Lion of the Blogosphere

Ayn Rand and boboism

There is probably the impression that bobos are liberals, and Ayn Rand was a conservative, and therefore they must be diametrically opposed to each other.

But actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there is much in modern bobo beliefs that can be traced back to The Fountainhead.

The main character in The Fountainhead is Howard Roark, and architect who shuns the popular market-driven kitsch architecture in favor of objectively superior modern architecture. Howard Roark is contrasted with another architect, Peter Keating, who gets good grades in architecture school by telling the professors what they want to hear, and then being an excellent schmoozer, gets a good job at a prestigious architecture firm, gets promoted, marries the pretty girl, and whenever he encounters a project that’s beyond his abilities, he secretly gets his old friend Howard Roark to do his work for him.

Roark is the hero of the book because he aspires to self-actualization through his career, which today is the highest bobo value. None of the characters have any children, because children just get in the way of true self-actualization through career. Peter Keating represents the investment bankers of the world, greedy and rich and therefore lacking in the true spirit of self-actualization.

Ayn Rand also endorses the philosophy of “spiritual but not religious,” which has become the modern bobo religion. There is a subplot in the novel in which Roark designs a temple dedicated to the human spirit, which of course is much hated by the proles of his day because of its sacrilege against Christianity.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 1, 2013 at 1:57 PM

Posted in Bobos

17 Responses

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  1. Also note that the female character, a stand in for Rand, goes with the antagonist when he’s on top despite hating his ethics. It’s only when the protagonist defeats him that she switches. If the protagonist failed to achieve societally defined success because of his believes the woman was perfectly within her rights to abandon the protagonist and her morals.

    They are childless and are dropped into the world as preformed genius adults who mysteriously don’t owe any of their skills to parents, teachers, or institutions.


    April 1, 2013 at 2:18 PM

  2. There are no children in Ayn Rand because Ayn Rand is pornography, and usually in pornography the presence of children is (one hopes) a mood-killer.

    But I come not to bury Ayn Rand. The Lion has an okay first draft, but let’s clarify a few ideas. What does Ayn Rand mean by “spirituality” without religion?

    Well, let’s think in negatives. What Rand definitely does NOT mean by “spiritual” when she calls Howard Roark spiritual is anything to do with Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Thoreauism, environmentalism, yogaism, Innagadadavidaism, GwynethPaltrowism, Youworktoohard/studytoohard/thinktoomuch/whydon’tyoutryahitofE/dropsomeacid/passthebong/mightaswelldoawhitelineism.

    But BoBos LIKE those things. Or some simulacra of the heavy, mystical stuff. As to the latter part of my litany, as all my childhood dental hygienists and hair stylists would slyly say, “Everything in moderation.” Which is how I understood, at the age of ten, that these girls were cokeheads.

    What Rand DOES understand by “spiritual” is Roark’s utter dedication to himself and his vision which, in Rand’s unstable Aristotelio-Nietzschean way, is supposed to amount to the same thing. Well, Nietzsche said his Overman would look like Cesare Borgia meets Jesus Christ. Rand wasn’t the best disciple for Nietzsche, but she may have understood that part, in her way, well enough.

    I don’t think your Bobos have much of the Borgias or Christ in themselves. Not wittingly, anyhow.

    I think you’re thrown by the Comte-sounding bit about the dedication to the human spirit. This is not, Lord help us, anything collectivist! Rand chose the title “The Virtue of Selfishness” to tweak noses, and it should be clear that Southern Baptists are not the exclusive, or even primary, beneficiaries of Rand’s provocation. Rand is not “crunchy”. She is not even “con”. “Self-actualization” is such an airy-fairy slogan to tack onto her overworked, superburdened ubermenschen and the sadomasochistic Titanesses of Industry who love them that– tsk, tsk. But really, Lion, you can’t be serious!

    Are you quite sure you weren’t rifling through “Franny and Zooey” instead?

    Peter Keating is a fine role model for the Bobos, as is– what’s his name again? [NB: I don’t sit around reading Rand all day. I’m not seventeen.] Ellsworth Toohey? Tooey? David Brooks, was it? You see, good Lion, Ayn Rand despises everything the Bobos stand for. As do we all.

    Lucius Somesuch

    April 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    • –Mind you, I think Rand and her cult were supposedly into uppers. But even if true, we’re talking about her fictional ideal, and those heroes of hers were autochthonous, as Asdf points out.

      Lucius Somesuch

      April 1, 2013 at 4:25 PM

  3. I know plenty of girls (20-something women in Manhattan) who own both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead; I don’t know a single one who’s actually read either of these books, though.


    April 1, 2013 at 4:00 PM

  4. There’s something in Rand I really like. But I’m not a Rand devotee by any stretch. She and I are both much too prickly for any such thing. Still, I’m a little put off at hearing Bobos described in Randian terms because they’re such shallow twits. Please! Tell me you’re trolling! LOL!

    Yet, there’s something quite astute (and even ironic) in your observations regarding Rand vs Bobo self actualization. How to reconcile the two! I would say Rand’s characters are self actualized because they have true meaning and their lives. They do what they want. Whereas Bobos try to self actualize because they don’t have true meaning and fulfillment. So they’re trying to do what they think they should want.

