The Bourgeois Dystopia after World War II
By the time of Orwell's 1984 it was becoming increasingly clear that the utopian dreams that had formed such an important part of the rhetoric of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath had already been devoured by the dystopian nightmare of the Stalinist terror. But during these same years there was an upsurge in the production of dystopian texts in the West as well, especially in America, where imaginative literature like science fiction had long been characterized by a strongly utopian slant. Several historical developments contributed to this trend. For one thing, the technology that had long been so central to Western utopian dreams had now brought about the advent of nuclear weapons with the concomitant threat of the sudden end of civilization. Meanwhile, Cold War hostilities between America and the Soviet Union dramatically increased the probability of a nuclear holocaust, triggering a McCarthyite anti-Communist hysteria that was in itself a sort attenuated version of the Stalinist terror.
Despite the recent victorious conclusion to World War II, the sense of cultural crisis in America in the late-1940s and early-1950s was so strong that even ostensibly utopian works of the period take on decidedly dystopian intonations. Perhaps the most important example of this trend is B. F. Skinner Walden Two, which was first published in 1948, one year before the appearance of 1984. Skinner's book specifically presents itself as a reaction to the post-World War II sense of cultural crisis and as an attempt to delineate a utopian alternative