The utopian vision of the total state in the 20th century : with special reference to Zamyatin, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell
In past centuries, images of utopia have tended to reflect the hopes and aspirations of their writers, however forlorn those hopes might be, but in the present century, it is common for visions of utopia to reflect the fears of contemporary society. The anti-utopian writers of the twentieth century hold that the perfectly regulated society can only be imposed upon mankind through oppression, since perfection cannot exist in nature. Man lives in a world of contingency and choice, and attempts to render the life of men wholly predictable can only result in the deformation of humanity, through the extinction of human morality and creativity. Moreover, the anti-Utopians assert, there can be no final, incontrovertible definition of perfection. The truth of the rulers of the perfect state is no more than dogma. Utopian happiness consists merely in total submission to this dogma, in abandonment of autonomy and absorption into a corporate identity. The citizen of utopia lives in 'a perpetual childhood of prescription', and if he is happy, his happiness is the happiness of a child, who is spared the burden of uncertainty and choice and responsibility. Of the anti-Utopians under review, Zamyatin, Orwell and Huxley, Zamyatin's is the least ambiguous interpretation of the anti-utopian thesis, since Zamyatin is the most profouldy individualistic of the three writers. Orwell's total state differs from the others, in that it is intended as an expression of pure power, and not as an instrument for procuring corporate happiness. In Huxley's work the ambiguity is pronounced, since he offers both an anti-utopia and a utopia, which in part reflect, and in part contradict, one another. But despite differences in interpretation, all three writers consider that autonomous man, whether a credible or an incredible figure, has no place in utopia.