Skip to main content

Fostering liberty in international relations theory: the case of Ayn Rand

Abstract

Freedom is one of the pivotal ideas within liberal political thought. All liberals aim to secure individual liberty, but they differ about the degree of freedom that is required for the ‘good life’, particularly in relation to the desired level of interference by the state through public services and taxation. The importance and relevance of this internal liberal debate is hardly acknowledged by theorists of international relations (IR). This has led to a one-sided, often erroneous portrayal of liberalism, despite its dominance in IR theory. Here, this issue will be elaborated through the first comprehensive analysis of the international political thought of Ayn Rand. An analysis of her ideas, put against the main common characteristics of current liberal theories of international relations, yields additional and new evidence for the existence of a ‘liberal knowledge gap in IR theory’. This clearly needs to be acknowledged and addressed by IR theorists to get a fuller comprehension of liberalism and international relations theory.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. For The Objectivist Newsletter (Rand 1982a) in-text references give year, volume in Roman numerical: issue, page. For The Objectivist (Rand 1982b) and the Ayn Rand Letter (Rand 1979) it is year, volume in Roman numerical, page.

  2. Objectivists counter this by arguing that the American armed forces are not really voluntary, because they are funded on the basis of compulsory taxation. I thank Andreas Harald Aure for making this point.

References

  • Barry, N.P. 1987. On Cassical Liberalism and Libertarianism. New York, St: Martin’s Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Bell, D. (ed.). 2007. Victorian Visions of Global Order. Empire and International Relations in Nineteenth-Century Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Binswanger, H. 1986. The Ayn Rand Lexicon. Objectivism From A to Z. New York: Meridian.

    Google Scholar 

  • Branden, N. 1999. My Years with Ayn Rand. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brennan, J. 2012. Libertarianism. What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Britting, J. 2004. Ayn Rand. New York: Overlook Duckworth.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, C., T. Nardin, and N. Rengger. 2002. Introduction. In International Relations in Political Thought. Texts from the Ancient Greeks to the First World War, ed. C. Brown, T. Nardin, and N. Rengger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Burns, J. 2009. Goddess of the Market. Ayn Rand and the American Right. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Busby, J.W. 2007. Bono Made Jesse Helms Cry: Jubilee 2000, Debt Relief, and Moral Action in International Politics. International Studies Quarterly 51: 247–275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cobden, R. 1878. The Political Writings of Richard Cobden. London: William Ridgway.

    Google Scholar 

  • Den Uyl, D. 2007. A Note on Rand’s Americanism. In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. A Philosophical and Literary Companion, ed. E.W. Younkins. Aldershot: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Den Uyl, D.J., and D.B. Rasmussen. 1983. The Philosophical Importance of Ayn Rand. Modern Age 27: 67–69.

    Google Scholar 

  • Doherty, B. 2007. Radicals for Capitalism. A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. New York: Public Affairs.

    Google Scholar 

  • Doyle, M. 2015. The Question of Intervention. John Stuart Mill and the Responsibility to Protect. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Doyle, M.W. 1997. Ways of War and Peace. Realism, Liberalism and Socialism. New York and London: Norton and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunne, T. 2005. Liberalism. In The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations, ed. S. Smith and J. Baylis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elshtain, J.B. (ed.). 1992. Just War Theory. New York and London: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freeden, M. 1996. Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freeden, M. 2015. Liberalism. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freedland, J. 2017. The New Age of Ayn Rand: How She Won Over Trump and Silicon Valley. London: The Guardian.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, R., K. Oskanian, and R. Pachedo Pardo (eds.). 2013. After Liberalism? The Future of Liberalism in International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gladstein, M.R. 1999. The New Ayn Rand Companion. Revised and Expanded Edition. Westport and London: Greenwood Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gladstein, M.R. 2010. Ayn Rand. New York and London: Continuum.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Greenspan, A. 2007. The Age of Turbulence. Adventures in a New World. London: Allen Lane.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guibernau, M. 1996. Nationalisms. The Nation-State and Nationalism in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heller, A.C. 2009. Ayn Rand and The World She Made. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hill, C. 2003. The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ikenberry, G.J. 2006. Liberal Order and Imperial Ambition. Essays on American Power and World Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jahn, B. 2013a. Liberal Internationalism. Theory, History, Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Jahn, B. 2013b. Liberalism—In Theory and History. In After Liberalism? The Future of Liberalism in International Relations, ed. R. Friedman, K. Oskanian, and R. Pachedo Pardo. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Journo, E. (ed.). 2009. Winning the Unwinnable War. America's Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism. Lanham: Lexington.

    Google Scholar 

  • Journo, E. 2012. Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand and U.S. Foreign Policy. Irvine: Ayn Rand Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kelly, P. 2005. Liberalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Keohane, R.O. 2012. Twenty Years of Institutional Liberalism. International Relations 26: 125–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, J.D., and G. Salmieri. 2016. Philosopher of Her Times. Ayn Rand's Political and Cultural Commentary. In A Companion to Ayn Rand, ed. A. Gotthelf and G. Salmieri. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Long, D. 1996. Towards A New Liberal Internationalism. The International Theory of J.A. Hobson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Manent, P. 1995. An Intellectual History of Liberalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin, L.L. 2007. Neoliberalism. In International Relations Theories. Discipline and Diversity, ed. T. Dunne, M. Kurki, and S. Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mayhew, R. (ed.). 2009. Essay's on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Lanham: Lexington.

