Atlas Shrugged

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Atlas Shrugged (ISBN 0451191145) is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the USA.

Philosophy and writing

The theme of Atlas Shrugged is the role of the mind in life and society. Rand argues that independent thinking, creativity and inventiveness that comes from this, is the motor that runs the world. In Atlas Shrugged she shows what she thinks would happen to the world if the "men of the mind" went on strike: the motor of the world would shut down and civilization would fall apart. The book has its roots entirely in Objectivism, the systematic philosophy pioneered by Rand.

Rand suggests that a society will stagnate to the extent that independence and individual achievement are discouraged or demonized. Inversely, a society will become more prosperous as it allows, encourages, and rewards independence and individual achievement. Rand believed that independence flourishes to the extent that people are free, and that achievement is most fairly rewarded when private property is strictly observed. She advocated laissez-faire capitalism as the political system she believed to be the most consistent with these beliefs. These considerations make Atlas Shrugged a highly political book, especially in its portrayal of socialism and communism as fundamentally flawed.

Rand also argues that traits like independence and individual achievement, which currently drive the world, are actually virtues, and in her worldview are central to a "rational" moral code. She strongly disputes the notion that self-sacrifice is a virtue, and is similarly dismissive of human faith in a god, higher being and indeed any form of mysticism. The book itself addresses — and refutes — Christianity specifically. This is often done openly by the novel's characters. These ethical considerations are prominent in Atlas Shrugged.

According to a joint survey conducted in 1991 by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged is recognized by numerous authors as the "second most influential book for Americans today", after the Bible [1]. In addition, the Boston Public Library has named Atlas Shrugged as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century. [2]


Exactly when Atlas Shrugged is meant to take place is kept deliberately vague. In section 152, the population of New York is given as 7 million. The historical New York City reached 7 million people in the 1930s, placing the novel sometime after that. There are numerous early 20th century technologies available, but the political situation is clearly different from actual history. It is as if history had changed around 1900, and the world went unimpeded down a gradual path towards socialism for perhaps 40 years, with no World War or Great Depression. Another interpretation is that the novel takes place a hundred (or perhaps hundreds) of years in the future, implying that since the world lapsed into its socialistic morass, a global-wide stagnation has occurred in technological growth, population growth, and indeed growth of any kind; the wars, economic depressions, and other events of the 20th century would be a distant memory to all but scholars and academicians. This latter interpretation falls in line with Rand's own ideas and commentary on other novels depicting utopian and dystopian societies. Indeed, she criticized the combination of societal regimentation, collectivist values, and advanced technology in other authors' works as unrealistic in light of her philosophic connection between freedom, individualism, and progress. The concept of societal stagnation in the wake of collectivist systems is central to the plot of another of Rand's works, Anthem.

All countries outside the US have become, or become during the novel, "People's States." There are many examples of early 20th century technology in Atlas Shrugged, but no post-war technologies such as jet planes, nuclear weapons, helicopters, or computers; television is a novelty that has yet to assume any cultural significance, while radio broadcasts are prominent. Despite this, many of the same concepts discussed concerning the World Wars and weapons of war are addressed, as weapons of mass destruction in different forms exist in the book.

Most of the action in Atlas Shrugged takes place in the United States. There are, however, events occurring in countries around the world that affect the plot, such as those in the People's States of Mexico, Chile, and Argentina or those involving piracy on the world's oceans.



  • Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand; Signet; (September 1996) ISBN 0451191145
  • Atlas Shrugged (Cliffs Notes), Andrew Bernstein; Cliffs Notes; (June 5, 2000) ISBN 0764585568
  • The World of Atlas Shrugged, Robert Bidinotto/The Objectivist Center; HighBridge Company; (April 19, 2001) ISBN 156511471X
  • Atlas Shrugged: Manifesto of the Mind (Twayne's Masterwork Studies, No. 174) Mimi Reisel Gladstein; Twayne Pub; (June 2000) ISBN 0805716386
  • The Moral Revolution in Atlas Shrugged, Nathaniel Branden; The Objectivist Center; (July 1999) ISBN 1577240332
  • Odysseus, Jesus, and Dagny, Susan McCloskey; The Objectivist Center; (August 1, 1998) ISBN 1577240251

Foreign translations

  • Norwegian translation: "De som beveger verden" (2000). Publisher: Kagge Forlag. ISBN 8248900835 (hardcover), ISBN 8248901696 (paperback). Translator: John Erik Bøe Lindgren.
  • Swedish translation: "Och världen skälvde" (2005). Publisher: Timbro Förlag. ISBN 9175665565. Translator: Maud Freccero.
  • German translation: "Wer Ist John Galt?". Publisher: GEWIS Verlag, Hamburg, Germany. ISBN 3932564030.
  • Turkish translation: "Atlas Vazgeçti" (2003). Publisher: Plato Yayınları. ISBN 9759677261. Translator: Belkıs Çorapçı.
  • Spanish translation: "La Rebelion de Atlas". Publisher: Editorial Grito Sagrado. ISBN 9872095108 (hardcover), ISBN 9872095116 (paperback)
  • Polish Translation "Atlas Zbuntowany" (2004) Publisher: Zysk i S-ka. ISBN 83-7150-969-3 (Twarda) Translator: Iwona Michalowska.