Aaron WeinachtDec 16, 2021
Nikolai Chernyshevskii and Ayn Rand
Russian Nihilism Travels to America
Nikolai Chernyshevskii and Ayn Rand: Russian Nihilism Travels to America (Lexington, 2021) argues that the core commitments of the nihilist movement of the 1860's made their way to 20th century America via the thought of Ayn Rand. While mid-nineteenth-century Russian nihilism has generally been seen as part of a radical tradition that culminated in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the author argues that nihilism's intellectual trajectory was in fact quite different. Analysis of such sources as Nikolai Chernyshevskii's What is to Be Done? (1863) and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957), archival research in Rand's papers, and broad attention to late-nineteenth century Russian intellectual history all lead the author to conclude that nihilism's legacy is deeply implicated in one of America's most widely-read philosophers of capitalism and libertarian freedom.