Atlas Shrugged is a 1957 novel by Ayn Rand. It was her longest novel, the fourth and final one published during her lifetime, and the one she considered her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing. Atlas Shrugged includes elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance, and it contains Rand's most extensive statement of Objectivism in any of her works of fiction. Rand described the theme of Atlas Shrugged as "the role of man's mind in existence". The book explores a number of philosophical themes from which Rand would subsequently develop Objectivism, including reason, property rights, individualism, libertarianism and capitalism, and depicts what Rand saw as the failures of governmental coercion.
The book depicts a dystopian United States in which private businesses suffer under increasingly burdensome laws and regulations. Railroad executive Dagny Taggart and her lover, steel magnate Hank Rearden, struggle against "looters" who want to exploit their productivity. They discover that a mysterious figure called John Galt is persuading other business leaders to abandon their companies and disappear as a strike of productive individuals against the looters. The novel ends with the strikers planning to build a new capitalist society based on Galt's philosophy.
Libertarian writer Justin Raimondo described similarities between Atlas Shrugged and Garet Garrett's 1922 novel The Driver, which is about an idealized industrialist named Henry Galt, who is a transcontinental railway owner trying to improve the world and fighting against government and socialism. Raimondo believed the earlier novel influenced Rand's writing in ways she failed to acknowledge, although there was no "word-for-word plagiarism and The Driver was published four years before Rand emigrated to the United States. Journalist Jeff Walker echoed Raimondo's comparisons in his book The Ayn Rand Cult and listed The Driver as one of several unacknowledged precursors to Atlas Shrugged. In contrast, Chris Matthew Sciabarra said he "could not find any evidence to link Rand to Garrett" and considered Raimondo's claims to be "unsupported". Liberty magazine editor R. W. Bradford said Raimondo made an unconvincing comparison based on a coincidence of names and common literary devices.
Due to the success of Rand's 1943 novel The Fountainhead, she had no trouble attracting a publisher for Atlas Shrugged. This was a contrast to her previous novels, which she had struggled to place. Even before she began writing it, she had been approached by publishers interested in her next novel. However, her contract for The Fountainhead gave the first option to its publisher, Bobbs-Merrill Company. After reviewing a partial manuscript, they asked her to discuss cuts and other changes. She refused, and Bobbs-Merrill rejected the book.
Hiram Hayden, an editor she liked who had left Bobbs-Merrill, asked her to consider his new employer, Random House. In an early discussion about the difficulties of publishing a controversial novel, Random House president Bennett Cerf proposed that Rand should submit the manuscript to multiple publishers simultaneously and ask how they would respond to its ideas, so she could evaluate who might best promote her work. Rand was impressed by the bold suggestion and by her overall conversations with them. After speaking with a few other publishers from about a dozen who were interested, Rand decided multiple submissions were not needed; she offered the manuscript to Random House. Upon reading the portion Rand submitted, Cerf declared it a "great book" and offered Rand a contract. It was the first time Rand had worked with a publisher whose executives seemed enthusiastic about one of her books.
When the completed manuscript exceeded 600,000 words, Cerf asked Rand to make cuts, but backed off when she compared the idea to cutting the Bible. With 1168 pages in the first edition, Atlas Shrugged is Rand's longest published book.
The working title of the novel was The Strike, but Rand thought this title would reveal the mystery element of the novel prematurely. She was pleased when her husband suggested Atlas Shrugged, previously the title of a single chapter, for the book. The title is a reference to Atlas, a Titan in Greek mythology, who is described in the novel as "the giant who holds the world on his shoulders".[b] The significance of this reference appears in a conversation in which Francisco d'Anconia asks Rearden what advice he would give Atlas if "the greater [the Titan's] effort, the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders". With Rearden unable to answer, d'Anconia gives his own advice: "To shrug".
