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The Concept of Utopia

Info: 7683 words (31 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: PhilosophyReligionTheology

‘Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe.’[1]

The Concept of Utopia

The term ‘utopia’ derives from Thomas More’s play on two Greek words eutopos and outopos, a combination of the good place with the no place. This is suggestive that the envisaged world of a utopia is an ideal place that has been constructed outside of reality. Furthermore, the suggestion within More’s Utopia is that happiness and comfort are the foundations of utopia:

‘Nobody owns anything but everyone is rich – for what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind, and freedom from anxiety?’

To be free from the anxiety of poverty, starvation or pain. These often form the basis of utopian fiction which is why it is unsurprising that much utopian fiction in inherently socialist.[2] However, many critics find the definition of utopia an area of contention. Many believe that idealism is not the definitive factor of what constitutes utopia. Such as Karl Mannheim who suggests that the presentation of an idealistic alternative is not a theme special to Utopia:

Myths fairy-tales, other-worldly promises of religion, humanistic fantasies, travel romances, have been continually changing expressions of that which was lacking in actual life.

Instead, Mannheim believed that Utopia was defined by its transformative function, its power to transcend reality with the intended effect to disrupt the prevailing dominant ideology of the time.[3] This perspective is similar to that of another leading Utopian theorist, Ernst Bloch. Bloch considers Utopia to exist in two forms, either concrete or abstract, the former being expressive and instrumental in its transformative narrative and the latter a wishful of non-pragmatic transformative narrative. To these theorists the ‘no place’ is more important than the ‘good place’.

Utopia is the construction of a radical alternative. This concept is supported by Miguel Abensour’s understanding of utopia. In a reading of News from Nowhere Abensour suggests this text is not to be read literally or didactically but instead heuristically, as a presentation of radically different values. This affects the manner in which one understands the function of utopia:

And in such an adventure two things happen: our habitual values . . . are thrown into disarray. And we enter into Utopia’s proper and new-found space: the education of desire. This is not the same as ‘a moral education’ towards a given end: it is rather, to open a way to aspiration, to ‘teach desire to desire, to desire better, to desire more, and above all to desire in a different way’.

These definitions all share in one aspect, the describe the representation of societal construction. To these critics utopia is not defined by the ideal but by the action, or as Ruth Levitas suggests, ‘the aim for something better.’ It is the aim, the aspiration, the revolution that defines utopia. Yet, what is the product of this aspiration or radical constructions. Ruth Levitas also suggests that in some cases a utopian society is one that ‘sets in place social and institutional processes to manage production and distribution and any social conflict that may emerge as a result of the scarcity gap.’[4]

This is a very interesting definition of Utopia as it does not conform to the common understanding that Utopia represents an idyllic paradise. In this understanding, Utopia is an economic practice to insure proper distribution of a society’s resources and control social conflict. Yet it does not define how the utopian society controls social conflict, and this question can be the difference between what we denote as utopian and what we denote as dystopian. Levitas makes a very interesting assertion when considering More’s etymology of Utopia:

Thomas More’s original pun – eutopos/outopos combined as utopia, hence the good place which is no place – is transformed into the good place which can be no place, and which, in seeking a place, becomes its opposite, dystopia.[5]

This claim appears to suggest that utopia is only ever utopia in concept and the application of utopia results in the creation of a ‘bad place’. Yet, most utopian fiction is the exploration of the application of utopian concepts within an observable space (a remote island, a future city, a commune on a farm). Levitas presents a very thin distinction between utopia and dystopia which is a belief shared by many critics. Some, such as Martin Amis, believe there is no distinction at all but instead that ‘despair and hatred are the emotions involved in utopian thought.’ The understandings of utopia and dystopia are broad and varied and it seems unlikely there shall ever be critical consensus. However, utopian and dystopian still exist as rigid classifications. George Orwell’s 1984 is dystopian fiction, this statement is accepted as objectively true. Yet are these classifications truly disctinct?

