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Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right [Kindle Edition]

Jennifer Burns
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Worshipped by her fans, denounced by her enemies, and forever shadowed by controversy and scandal, the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was a powerful thinker whose views on government and markets shaped the conservative movement from its earliest days. Drawing on unprecedented access to Rand's private papers and the original, unedited versions of Rand's journals, Jennifer Burns offers a groundbreaking reassessment of this key cultural figure, examining her life, her ideas, and her impact on conservative political thought.
Goddess of the Market follows Rand from her childhood in Russia through her meteoric rise from struggling Hollywood screenwriter to bestselling novelist, including the writing of her wildly successful The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Burns highlights the two facets of Rand's work that make her a perennial draw for those on the right: her promotion of capitalism, and her defense of limited government. Both sprang from her early, bitter experience of life under Communism, and became among the most deeply enduring of her messages, attracting a diverse audience of college students and intellectuals, business people and Republican Party activists, libertarians and conservatives. The book also traces the development of Rand's Objectivist philosophy and her relationship with Nathaniel Branden, her closest intellectual partner, with whom she had an explosive falling out in 1968.
One of the Denver Post's Great Reads of 2009
One of Bloomberg News's Top Nonfiction Books of 2009
--Time magazine
"A terrific book--a serious consideration of Rand's ideas, and her role in the conservative movement of the past three quarters of a century."
--The American Thinker
"A wonderful book: beautifully written, completely balanced, extensively researched. The match between author and subject is so perfect that one might believe that the author was chosen by the gods to write this book. She has sympathy and affection for her subject but treats her as a human being, with no attempt to cover up the foibles."
--Mises Economics Blog

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ayn Rand's most famous books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, continue to sell in the hundreds of thousands every year,decades after they were issued. She was a significant influence on Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Craigslist's Craig Newman. Rand remains many things to many people since her death in 1982, as she did throughout her prickly, anxiety-laced, amphetamine- and nicotine-fueled life. This biography and critique is exasperatingly detailed and slow-going at times. But what University of Virginia historian Burns does well is to explicate the evolution of Rand's individualist worldview, placing her within the context of American conservative and libertarian thought: from H.L. Mencken to William Buckley and later the Vietnam War—her opposition to it drove most conservatives crazy. Burns does not give short shrift to the men in Rand's life: her longtime husband, Frank O'Connor, and intellectual partner and lover, Nathaniel Branden. Overall, this contributes to an understanding of a complex life in relation to American conservatism. 12 b&w photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics greeted Burns's work enthusiastically because, in the opinion of most, no one had yet authored a biography of Rand that objectively treated the woman independent of her philosophy of "objectivism." Reviews tended to focus on the psychological profile of Rand as the strongest feature of this work, but they were divided on the strength of Burns's analysis of Rand's impact on American thought. All felt that Burns, a scholar of the conservative movement, had made a good start evaluating that impact. But as Johann Hari's review for suggests, perhaps the best way to understand the legacy of books like Atlas Shrugged in the United States would be not to inspect Rand's life, but to inspect the unique aspects of American culture that made her so popular.

Product Details

  • File Size: 852 KB
  • Print Length: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (September 19, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,142 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
261 of 293 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sets a New Standard for Books on Rand October 15, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For the first time, a book on Ayn Rand has been published which does not come from the Objectivist inner circle; which is of general interest; and which is written by an impartial scholar.

The book marshalls a remarkable amount of information: Professor Burns has consulted 18 collections at 10 archives - and was given access to the Ayn Rand Archives themselves. She has read, audited, or conducted 89 interviews. She also cites more than 200 books in her bibliography, and there are 48 pages of footnotes for those who want to know the exact sources for her information. The book examines Ayn Rand's work and ideas closely; but it also traces their many connections with and influences upon America's political and cultural right wing. If scholars who come after her wish to be taken seriously, they will really have to do their homework - as she has.

Burns is a historian, not a philosopher - and she approaches Rand from a historian's viewpoint. As a historian, she shows the influence that Rand's ideas have had on the right wing of American politics; but - also as a historian - she shows how Rand's personality and character affected the way that message was received. If you disregard either the person or the ideas, you're not writing good history. Burns gives full attention to both aspects of her subject in this book.

Still more importantly, what this book gives back to Ayn Rand is context. Many Objectivists have withdrawn into a self-referential, self-ghettoizing circle where every word of Ayn Rand is viewed as inerrant and one takes note of cultural or intellectual trends in the wider world only in order to express one's contempt for it all.
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83 of 92 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this book; i could not put it down. however that may be because AR and Objectivism played such a big part in my life at a very important time in my life and this is the first book i have read that seems to actually be 'objective' about AR and her followers.

with my then-husband, we operated and ran the los angeles chapter of NBI in the 60's. when the 'break' with the brandon's occurred, we were astonished to find that unless we 'sided' with AR, we were excommunicated (their words). we refused to side with anyone. after that we were not even allowed to subscribe to the publications of AR and her cohorts. it was truly heartbreaking; we were being asked to take sides without knowing anything about anything except that AR had denounced NB. we could not do that, and so we were kicked out of an organization that we had been steadfastly loyal to for a number of years.

