Wednesday, 10 April 2019

On Ayn Rand’s Clean Shaven Acolytes

I don’t know of any major scholar of Ayn Rand’s objectivist school who is bearded or even has a mustache. Isn’t it strange that from 1958 (when Rand founded objectivism) till today, not a single man with facial hair has gained prominence in objectivism? In her book Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, Jennifer Burns links the anti-facial hair trend in objectivist scholars to Rand’s personal preferences:
Striving to become good Objectivists, Rand’s followers tried to conform to her every dictate, even those that were little more than personal preferences. Rand harbored a dislike of facial hair, and accordingly her followers were all clean shaven. (Chapter 8: “Love is Exception Making”)
Rand’s literature is highly individualistic and yet she founded a philosophical school which thrives on group thinking and does not tolerate any kind of dissent. If Burns is right then the objectivists defer to Rand not only on philosophical issues but even in matters of personal appearance. They can’t think for themselves.

In his book Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, Chris Matthew Sciabarra suggests that there is a cultural reason behind Rand's dislike for facial hair:
29. On Rand’s attitudes toward facial hair as symptomatic of “a spiritual defect,” see B. Branden 1986, 208. Though one might dismiss Rand’s dislike of facial hair as a matter of personal taste, it is interesting to note that the wearing of the beard had deep significance in Russian cultural history. Modeled after the icons of the saints, the wearing of the beard was a traditional practice of Orthodox religious ritual. When Peter the Great ushered in an era of Westernization, he introduced laws against such Orthodox beards. In 1705 Peter imposed taxes and license fees on those who chose to remain unshaven. The cultural battle between the “beards” and the “non-beards” was a battle between the Orthodox-Slavophiles and the Westernizers. Willis 1977, 686; Wallace 1967, 156, 161. Rand’s preference for a clean-shaven appearance may have reflected her general esteem for the Westernizers. (Page 404, n29)
The irony is that Aristotle, the only philosopher to whom Rand has acknowledged a philosophical debt, supports a thick beard, whereas Immanuel Kant, condemned by Rand as the most evil man in mankind’s history, is clean shaven.

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