How does a reader discern the difference between what is classified as utopian and what is classified as dystopian? Formal style and narrative tone of course imply how a reader should perceive the fiction. Yet, often one may find that an intended utopia can evoke an uncanny sense of unease. Sometimes a reader will question whether they perceive the constructed fiction as utopian and deem that they do not. I shall argue that this is because the reader is not ideologically interpolated into the utopian society, that utopia is only an ideological perception.

A useful definition in this context would be that of Aurel Kolnai. Kolnai argues that Utopia is not an active but passive experience:

Utopian thought means not simply a bold aspiration to realize the good and to cure or prevent evil but a craving for the automatic operation of the good, the a priori coincidence of Value and Reality.[6]

Kolnai’s vision of utopia is a society that has been predesigned to achieve the ‘automatic operation of good’ performed unconsciously by its subjects. My essay shall demonstrate that this automatic operation is ideologically conditioned by the state. Furthermore, that the state shall define what is ‘good’ and what is represented by ‘Value’ and thus the ‘a priori coincidence’  of reality as the perfect representation of good and value is not coincidence but the effect of ideological conditioning.

The State and Utopia

Thus, utopia is a question of constructing a society with its citizens ideologically interpellated into perceiving the ruling ideology as utopian. This essay shall explore utopian and dystopian fiction to demonstrate how the subject becomes interpellated by the ideology. However, to begin, it would be useful to consider Louis Althusser’s discussion of this matter in ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus.’

Althusser’s argument begins on the premise that the dominant ideology (in his case, capitalism) must reproduce the conditions of production if it is to be sustainable. In fact, he states that this reproduction is ‘the ultimate condition of production.’[7] This idea faintly echoes the definition Levitas offers of utopia, in both cases the method of production is paramount.

The reproduction of conditions involves the reproduction of the productive forces (the utopian citizen) and the reproduction of the existing relations of production (ideological interpellation). This reproduction is ensured through the State’s use of repressive state apparatus (RSAs) and ideological state apparatus (ISAs).[8]

ISAs and RSAs are the sites at which the citizen is ideologically interpellated to perceive the dominant ideology as utopian. RSAs overtly prevent dissent within the utopian citizen whilst ISAs covertly condition the citizen leaving them with the impression of free will. This occurs due to the different manner of their origin, RSAs are all facets of one repressive apparatus, the State. RSAs are clearly governed by a singular intention, their function is to serve the demands of the State. Whilst, in contrast, ‘there is a plurality of Ideological State Apparatuses’ which appear to be independent and impartial but are ‘in fact unified, despite its diversity and contradictions, beneath the ruling ideology.’[9]

This difference is what allows the ISAs to function covertly, as an apparent separate body to the State whilst in fact being the most powerful tool or reproducing the conditions of production for the State. The result is that the citizen is interpellated as a subject of the dominant ideology but the subject believes it to be of their own choice as the:

Individual is interpellated as a (free) subject in order that he shall submit freely to the commandments of the Subject, i.e. in order that he shall (freely) accept his subjection[10].

Yet, in utopian fiction the individual not only accepts his subjection but, furthermore, considers this subjection to be the most perfect existence imaginable. To demonstrate this point, this essay shall consider the use of state apparatus and ideological interpellation within Thomas More’s Utopia and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards.

Since the archetypal text of Thomas More’s Utopia, the exploration of ideology has been a central theme. Utopia is written in two parts the first part is a critique of the feudal and rising capitalist ideology of 16th century England and the second part is the utopian vision. There are many problematic aspects to More’s utopian vision. It is a society of colonial origins, with imperialist and nationalist tendencies which entail a large disregard for life of other nations. Its family unit involves an explicit gender hierarchy, the existence and treatment of slaves seems non-utopian. Yet, there is something more discrete and underlying that may unsettle a reader, and that is the use of state apparatus and punishment to achieve utopian perspective in their subjects.

After Book One, which serves its purpose of discrediting the dominant ideology of More’s contemporary England, Raphael Hythlodaeus explains the social structure of Utopia and in doing so implicitly reveals the state apparatus that enforce social cohesion and subordination. The two most poignant demonstration of this are how the State conditions a love and devotion to pleasure and a detestation of gold.

