Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Indians and Ayn Rand

Posted by Jerry on August 28, 2007

Myrhaf writes a post on India that projects a rather generous view of the state of affairs and trends in this country. It is interesting to get a foreign perspective on India because, to some extent, it reflects on the kind of media coverage India receives abroad, and thereby, the perception foreigners have of it.

However, a more interesting point in Myrhaf’s post is his perception of Rand’s popularity in India, which reinforces my own view on the matter. He writes:

Along with the mysticism in India you can find many who subscribe to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, a philosophy of reason and reality that is the opposite of mysticism. I was fascinated in the 1980’s to read announcements in The Intellectual Activist of all the cities where Leonard Peikoff’s taped lectures could be heard. After the USA, the country with the most lectures by far was India.

Some time ago, I wrote up a post detailing my reasons for why I believed that Ayn Rand is more respected in India than in the US. The only thing I might be inclined to change in that post is its title. It would be more accurate to say that Ayn Rand *was* more respected in India than in the US. 

Prior to the proliferation of the Internet in India and the opening of its borders, Ayn Rand was known in India primarily through her books–her novels and non-fiction writings–and through the works of Dr. Leonard Peikoff. For this reason, her reputation in India remainded largely untarnished by the pseudo-intellectual rantings of both self-proclaimed Objectivists and non-Objectivists that now proliferate Rand-related forums, blogs, and online communities.

However, presently, with intellectual laziness and sloppiness being made even more feasible for mediocre minds by quick search engines and Wikipedias, rigorous and critical analysis of any idea is easily substituted with the regurgitation of someone else’s thoughts–however invalid, distorted, baseless, caricatured, or sloppy–that can be summoned before one’s passive mind with only a few easy clicks. 

It is no surprise then that the more Internet-savvy of the Indian crowds who may have actually read something of or by Rand–or may have only heard of her–find intellectual shelter in a kind of collectivist “online group-think” phenomena when they engage in pseudo-intellectual smears against her. The depth of depravity of such mediocre minds is that while it is granted that they can produce no original or insightful content of their own, even their smears, criticisms, and snide remarks of someone’s profoundly original ideas are second-handedly sourced and regurgitated.

Therefore, to return to my original point, I believe that while a few of the older generation who read Ayn Rand first-hand and were forced to critically respond to her ideas with their own mental efforts ended up developing an appreciation for her ideas, the more recent crop of Indian intellectuals for the most part neither share that appreciation nor have ever expended the mental effort. Further, all of this is in addition to the fact that the Indian socio-economic scene has changed drastically over the past 17 years, and it no longer resembles the kind of Socialist dystopia as presented in We The Living or the precipitated degradation of the society in Atlas Shrugged, which means that young Indians are becoming more and more removed from the ideas that Rand railed against and therefore fail to fully appreciate the gravity of her ideological positions.

[P.S. Check out the interesting comment thread under Myrhaf’s post.]

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7 Responses to “Indians and Ayn Rand”

  1. John Enright said

    Thanks for writing about this. It’s always interesting to hear a knowledgeable analysis from the inside of a country.

  2. The informal survey that Harry Binswanger recently ran for members of HBL (http://www.hblist.com/) indicated that most people come to Objectivism via Ayn Rand’s novels. Do you think this is the case with Indians? Or do Indians tend to latch onto the nonfiction titles first?

  3. (url correction)

  4. Ergo said

    Valda,

    I don’t see why it would be any different for Indians. To my knowledge, most Indians who are familiar with Ayn Rand had first read her novels. I, too, was introduced to The Fountainhead by my friend in college.

  5. Hi,

    The problem I see here in India is that everyone who knows how to read English is eager to gain the title of a “deep thinker”. I’ve even seen some guys, who seemingly loved The Fountainhead, say that the novel was perfect except that they just didn’t like “the rape of dominique by Roark”, “the bombing of Corlandt”, and they think that “Ellsworth Toohey is not a villain”.

    And that, is not an exaggeration :-). What people generally here do is that they say YOU are blindly following Ayn Rand, and THEY are being rational and objective by not granting any absolute authority to any one. It has become a sort of “rebellion for it’s own sake”.

  6. The line “pseudo-intellectual smears against her” moved me to comment. Ayn Rand is the epitome of a pseudo-intellectual. For a person who thinks she is a serious philosopher, dismissal of her sophistry probably would sound something like a pseudo-intellectual smear.

  7. @ Kushal

    … and yet, it is by constantly challenging her ideas that you come to realize how beautiful her moral philosophy is.

    A number of people that I know, who have read The Fountainhead and the Atlas Shrugged, express that her philosophy expounds selfishness, which is inherently bad. No wonder that the Indian society still thrives on the hashish of populist morality that our politicians persevere to feed us.

    @ Jerry

    Students of Economics often debate the Rational Choice Theory and free-trade as propounded by Adam Smith and the problems associated with the Individual Choice theory which make laissez-faire such a Hornets’ nest.

    Monopolies are not inherently bad, but it is the rational choice of producers to hoard and induce scarcity that threatens the basic tenets of free trade and the true realization of the individual self.

    Thank you for this superb blog. (-:

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