Vision of Society in 1984

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  • Topic: Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, Ingsoc
  • Pages : 7 (2232 words )
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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‘The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc'. (Emmanuel Goldstein in ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism', ch.3). Discuss with respect to George Orwell's vision of society in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Orwell's society displays a threatening projection of a totalitarian system into the future. Indeed it is a regime very similar to the tyrannies of the 20th century and strongly echoes Stalin Russia or Nazi Germany. The dominant mood inside this repressive system is one of threat and suppression due to the systematic persecution and oppression of non-conformists. As Goldstein explains in his ‘Oligarchical Collectivism' there have always been three classes: the high, the middle and the low with the middle and the high constantly changing their respective position. Eventually this movement was identified by historians as being cyclical. In an attempt to interrupt this recurring pattern the Party is essentially focusing on the problem of Stability. Indeed Stability becomes paramount in Oceania as well as in the other two superpowers Eastasia and Eurasia. In short it is the problem of how to keep things the way they are and maintain a hierarchical society without risking an overthrow of the established system.

Several devices and attitudes have been conceived to achieve this aim. First of all the Party constantly controls and monitors its subjects. A crucial device in this scheme is the telescreen which, by being able to send as well as to receive information, allows a constant surveillance of all Party members. In addition other institutions such as the Thought Police or the Spies have been contrived to guarantee a maximum of surveillance. Moreover different concepts of thinking such as ‘Thoughtcrime' and ‘Crimestop' have been introduced in an attempt to detect and/or prevent any digression from the Party principles as soon as possible and thus eliminate any potential non-conformists. Even the expression of one's face is subject to scrutiny as it might for example hint at a resentment felt towards Big Brother or might even indicate a possible future ‘criminal' (in Oceania this concept is referred to as ‘Facecrime').

Although the system tries to suffocate all possible opposition from the very beginning, the Inner Party has nevertheless to confront several problems which directly threaten stability. Paramount among those is the industrialisation and the consequent introduction of machinery on a large scale which tended to generate an affluent society. According to Goldstein after a certain time people would become literate and learn to think for themselves, thus eventually realising that the privileged minority has no longer any function. As a conclusion the Inner Party argued that a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. Ultimately continuous warfare between the three superstates would maintain the dominion of the party. As a matter of fact war guaranteed stability by consuming the economic overproduction and thus prevented a rising standard of living and incidentally also generated more faithful Party adherents.

Another threat to the system is the empirical method of thought which Goldstein identifies as opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc. It is a way of thinking essentially based on the belief that the acquiring of knowledge is only possible through careful observation and experiments. Moreover it is a concept of reasoning which is not only the basis for any further scientific research or technological development but also stimulates and influences the way people behave in general. It is a concept of thinking which is closely linked to an objective perception of reality.

The Party however agreed that in order to maintain permanent rule it was necessary to dislocate any sense...
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