by system failure
The Russian-born American novelist, Ayn Rand, together with people like the economists F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, mathematician John Forbes Nash and psychiatrist Ronald David Laing, promoted the idea that man is an egoistic being which works only for its own personal interest. Extreme individualism became increasingly one of the basic characteristics of the Western man and concepts such as altruism, collectivity and solidarity were gradually dismissed from the central core of his thought. The Western man accepted rationally that these concepts are clearly utopian and that could never be applied massively in societies.
Especially Rand played a crucial role on inspiring a whole generation of IT entrepreneurs during the 90s.
As Adam Curtis describes in his documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, Rand had died in 1981, but by the start of the 1990s her novels had become a phenomenon in America. A Library of Congress survey showed that one of them, Atlas Shrugged, was now the second most influential book in the country. The first was the Bible. And the group most inspired by her, were the new entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, including some of the most powerful, like Larry Ellison of Oracle. Many of them named their companies and even their children after Rand and her novels. They set up reading groups to spread her ideas. But above all, they saw themselves as Randian heroes.
Interestingly enough, many of these - now grown up - children belong to the Millennial Generation. Probably the biggest tragic reality for this generation, is that it inherited a deep, systemic crisis of global scale, yet it was born inside this financial bubble capitalism, without ever experienced even a slightly different system.
The Millennials have grown inside this Randian way of thinking, from which the establishment exploited some key elements to build this culture of economic cynicism and extreme individualism.
Even today, after all this failure of economic collapse, rapid growth of unemployment, dissolution of labor rights and welfare state, dramatic cuts in wages, Randianism is being used to manipulate a whole generation, promoting the worship of the "free market", which of course in the end will be rigged in favor of the big banks and corporations.
A characteristic example in the economically devastated Greece (because of the neoliberal policies), is the promotion of this culture of individual entrepreneurship by the mainstream media. The oligarchs' media present stories of young individuals who built their own successful startups. Ironically enough, “The term [startup] became internationally widespread during the dot-com bubble when a great number of dot-com companies were founded.” [Wikipedia] The aim of these stories is not only to maintain Randianism inside this huge crisis, but also to make the youngest blame themselves for doing nothing against their unemployment, as if it's a problem that they created by themselves.
The Randian type of thinking wants strong, independent minds who will fight to build their own business, instead of, for example, protesting for the slavery wages, or, demanding social spending. However, the media won't reveal the absurdity of this type of thinking. They will never tell that it's impossible for all the millions of unemployed to become bosses of their own successful business. The "Randian rationalism" has no realistic application in the real world, yet it still affects deeply the way of thinking of whole generations.
Yet, the devastating consequences in the lives of millions of young people from this deeply unstable, financialized capitalism, have become so profound that the Millennials start to sense that something has to be done to overthrow it.
Probably the most characteristic proof for this fact, came out from the support of Bernie Sanders by millions of young Americans who suffer under the heavy debt of student loans. Sanders spoke about Democratic Socialism and managed to set the foundations of a mass movement that may start changing things radically in the United States during the coming years.
It is difficult for the Millennials to abandon a certain type of Randian logic, especially when this logic gives them the illusion that they are thinking independently. True independence will come once they will liberate themselves from this logic, suggesting a different way of life which will be totally incompatible with the neoliberal tyranny.