    Didn’t you write sometime back Bobos take luxurios vacations because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do? If that’s what someone really wants then fine. But if someone does it because they think it’s what they’re supposed to do then it’s just shallow. Which is why Bobos are a cheap imitation. They self actualize because they’re shallow, And that’s not Randian at all.


    April 1, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    • Rand herself didn’t have true meaning in her life, which was largely quite tragic, the ending in particular.

      The biggest thing Rand and Bobos have in common is their hatred of family and children. These things limit “self-actualization”, and yet they are by far the most proven means of having fulfilled and meaningful lives.


      April 1, 2013 at 9:13 PM

    • “Still, I’m a little put off at hearing Bobos described in Randian terms because they’re such shallow twits.”

      Exactly. Some might think they are like Roark, but most are like Keating. You don’t rise to the top of an organization by being a rebellious individualist; you get there by influencing others to act in your interest. Most bobos hate Ayn Rand, precisely because they refuse to embrace her philosophy of individualism, and would rather schmooze their way to the top.


      April 1, 2013 at 9:58 PM

  5. ““spiritual but not religious,” which has become the modern bobo religion. ”

    I’m not sure I’d agree with this. Bobos tend to like watered down versions of traditional religions– like yoga without the other constraints of hinduism, very liberal christianity (i.e. unitarianism) where Jesus and the bible are whatever they interpret him and it to be, very liberal judaism embracing gays and female rabbis, etc.. Some dabble in new agey pagan religions. But they are still “religious” in that respect, unless they’re outright atheists.

    The people I know who simply aren’t religious, but not atheists either, are not bobos.


    April 1, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    • What you’re describing is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as “spiritual but not religious”.


      April 1, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    • You forget to mention Hollywood Buddhism and neo-Islamism.

      Just Speculating

      April 1, 2013 at 9:44 PM

  6. I never thought of this before, but I wonder if Ayn Rand was influenced by the Eugene O’Neill play The Great God Brown. It features one character who is a talented, “self-actualizing” artist, but a bust financially, and another who is a soulless architect who becomes successful by designing crap.

    Quote from the artist character:

    “And this cathedral is my masterpiece! It will make Brown the most eminent architect in this state of God’s Country. I put a lot into it–what was left of my life! It’s one vivid blasphemy from sidewalk to the tips of its spires!–but so concealed that the fools will never know. They’ll kneel and worship the ironic Silenus who tells them the best good is never to be born! (He laughs triumphantly.) Well, blasphemy is faith, isn’t it? In self-preservation the devil must believe! But Mr. Brown, the Great Brown, has no faith! He couldn’t design a cathedral without it looking like the First Supernatural Bank!”


    April 1, 2013 at 6:11 PM

  7. BTW, all of Rand’s work is just 50 Shades of Grey with some sophomoric Nietzsche strewn in so that second sigma women don’t have to feel guilty about reading pornography.


    April 1, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    • That’s nonsense. There’s plenty more to Atlas Shrugged, for all its faults. It was a quite original idea to construct a morality tale from the perspective of capitalists. Granted, it contains a lot of simplifications (e.g., pure industrialists versus crony capitalists, whereas in the real world there are gradations between the two), but those are understandable, considering.


      April 2, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      • “a lot of simplifications”.

        Understatement of the Year.


        April 3, 2013 at 2:51 AM

      • There are some real gems in Atlas Shrugged, including the best apologetics for capitalism ever penned. She’s a fantastic storyteller; I couldn’t put the book down when I read it. But then you get to that goon-sperg ending and realize how much of it is just pure farce. Nobody goes to church, nobody has kids, nobody has any meaningful relationships, interesting hobbies, leisure time. Work, work, WORK! The high-g heroine is a pass-around girl. The virile men she sleeps with don’t get jealous or hurt. The Nietzchean autarchy that pops up out of the Rockies is industrialized in a year. WTF? Hank’s mining the iron, stoking the furnaces, pouring the steel and laying the rail himself and his two broad shoulders, rippling biceps, chiseled forearms…where was I? Everybody’s STILL not having kids.

        The Anti-Gnostic

        April 3, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    • Oh, try reading the ludicrous Marx or any of his droning angry redfaced followers and you’ll wish you had stayed with Rand.

      “Class, open Hardt & Negri. Where were we? Ah yes, Chapter 23. I shall read it aloud. This will be on the midterm, so pay attention. Ahem.

      The dialectics of colonial sovereignty.

      We now need to take a step back and examine the genealogy of the concept of sovereignty from the perspective of colonialism. The crisis of modernity has from the beginning had an intimate relation to racial subordination and colonization. Whereas within its domain the nation state and its attendant ideological structures work tirelessly to create and reproduce the purity of the people, on the outside the nation-state is a machine that creates Others, creates racial difference, and raises boundaries that delimit and support the modern subject of sovereignty … Yes, what is it?”

      “I’m sorry I balked at the hundred-page speech. I have to go read it now. Goodbye. Sorry.”

      (Leaves in haste.)

      “And you?”

      “I am intensely bored, which is how I know I am learning something profound. Please continue.”


      April 10, 2013 at 5:00 PM

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