Readers should be warned that Atlas Shurgged is a mystery novel, and that this section and its numerous subsections contain a vast amount of information that will spoil the mystery.
The theme of AtlasShrugged is the role of the mind in human society. Rand argues that independent thinking, and the creativity and inventiveness that comes from this, is the motor that runs the world. In AtlasShrugged she shows what she thinks would happen to the world if the "men of the mind" went on strike: the motor of the world would shut down, and civilization would fall apart. This is a direct assault on the LaborTheoryOfValue?, which was popular at the time of writing.
Rand suggests that a society will stagnate to the extent that independence and individual achievement are discouraged or demonized. Inversely, a society will become more prosperous as it allows, encourages, and rewards independence and individual achievement. Rand believed that independence flourishes to the extent that people are free, and that achievement is most highly rewarded where people are allowed to keep the product of their efforts. She advocated LibertarianCapitalism? as the political system most consistent with these beliefs. These considerations make AtlasShrugged a highly political book.
Rand also argues that, since independence and individual achievement drive the world, these things are virtues and should be central to a rational moral code. She rejects the view that self-sacrifice is a virtue. These ethical considerations are prominent in AtlasShrugged.
Exactly when AtlasShrugged is meant to take place is kept deliberately vague. In /SectioN152 the population of /NewYork is given as 7 million. The historical /NewYorkCity? reached 7 million people in the 1930s, placing the novel sometime after that. There are numerous early 20th century technologies available, but the political situtation is clearly different from actual history. It is as if history had changed around 1900, and the world went unimpeded down a gradual path towards socialism for perhaps 40 years, with no World War, and no rise of fascism in Europe. There are many examples of early 20th century /Technology in Atlas Shrugged, but no post-war technologies such as jet planes, atomic weapons, helicoptors, computers, or television.
Most of the action in Atlas Shrugged takes place in the /UnitedStates.
[added by TimShell]