Ayn Rand’s complicated notoriety as popular writer, leader of a political and philosophical cult, reviled intellectual, and ostentatious public figure followed her beyond her death in 1982. In the twenty-first century, she has been resurrected as a serious reference point for mainstream figures, especially—but not only—those on the political right, from Paul Ryan to Donald Trump. Mean Girl traces the posthumous appeal and influence of Rand’s novels via her cruel, surly, sexy heroes, outlining the impact of her philosophy of selfishness. Following her trail through the twentieth century from the Russian Revolution to the Cold War, 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 author most recently of The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy.