T Nation

Orwell vs. Huxley


So I was getting on my high horse reading this (I don't play videogames, tweet or watch reality TV).

Then I got to the dude and the mirror part.



Food for thought. I think its an amalgam of the two although. There is still plenty of fearmongering in the media and in the government.


Oh, darn. I thought this was a thread about Jamie Huxley.

And no, I guess I'm just not smart enough to understand this.


Nice post, thanks for sharing.

Huxley was right. It's a shame more people know about 1984 than Brave New World. Both good books, but BNW was witten much better IMO, and was much more visionary.


This link is great. 1984 was a commentary about the Soviet Union and the major pitfalls of their brand of Communism. I think his intention was to create this scenario that was a metaphor for where the USSR was heading and where it was at the time as a way to show all the other countries in Europe, especially the Balkan states who were rapidly following the example of the Soviets, what could happen if the Communist threat wasn't taken seriously.

I don't think Orwell meant to say this is what we will end up like if we don't make changes as much as he meant to say this is where we could go if we let ourselves be deceived about the true nature of Communist Russia.

But Huxley's book is much more prescient, especially given that he wrote it more than a decade before Orwell wrote 1984. Huxley's vision pertains to America and Western Europe much more than 1984 ever will. While some of the examples set forth in 1984 are arguably relevant to our society, they are relevant in a "worst-case scenario" way. But Huxley's examples are happening right now, here in America, and have been for decades. The new media age we are in has accelerated the process Huxley felt we would go through at an alarming rate and the fact that he wrote Brave New World in 1932 is eerily clairvoyant.

While I believe both of these books are at the very top of all MUST READ lists, Brave New World is a book that has such a powerful relevance to today's society that anyone who has not read it is doing a serious disservice to themselves.


As an aside, my friends all know that I read tons of books and are constantly asking me to recommend something to them. I ALWAYS recommend Brave New World before anything else, even if I know they've read it before and even if it was the first book I recommended the last time they asked. It is that important of a book.


They are both excellent books. I'm just not sure how visionary either one of them are. I think we tend to believe ourselves and the times in which we live to be unique. They are to some degree, given the preponderance of information we have available to us.

However, the fear of Huxley's that we will be controlled and, perhaps destroyed by our pleasures isn't a new one. Perhaps the fear is unique but the control of populations through their appetites isn't. The most obvious example of this is the Roman Empire's use of 'bread and circuses' to pacify and control the populace of Rome. Reality T.V. and lotteries are simply the modern equivalent of that. I think if we were to take a close look at every civilization, we would see varying degrees of control through fear and/or appetite.

The engineered society illustrated by Huxley simply mirrors what most functioning societies encompass; a small percentage of alphas and betas backed up by an enormous mass mass of gammas and deltas. He was merely renaming something that has been in existence since people began to be an organised society.

Every society and civilisation is temporary but our base, governing natures are fixed.


Sorry but that is a VERY narrow view of 1984. To say that 1984 was merely a satirical piece on the USSR and Communism is ripping the book of it's purpose. Orwell was showing that what was happening at the status quo then is the same thing that is happening 25, 50, 100 years later when people will read it then.

And you said that "...Huxley's examples are happening right now, here in America...", I can go through 1984 and find hundreds of examples of things that are still being done today.


Necessary Post.


Excellent post. Fear of the Dark from that concert is....perfect.


Both are excellent cornerstones for disutopic literature. Another great book alomg this line is 'We', by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

"We, a futuristic novel by Eugene Zamiatin...a Russian, was written in 1920/21. It's setting is 1000 years forward and centers on the people of the United State. It is a totalitarian state run by the god-like Well-Doer. It's social organization is like a machine...in fact, it is a machine. It's population are cogs in that machine...human robots, so to speak. This population is happily unfree...safe in the security of the Well-Doer and under the watchful eyes of the Bureau of Guardians, the police of the United State. Life is organized according to the principles of â??scientific management" (Taylorism...developed by Frederick W. Taylor in 1911...in America) where efficiency is equated with time management through a series of precise schedules. Daily life leaves no room for difference...the schedules are everything. Mathematics, therefore, rules the lives of people...who have no names, only numbers (with a letter) to identify themselves."



