The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism

By M. Keith Booker | Go to book overview

rejection of the past and the desire to freeze history in the present that informs many dystopian societies.

The models of history as continual revolution espoused by both Foucault and Zamyatin clearly run counter to the utopian history of traditional Marxism. The historical vision of Zamyatin's We particularly suggests that the Communist appeal to a coming future paradise might ultimately be used merely as a justification for the status quo, a prediction that was to come all too true in the Stalinist years. On the other hand, the historical visions of both Foucault and Zamyatin in many ways recall bourgeois society, with its continual emphasis on change and innovation. However, there is a considerable difference between genuine revolution and mere renovation, and both Foucault and Zamyatin are ultimately antibourgeois thinkers. Indeed, if the work of radically oppositional thinkers like Foucault and Zamyatin highlights potential flaws in the Communist vision of history, it points toward possible problems in bourgeois society as well. These problems, of course, have been directly addressed in bourgeois dystopian fictions like Huxley Brave New World, which indicates that the privileging of change in capitalist society may in fact merely be a superficial disguise for a deep-seated resistance to real historical progression. Together totalitarian dystopias like We and bourgeois dystopias like Brave New World suggest the complexity and difficulty of the major problems of modern society, which clearly cannot be solved by a simple appeal to either of the two principal social and political alternatives that have emerged in the modern world.


NOTES
1.
There were, however, other satires that warned against the abuse of science during this period, notably including Mikhail Bulgakov The Fatal Eggs ( 1925) and Heart of a Dog. However, publication of the latter (written in 1925) was suppressed in the Soviet Union.
2.
On the role of Taylor in We, see Beauchamp ( "Man") and Rhodes. Zamyatin's use of Taylor prefigures Huxley's use of Ford in Brave New World, which suggests the sinister possibilities of an arrant capitalism. However, the American Taylor was also greatly admired by Lenin, who saw Taylor's work as a model for his project of industrialization in the Soviet Union. Stanley Aronowitz notes that Alexandra Kollontai and her "workers' opposition" fought against Lenin's introduction of Taylorist systems of factory management on the basis of the authoritarian management practices required by those systems (207).

-44-

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The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: Utopia, Dystopia, and Social Critique 1
  • Notes 22
  • 1 - Zamyatin's We: Anticipating Stalin 25
  • Notes 44
  • 2 - Huxley's Brave New World: The Early Bourgeois Dystopia 47
  • Notes 66
  • 3 - Orwell's 1984: The Totalitarian Dystopia after Stalin 69
  • Notes 89
  • 4 - The Bourgeois Dystopia After World War II 91
  • Notes 112
  • 5 - Postmodernism with a Russian Accent: The Contemporary Communist Dystopia 115
  • Notes 138
  • 6 - Skepticism Squared: Western Postmodernist Dystopias 141
  • Notes 170
  • Postscript: Literature and Dystopia 173
  • Works Cited 179
  • Index 193
  • About the Author 199
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