Harvard Book Store welcomes journalist, activist, and academic LISA DUGGAN for a discussion of her latest book, Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed. She will be joined in conversation by LAUREN KAMINSKY, scholar of gender and the Soviet Union.
Ayn Rand’s complicated notoriety as popular writer, leader of a political and philosophical cult, reviled intellectual, and ostentatious public figure endured beyond her death in 1982. In the twenty-first century, she has been resurrected as a serious reference point for mainstream figures, especially those on the political right from Paul Ryan to Donald Trump. Mean Girlfollows Rand’s trail through the twentieth century from the Russian Revolution to the Cold War and traces her posthumous appeal and the influence of her novels via her cruel, surly, sexy heroes. Outlining the impact of Rand’s philosophy of selfishness, Mean Girl illuminates the Randian shape of our neoliberal, contemporary culture of greed and the dilemmas we face in our political present.
“Lisa Duggan does a deep dive into Ayn Rand so that we don’t have to. Instead, we can read Duggan’s impassioned, insightful, sometimes terrifying, sometimes humorous account of Rand’s philosophy and influence. Calls to understand and reject the allure of cruelty rarely feel as lucid and timely.” —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
“The self-described ‘man worshipper’ Ayn Rand titillated generations of strivers with her gospel of free-reign capitalism as the apex of human achievement. As that fiction yields ever more wreckage and despair, Mean Girl provides urgent insight into how Rand converted readers to her credo of self-flattery, pious greed, contempt for those in need, and obliviousness to history. Exalted are the profit-driven for they will inherit the earth? How could anyone come to embrace smug indifference to the suffering of others as worthy of admiration? Read this luminous account to find out.” —Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
“Mean Girl offers an eye-opening panoramic view of the rise of the ‘open-air theater of cruelty’ that takes Ayn Rand as its muse. The whole package of power-love associated with Rand throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—biography, economics, cultural politics, white masculinity, authoritarianism, sexual violence—comes vividly to life here in Lisa Duggan’s beautiful, stunning rendering.” —Lauren Berlant, coauthor of Sex, or the Unbearable
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.