Dystopia Or Utopia Bellamy And Huxley Philosophy Essay
In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Huxley shows the limitations of technology and power genetically tweaking the citizens. With this use of technology, Brave New World, became a provident of today’s society in which there is a critique of people self medicating in order to ‘control’ their true emotions. Through the use of soma, Huxley critiques a convivial system where the manufacturing of human beings produces humans according to specific social standards. Soma, thus, becomes a metaphor of Huxley’s predictions for today’s society. In Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, Bellamy does not genetically change his citizens, but instead are controlled through industry which is achieved by perfect distribution. The tool becomes ‘industry’ as the system controls the people. Bellamy’s perfect society in Looking Backward, becomes the complete opposite of our current world. In this essay, Mohandas Gandhi’s theory of the spiritual self will be paralleled with the idea of soma possibly creating spirituality. Furthermore, Karl Marx’s theory from his works, The Communist Manifesto, will be studied in order to show how Bellamy changes society where the citizens are estranged to their labor and become products of society, a theory in which Marx argued was a prediction for today’s society. While Looking Backward is a utopia, and Brave New World a dystopia, efficiency becomes a huge goal and creates stability for both.
In 1844 Karl Marx published The Communist Manifesto, where he argues that the bourgeoisie “has put an end to all feudal…relations…and has torn family…to a mere money relation” (Marx and Engels 2), further complicating the proletariats social roles. He further argues that the bourgeoisie view the proletariat as a commodity who exist merely to work and make the state richer. This results in a vicious cycle where the proletariats work to sustain the bourgeoisie, who then destroy the working class through capitalism. Marx states that the “proletariats are slaves of the bourgeois state… and are enslaved by the machine” (Marx and Engels 5), thus the proletariat are exploited by the perpetual gyration of production by all communal classes. Marx wrote in the perspective of what was occurring in his time and also as an overhead of what the future would look like. With the publishing of Looking Backward in 1888, Bellamy grew up in an era where Marx’s theories were very well known, and where society was about the bourgeoisie versus the proletariat. In Looking Backward, Julian West’s frustrations about the bourgeoisie ideal is particularly seen when he says “wretched men, I was moved to cry, who, because they will not learn to be helpers of one another, are doomed to be beggars of one another from the least to the greatest” (Bellamy 204), this discourse shows Bellamy’s views on glory for the nation rather than for the individual. By glorifying the nation, the individual becomes a part of something larger than themselves, this ideal maintains society. Elisabeth Hansot acknowledges this in her book, Perfection and Progress as she argues that, “Bellamy’s utopians express their ‘altruism’ through their economic arrangements, which, by eliminating poverty and class distinctions, have fostered the growth of equality” (Hansot 115), thus economic arrangement becomes the cause of current inequality. During a conversation between Dr. Leete and Julian, the question of work versus labor arises, and Dr. Leete explains that “the worker is not a citizen because he works, but works because he is a citizen” (Bellamy 87). These are the views of Marx where society must not make a product of you but in contrary, you create a product from society.
