Ayn Rand’s complicated notoriety as popular writer, leader of a political and philosophical cult, reviled intellectual, and ostentatious public figure endured beyond her death in 1982. In the twenty-first century, she has been resurrected as a serious reference point for mainstream figures, especially those on the political right from Paul Ryan to Donald Trump. Mean Girl follows Rand’s trail through the twentieth century from the Russian Revolution to the Cold War and traces her posthumous appeal and the influence of her novels via her cruel, surly, sexy heroes. Outlining the impact of Rand’s philosophy of selfishness, Mean Girl illuminates the Randian shape of our neoliberal, contemporary culture of greed and the dilemmas we face in our political present.
Lisa Duggan is a historian, journalist, activist, and Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. She is the author of The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy." She tweets at @TheFunFury.
Masha Gessen is a journalist and the author of ten books of nonfiction, most recently The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Gessen is also the author of the national bestseller The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012). Gessen is a John J. McCloy ‘16 Professor of American Institutions and International Diplomacy at Amherst College, a staff writer at The New Yorker and a national fellow with New America Foundation