Top critical review
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Great promise, moderate execution.
on 25 April 2010
Ayn Rand's book on Capitalism presents itself as a philosophical alternative to "Das Kapital", it explains that Capitalism needs this "psycho-epistemological" viewpoint in order to provide would-be defenders of Capitalism with a basis to defend it. The book presents a fundamental "moral" basis of Capitalism in a self-assertive, powerful collection of essays which does brilliantly in some respects, yet fails to make a clear case for Capitalism.
I will quickly analyse why.
While you will find a well fought defence of Capitalism, especially in the first few chapters, which provide a brilliant beginning on "What is Capitalism" with a very concise and precise essay by Nathaniel Branden on "Common Fallacies of Capitalism", there exist a few critical flaws which prevent this book from being the one stop book for Capitalism as a theory.
First, the book divides itself into two parts, one relevant for the books purpose, the other not. While the first half on the "Theory and History" of Capitalism has the majority of its essays both well written and suited towards the purpose of defending Capitalism, the second half concerns itself with "Current events", which are set in the 1960's and fail to be convincing in the timeless manner a work like this should aspire to.
The latter essays drone on too long about New York times articles, speeches made by students and a document made by the Pope. Rather than rely on academic writing and an erudite approach to constructing an argument, we are treated with extremely irritating slang words (the childish repetition of "Blank Out" when Ayn Rand or her followers feel like they have found a critical gap in someone else's argument), petty elitist slurs, and *worst* of all, the belief that quoting John Galt from Atlas shrugged (a fiction novel) INCESSANTLY, is somehow a legitimate way of making an argument.
Presenting Capitalism as a theory (a theory which I endorse fully and passionately) requires not resorting to fiction as a substitute for scholarship, and presenting the argument from an intelligent *objective* perspective (ie: not have half the book set in the 1960's). All these things erode the foundation of a serious work, and cheapen the case made.
In conclusion, there is a great deal to this book that you can walk away with as useful, illuminating knowledge. It presents Capitalism from a necessarily different standpoint than is often taken by Capitalisms other defenders, and it enriches anyone who is interested in the subject. It falls short of being a stand-alone work on the defence of Capitalism however, and for the reasons above I would be hesitant to recommend it to anyone as a "read it front to back" book. If I did I would have to advise the reading of only certain chapters, for the fear that others may actually harm the case of Capitalism by the methods which Rand uses to defend it. Passion and force are attributes that helps Rand in this regard, coarse slurs and fiction quoting do not.