Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Topics: Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse, Stanford prison experiment, Political corruption Pages: 6 (2396 words) Published: April 19, 2008
Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Throughout history the argument of power falling hand in hand with corruption has been brought to our attention in devastating scenes of destruction, turmoil and moments which will never be forgotten. But do these moments conclude that power eventually leads to corruption? Are there events over the past 100 years or more which argue this fact? In this essay I will discuss my own opinion on this topic looking at crucial figure heads in history, Hitler, Gandhi and more recent activities within politics. I will also explore the opinions of noted writers on this subject focusing on “Animal Farm” by George Orwell among other things which highlight my debate.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men” is a famous statement from historian and moralist John Emerich Edward Dahlberg Acton. Power is simply defined as “the ability to make choices or influence outcomes, which is also power held by a person or group of people in a society”. Nowhere in the definition of power does corruption come into question. So where has this idea come from? Who or what events have arisen which make us associate corruption with power? I will firstly look at the thoughts of George Orwell in his book “Animal Farm”

Animal Farm was published in 1945. The book is in keeping with Orwell’s experiences with the NKVD during the Spanish Civil War and is concerned with events leading up to and during the Joseph Stalin era. Animal Farm resembles the Russian revolution but it is also resemblant of all political revolutions where the idea of justice and equality and being tested. To discuss Animal Farm, would mean getting into the story in great detail which I think is unnecessary and irrelevant to the topic of this essay. I will try my best to highlight the issues which Animal Farm relates to in regard to power and corruption. The book is a chronicle in which animals play the roles of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and overthrow the human owners of the farm, Mr. Jones, setting it up as a commune with seven commandments for which all are to follow. The frivolousness of the revolution in Animal Farm is highlighted by the books circular construction. The novel is based on a series of events surrounding the seven commandments, which are:1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 3. No animal shall wear clothes. 4. No animal shall sleep in a bed. 5. No animal shall drink alcohol. 6. No animal shall kill any other animal. All animals are equal., set out by Napoleon and the other animals, with each event returning to the tyranny and fascism that is found at the start of the book. The only real change is that of the leaders throughout. The novel describes how a societies ideologies can be forced and twisted by individuals in positions of power, socially and politically. Very basically, on a level not taking into account the parallels this book has with Stalin and the Bolshevik revolutionaries, the animals are unhappy and therefore decide to overthrow their suppressor with sight of starting a new life for themselves. Once they have become a “free state” as such there soon falls into place an obvious line of command. Napoleon is the main leader, and even though believing at first that all animals are equal etc., soon finds that power can be used to his advantage. The windmill soon becomes the means by which Napoleon exerts control. He uses it to direct the animals' attention away from the growing shortages and inadequacies on the farm, and the animals ignorantly concentrate all their efforts on building the windmill. The symbolic nature of the windmill is itself important - it suggests an empty concentration, a meaningless, unheroic effort, for the idea is literally misguided. The windmill is of great significance in this book. It stands for all the power the pigs have over the other animals,...
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