Struggles of the individual versus the state are seen in a different perspective in Brave New World, when the lack of creativity, art, poetry, and human emotion begins to be questioned. In contrary to Bellamy’s work, Huxley’s character John, questions this idea of a universal state, and critiques this dystopian thought as he argues that “civilization has absolutely no need of nobility and heroism” (Huxley 237). This view seems to contradict Bellamy’s work in achieving a universal thought of a one class system, or does it? Both authors try to achieve this notion of perfectibility. In Bellamy’s work, Julian further argues that individualism becomes “this stunning clamor of conflicting boasts, appeals, and adjurations…was it all but the necessity of a society in which the opportunity to serve the world according to his gifts” (Bellamy 200). Julian seems to argue for this communal idea contrary to John who argues that “where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances…objects of love to be fought for or defended- there, obviously nobility and heroism have some sense” (Huxley 237). However, what does this notion of achieving perfectibility constitute of? In A Social Anticipation by Theodor Hertzka, he argues that “thoughtlessness and inactions are, in truth, at present the only props of the existing economic and social order” (Hansot 115), therefore through Julian’s character, his utopian world does not become an unachievable world put together by Bellamy’s imagination, instead the result of a “profound scientific investigation” (Hansot 115). This sense of perfectibility and industrial army becomes the product in wanting to achieve economic equality as “his gifts” (Bellamy 200), take the position of selfishness but by re arranging your goals, economic equality becomes morally permissible and the most efficient way “to organize society” (Hansot 116). In Demand the Impossible by Tom Moylan, he argues that “utopias tend to adopt a stance more concerned with teaching and exposing for the reader the still unrealized potential of the human project of consciously being in the world” (Moylan 6). The world of Julian creates a didactic where the realism seems robotic in that humans take the form of an army without the war like duties of today’s army. This structure questions Bellamy’s intentions of this type of utopia where the characters seem to be in the world physically and forced consciously as Edward Bellamy has argued that “Looking Backward was written in the belief that the Golden Age lies before us and not behind us” (Bellamy 220).
While both works seem to define the notion of efficiency, Huxley starts backwards at achieving this goal. The genetic modifications of its citizens creates a society of pre-modeled people where citizens create the society, however this dystopian society, although a shocker to most due to the classification of alpha, beta etcetera, the classification is not any different from people born in third world countries with certain ideals, different from an individual born on the Queen’s lap. Both of these examples are mentally modified to fit certain roles. These ideas show that Huxley’s world is backwards in its format however well organized in assuming the future. Due to this type of arrangement, Huxley’s dystopia becomes nothing but the mere imagination of a thinker with scientific perspectives. Yet, how do his ideas vary from that of today’s world, or Bellamy’s society? Does individualistic uniqueness or common ideals possibly outline a better understanding of these worlds? The main issue becomes the re-occurring debate of ‘this is mine’. For instance, Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that it was the defining of private property which turned man in nature to a civil man. This idea of private property also made man greedy in wanting to achieve the ideal of perfectibility. However, Rousseau exposes the misconceptions with perfectibility. These misconceptions are evident as private property does not exist in Looking Backward, instead the state pays each person a salary using credit. This notion of ‘credit’ forces us to question on whether the control of money makes the state better. This misconception does not stand alone as the whole society is modeled on the military, however a military does not exist, paradoxically this imperialistic sense gives readers the idea that they are part of something larger than life. Rousseau further argues that it is our understanding of pity which allows man in the state of nature to relate to another man and help. Yet the division of property has created the concept of state, government and capitalism, thus removing our moralistic views as humans for one another. It is the government that does not govern which is the best type of government. With this, Rousseau shows the contradictions of the law as how can there be a ‘free being’ who is governed? Thus, man was safe and happy in nature, with its own natural instincts. Although one a utopia and the other a dystopia, this idea of private property and individualism seem to be shared views by Huxley and Bellamy. John becomes a metaphor as we are forced to question identity versus stability. What does this constitute of? Marx and Rousseau both explain the dangers of a class system; however are the dangers of one’s identity greater?
In Huxley’s work, genetic engineering creates the individual whereby the state forms the citizen, “everyone belongs to everyone else” (Huxley 29), this sense of community however de-emphasizes the distinctiveness of the person. John advocates for the importance of individuality, and becomes a representation of the states arguments for nobility. He helps the readers recognize different negative aspects of this. Both of these two worlds minimize and eliminate the importance of community. What about art? Religion? Love? John argues that he wants “God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin” (Huxley 240). The citizens of Brave New World seem to substitute these wants with soma, a drug that produces these types of desires. Therefore, soma creates spirituality. Without any faith in God or an understanding of the importance of spirituality or an afterlife, the people of Brave New World, have no fear in death or mourn the death of others. This ability to believe in something greater than your existence is flawed. Gandhi’s teachings advocate for the importance of the spiritual self, love and he argues that breaking down your body to a point where you are tempted by your passions, creates a true strong self.
