Atlas Shrugged is a political novel, which describes Dagny Taggart's attempts to find out who is John Galt. The latter turns out to be an anti-collectivist engineer who has organised a strike of the world's creative people in protest against collectivism. Galt represents all that is best in the individual, but the novel moves quite slowly and has an unrealistic plot. Read on.
Who is John Galt?
The plot Dagny Taggart keeps hearing the name John Galt and seeks to ascertain who he was. She learns that he is an engineer, physicist and philosopher who has rebelled against Marxist ideas and has organised a strike by the world's creative people from a Colorado mountain valley, with the aim of reasserting individual freedom. Despite being captured and tortured by the collectivist government, Galt escapes and the tyranny collapses. Ayn Rand was using Galt to affirm the importance of the individual against the collectivism that was prevalent in academic circles at the time. Galt is the man who stands up to be counted, and he stands for the irrepressibility of the human spirit. In Galt's success, Rand was asserting that the tide of Marxism was not inevitable and that the individual could triumph with courage.
Human progress Ayn Rand books show that that the individual is at the root of all human progress and that collectivism suppressed individuality, dehumanised people and stifled their creative powers. In John Galt, she provides an interesting and mysterious character, a rebel who stands for all that is good in human character. His philosophy makes him wise and his science makes him competent, he is creative and courageous. He refuses to become a slave to the factory which is taken over by Marxist ideas, so he stands for the person with the courage to speak out. The argument The book is not an argument for unethical capitalism, but is an argument for individuals who work hard and create culture and wealth. It expresses the frustration of such people at dealing with mediocrities in positions of power and at collectivist attempts for the uncreative and unproductive, to misappropriate the work of creative people. The John Galt speech given over the airways, which he has taken over, is a well-written expression of Ayn's political philosophy.
Perhaps, the main problem is the unrealistic plot. That Galt visits the creative people, who tend to agree and co-operate with him, assumes that creative people share the same political views. This seems unlikely and has stalled dreams of Ayn Rand's supporters of putting her vision into practice. Nowhere does this work provide a coherent vision of what society should be, but it only shows us what it should not.