Rand’s Anthem: Response
Utopia to Dystopia
Rand’s novella, Anthem, leaves an impression on the reader emphasizing and embracing their individuality. Rand was born in Russia, which was taken over by the Bolsheviks, under the demand of Lenin during the October Revolution in 1917. The revolution caused most or all of Russian families to lose their livelihoods and homes to the government, who would later distribute them. I am sure that Rand was one of many forced to live a life that had been compromised in the name of communism. If so, it would certainly be exhibited through the characters in her writing. While extreme, Anthem illustrates the inner struggle to express individuality in a collective society. The character Equality 7-2521 would be a direct reflection of the feelings Rand might have had being a woman in communist Russia. As a woman, she was most likely assigned to futures and paths that she didn't want to be a part of, and she was most likely refused to go to school. This being said, I find it justifiable to write about this, even if it is in an extreme way.
Rational egoism could be considered a cure for collectivism, for the fact that it's the opposite. Egoism, of any kind, is the belief that the self should take priority in a community. I believe that the embrace of individualism is exactly what makes a community great, for with individual freedom, evolution and change can occur. Collectivism is good, too, in theory, but in practice it inhibits the members of its community from fulfilling their full potential. The cure for the problems of collectivism is found in Kant’s theory of morality. On page 58 of Anthem, Prometheus says, “Neither am I the mean to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use”. This directly reflects Immanuel Kant’s theory of morality and ethics. Kant’s theory, to put it plainly, stated that People should never be used as means, and only as ends. Kant, like Rand, valued reason, and claimed that reason motivated morality. This goes hand-in-hand with the theory of rational egoism, for it essentially states that one should respects others’ reasoned motives as much as their own. For example, Kant would have argued that the scholars not allowing Prometheus to share his discovery of electricity or “the light”, was unethical. Whereas collectivists would argue that since it was not what the community wanted, it was morally sound.
The Rand’s Anthem was, of course, an extremity of collectivism. Rational egoism is the prioritization of self while not being extreme. The problem with rational egoism in practice is in the process of defining “rational”, or “too selfish”. In a collective society, there is a strict moral code, usually decided on by a designated group of people. In a world where people can act however they wish, who is supposed to say that an act of selfishness is too selfish? Also, in any decision there needs to be a stake, and if there was to be a community that didn't respect each other or valued one another and only themselves, there would end up being some sort of inequality or class based on those who win and those who lose. Kant’s would argue that by disregarding or disrespecting another person’s sense of self, one is acting unethically, which supports the application of rational egoism in a society.