Anthem, by Ayn Rand

Anthem was printed in 1937. It is a warning call to the "free world" about the destructiveness inherent in a collectivist society. Having grown up during the ferment of the Russian Revolution and having seen the horrors perpetrated by intellectuals with the best of intentions. She realized that collectivism, insisting on the selflessness of its members would destroy individualism and any incentive to create. After the violence, the result would be a mundane world where mediocrity is encouraged and stagnation is the norm.

The book has a dream-like quality in that it paints an "idealized" socialist society where equality is everything, and all people are dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. In Anthem, Rand takes this to the logical extreme. If socialist intellectuals had their way everyone would live for the good of everyone else; there would be no "I", no "me". She gives us some idea of what it would be like to live in this society. We see that science and technology are stifled. The arts recede into a new dark age.

Rand saw this collectivist tendency as a mistaken faith in the principle that we should be our brother's keeper. People yearn to love every person even more than they love themselves. They resent others, who as individuals prefer to be true to themselves. This resentment, even jealousy is what drives people to adhere to communism or even national socialism. Independent, hard workers must be punished because it is obvious that these people are selfish achievers. In this way, in the world that Rand creates death is the penalty for the crime of intellectual striving. Any deviation from the party line meets with draconian results.

Anthem is the story of how one person, an individual, Equality 7-2521 is his name, works to break out of the restrictive fetters binding a free mind in a collectivist world.

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