Hedonistic ideology is central to the utopian goal of More’s society which requires each of its citizens to labour for the security of every individuals comfort and pleasure. For the society to run perfectly and idyllically each citizen must have an absolute reverence and devotion to the virtue of human pleasure. In More’s Utopia the dominant ideological tool in respect to pleasure is the religious ISA.[11]

The reader first experiences the indoctrinating effect of the educational ISA, directed by the dominant ideology, which in More’s case is hedonism. Whilst the narrator is discussing the educational system of Utopia, he explains that ‘they argue about such things as virtue and pleasure. But their chief subject of dispute is the nature of human happiness.’ [12] Happiness then become synonymous with pleasure which in turn is always designated as a virtue. The educational ISA functions to reiterate in a cyclical fashion the idea that pleasure, and thus hedonism, is a virtue. The educational ISA is then reinforced by the dominant religious ISA:

Surprisingly enough, they defend this self-indulgent doctrine by arguments drawn from religion… in all their discussions of happiness they invoke certain religious principles to supplant the operations of reason, which they think otherwise ill-equipped to identity true happiness.[13]

The religious ISA has been utilized to ‘supplant the operations of reason.’ Thus, the religious ISA of Utopia evoke arguments based on an omnibenevolent God and an eternal soul to designate ‘happiness [as] the summun bonum towards which we are naturally impelled by virtue.’ As hapiness has been defined as synonymous with pleasure the result is that the hedonistic ideology is categorised as religiously virtuosic.

Thus, in More’s Utopia one can witness two ISAs utilizing their proper means[14] to reassert the ideology that ensures the reproduction of the relations of production. The educational ISA argues for hedonism as fundamental principle of human happiness however, when the powers of reason are exhausted, the religious ISA supplants reason with spiritually moralistic doctrine. by an apparatus which is supposedly separate from the state.

The point that is being made is that if utopia was an objective phenomenon then the use of ISAs and ideological interpellation would not be necessary. The existence of these structures within Utopian fiction demonstrates that utopia is fundamentally an ideological perspective. To further this point one only has to ask why repressive state apparatus are necessary in utopian fiction. Our narrator deals with what occurs if a Utopian citizen is found to be a deserter, or in other words, evading their duty of production: ‘you’re brought home in disgrace, and severely punished as a deserter. For a second offence the punishment is slavery.’[15] Later, the narrator vaguely describes the conditions of the slaves who are comprised of Utopian deserters and foreign criminals:

Both types of slaves are kept hard at work in chain gangs, though Utopians are treated worse than foreigners. The idea is that it’s all the more deplorable if a person who has had the advantage of a first-rate education and a thoroughly moral upbringing still insists on becoming a criminal[16].

If a citizen does not respond to these methods of socialisation (the ‘advantage’ of the educational ISAs or the ‘moral upbringing’ of the religious and family ISAs) they must be punished. But punished in a manner which serves to reinforce the ideological doctrine of the state. The choice of punishment and its effect are very deliberate. Foucault explores the social effect of a variety of punishments in Discipline and Punish.

Foucault suggests that historically our methods of punishment have adapted to fit the needs of the State. The method of punishment apparent in Utopia falls under Foucault’s category of didactic humanism, which he argues is exemplified by the chain gang.

This form of discipline was shaped by a view of social power in which society is a community of equals, and thus the punishment serves to discipline both the criminal and the citizen into the ideal subject. The chain gang functions to deter crime by the prospect of hard work, whilst also reforming the criminal through rigorous discipline. Yet, its most important function is the public display of this punishment. As the criminal labours in a form of community service his actions imply to the citizen that the nature of crime is crime against society. Furthermore, his punishment is a reminder of the duty of the criminal and citizen to work for the benefit of society.

