The Fountainhead

by Ayn Rand
Reviewed date: 2004 Oct 2
Rating: 4
694 pages
cover art

Ayn Rand is best known for Atlas Shrugged, but The Fountainhead is a bestselling book in its own right. The central character in The Fountainhead is Howard Roark, an architect who struggles against the myopic and backward-looking culture of modern 1920s America. While all about him architects strive to imitate styles from the past, only Howard Roark dares to cast aside the past and design truly modern buildings. And for this he is condemned and ostracized.

One should not read Ayn Rand to read a good story. The story is good, but the real meaning is in the philosophy that inspired the book: Objectivism. Ayn Rand's Objectivism is an important movement in modern history, and students of political theory would be remiss to pass it over. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is consistently named among the most influential books of the twentieth century; The Fountainhead is less acclaimed, but it too shows clearly the struggle between individual freedom and collectivism that permeates modern society. The Fountainhead (according to my understanding of it) focuses mostly on the ethical and political implications of Objectivism; a more complete understanding of Objectivism can be found in Rand's nonfiction works.

The story itself is entertaining enough. But the theory behind the story is far better: it has highlighted in my mind the incompatibility between the philosophies of the individual and of the collective. Current events and politics have taken on new meaning as I see them in the context of these competing philosophies.

I rate The Fountainhead a four out of five. This is a serious book and I recommend it only to those who enjoy thinking deeply.

I shall leave you with a warning: if you read this book and agree with its principles, be prepared to be called all manner of names when discussing political theory. I have already been called "less than human" for objecting to collectivist values on property ownership and taxation. To socialists, Ayn Rand is the devil incarnate, and her ideas are an abomination.

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