Good night. Get some sleep. I have been meaning to ask you if or how your thesis/dissertation has changed through all this. I seem to change all around every week or two weeks. Had I read Francisco's speech to Dagny just 1 month ago!

curioushairedgal said...

I was going to deal with decentering linearity, of time, of historical progress, of the DD of history written by the winners in US vs. Native Americans anyway, now it will be more Foucault. I plan to dive into the dialectic of it all, NA lit crit falling into the trap of reproducing what it set to denounce, with its issues of authenticity, who has the authority to say what on NA lit etc following Butler.
The novels clicked with me for a reason, I see now in retrospect. Male author, female character,mixed identity,family of NA origin raised in the American way of progress and money,Dalva's adopted son raised in suburban family, but the Indian piercing through in all of them and more. It was stirring identities that spoke to me.
It seemed messy when I first started, reading it through postmodern, postcolonial other, then also through NA lit crit challenging the fact it basically deals with NA authors only, which Jim Harrison is not. He's the one who wrote Legends of the Fall. At one point I even questioned the "seriousness" of it all. I was an idiot, Twi made me see that.
It was so unfirm, amassed books, from Ricoeur's Memory, Time, Forgetting, to Vizenor and nothing gave me what I needed. A fool, looking for yet another book to deliver the answer,frustrated cause it seemed I couldn't figure it out, instead of turning inside to all that just laid there, unused. But it had to be so, and now I'm here.Wherever it is this week LOL
I hope it will be born this year.

abbeysbooks said...

Bloo Meridian Cormac McCarthy (The Road) the conscious horror of American govt deliberately wiping NA out after the Civil War to make the path of the gold rush safer.Sending andd paying "armies" to o just that thru to California. A ghastly history.

Kingsolver has a novel on NA baby The Bean Trees everything she writes is perfect.

Erdrich's novels of NA in Minnesota wonerful. She is part and her husband Michael Dorris who pret3ene to be, was found out, divorce, then suicided Dorris's books are lovely: Morning Girl YA fiction/NF

abbeysbooks said...

I know. I haven't been able to read much new, just rearranging what I already know. Followinf Benjamin's cut and paste and trying to disappear.

curioushairedgal said...

Blood Meridian is a book that kills. Students sweat through it, same way I did, they don't know why they hate it so much. Because it's worse than what it writes about, makes total sense now, bloody hell meridian.
Erdrich's Love Medicine is one of favs, know of Kingsolver and Dorris, haven't read them yet.
Yeah, NativeAmerican part. There's what it names and then there's all that unnamed void around.

abbeysbooks said...

Somewhere we were having a discussion of Ayn Rand's concept of the perfect man. Please tell me where someone.

Here is Babich on KD Lang's Hallelujah and Nietzsche:

A deep and powerful alto voice of the kind one sometimes hears in the theater can suddenly raise the curtain upon possibilities in which we usually do not believe. All at once we believe that somewhere in the world there could be women with lofty, heroic, and royal souls, capable of and ready for rule over men because in them the best elements of man apart from his sex have become an incarnate ideal. (GS §70)

This is Nietzsche yearning for "a woman" and inverted it is Rand yearning for "a man" portrayed in her characters of Galt and Roark. Or as Lacan might say of them, they are not "desire" but "drive" as Zizek has pointed out in his Hegel. (I think it is in his Hegel.)

curioushairedgal said...

Perfect man talk is on that nerrad's evolution myth thread, is that the one? Then on your Žižek 'drive' post.
"...raise th curtain upon the possibilities in which we usually do not believe"...or have no words for yet we have to do with what we have.

curioushairedgal said...

Too long, sorry, I'm in a verbose mood today.

abbeysbooks said...

I spent all day and night yesterday reading all of Babich's posts on all of her blogs. She has a slew of them! Elegant! You can't imagine! So go to the link for this comment, then her profile and all her blogs will be there. The one on Bataille and Nietzsche oh oh oh.

So not Bataille if the third. "Nietzsche was the campanion of his life." Add him to Rand and Baudrillard. Bataille was a major influence for Foucault and Baudrillard.

Babette Babich likes Zizek.
Babette Babich is less than impressed with Foucault.
Babette Babich thinks Baudrillard is "esoteric".

Yes Nancy Babich is CODE for a "smart" gun. The "smart" gun that will kill Torval (tor val; lav rot rot/rat).

As I read her she is taking on the entire "masculine"world's structure as fascist. The way that the masculine mind thinks. And she is funny too. I wonder if she knows Diane Rubenstein.

