Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the United States. It was Rand’s fourth, longest and last novel, and she considered it her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing. As indicated by its working title The Strike, the book explores a dystopian United States where leading innovators, ranging from industrialists to artists, refuse to be exploited by society. The protagonist, Dagny Taggart, sees society collapse around her as the government increasingly asserts control over all industry, while society’s most productive citizens, led by the mysterious John Galt, progressively disappear. Galt describes the strike as “stopping the motor of the world” by withdrawing the “minds” that drive society’s growth and productivity; with their strike these creative minds hope to demonstrate that the economy and society would collapse without the profit motive and the efforts of the rational and productive.
The novel’s title is a reference to the mythical Titan, Atlas, who in the novel is said to hold the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. The character of Francisco d’Anconia at one point asks what sort of advice someone would give to Atlas, and Francisco says he’d tell Atlas “to shrug” (with Atlas being a metaphor for the champions of industry who keep the world in place). The novel includes elements of mystery and science fiction, and it contains Rand’s most extensive statement of Objectivism in any of her works of fiction, a lengthy monologue delivered by the strike’s leader, John Galt.
The theme of Atlas Shrugged is the morality of rational self-interest and portrayal of self-loathing of monetary values within a once thriving “New America”. It advocates the core tenets of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and expresses her concept of human achievement. The book explores a number of philosophical themes that Rand would subsequently develop into the philosophy of Objectivism. It centers on the decline of Western civilization, and Rand described it as demonstrating the theme of “the role of man’s mind in existence.” In doing so it expresses many facets of Rand’s philosophy, such as the advocacy of reason, individualism, the market economy and the failure of government coercion.
Atlas Shrugged received largely negative reviews after its 1957 publication, but achieved enduring popularity and consistent sales in the following decades. In the wake of the late 2000s recession sales of Atlas Shrugged have sharply increased, according to The Economist magazine and The New York Times. The Economist reported that the fifty-two-year-old novel ranked #33 among Amazon.com’s top-selling books on 13 January, 2009.