ORWELL AND 1984 TODAY: GENIUS AND TUNNEL VISION (2019, 14,500 words)

Orwell, as he himself said, came from a lower, professional service fraction of the English and imperial ruling class that was “simultaneously dominator and dominated” (R. Williams), so that a combination of State and monopoly power became his major nightmare. His horizon was as of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 a revolutionary socialism committed to freedom and equality, opposed both to Labourite social-democracy and to Stalinist pseudo-communism.
I concentrate on 1984, drawing on narratology (its agential system, spacetime descriptions, and composition — “the Winston story,” the “Goldstein excerpts,” and the Appendix on Newspeak) and historical lessons. I conclude that 1984 has an interesting but limited “Tory anarchist” stance and horizon: being revolted against the rulers but not believing the revolt can succeed (in direct polemic with the Communist Manifesto). In Orwell‘s view there are “three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle and the Low,” but the mindless and passive Low reduce this to the Middle against the High, or intellect and impotence vs. cynical power. No economics entails here no class struggle and a fair amount of misogyny. Orwell‘s textural skill was penetrating, but his thematics very limited. Still, he was one of the first to notice the long-duration slide of politics toward fascism is, even if he drew a wrong consequence from it, as evident in his early conflation of Stalinism and Nazism into the untenable “totalitarianism.” 1984 remains a concerned, appealing, and in some ways useful text that lacks wisdom.

This entry was posted in 1. SF & UTOPIANISM, 3. POLITICAL EPISTEMOLOGY, 5.b NARRATIVE THEORY. Bookmark the permalink.

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