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‘“Oh, that's Francisco's private joke” […]’: Atlas shrugged, the gold standard, and utopia

Cocks, N. (2020) ‘“Oh, that's Francisco's private joke” […]’: Atlas shrugged, the gold standard, and utopia. In: Cocks, N. (ed.) Questioning Ayn Rand: Subjectjvity, Political Economy, and the Arts. Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics. Palgrave, Basingstoke, UK. ISBN 9783030530730

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Objectivist economics rests upon the gold standard, this understood to signal a commitment to self-regulation and a rejection of all discretionary measures. For Objectivists, gold has an intrinsic value, and an economy based on the precious metal is thus taken to be rooted in reality and resistant to inflation. Rand makes an analogy between this understanding of gold and ‘competence’ within everyday life: accurately comprehending the world and having the skills to productively act within it are declared to be the ‘gold standard’ of morality. This chapter is concerned specifically with questioning this construction of the gold standard in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Through a detailed reading of the text, it draws out gold’s constitutive tensions within the novel: a substance and yet substitutive; necessarily present whilst always somewhere else; secondary as well as primary; reassuringly natural yet dangerously figurative. Through an appeal to Melinda Cooper’s recent work on the family within C20th American politics, the chapter concludes this book by contending that the gold standard morality and economics of Atlas Shrugged rest on unacknowledged contradictions, with the uncanny supporting the Randian political economy even as it disturbs the self-identity and surety upon which it calls.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Language Text and Power
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Identities
ID Code:89867

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