1984 Revisited

1984 Revisited : Totalitarianism in Our Century

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Essays analyze the concept of totalitarianism in George Orwell's novel, 1984, and examine the political issues raised by the book
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Product details

  • Paperback | 276 pages
  • 106.68 x 172.72 x 5.08mm
  • Joanna Cotler Books
  • United States
  • English
  • 0060806605
  • 9780060806606

Review Text

With 1984 around the corner, a spate of reassessments can be expected - and that means a return not only to Orwell and his book of that title, but also to the theme of totalitarianism. Of the 13 contributors to the present collection, five or six deal chiefly with the book, the remainder chiefly with its ideas: all, however, take up totalitarianism in one way or another. Mark Crispin Miller and Bernard Avishai both focus on newsspeak, the language of 1984. Newsspeak, Miller stresses, tends to sublimate all differences - making rape "true love," for example. The novel's failure to shock any more, he further notes, is evidence of creeping indifference. Avishai, straining a bit more, draws parallels between newsspeak words like "goodthinking" and "goodthinkful," and commuter-generated words like upscheduled or impacted (on), which flatten experience and reduce meaning. Robert C. Tucker asks "Does Big Brother Really Exist?" and answers, no. At least not as an individual; totalitarianism is a phenomenon of a system (which seems obvious enough). Michael Walzer, however, advances the totalitarianism debate, seeing totalitarianism as a kind of anti-utopia that serves as a model for authoritarianism, not as the distinct and different phenomenon that others (most prominently Jeane Kirkpatrick) have maintained. Leszek Kolakowski, also denying the totally closed view of a totalitarian state, regards Solidarity as evidence of possible collapse from within. Along other divergent lines: Milovan Djilas argues that the party state of Leninism, rather than the personal rule of Stalinism, is the totalitarian model today; and Robert Nisbet likens Orwell to Edmund Burke in his reaction to revolution. Other selections include the reactions of a college class to reading 1984 - which, despite author Luther P. Carpenter's happiness over a perceived spirit of defiance, include enough samples of declining literacy to scare anyone. Otherwise, not a bad bunch of pieces, but hardly revelatory. (Kirkus Reviews)
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15 ratings
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