    Google Scholar 

  • Merrill, R.E. 1991. The Ideas of Ayn Rand. La Salle: Open Court.

    Google Scholar 

  • Milgram, S. 2016. The Life of Ayn Rand: Writing, Reading, and Related Life Events. In A Companion to Ayn Rand, ed. A. Gotthelf and G. Salmieri. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller, F.D., and A. Mossof. 2016. Political Theory. A Radical for Capitalism. In A Companion to Ayn Rand, ed. A. Gotthelf and G. Salmieri. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Panke, D., and T. Risse. 2007. Liberalism. In International Relations Theories. Discipline and Diversity, ed. T. Dunne, M. Kurki, and S. Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peikoff, L. 1993. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Meridian.

    Google Scholar 

  • Powers, K. 2016. Donald Trump’s ‘kinder, gentler’ version. McLean: USA Today.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1964. The Virtue of Selfishness. A New Concept of Egoism. New York: Signet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1967. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1979. The Ayn Rand letter. Volumes I–IV 1971–1976. Palo Alto Book Service: Palo Alto.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1982a. The Objectivist Newsletter. Volumes 1–4 1962–1965. Palo Alto Book Service: Palo Alto.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1982b. The Objectivist. Volumes 5–10 1966–1971. Palo Alto Book Service: Palo Alto.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1984. Philosophy: Who Needs It. New York: Signet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1990. The Voice of Reason. Essays in Objectivist Thought. New York: Meridian.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1997. Letters of Ayn Rand. Edited by Michael S. Berliner. New York: Plume.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1998. The Ayn Rand Column. Written for the Los Angeles Times. Edited with an introduction by Peter Schwartz. New Milford: Second Renaissance Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1999a. Journals of Ayn Rand. Edited by David Harriman. New York: Plume.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 1999b. Return of the Primitive. The Anti-Industrial Revolution. Edited and with an Introduction and Additional Articles by Peter Schwartz. New York: Meridian.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rand, A. 2005. Ayn Rand Answers. The Best of Her Q & A. New York: New American Library.

    Google Scholar 

  • Recchia, S., and J.M. Welsh (eds.). 2013. Just and Unjust Military Intervention. European Thinkers from Vitoria to Mill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rengger, N.J. 2002. On the Just War Tradition in the Twenty-First Century. International Affairs 78: 353–363.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salmieri, G. 2016. An Introduction to the Study of Ayn Rand. In A Companion to Ayn Rand, ed. A. Gotthelf and G. Salmieri. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, P. 2004. The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest. A Moral Idea for America. Irvine: Ayn Rand Institute Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sciabarra, C.M. 1995. Ayn Rand. The Russian Radical. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, A.D. 1998. Nationalism and Modernism. A Critical Survey of Recent Theories of Nations and Nationalism. London and New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, S. 2007. Introduction: Diversity and Disciplinarity in International Relations Theory. In International Relations Theories. Discipline and Diversity, ed. T. Dunne, M. Kurki, and S. Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sørensen, G. 2011. A Liberal World Order in Crisis. Choosing Between Imposition and Restraint. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Tesón, F.R. 2003. The Liberal Case for Humanitarian Intervention. In Humanitarian Intervention. Ethical, Legal, and Political Dilemmas, ed. J.L. Holzgrefe and R.O. Keohane. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tomasi, J. 2012. Free Market Fairness. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Van de Haar, E.R. 2009. Classical Liberalism and International Relations Theory. Hume, Smith, Mises, and Hayek. New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Van de Haar, E.R. 2010. The Liberal Divide Over Trade, Peace and War. International Relations 24: 132–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van de Haar, E.R. 2013. Adam Smith on Empire and International Relations. In The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith, ed. C. Berry, M.P. Paganelli and C. Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Van de Haar, E.R. 2015. Degrees of Freedom. Liberal Political Philosophy and Ideology. New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wall, S. 2015. Introduction. In The Cambridge Companion to Liberalism, ed. S. Wall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Walzer, M. 2005. Arguing About War. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wright, D. 2016. A Human Society. Rand's Social Philosophy. In A Companion to Ayn Rand, ed. A. Gotthelf and G. Salmieri. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Younkins, E.W. (ed.). 2007. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. A Philosophical and Literary Companion. Aldershot: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zacher, M.W., and R.A. Matthew. 1995. Liberal International Theory: Common Threads, Divergent Strands. In Controversies in International Relations Theory. Realism and the Neoliberal Challenge, ed. C.W. Kegley Jr. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Douglas Den Uyl, Douglas Rasmussen, Elan Journo, and Andreas Harald Aure for their comments, and Jeff Scialabba and Yaron Brook for assistance. None of them is resposible for the views expressed, or any remaining error, in this article.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edwin van de Haar.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

van de Haar, E. Fostering liberty in international relations theory: the case of Ayn Rand. Int Polit 56, 1–16 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-017-0118-9

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-017-0118-9

Keywords

  • Liberalism
  • IR theory
  • Ayn Rand
  • International political theory
  • Human nature
  • History of international thought