Global Balkanization

In this 1977 lecture, Ayn Rand examines the meaning of “ethnicity” and the consequences of “modern tribalism” in politics. Drawing her title from the Balkan Peninsula, where tribal groups have warred for centuries, Rand argues that the global trend toward political organization based on race, language and religion bodes ill for the future of Western civilization. Pointing to examples from Canada to Europe as well as observations by the news media, Rand contrasts the disintegration inherent in modern tribalism with the unity displayed by societies that respect individual rights regardless of race or ancestry.

In the ensuing Q&A, Rand addresses a variety of topics including tribalism in Israel, the television miniseries Roots, President Carter and the Soviet Union, the circumstances under which one country may properly attack another, the forms of criminal punishment, the status of Palestinians, the propriety of inherited wealth and the future of capitalism.

A version of this talk appeared in The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought (1989).

The lecture lasts 54 minutes, followed by a 35-minute Q&A.


About the Author

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Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand created and defined her philosophy, Objectivism, in the pages of her best-selling novels, particularly The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and in a series of nonfiction books that address a wide range of fundamental issues in philosophy. Born Alisa Rosenbaum in Tsarist St. Petersburg in 1905, Rand witnessed the Russian Revolution as a teenager and promptly condemned communism as immoral for sacrificing the individual to the collective. In 1926, shortly after graduating from the University of Leningrad, she fled to America, adopting the pen name Ayn Rand to shield her family from possible persecution once her anti-communism became well known. In Hollywood, she wrote scenarios for famous director Cecil B. DeMille and met her future husband on a movie set, but the couple struggled financially for years. Then came a string of writing successes: a Broadway play, followed by her first novel, We the Living (1936), then a novella called Anthem (1938), and later her first best seller, the story of a fiercely independent architect named Howard Roark in The Fountainhead (1943). All these works of fiction feature gripping stories and exalted, egoistic, this-worldly heroes. In writing Atlas Shrugged (1957) — the story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world, and did — Rand had to define fully her new philosophy of reason, rational self-interest, and laissez-faire capitalism. Thereafter, and until her death in 1982, Rand amplified and explicated her “philosophy for living on earth” in a stream of books whose theoretical essays and cultural commentaries cover important topics across the five major branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and esthetics.