There were some positive reviews. Richard McLaughlin, reviewing the novel for The American Mercury, described it as a "long overdue" polemic against the welfare state with an "exciting, suspenseful plot", although unnecessarily long. He drew a comparison with the antislavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, saying that a "skillful polemicist" did not need a refined literary style to have a political impact. Journalist and book reviewer John Chamberlain, writing in the New York Herald Tribune, found Atlas Shrugged satisfying on many levels: as science fiction, as a "philosophical detective story", and as a "profound political parable".
Atlas Shrugged has attracted an energetic and committed fan base. Each year, the Ayn Rand Institute donates 400,000 copies of works by Rand, including Atlas Shrugged, to high school students. According to a 1991 survey done for the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged was ranked second among the books that made the most difference in the lives of 17 out of 2,032 Book-of-the-Month club members who responded, between the Bible and M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled. Modern Library's 1998 nonscientific online poll of the 100 best novels of the 20th century found Atlas rated No. 1, although it was not included on the list chosen by the Modern Library board of authors and scholars. The 2018 PBS Great American Read television series found Atlas Shrugged rated number 20 out of 100 novels, based on a YouGov survey "asking Americans to name their most-loved novel".
Rand's impact on contemporary libertarian thought has been considerable. The title of one libertarian magazine, Reason: Free Minds, Free Markets, is taken from John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, who argues that "a free mind and a free market are corollaries". In a tribute written on the 20th anniversary of the novel's publication, libertarian philosopher John Hospers praised it as "a supreme achievement, guaranteed of immortality". In 1997, the libertarian Cato Institute held a joint conference with The Atlas Society, an Objectivist organization, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged. At this event, Howard Dickman of Reader's Digest stated that the novel had "turned millions of readers on to the ideas of liberty" and said that the book had the important message of the readers' "profound right to be happy".
Rand's former business partner and lover Nathaniel Branden expressed differing views of Atlas Shrugged. He was initially quite favorable to it, and even after he and Rand ended their relationship, he still referred to it in an interview as "the greatest novel that has ever been written", although he found "a few things one can quarrel with in the book". However, in 1984 he argued that Atlas Shrugged "encourages emotional repression and self-disowning" and that Rand's works contained contradictory messages. He criticized the potential psychological impact of the novel, stating that Galt's recommendation to respond to wrongdoing with "contempt and moral condemnation" clashes with the view of psychologists who say this only causes the wrongdoing to repeat itself.
Murray Rothbard, another Austrian School economist, wrote a letter to Rand in 1958 in which he praised the book as "an infinite treasure house" and "not merely the greatest novel ever written, [but] one of the very greatest books ever written, fiction or nonfiction". Rothbard soon distanced himself from Rand due to various disagreements in philosophy, and in the early 1960s he wrote a satirical one act play titled Mozart Was a Red that spoofed Rand and the novel.
References to Atlas Shrugged have appeared in a variety of other popular entertainments. In the first season of the drama series Mad Men, Bert Cooper urges Don Draper to read the book, and Don's sales pitch tactic to a client indicates he has been influenced by the strike plot. Less positive mentions of the novel occur in episodes of the animated comedies Futurama, where it appears among the library of books flushed down to the sewers to be read only by grotesque mutants, and South Park, where a newly literate character gives up on reading after experiencing Atlas Shrugged. The critically acclaimed 2007 video game BioShock is widely considered to be a response to Atlas Shrugged. The story depicts a society that has collapsed due to Objectivism, and significant characters in the game owe their naming to Rand's work, which the game's creator Ken Levine found "really fascinating".
Atlas Shrugged was a finalist for the US National Book Award for Fiction in 1958, but lost to The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever. In 1983, it was one of the first two books given the Prometheus Awards' Hall of Fame Award for libertarian science fiction, alongside The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein.
Atlas Shrugged (1957) is a philosophical novel by Russian-born Ayn Rand that examines a multitude of complex issues. Rand, never one for modesty, claimed that it was the most important book ever written. 2b1af7f3a8