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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 Eight: Sectarians on Wigan Pier: George Orwell and the Anti-Austerity Left in Britain

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Sectarians ON Wigan Pier

George Orwell and the Anti-Austerity Left in Britain

PHILIP BOUNDS



Whenever there is a whiff of austerity in the air, many of us on the British left set our sights on Wigan Pier. Written in the middle of the deepest depression that Western capitalism has ever known, George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) still powerfully conditions our sense of how austerity should be portrayed.1 Its searing and mordant images of overworked miners, whey-faced proletarian housewives and quietly desperate dole claimants have long since acquired archetypal status. Each new generation of British socialists has sought to update them in an effort to evoke the economic and social problems of its own times. Indeed, there is now a lengthy tradition of books, articles and pamphlets in which the conditions described in Orwell’s masterpiece are explicitly compared with those of the present. The most substantial recent addition to this body of work is Stephen Armstrong’s The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited (Armstrong 2012), a deft travelogue which comes close to concluding that conditions in the North of England are almost as bad now as they were in Orwell’s day.2

Most latterday attempts to revisit Wigan Pier focus on the first half of Orwell’s book, which deals with such matters as housing, working conditions and unemployment. The focus of the present chapter is slightly different. In the second half of The...

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