Didactic humanist punishment is used to this effect in utopia, if the subject deviates from the ideology of collectivist hedonism which requires their labour then this is punished as a crime against society. Yet furthermore, the repressive state apparatus of punishment is manipulated to condition a specific behavioural trait which is sympathetic to the dominant ideology. To encourage the quasi-socialist ideology of Utopia it is important that the citizens have no desire for individual wealth, to achieve this they use:

[C]hains and fetters of gold to immobilise slaves, and anyone who commits a really shameful crime is forced to go about with gold rings on his ears and fingers, a gold necklace round his neck and a crown of gold on his head. In fact they do everything they can to bring these metals into contempt.’[17]

Punishment becomes not only a site of repression but a site of ideological conditioning. Desire for individual wealth becomes associated as a crime against society to the benefit of the ruling ideology. It is this manner in which Althusser suggests there ‘is no such thing as a purely repressive apparatus’, ideological subjection is always involved, even in repression.

It is clear to see that a hedonistic ideology and a contempt of individual wealth are attitudes fundamental to the perception of More’s Utopia as a utopia. Thus, for the ‘perfect’ cohesion of society it is necessary for the state of Utopia to condition these beliefs through its state apparatus and use of punishment. These methods ideologically interpellate the citizen as a utopian subject.

These methods are very similar to the basis of utopian society in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards. This utopian fiction functions on the premise that the protagonist Julian West, a member of the landed gentry of Boston in 1887, falls into a deep hypnotic sleep and awakes in the year 2000 to encounter a socialist utopia. The form is similar to Utopia as it also involves a traveller who describes a new and unseen land, the difference is that the reader experiences the direct discourse of a utopian citizen.

In the year 2000 Julian is received by Dr Leete and his family. Dr Leete demonstrates an immense and precise understanding of the economic, political and historical information of his society and often engages in polemical critique of Julian’s society. As Dr Leete is not a historian or economist but a physician the reader must assume that his knowledge arose from the general education which every member of this utopian society is required to undertake. Thus, the knowledge and related opinions of Dr Leete can be understood as the result of the educational ISA.[18] Its effect can be witnessed as he explains to Julian the economic shift from capitalism to socialism:

At last, strangely late in the world’s history, the obvious fact was perceived that no business is essentially the public business as the industry and commerce on which the people’s livelihood depends, and that to entrust it to private persons to be manged for private profit is a folly.[19]

His explanations of his society are always made in the same tone, a mixture of the self-righteous and the polemical. It is clear that his education has guided him towards an understanding that his society is an ideal and that differing ideologies are contemptuous. This same message, the conditioned love of socialist ideals and contempt of individualism is reinforced through various ISAs. The cultural ISA reinforces this ideological perspective as demonstrated by the analysis of the umbrella painting:

There is a nineteenth century painting at the Art Gallery representing a crowd of people in the rain , each one holding his umbrella over himself and his wife, and giving his neighbors which [Dr Leete] claims must have been meant by the artist as a satire on the times.[20]

The cultural institute of Art has been used to reaffirm dominant ideology of collectivism as what is morally correct and to satirize and discredit all opposing ideologies. The most overt display of ideological conditioning is presented by the religious ISA. Towards the end of the novel Julian receives the chance to listen to a religious sermon after which he claims it to have been filled ‘with the constant implication of the vast moral gap between the century which I belonged and that in which I found myself.’ Within the sermon the reader experiences a rhetoric and polemic very similar to that of Dr Leete, for example:

Poverty with servitude had been the result, for the mass of humanity, of attempting to solve the problem of maintenance from an individual standpoint, but no sooner had the nation become the sole capitalist and employer than not alone did plenty replace poverty…[21]

The rhetoric continues for many pages in the same fashion. The point that is being made is that the ISAs all function under the ruling ideology to condition the ideas of their citizens. The function of the ISAs is to interpellate the individual as a subject of the dominant ideology through conditioning their ideals to reflect the dominant ideology, in this case socialism. It is this way that the citizen freely choses to function by the utopian ideology, as Althusser elucidates:

Every ‘subject’ endowed with a ‘consciousness’ and believing in the ‘ideas’ that his ‘consciousness’ inspires in him and freely accepts, must ‘act according to his ideas’, must therefore inscribe his own ideas as a free subject in the actions of his material practice.[22]