However, where does the true value of ‘power’ lie? Bellamy relies power to the state while Huxley achieves this by having one type of people, thus eliminating the concept of power and violence. Power does not legitimize the act of violence; instead violence becomes just an act of destruction. Therefore, true power lies in the mental strength that humans have. Power becomes the knowledge in understanding that as humans we must adapt and change our ways of thinking. Power grows to be just the automatic process of acting which leads to powerlessness. Throughout his writings, Gandhi explains that it is the virtue of patience which leads to power. For instance, Gandhi was a big advocate for being truthful and allowing someone else’s truth (whether you agreed with it or not) belong to them, in other words, the power lies within the capability of maintaining patience to opposing views. This control of the mind and body is what defines the true essence of power. Without the ability to protest and disagree, does power exist or take its form in a different meaning? Bellamy’s description of power seems to lie in that of education. With the state determining the abilities of individuals and molding them in a way where they become useful for the future and serve the nation, this control comes as the citizens are allowed to retire after twenty four years of industrial service. Therefore, because the citizens have no ability to argue, they lack power and this powerlessness creates a utopia where at the time is impossible to create, however easy to maintain in the future. This concept is further seen in Huxley’s idea of soma. Does soma become a way in consuming passions without it being dangerous to the body?
This control over emotions and the physical self leads back to Rousseau’s idea that humans were naturally born stabilized contrary to Thomas Hobbes who argued that before stabilization and civil society, people were in constant war with each other. What would happen if soma were removed? Is it used to stabilize the human? This is particularly seen when Linda ends up in the hospital and soma begins to stabilize her. Or, does soma de-stabilize the citizens instead? Moylan argues that Huxley’s work “imagines a dystopia worse than the existing one” (Moylan 9), where Huxley’s work attacks and critiques the social system of his state and “the portrayal of daily life in a lusterless collectivity or in endless consumption” (Moylan 9), soma. This consumption is paradoxically paralleled with daily wants and consumptions of capitalism, ideology and consumerism. The citizens of Brave New World have a strong reliance on soma similar to the reliance that most have on our cell phones or computers; this critique becomes the nasty truth of the twentieth century. The gadgets of the twentieth century create class distinctions, similar in Huxley’s world where if you do not agree in soma fulfilling all your emotions then you become a ‘savage’ and are shipped off. This is similarly seen when the different classes that exist in Huxley’s world are outlined, “alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever... Epsilons are worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color” (Huxley 27). From 1915 to 1944 the uprising of the second Ku Klux Klan formed, a “racist, anti-Semitic movement with a commitment to extreme violence to achieve its goals of racial segregation and white supremacy” (Extremism in America 2012), killing roughly two thousand blacks from 1865 to 1946. Although by no means does this verify that Huxley had any of these views, the mockery of slavery and oppression becomes a great theme in this passage. Metaphorically, the Epsilons represent the black community, where blacks were stereotyped as not being able to read, write or act in a civilized manner. Written in 1932, similar to Moylan’s thoughts on dystopia representing the ugliness of the current world, Brave New World, embodies themes of racism, but instead of protesting against racism as Martin Luther King did, these citizens embody their positions in the state and become robotic to their social standings.
To conclude, in Looking Backward, the manufacturing of society through industry has been organized in a way to create economic equality. However, Hansot argues that “the basic appetites such as sex and hunger, which are expressed at the phylogenetic-biological level, no longer appear in any form as motives for activity at the sociological level” (Hansot 125). In Brave New World, by creating a type of drug in which the citizens are addicted to, the world of the individual becomes adhered by the effects caused by soma. While both works are two different types of genres, they both paint a great picture of what they believed the world would look like in the future. I would argue that Huxley’s work could possibly be read as a utopian piece because at the beginning there is a French passage by Nicolas Berdiaeff that explains that a true utopia is one where humans give up their freedom for equality. I would argue that the citizens of Brave New World, gained stability by giving up their freedom. Soma took away their sense of freedom; however it created an environment of controlled spirituality and social structure, a fixed predictability.
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