It used to be called The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, but the later title was Return of the Primitive. It was published in 1971, but sometimes drawn from slightly earlier essays. I wondered if a revisit might shed light on the current day, and here is what I learned:
1. “The New Left is the product of cultural disintegration; it is bred not in the slums, but in the universities; it is not the vanguard of the future, but the terminal stage of the past.”
2. The moderates who tolerate the New Left and its anti-reality bent can be worse than the New Left itself.
3. Ayn Rand wishes to cancel the New Left, albeit peacefully.
4. “Like every other form of collectivism, racism is a quest for the unearned.” Ouch, it would be good to resuscitate this entire essay (on racism).
5. She fears the collapse of Europe into tribalism, racism, and balkanization. I am not sure if I should feel better or worse about the ongoing persistence of this trope.
6. It is easy to forget that English was not her first language: “Logical Positivism carried it further and, in the name of reason, elevated the immemorial psycho-epistemology of shyster lawyers to the status of a scientific epistemological system — by proclaiming that knowledge consists of linguistic manipulations.”
6b. Kant was the first hippie.
7. The majority of people do not hate the good, although they are disgusted by…all sorts of things.
8. Like many Russian women, she is skeptical of the American brand of feminism: “As a group, American women are the most privileged females on earth: they control the wealth of the United States — through inheritance from fathers and husbands who work themselves into an early grave, struggling to provide every comfort and luxury for the bridge-playing, cocktail-party-chasing cohorts, who give them very little in return. Women’s Lib proclaims that they should give still less, and exhorts its members to refuse to cook their husbands’ meals — with its placards commanding “Starve a rat today!”” Feminism for me, but not for thee, you could call it.
Overall I would describe this as a bracing reread. But what struck me most of all was how much the “Old New Left” — whatever you think of it — had more metaphysical and ethical and aesthetic imagination — than the New New Left variants running around today. As Rand takes pains to point out (to her dismay), the Old New Left did indeed have Woodstock, which in reality was not as far from the Apollo achievement as she was suggesting at the time.