Libertarian Alternatives: Morris News from
Nowhere; Bogdanov, Red Star; Huxley, Island
The basic premise of dystopian fiction, of course, is rooted in the assumption that the utopian ideal is inherently repressive—that the establishment of the machinery of State repression nevertheless has its origins in a genuinely utopian impulse. Not the least disturbing aspect of We,Brave New World, and The Handmaid's Tale, in fact, is the apparent sincerity of the belief of those in authority that they are actually doing good. Only in Nineteen EightyFour, where O'Brien brazenly admits that power is its own reward, is the rationale that authority is wielded in the best interests of society as a whole abandoned—but this is very much the exception rather than the rule. The patriarchal authority figures of the other dystopian narratives—The Benefactor, Mustapha Mond, even the Commanders—share with Wells's Samurai, the officers of Bellamy's industrial army, and the priest-rulers of the City of the Sun, the conviction that authority is a duty rather than a matter of self-interest. Whatever the effect of their exercise of that authority, the underlying aspiration remains in keeping with the traditional utopian ideal: the creation of a better, more rational social order, from whose allembracing security the citizen cannot help but benefit.
Yet a distaste for the generally repressive and authoritarian tenor of the traditional utopia, such as that which activates the dystopian critique of the utopian ideal, can also be combined with very different approaches— approaches which do not necessarily presuppose the utopian aspiration to be flawed in itself. In News from Nowhere (1890), for example, William Morris is among the first to call into question the premises of the traditional utopia by proposing an alternative embodying radically different values: libertarian and decentralist, rather than repressive and authoritarian. Morris's vision is of a Communist far future in which the state has withered away, and in this he is followed by Alexander Bogdanov, whose Red Star (1908), written in the aftermath of the abortive Russian revolution of 1905, envisages an equally decentralized (although noticeably less pastoral) Communist society—removed in space rather than time, however, being set on the planet Mars. Nor is this the only ideological perspective from which the traditional utopia has been reimagined: Aldous Huxley's Island (1962) offers another libertarian vision, but one whose emphasis on spiritual values seems explicitly designed to counter the materialist bias of the Wellsian utopia. Whether, however, such conscious challenges to the
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Narrating Utopia:Ideology, Gender, Form in Utopian Literature. Contributors: Chris Ferns - Author. Publisher: Liverpool University Press. Place of publication: Liverpool, England. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 141.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.