The success of this can be witnessed in the conclusion of Looking Backwards as Julian West, believing that he has returned to 1887, must act on his new ideas and verbally condemn the capitalist misery he witnesses as he accuses his fellow gentry that they cannot hear ‘the crying of little ones that suckle poverty’ or the ‘army of women selling themselves for bread.’[23] Julian West is evidence of an individual interpellated as a subject to the utopian ideology through exposure to the family ISA represented by Dr Leete and his family. He condemns the capitalist past and ‘accepts’ the socialist future as utopian. However, Looking Backwards also engages in the use of RSAs and of a far more complex nature than those found in Utopia.

Instead of public punishment this utopia uses the repressive tool of state surveillance. Foucault argues that discipline based on state surveillance originated in the prison system. Unlike the public punishments of didactic humanism, the prison system was a private form of punishment comprising of the relationship between the criminal and authority with the public excluded. However, imprisonment was just part of a regime of discipline based on isolation and surveillance.

Once imprisoned, it is possible to observe the criminal and record their behaviour in minute detail, and from this discover how their behaviour differs from that of the regular citizen. After which the prison can design a program to modify the criminal’s behaviour to the ideological norm. Foucault argues that this form of discipline is not limited to the prison but occurs in all infrastructure of modern society from the school to the hospital. In fact, when Foucault is developing his concepts of panopticism it is not the prison he begins with but the town:

The plague-stricken town, traversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilised by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies – this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city.[24]

This extensive power is panoptic in origin. Bellamy’s utopia shares a lot in common with this plague stricken town. The industrial army functions through a system of strict hierarchy designated by military rank [footnote], furthermore, each individual within the system is kept under close surveillance through written record. In chapter seven Dr Leete reveals this system of records:

Now not only are the individual records of the apprentices for ability and industry strictly kept, and excellence distinguished by suitable distinctions, but upon the average of his record the standing given to the apprentice among the full workmen depends.[25]

Dr Leete goes on to explain how based on his record the apprentice is placed either in the first, second or third grade of workmen. However, close record is continually kept of the workmen also to allow for regrading based on merit or failure. This constant surveillance is the basis of the panoptic effect[26] which induces in the subject: ‘a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power… caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearer.’[27]

Thus, the surveillance within Bellamy’s utopia ensures the functioning of the ruling ideology which demands ‘habits of obedience, subordination and devotion to duty.’[28] What is fundamental is that the subject is the bearer of this power situation, in short, that the subject self-disciplines. Panoptic surveillance results in the subject’s self-surveillance and adherence to the behaviour deemed favourable by the ultimate power of surveillance (the State.)

So far, the argument of this essay has asserted that neither More nor Bellamy’s utopia is an objective utopia. Instead, both these utopias demonstrate the State’s use of ideological and repressive apparatus to interpellate the individual as a subject to the dominant ideology which they then perceive as perfect or utopian. However, a counter argument may be that regardless of methods of socialisation the societies formed are mostly fair, equal and designed to ensure the happiness and comfort of all subjects. Thus, the utopian perspective of the individual may be genuine despite the effect of ideological interpellation. However, this essay shall explore the use of ideological tools in fictions that most readers would categorise as Dystopian, to demonstrate that the ideological interpellation creates the same effect regardless of the environment it is performed in.

Maybe I should do quicker anaylsis of both 1984 and brave new world, demonstrating how both have citizens who perciev…

The State and Dystopia

On coins, on stamps, on the cover of books, on banners, on posters and on the wrapping of a cigarette packet – everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed – no escape. Nothing was your own except for the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.[29]

George Orwell’s 1984 is also a disciplinary society based on surveillance. Oceania is filled with telescreens fitted with cameras, microphones hidden in bushes and posters of Big Brother with the words ‘BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU’[30] written underneath it. The effect is an intense panoptic society where the subjects are worried that even a small twitch of the face will be considered a crime. Thus every citizen is in a constant state of visibility and thus becomes the bearer of power and self-disciplines themselves to the desire of the ruling ideology, as Winston explains:

