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The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines socialism as “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned and regulated by the community as a whole” (“Socialism” 1). According to this definition, not a single individual in a socialist society would have control over their own economic or social well-being. These societies are often extremely corrupt, such as the one created by George Orwell in his novel 1984. In creating his novel, 1984, George Orwell envisioned a society in which the government possessed a vast amount of economic control and displayed extreme examples of corruption, which accurately relate to several real-life examples, and display the theme that wealth is power and power corrupts.

Economically, Orwell’s socialist society possessed a vast amount of control and wealth. For example, in Orwell’s society, basic commodities such as electrical energy were regulated to create more wealth for the government. When attempting to use the elevator in his apartment complex, Orwell’s main character comes to the realization that “the electrical current was cut off during the day light hours. It was part of an economic drive in preparation for Hate Week” (Orwell 1). In this scene, Big Brother, the leader of the socialist society, had enough economic control to prevent electrical service to entire buildings as an economic plan, demonstrating extreme control over the people and his society’s economy. Also, war in Orwell’s society was often used as a means for producing more wealth for the country. According to Orwell, “…war had a direct economic purpose; it was a war for labour” (Orwell187). Oceania used war as an excuse to reserve cheap labor and produce more wealth for their central government; war benefited the rich. Finally, Orwell’s government possessed the ability to limit the use of nearly everything in their society. For example, Orwell’s “…Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise…that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration in the year 1984. Actually…the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of the present week” (Orwell 39). Corrupt and powerful, Orwell’s government possessed the ability to ration everything so that less and less was given to the people and the government obtained more wealth. Therefore, by controlling basic materials such as electricity, creating fear of war to produce more goods inexpensively, and by rationing nearly all goods, Orwell’s socialist government was able to obtain vast amounts of wealth through economic control.

Orwell’s society also depicted a vast amount of social corruption. First, this government prevented any form of personal conviction to occur by simply changing past events to always benefit the Party. According to Orwell, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past” (Orwell 248). To prevent doubt in its citizens, members of Orwell’s society were not permitted to keep any form of personal memory such as photographs or journals; thus, they possessed no concept of long-term memory and believed whatever the party told them. The Party controlled the present, and could change the past in order to manipulate the future. In addition, Orwell’s government also psychologically corrupted its people by making them think the Party was never at fault. While being tortured by the government Orwell’s protagonist selfishly wished his pain onto his accomplice, and later reminisced that “…perhaps [he] might [have pretended] , afterwards, that it was only a trick and that [he] just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that [was not] true. At the time when it [happened], [he did] mean it. [He thought] there [was] no other way of saving [him]self and [he was] quite ready too save [him]self that way. [He wanted] it to happen to the other person. [He did not] give a damn why they suffer. All [he cared] about [was him]self” (Orwell 292).This was an example of the extreme psychological corruption that the party possessed over its citizens; instead of being angry with the Party, he wished his suffering on his friend. When Orwell discussed his novel in interview, he claimed his inspiration for corruption came from modern day government. Orwell believed that “the growing power of modern governments…[threatened] to obliterate such widely ideals as love of family , tolerance towards others, and the right to make up one’s mind” (“George Orwell” 4). Orwell believed that the power of a government inevitably lead to the demise of basic human nature, as demonstrated in his novel. The extreme power of Orwell’s government led to extreme psychological and social corruption of its people.

Orwell’s society also related to many real-life examples. For example, National Socialism or Nazism displayed the same social corruptions as Orwell’s society. Society was made to believe that ideal people of Nordic descent existed: “…so-called pure Aryans were not only physically superior to other races, but were the carriers of superior morality and culture…” (“National Socialism” 1). Nazi Germany attempted to purify the German race from supposed threats such as Jews and Catholics, just as the Party attempted to cleanse their society of any anti-party memories. Orwell’s society also relate 1940 United States of America, relating to immigration and the mi of cultures within American borders. In interview, Orwell once said, “…in the U.S.A. the phrase…”Hundred-Percent Americanism” …is as totalitarian as anyone could wish” (“George Orwell 10). Orwell believed that total Americanism is just as corrupt as his fictional society because the phrase suggests total control over a culture: no individual cultural traditions could be held; all cultured society was “American.” This corruption can also be seen in present day America. Relating to security, “it has become cliché to bring up George Orwell’s 1948 book 1984 when talking about the ever-increasing pervasiveness of governments monitoring the activities of their citizens…” (Brander 1). Ever-increasing privacy breaches, such as the controversial “Patriot Act,” suggest a corrupt society eerily similar to Orwell’s society in the way that the government was always watching its people. Corruption in a society such as that described in Orwell’s novel 1984 mirror real-life examples of corruption.

In Orwell’s 1984, a society possessed a vast amount of economic control relating to the economy as well as social issues, which mirror several real-life examples. Economically, Orwell’s government possessed control enough to ration and conserve in order to create more personal wealth for them. Psychologically, the citizens in Orwell’s government possessed no long-term memory and no hatred for their government. Finally, Orwell’s government drew inspiration from Nazi Germany, as well as ‘total Americanism’ both of which bear resemblance to present day America. Thus, Orwell’s government was socialist in that it possessed extreme organizational powers over its society.

Works Cited

Brander, Scott. “Orwell Did Not Guess the Worse Half of It.” Network World 27Feb. 2006: MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. GHS Library. 11 Jan. 2007 .

“George Orwell.” Contemporary Authors Online. Thomson Gale. GHS Library. 11. Jan 2007 .

“National Socialism.” Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. GHS Library. 11 Jan. 2007 .

Orwell, George. 1984. New York, New York: Signet Classics, 1961.

“Socialism.” The Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford UP. GHS Library. 11 Jan. 2007 .


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