All this started yesterday when I was rereading old comments and came upon your links for Babich and kd lang. What was going on with me that I didn't follow them up in detail at the time? She has many more blogs now, like these, but much more elegant. And no comments. So let's get to know her. She posts at all hours.

abbeysbooks said...

Yes nerrad has become darren again and he is wearing a suit on this comment and blog posting. He needs work to make him a piece of work. How?

abbeysbooks said...

NO it's NOT too long. Too dense for mortals maybe but I am trying.

Baudrillard says that for a women to be seduceable she has to display a sign of weakness. Where? Don't remember. Probably in his book Seduction which is a seduction in itself. Just as David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is itself more an addiction than the addictions he is writing about. I couldn't eat, sleep, get out of my chair to pee or shit, the entire 5 days and nights I read it.

For Eric the Burning Man changes everything. To constantly keep her name alive Kathy Chang(e), a street performing artist, poet, really a brilliant young woman, burned herself on the U of Penn campus in front of the Peace Sign over global world trade in the 1990's - 95 I think.

She renamed herself Change from Chang. "It changes everything." I would think her act caught DeLillo when she did it. Altho I don't think he watches the nightly news where it was.

This excess that cannot be spent is the "accursed share" from Bataille. Eric is loaded with the "accursed share" and yes, he doesn't know what he is doing. What he is trying to do to make money is only "working" to lose the money because he is in the classic dialectic of up and down, the Order of Production, the masculine order. When he inverts it, to do in excess what he is already doing to implode it, to disappear it, in a moment of ecstasy, he destroys cyber-capital which Zizek calls Virtual Capital. At that moment Eric is in the game eXistenZ only Cronenberg forgot about eXistenZ and Virtual Reality, the blurry slurry boundaries, Packer's brain and mind interfacing with the cyber market so that he has to tear it out when among the naked bodies to see the bodies rather than seeing them as a noir film would put them on the screen for us.

Why I had such high and dashed hopes for Cronenberg. He knew but didn't know he knew. The unknown knowns.

curioushairedgal said...

I read you and sometimes it feels as if I'm talking to myself,yes, no comments.
I followed up on your sloterdijk link in reply to nerrad. I'm reading this as we speak
I went to one of her new blogs
She mentiones Ivan Illich, your Nietzsche quote on educators also reminded me of that, and she speaks of it in this transhumanism article. She mentiones Rand too.

"Thus language simultaneously connects the things that have meaning for us into a whole and disperses that whole. Within language, we cannot grasp that which holds the highest value for us, for it is hidden in interdependent sentences, while the whole, to which every of those sentences points, never appears. Our attention remains connected to the whole hidden in sequences of sentences but we cannot achieve that the glimpses of sentences following one another be replaced with full light." - from Bataille's Eroticism, bought it two weeks ago, only glimpsed through for the 'familiar'.

Yes, let's get to know her.

curioushairedgal said...

He should definitely read Babich
She talks of Vargas girls, that's familiar I think.

Solas said...

I appreciate it; thanks for taking the time. I also have been far too verbose today. But you have helpful substance here.

abbeysbooks said...

I read the blog on transhumanism but I reread her article in its entirety. And this is Houellebecq in his novels.

abbeysbooks said...

I remember loving the Vargas girls. A long time ago. I liked the Petty girls too but not as much since they came second into my life.

curioushairedgal said...

I think they're lovely, had no idea who they were until recently.

curioushairedgal said...

Ah, yes!
"History exists; it imposes itself, it dominates, its empire is indelible. But beyond the stric historical plan, the ultimate ambition of this work is to salute that unfortunate and courageous species that has created us. That aching and vile species, almost identical to an ape, which nevertheless carried so many noble aspirations. That tortured, contradictory, individualist and quarellsome species, of an unlimited egoism, capable at times of unspeakable violent explosions, but which never ceased to believe in goodness and love. That species which, for the first time in the history of the world, knew to foresee the possibility of its own overtaking; and which, years later, knew how to enact that overtaking. In the moment when its last representatives are dying out, we consider it legitimate to pay the last hommage to humanity; hommage which will also be effaced and lost in the sand of time. It is however necessary that such hommage is for once accomplished. This book is dedicated to man." - epilogue of Atomized, the humans cease to be, finally!

curioushairedgal said...

I'm glad you think so, thanks.

abbeysbooks said...

At the end of Foucault's The Order of Things:

If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility-without knowing either what is form will be or what it promises - were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainty water that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.