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Orwell and the road to servitude Slater, Ian


This study arises from an interest in the relationship between the creative writer and the study of politics. It examines George Orwell's view of those conditions which could lead to a world dominated by super-states. In such a world the majority is subservient to a minority who rule by deception and terror. This is the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four. As well as focusing upon Orwell's novels the study draws heavily on his essays, journalism and semi-documentary writings. In addition to showing how a creative writer can offer an added perspective to the academic student of politics, the study aims to provide a better understanding of Orwell the man as well as the writer and political commentator. In examining Orwell's developing view of those conditions which may lead to servitude I have approached his works thematically rather than in order of publication dates, though for the most part these coincide. The major themes considered are: (1) imperialism at the local level, (2) unemployment, (3) the stultifying power of political orthodoxy, and (4) the ever increasing tendency of the state and society to smother the autonomous individual. These themes are dealt with in four corresponding sections: (1) Colonial Conditions - based on Orwell's experience in Burma, (2) Indigenous Conditions - based on Orwell's experience in Britain and Paris, (3) Foreign Conditions - based on Orwell's experience in Spain, and (4) Global Conditions - dealing with Orwell's vision of totalitarianism based on all his earlier experiences. The conclusions of the thesis are that (1) Orwell was a better social critic-than political thinker, (2) Nineteen Eighty-Four as the culmination of all his major themes is more a warning against a state of mind than a prophecy of a political system, and (3) contrary to widely held opinion, Orwell, though pessimistic, continued to believe in the viability of democratic socialism.

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