You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.[31]

Crime, takes on a completely new gravity in this society. There are no longer any official laws, there is simply orthodoxy and unorthodoxy, any display of the latter results in punishment. The only official crime is thought crime, or crimethink. Thus, deviant thought is presented as a crime against society. Unlike Utopia or Looking Backwards, the State in 1984 is aware that utopia is only ever ideological perception. The State of 1984 understand that reality exists only in the mind [quote], thus to achieve utopia it is not necessary to alter the objective external reality, one must instead control the subjective internal reality. This is the error of Winston’s statement, for the few cubic centimeter inside your skull belong to the State.

In 1984 ideological interpellation is designated by a single word: orthodoxy. Orthodoxy most simply put is the subject’s ideas and behavior perfectly reflecting the dominant ideology. Orthodoxy in Newspeak is referred to as goodthinkful meaning incapable of a bad thought. The subject not only conforms to the ruling ideology but is incapable of thinking anything else. Furthermore, Winston becomes aware that this practice is performed automatically:

The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

This unconsciousness is fundamental to the ideological subjugation of the individual under totalitarianism. It is only after the individual becomes thoughtless that the State can completely condition them. Thus, it is key that the ideological structures of the totalitarian state not only condition the ruling ideology but also remove the possibility of independent thought. Hannah Arendt explores the nature of this totalitarian subject in Origins of Totalitarianism, firstly she demonstrates his isolation:

Totalitarian movements are mass organizations of atomized, isolated. Individuals. Compared with all other parties and movements, their most conspicuous external characteristic is their demand for total, unrestricted, unconditional and unalterable loyalty of the individual member… Such loyalty can only be expected from the completely isolated human being.[32]

However, this isolation, this loneliness is of a very specific kind to Arendt, one that bears much similarity to Winston’s conception of orthodoxy. Arendt suggests that ‘loneliness is not solitude.’[33] Arendt suggests that the solitary man ‘can be together with himself’ as he possesses the power to talk with himself. However, loneliness occurs when ‘I am deserted by my own self’[34] and the individual no longer possesses internal dialogue, they are purely unconscious.

It is for this reason that Winston’s rebellion begins when he commits the act of starting a diary. As he records his thoughts he restarts the conversation with himself that had been suppressed by the ideological tools of the party. The State uses the communications ISA to propagate the official party language of Newspeak, their primary tool for the suppression of thought. The purpose of Newspeak is made explicitly clear both by the appendix:

In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were non-existent.[35]

Newspeak is a form of language which reduces its range of expression to fit only the needs of the ruling ideology. Newspeak narrows the range of human thought by narrowing the space of semantic language itself. Steven Blakemore suggests in his essay ‘Ideology and Language’ that man in essence is linguistic, that language is his reality. It is for this reason that the Party’s goal is to reach a definitive edition of the Newspeak dictionary in which

The Party’s ideology compels it to continually attempt to cut, narrow and ‘define’ words until a “pure” party language confines human thought within the boundaries of its linguistic prison.[36]

This prison is the ideology of the Party. The Party is aware that language and expression can be potentially subversive to the ruling ideology. Consequently, it is the intention of the party to design a language that is ‘as nearly as possible independent of consciousness.’[37] Newspeak provides the subject with a ‘world view’, but it makes the existence of alternative world views (ideologies) impossible to comprehend because reality is formed through the Party’s semantic vocabulary.

Doublethink is far more complex. It is the excersise of holding ‘two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. It involves the deliberate altering of truth so reality conforms to the doctrine of the Party. The act must be both conscious and unconscious, the user of double think must ‘play tricks with reality.’ Thus, truth and reality for the practitioner of doublethink is both real and imaginary. Doublethink is the conscious embodiement of how ideology functions within the individual, Althusser states:

What is represented in ideology is therefore not the system of real relations which govern the existence of individuals but the imaginary relation of those individuals to the real relations in which they live.[38]

Ideology reflects the distorted relationship between the individual and reality, as does doublethink. Used in a utopian environment ideology functions to distort the individual’s perspective into imagining their reality as perfect and ideal.