that is not to say that NB was such a saint either; he did his share of humiliating and abusing those who he felt were 'less' than he; even to the point of admitting to us one day that yes, he and AR did believe, as did Nietszche, that there were those who were 'more deserving' than others; more worthy of life, more elite. they believed in a hierarchy which allocated a special level of entitlement. AR and NB being a part of, if not THE, hierarchy of course. this said while sprawled on our sofa, chewing on radishes. he could be a charmer, but he could be a SOB just as easily.

by then, i was heading out the door and out of the realm of objectivism. i learned a lot from both AR and NB (i truly liked barbara and found her to be a classy, warm woman who did not need to intimidate and humiliate others in order to feel good about herself).
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58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good overview November 3, 2009
I picked up "Goddess of the Market" primarily because "The Fountainhead" is one of my favorite books. I have to say that I found Burns' work to be more interesting than any biography has a right to be.

Having read the 1-3 star reviews here, I'm left wondering if a reader's more extensive knowledge of Ayn Rand and her philosophy, Objectivism, becomes a disservice in trying to read what one of these reviewers correctly labels a Reader's Digest version of Rand.

These reviewers are also correct that the work is not so much analysis and interpretation as a regurgitation of facts around Rand's life, relationships, and belief system. For the uninitiated such as myself, the regurgitation will naturally not come across as a repetition of well-known events. I can see that if the author is claiming "never before seen sources" as input to the work that there would be unmet expectations among the more knowledgeable, but for me the survey level was just fine. I take issue, though, with the complaints that the book (a) is laced with negative renderings of Rand and Objectivism, and (b) characterizes Objectivism as indistinguishable from "the right" or "the GOP". In this, perhaps because I'm less sensitive to it through distance from the philosophy, I thought Burns was extremely fair.

Were there negative statements about Rand and/or her behavior and/or her philosophy? Certainly, but there were also some very strongly worded positive statements. Did Burns imply/state that Objectivism influenced the development of "the Right"?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars To understand the current "Libertarian Moment" in American politics,...
During the past week, I saw Ayn Rand (or her books) mentioned in my daily newspaper four times. Nationwide candidates (Paul Ryan, for example) cites Rand as a source of... Read more
Published 19 days ago by William C.
5.0 out of 5 stars A fair and objective evaulation of Ayn Rand's life and how her ideas...
I admit to becoming fascinated with Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism many years ago when I was a young man. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Joseph J. Truncale
4.0 out of 5 stars Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand
I was fascinated by Ayn Rand's biography. This was able to portray the complex person that was Ms. Rand and her ability to grow and change through the years as she delved more... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kathleen
3.0 out of 5 stars Typical Dahne
Rand tries so hard to prove a point and does her usuual great job of preaching tooth masses. I was a raid student o her philosophy wen an undergraduatbut she does get wearisome.
Published 3 months ago by Eric Glenn Eaton
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating woman
Plodding biographical story of a remarkable woman. Confusing array of philosophical schools of thought for a reader with only a minimum knowledge of the subject.
Published 9 months ago by jeanne w. murr
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a fan of Ayn Rand, and I appreciated learning the truth about her...
The writer had incredible access to Ayn Rand's personal journals, her research was amazing. I learned disturbing things about Ayn Rand that I did not know, but you know what? Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gregory Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Who wouldn't want to spend the night with Ayn?
Last month I finished Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and a few people told me they thought I was a bit excessive in my judgment of the novel's poor writing and dumb ideas. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Patrick Young
4.0 out of 5 stars Rand's Kool-Aid drinkers make me laugh
I read this biography, and as well as Ayn Rand and the World She Made, and both of them treat Rand's life and works reasonably fairly and coherently. Read more
Published 10 months ago by M. A. Plus
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectually stimulating!
Well written and fascinating. I was impressed by the research and Ms. Burns' eloquent style of writing. A very enjoyable read.
Published 11 months ago by Linda A. Evans
1.0 out of 5 stars Shameful misrepresentation
Burns consistently attacks Rand's character and misrepresents her philosophy. The book breezes over Rand's ideas without even explaining them in depth. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Chelsea Holm-Nielsen
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More About the Author

Jennifer Burns is an Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University, where she teaches courses on American political, cultural, and intellectual history. She graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude majoring in History, and received her Masters and PhD in History from the University of California at Berkeley.

Professor Burns is the author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press), an intellectual biography of the controversial novelist and philosopher. Based on exclusive access to Rand's personal papers, Goddess of the Market is the only book to draw upon Rand's unedited letters and journals. It has been favorably reviewed by numerous publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, the Economist, and the New Yorker.

A popular guest on radio and television programs, Professor Burns has been interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, C-Span's Book TV, NPR's Weekend America, and Here & Now. She has also written articles for Harvard Magazine, Foreign Policy, the Christian Science Monitor, and several academic journals.

Professor Burns also enjoys speaking before academic and professional organizations. She has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Columbia Business School, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, Rice University, and the Cato Institute.

Podcast lectures for Professor Burns' course, Introduction to U.S. History from 1865, are available on iTunes and have attracted an appreciative worldwide audience. The lectures are available at and can be found by searching "History 7b" in the Social Sciences section.

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