I have a weird fixation on Leonard Peikoff.
On one hand, I have some grudging admiration for the guy: He has spent (wasted?) somewhere near fifty years (Ca. 1967-2017) engaged in something that amounts to “turd-polishing”, on a vast scale.
First, he has spent decades attempting to re-create NBI (the Nathaniel Branden Institute). In case anybody doesn’t know, Ayn Rand threw a tantrum back around 1967 or so, because nathaniel Branden (the previous “legal and intellectual heir”) lost interest with fucking her.
Her response? Not particularly “rational” by any stretch of the term: systematically destroy the only organization which then existed, explicitly dedicated to promoting “her” ideas.
After that, she spent the next 15 years spiraling toward failure, to the point where her shitty newsletter was back-dated by over a year at one point.
(I can’t help finding that to be idiotic; it strikes me as the same sort of ‘thought’ exhibited by people who deliberately set their clocks to the wrong time, to “trick” themselves into getting up earlier.)
Anyway: Peikoff ended up being Rand’s “legal and intellectual heir”. (I’m not sure he got to “tap that ass”, and really, I don’t want to know.)
The stupid part about that is: he continued to run the “Objectivist” movement the same way that that things had been done, back in the NBI days: disseminating tape-lecutres.
The basic structure has always been: offer a “lecture course” on a given topic (say, the history of western philosophy, or “introduction to logic”, for example). Afterward, crank out copies of the audio recordings whether they turned out listenable, or not — and charge for those, too.
This might have been more useful if ARI had (from the beginning) also transcribed the lecture-tapes, and sold printed books.
That would have come in really handy. Recently (within the last ten years or so), NBI has started to do that with some of Peikoff’s lecture series — but by no means all of them.
Now, the thing about that is: Peikoff has spent decades doing these lectures, and – for all intents and purposes – (re)building NBI. During that time, he has ALSO had to watch Ayn Rand being relentlessly savaged by pretty much everybody outside of the “objectivist” movement, itself.
In other words, Peikoff has spent 50 years advocating a system of ideas which (at least according to his own estimate in his book The DIM Hypothesis) have actually made relatively little impact. Sure, “libertarianism”/pro-capitalism/pro-logic advocacy have their won very dedicated “subcultures”, but in the main? NOT by way of either the “Objectivist” movement in general, or by way of ARI, itself.
In other words — and to put it as bluntly as necessary Leonard Peikoff has failed — unequivocally and : completely. Far from leading a “second renaissance” of “new intellectuals”, he has – at most — managed to crank out a morass of (poorly-produced) tape lectures, and “books” cobbled together mostly from excerpts of Ayn Rand’s newsletters.
Oh sure, there are a few business-types who pay lip-service to Rand (like the guy from BB&T), but realistically, the number of avowedly “Objectivist” business-folks is probably significantly lower than (say) the number of “Fundie” Christian business-owners.
So, there’s the first thing that I find vaguely admirable about Leonard Peikoff: he was willing to sink 50 years into spearheading a “movement” with has never really managed to become anything but a “punch-line”.
Add to this the fact that he has flatly refused to actually confront the (inconvenient) tell-all books put out by both of the Brandens’ OR the fact that somebody he “excommunicated” (David Kelley) basically ended up “neutering” Peikoff, by creating what amonts to his OWN “project fork” of the “Objectivist Movement” (Atlas Society).
That probably the most pathetic thing about him:
- He wanted to be the “Objectivist Pope” — and failed. So long as Atlas Society exists, ARI can posture as the “Authorized” version of Objectivism — but since they lack the ability to torture and slaughter the “heretics” over at Atlas Society, that posturing amounts to pretending.
- Moreover, ARI can’t even control what individuals/organizations get to self-designate as “objectivist”. That means that there IS no “official” Objectivist movement.
So, yeah. Peikoff lost control of t”Objectivism” almost immediately — first by way of the Branden’s tell-all books, and THEN by way of Atlas Society.
Worse yet, his own damnable stubbornness led to a situation where the two “factions” of the Objectivist movement didn’t interact with one another — except by way of periodic bouts of “public denunciations” and weird, pointless schisms among the various smaller “Objectivist” organizations/chat-forums/clubs, etc. (which typically affiliated with either ARI or Atlas Society — but never both).
That frantic in-fighting (the infamous “circular firing-squad) was – and remains — largely incomprehensible to pretty much everybody outside of the two factions of the “Objectivist” movement. Moreover — in conjunction with the juicy tidbits from the Branden’s books — it has pretty much soured everybody outside of “Objectivist” circles on getting anywhere near the “Objectivist” movement.
Ironically enough, pretty much the only thing of any genuine and lasting value to come out of the “Objectivist movement” is Wikipedia (the founder of which, Jimmy Wales, self-identifies as an Objectivist).
The weirdly ironic thing about that is: Wikipedia is a vast information archive which is available FOR FREE to anyone on the planet who has Internet connectivity, and which is at least partially funded via a NON-PROFIT foundation.
Think about that: The only genuinely worthwhile thing to come out of the “Objectivist Movement” is a NON-PROFIT educational resource.
Further, Wikipedia’s license-terms ensure that NOT EVEN JIMBO WALES HIMSELF can exert any sort of “control” over wikipedia, itself.
Wikipedia could be — and has been — “forked” multiple times. Moreover, its content is readily available both as periodic database-dumps and as print books.
But Peikoff had nothing to do with that, as I said.
no. Peikoff has spent the last 50 years watching “Objectivism” turn into a punch-line, factional flame-war — and then when the “Second Renaissance” of “new intellectuals” DOES happen, it only involves ONE self-avowed “Objectivist”, and a morass of “Free culture” guys.
Think about that.