By treating conservatism as a style of thought, this essay examines how a flair for abjuring the social contract, social welfare, socialism, indeed, society itself provides pleasure from the pain of violation and lost autonomy. The innovation of Ayn Rand’s writing is to make this victimization sexy. For the Randian conservative who feels abused by the social welfare schemes of the liberal state, masochism restores autonomy by making the individual the sole author of his or her pain. Masochism allows Rand’s readers to wring intense satisfaction from feelings of vulnerability that notions of consent force on individuals. Rand’s penchant for imagining a literally libidinal economy hardly defines the tastes of conservatism tout court. Nevertheless, the masochistic erotic formations in her novels constitute a defining feature of an ideology that views government as a pain.

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