I read this years ago amongst a number of other disutopian books but don't remember the specific details. Was this the society that had glass walled homes with no privacy at all?


Yes, I'm pretty sure they're the same.

There's a good question: would anyone care to detail how they've lost privacy?

I once thought I'd misplaced my credit card late one evening. Call the company and they literally had a map of where I had been that day. Gas station -> appliance store -> grocery and they had it to the minute. It kind of freaked me out.


I remember this one. He had to do all kinds of shit to get it around the censors- i.e. make it a "science fiction" novel.

Never read Brave New World but I want to. 1984, however, and most of Orwell's stuff, is the some of the finest literature ever made.


As far as 1984 being a satire for the USSR, I believe that Orwell better achieved that purpose with Animal Farm.

I don't really see either or those books besting the other. They are both equally significant to society today. BNW does show off the dumbing of society and it's effect well, but 1984 shows the violence of the state better. One of the ideas in 1984 that I think is often overlooked the inability of the person to properly martyr himself. As I've said before, if I were to physically resist the state's encroachment on my rights my character would be destroyed by the state. Instead of being seen as a patriot, I'd be colored as a right wing anti-government extremist. They'd likely plant neo-nazi materials or somesuch on me. Consider the Branch Dividians, they were just crazy cultists. Randy Weaver was just a white supremecist. These are all people who the state has done unjustified violence against. 1984 also shows the very real concept of thought crime.

Both BNW and 1984 are two parts in what I consider a three part series, being rounded off with Farenheit 451. It's actually thanks to that book I shut off my cable TV.

What I find interesting about all three books though is the idea that both Orwell and Huxley were socialists, whereas Bradley was not. Another thing I find very interesting is that Huxley and Orwell also ended their books on a down note while Bradley ended his with a message of hope.



I recall going to a bar in Portland once. The guy checks my ID then runs it through a machine and it spit this running recepit which was at this point about 10' long sprawling on the floor of all the people who had been there. Needless to say I never went back.



We is really good and well worth reading. Another book to throw into this mix of dystopian novels is Farenheit 451.

And for anyone who enjoyed Brave New World, check out the Island for Huxley's view of a Utopia.


I was always under teh impression that 1984 was orwells critique of fascism, not communism, that he'd critiqued communism in animal farm


I'm not saying that 1984 is "merely" a satire. In fact I never even used the word "satire". I'm simply pointing out what I perceive to be the differences between the two books. While both books have similarities and are very relevant to today's western society, 1984 was much more heavily critical of the USSR and Communism, along with Fascist Spain and Italy, than was Brave New World.

When Orwell came up with the idea for 1984 in the mid-thirties, he was convinced that the UK's form of government would not survive for very long and that it was destined to become either communist or fascist. 1984 was his warning to England about the pitfalls of a national obsession with "the state". He had already expressed these ideas once in a truly satirical form with Animal Farm. He lived through the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Stalin (the inspiration for Big Brother) and felt the same was likely to happen to England.

Huxley was pretty much aghast at American culture and "Americanization", which was sweeping through Europe throughout the 1920's. He was shocked at the pervasion of open sexuality in American culture amongst other things and felt that Europe was blindly headed down this path. WWII happening between the publication of the two books had a lot to do with their differences. But while there are many similarities to today concerning both books, Huxley's is a clear warning to Europe about what he felt was going on in America whereas Orwell's was a clear warning to Europe about what was going on in the USSR, Spain and Italy. Given that the Soviet Union collapsed, there is much more relevance to American society concerning Brave New World than 1984. But I'm not trying to discount the relevance of 1984 at all. They are two of the first three books I recommend to anyone who asks for a good book recommendation. (A Clockwork Orange being the other)


How about the Patriot Act? Cameras on stop lights and street corners? Databases containing every book you've ever checked out of the library? Govt listening to your cell phone calls?