Models of individuality in Emma Goldman's and Ayn Rand's theories of civil society

Janet Elizabeth Day, Purdue University


Understanding how a political thinker defines the individual, and the individual's relations with others, lends coherence to that theorist's ideas regarding social and political organization, and provides a more complete understanding of how specific aspects of the theory are necessary to the overall political philosophy. This research examines different conceptions of the individual of two theorists representing different strains of libertarian thought: Emma Goldman, and Ayn Rand. The unifying and central concern for both women is the prioritization of the individual. Owing to some extent to their shared cultural heritage and intellectual influence as Russian Jewish émigrés, similarities can be identified between Goldman's and Rand's definition of the individual and belief that society should be organized so as to afford the individual the greatest possible freedom and autonomy; however, real and substantive distinctions exist as well. Goldman advocates a society based on free communism in which people organize according to the free association of federations. Rand advocates a society based on laissez-faire capitalism in which a limited constitutional government enforces contracts between individuals. What unites their theories is their reliance on ethical egoism as a means to producing self-directed individuals who are best prepared to live in a free society as productive members.




Weiss, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Political science|Philosophy

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