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Social Stratification and Marxist Criticism in Brave New World
Transcript of Social Stratification and Marxist Criticism in Brave New World
Everyone loves their jobs, and those jobs are designed to fit the system of the World State.
To the lower castes, the instincts set in place by conditioning are
How does applying Marxist criticism to
Brave New World
reveal who benefits in the society?
First Supporting Argument: Stability
Second Supporting Argument: Why not the higher castes?
From a Marxist perspective, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World reveals that the lower castes are the ones that truly “benefit” in the stable society.
The World State takes a grand approach to ensure stability of the society. It views the entire society as a group to be conditioned and controlled. It does not reserve importance for individual rights. In fact, it views individualism (and anything related to it) as dangerous, for it can destroy the stability of the group. There is a trade off between stability (social stratification) and individuality. The World States opts for guaranteed stability and no singularity.
Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor. New York:
Harper, 2003. Print.
Huxley, Aldous (1998). Brave New World (First Perennial Classics ed.). New
York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Johnson, Lee A. "Social Stratification." Biblical Theology Bulletin 43.3
(2013):155-168. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 May 2014
Social Stratification and Marxist Criticism in Brave New World
How does applying Marxist criticism provide another lens through which readers can more thoroughly understand Huxley’s dystopian novel
Brave New World?
The lower caste members are not “oppressed,” for they are conditioned to enjoy their hardships and accept their statuses; they are not suffering.
On the other hand, Mustapha Mond and the other World Controllers (assuming the others are similar to Mond), are free to study what they sought before gaining their status (truth in the form of science and religion, and individuality) and maintain a high social position without fear of persecution.
In the World State, social stability is ensured with the rigid predestined caste system. The lower castes are filled with pairs of twins that came from the same single ovary. Thus social differentiation does not exist. It "does not necessitate hierarchy, but it is the first, essential step towards social inequality" (Johnson 4).
Yet, resultingly, they are also more inhibited, because they bear the responsibility, or burden, of maintaining uniform happiness.
The sacrifice of self expression, individualism, happiness, and science for the happiness and stability of the entire population.
The group is more important than the individual.
Brave New World is very much a political writing: As Foster stated, “Writing that engages the realities of its world – that thinks about human problems, including those in the social and political realm, that addresses the rights of persons and the wrongs of those in power – can be not only interesting but hugely compelling” (Foster 61).
We analyze these concepts “not because that milieu controls her [the author’s] thinking but because that is the world she engages when she sits down to write” (Foster 63).
Huxley wrote this novel in 1931.
This was after WWI, in the midst of the rapid growth of technology and industrialization.
She saw the damage that new technologies did to people all over the world.
World War I prompted debates on morality and environmental protection.
Conditioning is used to ensure stability and prevent the Marxist revolution.
According to Marxist philosophy, those in the lower classes are more aware of the ideology, because they are suffering from it.
Since Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons cannot be aware of the ideology, they cannot possibly revolt. What
they enjoy doing menial work!
The ironic part: the Marxist rebellion is led more from the top-down, rather than from the bottom-up. “What irony chiefly involves, then, is a deflection from expectation” (Foster 124).
Helmholtz and Mond are Alpha Males who understand the ideology of the World State
Less ironic and more typical of Marxist criticism is John, whose social rank is off the charts. He is a savage; thus, he cannot even adhere to the standards of the World States. He also comprehends the ideology more fully than any normal Alpha Male.
Essentially, conditioning enforces the limitations of the lower castes; thus, it creates no “wiggle” room for revolt or disobedience.
In Marxism the
states that the distribution and possession of material possessions drives evolution. According to this, the World Controllers and other high caste members would be the primary force, however, this does not entitle them to benefits.
It is the authority of the higher castes and their increased freedom that allows them to be occasionally liberated from the strict values of the World State. Thus, they are more vulnerable to the instability that conditioning attempts to destroy.
The World Controllers have access to the most amount of resources and have the most authority. Therefore, they presumably are ahead in the evolutionary curve, and this is the key that sets them apart from the rest of society; yet, it is also a great source of instability of them, and therefore, a threat to their benefiting from society.
Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons are capable of neither social mobility nor revolution. It is impossible for them to understand the ideals on which the World State is founded on; thus, their one and only role is to
On the other hand, higher castes have more “social mobility" (these two words cannot be understood literally, for Alpha-borns will live eternally by the title “Alpha”).
For example, characters like Bernard may be degraded for their actions (Bernard was rejected for his caution towards World State values).
Ultimately, from an individual standpoint, World Controllers (especially Mustapha Mond) are the characters that are least benefiting from the system. The World Controllers also hold the highest social statuses.
Marxism in Context
They understand the materials from the “time of Our Ford,” such as science and Shakespeare. Yet, they must push all of that aside to establish complete stability over the entire society.
They have the responsibility of establishing happiness over the rest of society (Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons).
to sacrifice their own ignorant bliss.
To carry out their responsibilities, they have to be undermine their own stability, since the
of science and Shakespeare is a facet of individualism, and individualism is the destroyer of uniform stability.
reject all those bits of free thought.
The Sacrifice of the Elite
In other words, their
towards society may ultimately
themselves from the controlled, stable network, despite their
*mumble* Communism *cough*
Proletariat *cough* Revolution *mumble*
Ideology *mumble* Hegemony *something-something* M
"Irony, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes wry or perplexing – provides additional richness to the literary dish. And it certainly keeps us readers on our toes, inviting us, compelling us, to dig through layers of possible meaning and competing signification" (Foster 126).
What is social stratification?
Social stratification occurs when social differentiation creates fixed social inequalities.
When "the differences in the way society values and rewards individuals has become an expected part, and largely rigid aspect, of societal life," like layers of a rock or strata, social stratification occurs (Johnson). Once it occurs "a hierarchy of inequality becomes institutionalized" and those that may not approve of it may simply accept things as how they just are (Johnson).