Anthem is a dystopian novella by author and philosopher Ayn Rand that was first published in Great Britain in 1938 and in the United States in 1946. It is Rand’s political manifesto for her theory of Objectivism, or egoism—the idea that an individual’s worth comes from himself or herself and not from what he or she contributes to society. Anthem takes the form of an allegory in which Rand describes a dystopia—in which the pronoun “I” has been outlawed and individual identity eradicated—through which Rand speculates on the eventual result of society’s negative aspects.
The plot of the novella follows the protagonist, known as Equality 7-2521, who discovers forbidden knowledge and rediscovers the concept of individualism. Rand explores themes of individualism, freedom, and the power of the human spirit to resist conformity. Set against the historical background of the early 20th century, Anthem reflects Rand’s critique of collectivist ideologies prevalent during that time, particularly in the rise of authoritarian regimes.
Today, Anthem is relevant for its capture of Rand’s political and philosophical ideas and as a cautionary tale about the dangers of sacrificing individuality for the sake of collective conformity. Rand’s exploration of the tension between the individual and the state resonates within ongoing discussions about individual rights, personal autonomy, and the role of government. The novella’s impact on political and philosophical discourse remains, influencing discussions about individualism and collectivism.