The ISAs that are critical to 1984 are the political ISA, the cultural ISA and the communications ISA, in fact, these three become so powerful as the engulf the family, the religious, the educational and the legal ISAs. Your family is the party, your god is Big Brother, your education is party doctrine and party history and the law is the party. The essence of a totalitarian regime is that the ISAs are not only connected by a ruling ideology but are directly connected by the state.

The cultural ISA functions by conditioning the subject to live in ‘a continuous frenzy of hatred… and self-abasement before the power and the wisdom of the party.’[39] All cultural efforts are directed to achieve this goal, this includes films (‘all war films’[40]) which depict lifeboats full of refugees bombed by helicopters with ‘a wonderful shot of a child’s arm going up up right up into the air’[41]. The music, exemplified by the Hate Song which:

has a savage, barking rhythm, which could not exactly be called music but resembled the beating of a drum. Roared out by hundreds of voices to the tramp of marching feet, it was terrifying.[42]

The cultural ISAs function to fill the subject with such terror and fear that they become thoughtless, this is epitomized by the Two Minutes Hate a device of the political ISA which reflects the praxis of a religious ISA through its sense of ceremony and union of a mass congregation. Winston demonstrates its effect on the subject:

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people.[43]

The cultural ISA serves to condition this frenzy of anger mingled with fear. This emotion becomes a powerful tool of subjection within an atomized society. When the citizens exist as a mass of isolated and atomized individuals the power of fear and hatred renders the individual subjugated through an intense self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the party. This, is the essence of the totalitarian regime. There is no official doctrine other than the subjugation of the individual, as O’Brien revels [quote for power is the end not the means.]

Yet, even this can be perceived as utopian if the subject is perfectly indoctrinated. There is evidence for this in 1984 through the character of Parsons. Parsons is the ideal product of all the ideological apparatus of Oceania. He is described as ‘one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom… the stability of the Party depended.’[44] He engages as a leading figure in cultural and political ISAs, he is an active member within sports and community committees and is portrayed as almost dependent on the political indoctrination as he is ‘unwilling evicted from the Youth League.’[45]

He is the perfect totalitarian citizen, mindless and content with an undertone of fear and hatred. When praising the zealous behavior of he children he always does so with pride and joy. Yet, appears to catch himself and revert to a tone of seriousness with a faint undertone of fear such as ‘what I mean to say, shows the right spirit, doesn’t it?’ Or, ‘What I mean to say, there is a war on.’[46] All his safety and security is derived from the Party in mindless acceptance as exemplified by the reports on Foodstuffs of which:

Parsons, his attention caught by the trumpet call, sat listening with a sort of gaping solemnity, a sort of edified boredom. He could not follow the figures, but he was aware in some way that they were a cause for satisfaction.

A blind and devoted trust in the Party. This is the subject that Oceania attempt to ideologically indoctrinate and in return Parsons considers his existence utopian. This is demonstrated most strongly in Parson’s reaction to the discovery that he is a thought criminal:

‘Thoughtcrime!’ said Parsons, almost blubberingly. The tone of his voice implied at once a complete admission of his guilt and a sort of incredulous horror that such a word could be applied to himself.

It turns out Parsons was accused by his daughter of denouncing Big Brother in his sleep, however, whether this is true is hard to tell considering the devotion of Parsons and the over-zealous behavior of his children. Regardless, Parson’s response demonstrates his utopian perspective. Not for a second does he believe he is wrongly accused expressing ‘Of course I’m guilty… You don’t think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?’ He is even hopeful that they party may offer him a lenient punishment and never does he display anger or outrage towards the party. Parsons is not angry but miserable because he believes that he has lost access to what he considered a utopian paradise, he is distraught that he does not fit in this society and just hope that he can make himself ‘useful in a labour-camp.’

