When the novel Brave New World first appeared, in 1932, its shocking analysis of a scientific dictatorship seemed a projection into the remote future.
Today the science of thought control has raced far beyond the dreams of Hitler and Stalin. Methods for destroying individual freedom are being rapidly developed, and the pressures to adopt them are becoming increasingly powerful. Now, in one of the most important, fascinating, and frightening books of his career, Aldous Huxley scrutinizes these and other threats to humanity and demonstrates why we may find it virtually impossible to resist them.
With overpowering impact, this book is a challenge to complacency and a plea that mankind should educate itself for freedom before it is too late.
The following excerpt is taken from Huxley’s ‘Over-Population’ chapter contained in Brave New World Revisited:
The society described in 1984 is a society controlled almost exclusively by
punishment and the fear of punishment. In the imaginary world of my own fable, punishment is infrequent and generally mild. The nearly perfect control exercised by the government is achieved by systematic reinforcement of desirable behavior, by many kinds of nearly non-violent manipulation, both physical and psychological, and by genetic standardization. Babies in bottles and the centralized control of reproduction are not perhaps impossible; but it is quite clear that for a long time to come we shall remain a viviparous species breeding at random. For practical purposes genetic standardization may be ruled out. Societies will continue to be controlled post-natally — by punishment, as in the past, and to an ever increasing extent by the more effective methods of reward and scientific manipulation.
In Russia the old-fashioned, 1984-style dictatorship of Stalin has begun to give way to a more up-to-date form of tyranny. In the upper levels of the Soviets’ hierarchical society the reinforcement of desirable behavior has begun to replace the older methods of control through the punishment of undesirable behavior. Engineers and scientists, teachers and administrators, are handsomely paid for good work and so moderately taxed that they are under a constant incentive to do better and so be more highly rewarded. In certain areas they are at liberty to think and do more or less what they like. Punishment awaits them only when they stray beyond their prescribed limits into the realms of ideology and politics. It is because they have been granted a measure of professional freedom that Russian teachers, scientists and technicians have achieved such remarkable successes. Those who live near the base of the Soviet pyramid enjoy none of the privileges accorded to the lucky or specially gifted minority. Their wages are meager and they pay, in the form of high prices, a disproportionately large share of the taxes. The area in which they can do as they please is extremely restricted, and their rulers control them more by punishment and the threat of punishment than through non-violent manipulation or the reinforcement of desirable behavior by reward. The Soviet system combines elements of 1984 with elements that are prophetic of what went on among the higher castes in Brave New World.