The therapeutic value of Duggan’s book goes well beyond freeing me from shame for my teen-age lack of literary taste and political discernment; it also provides an explanation for our current cultural and political moment ... Duggan traces Rand’s influence, both direct and indirect, on American politics and culture ... Duggan doesn’t blame Rand for neoliberalism, exactly, but she spotlights the Randian spirit of what she calls the 'Neoliberal Theater of Cruelty.' This theatre would include players we don’t necessarily describe as neoliberal. Paul Ryan, the former House Speaker, is a Rand evangelist who gave out copies of Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents to his staff and said that she 'did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism.'
Mean Girl is not a traditional biography. It’s not even a traditional history of libertarianism. And this is exactly what makes it a fascinatingly odd book, odd in the good way of not being easily categorized. This is a short, punchy, focused cultural studies look at Rand and the world she helped create. It is also a politically tinged book, in that its hope is that upon understanding the cultural landscape of the Randian world, we might be in a better position to resist it ... The power of Duggan’s book seems that maybe in unmasking Rand’s philosophical legitimacy and hold on the right removes a central prop and leaves the right ever more naked. She closes her book with a timely injunction: 'Reject Ayn Rand. After all, she rejects you.'
Duggan offers a pointed account of Rand’s influence ... Duggan is less than sure-footed in her lamentations about neoliberalism ... But she is sharp, engaging, and funny when writing about Rand, whose magnetism, determination, grandiosity, desperation, and galloping narcissism Duggan captures beautifully ... Duggan convincingly shows that Rand’s enduring influence comes from the emotional wallop of her fiction—from her ability to capture the sheer exhilaration of personal defiance, human independence, and freedom from chains of all kinds.
Lisa Duggan gets it exactly right in Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed (University of California Press) when she writes that Rand's 'particular gift was not for philosophical elaboration, but for stark condensation and aphorism' ... The prolonged and cumulative effect of Rand's influence, as it emerges from Duggan's account, has been a multigenerational training of the sentiments in the principle that aspiration and drive are not enough—that real success is transcendental superiority, a state of absolute and deeply committed indifference to others and to any notion of a common humanity that will continue beyond one's own death.