Thus, 1984 appears to the reader as dystopian because we observe it through the eyes of Winston who resists the ideological indoctrination and sees the real relations that govern his existence and not the imaginary relationship to the real relations. Yet, the society of Oceania is built through the same socializing methods which one finds in More and Bellamy’s utopias. Thus, if Parson’s sense of utopia is merely the ideological perspective that he has been indoctrinated into possessing then are not the sense of utopia for the citizens of Bellamy’s Brooklyn or More’s Utopia equally just ideological perspectives.

Define orthodoxy. Then display the various structures which encourage and demand orthodoxy. Could discuss how 1984 explicitly demonstrates the state controlling the population through the book Winston procures. Maybe not. In any case, I have very very detailedly explored 1984, I should create a consise and powerful representation of the effect of power here. The two useful essays, ideology and language and dymystifying doublethink may be useful. When discussing language and ideology it may be good to reference back to althusser’s statement that man is his ideas. [O’brein says that nothing holds the resitance together but an idea. Demonstrating the threat is counter ideology.] Ideas may only exist in language. It contains decent analysis of newspeak as well. While the latter text offers a sucient quote of the effect of doublethink to prevent ideological difference and the destruction of freedom and rationality.

Thus, I should quickly establish the ideological subject the State attempt to condition, Hannah Arendt could be useful here

The Utopian Citizen

Aftter explanation, state that the situation appears dystopian as we observe it through the eyes of our protagonist who is not ideologically interpellated, and neither are we.


[1] Blaise Pascal within Louis Althusser’s ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus’ p.1354.

[2] Thomas More’s Utopia, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards, Robert Owen’s A New View of Society, Étienne Cabet’s Travel and adventures of Lord William Carisdall in Icaria, William Morris’ News from Nowhere and many others.

[3] Footnote from LEvitas

[4] Page 5

[5] Page 3

[6] Page 10

[7] 1335

[8] The former are the facets of the State that function through violence such as the army, the police, prisons and the court. The latter function through ideology and Althusser categorizes them by their site of practice, a few important ISAs are the religious ISA, the educational ISA, the family ISA, the communications ISA and the cultural ISAs.

[9] Page 1343

[10] Page 1360

[11] This seems appropriate as Althusser suggests that in the pre-capitalist period of history (pre-18th century) ‘there was one dominant Ideological State Apparatus, the Church, which was concentrated within it not only religious functions but educational.’ (p.1345)

[12] 91

[13] 91

[14] Althusser comments on the fact that although all ISAs function underneath a single ruling ideology ‘Each of them contributes towards this single result in a way proper to it. The political by subjecting individuals to political State ideology… The communications apparatus by cramming every ‘citizen’ with its daily dose of nationalism, chauvism, liberalism, moralism ect… The religious apparatus by recalling in sermons and other great ceremonies of Birth, Marriage, and Death, that man is only ashes, unless he loves his neighbour.’ (p.1346).

[15] Page 84

[16] 101-102

[17] 86-87

[18] Although the novel often comments on the new system of education in the year 2000 with its accessibility to all, it does not offer much information as to the syllabus of the education aside from its proficiency in athletic training (p.131.) Yet, the specific range of knowledge possessed by Dr Leete allows the reader to infer position of the educational ISA as functioning beneath the ruling ideology.

[19] Pahe 33

[20] 89-90

[21] 167

[22] 1353

[23] 190

[24] 198

[25] 72-73

[26] Based of Bentham’s Panopticon, an architectural project designed to separate individuals (criminals, patients, workers schoolboys) into rooms which are all observable from a central tower. This central tower is designed so the individuals have no awareness as to whether they are being watched or not. Thus the individually is trapped in a sense of constant visibility. (p.200)

[27] 201.

[28] 72

[29] Page 31, 32

[30] Pg 3

[31] Page 5

[32] Pg 429

[33] Page 613

[34] Page 614

[35] 349-350

[36] 353-354

[37] 351

[38] 1352

[39] 241

[40] Page 10

[41] Page 11

[42] 171

[43] Page 17

[44] 26

[45] 26

[46] 65-66, 66.

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