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Historical Context of George Orwell's 1984
Transcript of Historical Context of George Orwell's 1984
Orwell is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the Twentieth Century.
Orwell's stories were based on
. In most of his work, he questions governments and social order. The term "Orwellian" is often used in reference to authors who do the same work. In fact, Orwell's language is used often in popular culture today.
in 1949 in reaction to the totalitarian governments that were arising after WWII. Orwell's novel is a warning about the dangers of such governments and the way they use language and propaganda to control citizens.
Historical Context of George Orwell's 1984
Although there are different forms of totalitarian governments (Fascist, Nazi, Socialist), these characteristics are true to all totalitarian regimes:
1. An official ideology to which general adherence is demanded. The goal of the ideology is to find the "perfect" state of mankind.
2. A single mass party, hierarchically organized and led by one man.
3. Monopolistic control of the armed forces.
4. A monopoly over the means of mass communication.
5. A systme of terrorist police control.
6. Central control and direction of the entire economy.
Types of Totalitarian Governments
Fascist ideology was largely the work of the neo-idealist philosopher, Giovanni Gentile. It emphasized the subordination of the individual to a "totalitarian" state that was to control all aspects of national life. Violence as a creative force was an important characteristic of the Fascist philosophy. A special feature of Italian Fascism was the attempt to eliminate the class struggle from history through nationalism and the corporate state. Mussolini organized the economy and all "producers" - from peasants and factory workers to intellectuals and industrialists - into 22 corporations as a means of improving productivity and avoiding industrial disputes. Contrary to the regime's propaganda claims, the system ran poorly. Mussolini was forced into compromises with big business and the Roman Catholic Church. The corporate state was never fully implemented. The inherently expansionist, militaristic nature of Fascism contributed to imperialistic adventures in Ethiopia and the Balkans and ultimately to World War II.
Nazism refers to the totalitarian Fascist ideology and policies espoused and practiced by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Worker's Party from 1920-1945. Nazism stressed the superiority of the Aryan, its destiny as the Master Race to rule the world over other races, and a violent hatred of Jews, which it blamed for all of the problems of Germany. Nazism also provided for extreme nationalism which called for the unification of all German-speaking peoples into a single empire. The economy envisioned for the state was a form of corporative state socialism, although members of the party who were leftists (and would generally support such an economic system over private enterprise) were purged from the party in 1934.
Soviet Propaganda: "Motherland is Calling"
This is a real video and part of an episode from BBC's "Brave New World" series.
World War II began as a result of aggressive German attempts to take back parts of Europe that the country lost after World War I.
Germany was being led by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, a totalitarian government that officially came into power in 1933 after many years of propaganda, manipulation, and forcing loyalty on the German people.
The Nazi campaign played on German poverty and fears after the coutnry was forced to take the blame and pay for WWI.
Although the Allied forces were able to defeat the Nazis, a number of totalitarian regimes continued to remain in power following the war.
World War II
Stalin Propaganda Video
Characteristics of Totalitarian Governments
Joseph Stalin gained control of the Soviet Union in 1929
He was a supporter of Marxist-Leninist ideology (Communism: no private ownership, everyone works for the state, power of the proletariat), but most would argue that he did not follow these beliefs once he gained power.
When Stalin gained control of the Soviet Union, he saw that it was far behind the West and created a plan to modernize Russia.
Stalinist policies included rapid industrialization, socialism, a centralized state, and collectivism of agriculture.
Stalin's collectivism of agriculture cost millions of lives, while his huge increases in Soviet productivity resulted in major economic growth, but at great costs.
The population suffered greatly during the Great Terror of the 1930's, when Stalin purged the party of "enemies of the people," resulting in the execution of thousands and the exile of millions to the gulag system of slave labour camps.
Stalin is seen as the most murderous and powerful dictator in history. He ruled the Soviet Union for 25 years.
It is widely believed that Orwell based
on the Stalinist state.
One major way that totalitarian governments were able to take away the rights of the people is by brainwashing them through propaganda.
: information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
"he was charged with distributing enemy propaganda." (Dictionary.com)
What does all of this history have to do with the novel?
Orwell wrote 1984 about a fictional future world called Oceania as a criticism of the types of governments that he saw emerging and gaining power in the period between 1933-1949.
Orwell's hero, Winston Smith, is named after the British Prime Minster during WWII, Winston Churchill:
Based on this video, why do you think that Orwell made this decision?
What does the last name "Smith" suggest to you?