Sterling Cooper Shrugs

Atlas Shrugged is a novel written by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957. The novel takes place in the future United States, where the population refuses to be exploited by the government. The protagonist of the book is a woman named Dagny Taggart. She sees the government trying to take more and more control over its people, which leads to the society collapsing. Meanwhile, a productive member of society by the name of John Galt is leading a “strike” against the government because it tries to take away from individual people’s accomplishments. The book, in over a thousand pages, tries to demonstrate that society cannot exist if its people are slaves to the government and if there is a lack of profit motive in people’s minds.

This novel is very pro-Capitalism. A major theme in the book is the idea of objectivism. Objectivism is the idea of "rational self-interest," which means looking out for you above everyone else. “Rational self-interest” is an idea that stemmed from Capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system where things are produced privately and meant for private profit. People who believe in Capitalism believe that it is the best economic system because it allows for an individual to work hard and earn their profit on their own, without any help from the government. In Capitalism, profit motive is what triggers people to work hard. Capitalists believe that the government should keep out of economic affairs.

Bert Cooper, one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, is a big fan of Atlas Shrugged and suggests to a number of his employees to buy a copy. In the wake of the Cold War, this was a very popular book because it promoted Capitalism, which is what the United States believes is the best economic system. The book suggests that the government as shown in the book, a government that control its people, is a form of Communism. Communism versus Capitalism was the main idea of the Cold War and whoever ‘won’ the War would have the best type of government.

Links referenced: “Atlas Shrugged.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 15 Oct 2010. Web. 17 Oct


  1. I believe Don is definitely an objectivist. He doesn't care who he stomps on and pretty much everyone he comes in contact with dies (Adam, and more later on, but I won't spoiler anyone), loses their job (secretaries), or goes crazy (Betty) and he becomes progressively more successful as the show goes along. He's definitely a capitalist in that sense and I guess Bert Cooper sees and admires that aspect in Don.

  2. This was a very interesting post. The first thing I thought of was that part of the topic of my research paper was how the government used propaganda advertisements to have women join in the work force during World War II. The other thing I though of was a discussion that I was involved in. I can't remember which class it was in (could have even been this one), but it was about the reward of creating new products and the consequence of keeping it private. For instance, if someone cures a disease, that person/company has the rights to the product for a certain period of time before anyone else can make the same product. This makes it worth it for the profits that come after having a monopoly on it. Is it fair that a third world country isn't able to benefit from this discovery because the company has kept the price too high for a lot of people to use it?

  3. I thought this post was actually going to talk about Don and his contract because it falls under a very similar ideal. Don does not want to be roped into anyone else's expectations, requirements, and the like, with a laissez faire attitude towards business. I like that it brought in the historical aspect because that is a very important part of Mad Men, and it is key to the plot, but it is not usually featured prominently in the show. My one criticism of the post, however, is that I would like to have seen more development of the metaphorical use of 'Atlas Shrugged' in the show. For example, the fact that it was Bert Cooper who suggested the book is significant.

  4. Yes, I agree with Sarah's earlier sentiment : this blog post does indeed explicate the importance of Rand's philosophy in a post WW2 world, but it does not go into further detail about how the book and the philosophy is significant to Bert Cooper at all.

    As a counterpoint to this argument, I would say that Bert entire demeanor and, as a result, observable behaviors are an off shoot of this major philosophy. I believe that Objectivism has deeply rooted into this man’s psyche and affects all his actions. I remember he even states that he met Rand personally.

    Why this philosophy? Why does Bert take this world view so seriously that he even recommends Don to take a gigantic tome of a book? Why should Don even spend time with this novel? Why doesn’t Bert, for instance, take 1984 to be much more serious, considering that Mad Men is during the Cold War Era?