Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Influence of Ayn Rand's Objectivism

On May 14 of this year, the Ayn Rand Institute announced total sales for all of the author’s books for the year 2012 at one million copies.  Of those, Atlas Shrugged sold 359,105 behind 2009 (best ever) and 2011 (second place).  According to them “Rand’s books have sold a total of 29,500,000 copies.”  I believe that total sales of all books by and about Ayn Rand probably exceed 40 million.  That said, the number of active “Rand fans” is probably one-tenth of that, at most.

The ARI released these sales tallies back on April 7, 2008:
1- We the Living - 3 million
2- Anthem- 4 million
3- The Fountainhead - 6.5 million
4- Atlas Shrugged - 6 million
5- For the New Intellectual - 1 million
6- Virtue of Selfishness- 1.5 million
7- Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal - .650 million
8- The Romantic Manifesto - .350 million


Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart find the remnants of
John Galt's Motor in Atlas Shrugged, Part 1.
Since then, other sources such as The Economist reported "over half a million" copies of Atlas Shrugged sold in 2009. Similar reports gave 445 thousand for 2011.  The 2012 volume narrowly outpaced 2010’s purchases of 350,000.  That comes to 1.65 million, a 27% increase since 2008.  Extrapolating a 25% increase across the eight most popular books yields these estimates:

1- We the Living – 3.75 million
2- Anthem- 5 million
3- The Fountainhead – 8.1 million
4- Atlas Shrugged – 7.5 million
5- For the New Intellectual – 1.25 million
6- Virtue of Selfishness- 1.8 million
7- Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal - .810 million
8- The Romantic Manifesto - .437 million

The total (28.647 million) is close to the ARI number of 29 million.  However, it does not take into account 30 other books. 

9. Introduction to the Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn Rand
10. Philosophy: Who Needs It? by Ayn Rand
11. Return of the Primitive (formerly The New Left: the Anti-Industrial Revolution) by Ayn Rand
12. The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought by Ayn Rand, et al
13. Early Ayn Rand vol. 1-
14. Three Plays- (Early Ayn Rand vol. 2)
15. The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z by Harry Binswanger
16. Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q&A by Robert Mayhew
17. Who is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden
18. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand edited by by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen
19. The Psychology of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
20. What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi
21. Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (film and accompanying book) by Michael Paxton
22. Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
23. The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden
24. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by Chris Matthew Sciabarra
25. The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics by James S. Valliant
26. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns
27. Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller
28. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by Brian Doherty
29. It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand by Jerome Tuccille
30. Is Objectivism a Religion? by Albert Ellis
31. Objectivism in One Lesson by Bernstein
32. On Ayn Rand by Gotthelf
33. Ayn Rand and Alienation by Greenberg
34. Ayn Rand and Business by Geiner and Rinni
35. The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand by David Kelley
36. Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue by Gotthelf and Lennox
37. With Charity Toward None by William F. O'Neill
38. Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics by Tara Smith
39. Blue Water Comics Female Force #1 (May 2011): Ayn Rand by John Blundell, et al.
40. Anthem (Graphic Novel) Charles Santino and Joe Staton (New American Library).

[Addendum: Since the original posting, I found these, the first two of which I should have known.]
41. Ayn Rand Explained: From Tyranny to Tea Party (2012) Merrill, Ronald E., Chicago, IL : Open Court, 2012.
42.  Ayn Rand nation : the hidden struggle for America's soul (2012) Gary Weiss, New York : St. Martin's Press, 2012.
43. Ayn Rand and alienation : the Platonic idealism of the objectivist ethics and a rational alternative by Sid Greenberg. San Francisco : Greenberg, c1977.

[And again, at the library today (August 3), I found five more at the University of Texas library. In addition to Who is Ayn Rand? (#17 above), the Brandens also wrote three other books, one of which prompted another book in response.]
44.  The Ayn Rand Companion by Mimi Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra
45.  Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand by Mini Reisel Gladstein
46.  Ayn Rand by Tibor Machan
47.  Essays on We the Living by Robert Mayhew
48.  The Fountainheads: Wright, Rand, the FBI and Hollywood by Donald Leslie Johnson
49.  Judgment Day by Nathaniel Branden
50.  My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
51.  The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden
52.  Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics by James S. Valliant

[August 10, 2013]
53. Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words (DVD: 72 mins), John Little, Northern River Productions (2011).
54. Objectively Speaking: Ayn Rand Interviewed. Marlene Podritske and Peter Schwartz, eds. Lexington Books, 2009.


[September 14, 2014] On MSK's Objectivist Living site, contributor Jerry Biggers told of this:
55.  The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, by Nathaniel Branden. LaissezFaire Books/Cobden Press, 2009. Also issued in Kindle eBook format on Amazon.com in 2014. This is a transcription of the original NBI set of lectures.


Through all of this, realize that the Ayn Rand Institute is the single largest consumer of books by Ayn Rand.  They buy them from the publisher and then give them away.
October 14, 2010 ARI Press release
ARI has given high school teachers more than 185,000 copies of “Atlas Shrugged” to date, and over 1.6 million copies of Rand’s “Anthem” and “The Fountainhead.”

Yet another detail expands the number of readers over the numbers of books sold. When teaching middle school in Albuquerque 2002-2003, I saw cartloads of Anthem coming and going as assigned reading along with other easy books such as Call of the Wild and Animal Farm. How many young people come to Ayn Rand's ideas via this route cannot be tallied by book sales alone.  Considering the assigned reading from middle school through college, we have to at least recognize the CliffsNotes, Monarch Notes, and Sparknotes for Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged

A recent Zogby Poll raised more questions.  Touted by the ARI in a November 30, 2010 press release, the poll found “that 29 percent of the 2,100 adult respondents have read Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.” Of those who read the book, 49 percent agreed that Atlas Shrugged changed the way they think about political or ethical issues….”

And that is all well and fine, but the same poll claimed: “… that 21 percent of respondents have read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead; 7 percent, Anthem; 4 percent, We the Living 3 percent, The Virtue of Selfishness; and 3 percent Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. “  Contrasted against the number of middle school and high school students who are assigned Anthem every year, those numbers seem like under-reports compared to the tallies for Atlas Shrugged.

The numbers at the top actually indicate that anyone who buys Anthem, The Fountainhead, or Atlas Shrugged will buy the other two, though not always.  Sales of Atlas slightly outpace the others. 

I also believe from the numbers that while only a few may buy Philosophy: Who Needs It? or Introduction to the Objectivist Epistemology these are acquired by those who are interested in the technical philosophy having been introduced to it from the novels.  That points to the claim at the top that 40 million books sold might reveal only four million people with a passion for Ayn Rand: I own 20 different titles by and about. 

In addition, I have three copies of Atlas Shrugged: a 95-cent "gold cover" paper back 7th printing November 1960; another ppb to read and annotate; and the Highbridge Company audio tapes read by Edward Herrmann.  I have both ppb and hard cover editions of The Fountainhead, Anthem, Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal (I bought it as a first edition because I was taking the "Basic Principles" class when it came out.)  And not tallied above, I have a bootleg VHS tape of Ayn Rand's last public lecture. Among the other ephemera is a January 1944 Reader's Digest with Rand's essay, "The Only Path to Tomorrow: The Moral Basis of Individualism".   And I archive two copies of "Female Force" (in bags, with boards, of course).

(This post was edited from my April 6, 2013, commentary "Objectivism as a Strong Undercurrent" on the Rebirth of Reason website.)

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1 comment:

  1. Any details on The Objectivist Newsletter 1962-1965 which I do not find on your list.

    ReplyDelete