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George Orwell Now!

Preface by Richard Blair, Son of George Orwell

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Edited By Richard Lance Keeble

George Orwell remains an iconic figure today – even though he died in 1950. His dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts a Big Brother society in which the state intrudes into the most intimate details of people’s lives – and, not surprisingly, it became a constant reference point after Edward Snowden’s revelations. The word «Orwellian» is constantly in the media – used either as a pejorative adjective to evoke totalitarian terror or as a complimentary adjective to mean «displaying outspoken intellectual honesty». Interest in Orwell’s life and writings – globally – continues unabated.
Beginning with a preface by Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, George Orwell Now! brings together thirteen chapters by leading international scholars in four thematic sections:
• Peter Marks on Orwell and the history of surveillance studies; Florian Zollmann on Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2014; Henk Vynckier on Orwell’s collecting project; and Adam Stock on ‘Big Brother’s Literary Offspring’
• Paul Anderson «In Defence of Bernard Crick»; Luke Seaber on the «London Section of Down and Out in Paris and London»; John Newsinger on «Orwell’s Socialism»; and Philip Bounds on «Orwell and the Anti-Austerity Left in Britain»
• Marina Remy on the «Writing of Otherness in Burmese Days and Keep the Aspidistra Flying»; Sreya Mallika Datta and Utsa Mukherjee on «Reassessing Ambivalence in Orwell’s Burma»; and Shu-chu Wei on Orwell’s Animal Farm alongside Chen Jo-his’s Mayor Yin
• Tim Crook on «Orwell and the Radio Imagination»; and editor Richard Lance Keeble on «Orwell and the War Reporter’s Imagination»
Peter Stansky, in an afterword, argues that Orwell is now more relevant than ever before.
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Chapter Two: Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2014: Power, Militarism and Surveillance in Western Democracies

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CHAPTER TWO

Nineteen Eighty-Four IN 2014

Power, Militarism and Surveillance in Western Democracies

FLORIAN ZOLLMANN



Totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.

—GEORGE ORWELL, CITED IN SLATER 2003: 240

In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), George Orwell depicted the totalitarian police state Oceana. Orwell went into great detail outlining the features of a Big Brother regime that exercised control over the populace via surveillance, propaganda, cognitive manipulation, censorship, and coercion. Orwell also envisioned how authorities might use a permanent state of war to facilitate patriotism and justify an oppressive war economy in a stratified society ruled by a minority—‘The Party.’

According to mainstream academic and popular accounts of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the novel can be regarded as a warning against Stalinism and other totalitarian forms of ‘socialism.’ In contrast, I will argue in this chapter that Nineteen Eighty-Four can equally be read as a prophecy for the excesses of what might be termed ‘liberal democracy’ or ‘real existing capitalism.’ Indeed, I will demonstrate that contemporary Western democracies, such as the USA or Great Britain, have been afflicted by totalitarian features which bear resemblance to those envisioned by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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