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Henry Giroux – American Dystopia

In spite of their differing perceptions of the architecture of the totalitarian superstate and how it exercises power and control over its residents, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley shared a fundamental conviction. They both argued that the established democracies of the West were moving quickly toward a historical moment when they would willingly relinquish the noble promises and ideals of liberal democracy and enter that menacing space where totalitarianism perverts the modern ideals of justice, freedom, and political emancipation. Both believed that Western democracies were devolving into pathological states in which politics was recognized in the interest of death over life and justice. Both were unequivocal in the shared understanding that the future of civilization was on the verge of total domination—or what Hannah Arendt called “dark times.”

While Neil Postman and other critical descendants have pitted Orwell and Huxley against each other because of their distinctively separate notions of a future dystopian society,1 I believe that the dark shadow of authoritarianism that shrouds American society like a thick veil can be lifted by re-examining Orwell’s prescient dystopian fable 1984, as well as Huxley’s Brave New World, in light of contemporary neoliberal ascendancy. Rather than pit their dystopian visions against each other, it might be more productive to see them as complementing each other, especially at a time when, to quote Antonio Gramsci, “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”2

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