Huxley to Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (1949)

orwell huxley

In 1949, George Orwell received a curi­ous let­ter from his for­mer high school French teacher.

Orwell had just pub­lished his ground­break­ing book Nine­teen Eighty-Four, which received glow­ing reviews from just about every cor­ner of the Eng­lish-speak­ing world. His French teacher, as it hap­pens, was none oth­er than Aldous Hux­ley who taught at Eton for a spell before writ­ing Brave New World (1931), the oth­er great 20th cen­tu­ry dystopi­an nov­el.

Hux­ley starts off the let­ter prais­ing the book, describ­ing it as “pro­found­ly impor­tant.” He con­tin­ues, “The phi­los­o­phy of the rul­ing minor­i­ty in Nine­teen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been car­ried to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion by going beyond sex and deny­ing it.”

Then Hux­ley switch­es gears and crit­i­cizes the book, writ­ing, “Whether in actu­al fact the pol­i­cy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indef­i­nite­ly seems doubt­ful. My own belief is that the rul­ing oli­garchy will find less ardu­ous and waste­ful ways of gov­ern­ing and of sat­is­fy­ing its lust for pow­er, and these ways will resem­ble those which I described in Brave New World.” (Lis­ten to him read a dra­ma­tized ver­sion of the book here.)

Basi­cal­ly while prais­ing Nine­teen Eighty-Four, Hux­ley argues that his ver­sion of the future was more like­ly to come to pass.

In Hux­ley’s seem­ing­ly dystopic World State, the elite amuse the mass­es into sub­mis­sion with a mind-numb­ing drug called Soma and an end­less buf­fet of casu­al sex. Orwell’s Ocea­nia, on the oth­er hand, keeps the mass­es in check with fear thanks to an end­less war and a hyper-com­pe­tent sur­veil­lance state. At first blush, they might seem like they are dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed but, in fact, an Orwellian world and a Hux­leyan one are sim­ply two dif­fer­ent modes of oppres­sion.

Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision but the pow­er of both books is that they tap into our fears of the state. While Hux­ley might make you look askance at The Bach­e­lor or Face­book, Orwell makes you recoil in hor­ror at the gov­ern­ment throw­ing around phras­es like “enhanced inter­ro­ga­tion” and “sur­gi­cal drone strikes.”

You can read Huxley’s full let­ter below.

Wright­wood. Cal.

21 Octo­ber, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your pub­lish­ers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much read­ing and con­sult­ing of ref­er­ences; and since poor sight makes it nec­es­sary for me to ration my read­ing, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nine­teen Eighty-Four.

Agree­ing with all that the crit­ics have writ­ten of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how pro­found­ly impor­tant the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ulti­mate rev­o­lu­tion? The first hints of a phi­los­o­phy of the ulti­mate rev­o­lu­tion — the rev­o­lu­tion which lies beyond pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics, and which aims at total sub­ver­sion of the indi­vid­u­al’s psy­chol­o­gy and phys­i­ol­o­gy — are to be found in the Mar­quis de Sade, who regard­ed him­self as the con­tin­u­a­tor, the con­sum­ma­tor, of Robe­spierre and Babeuf. The phi­los­o­phy of the rul­ing minor­i­ty in Nine­teen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been car­ried to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion by going beyond sex and deny­ing it. Whether in actu­al fact the pol­i­cy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indef­i­nite­ly seems doubt­ful. My own belief is that the rul­ing oli­garchy will find less ardu­ous and waste­ful ways of gov­ern­ing and of sat­is­fy­ing its lust for pow­er, and these ways will resem­ble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occa­sion recent­ly to look into the his­to­ry of ani­mal mag­net­ism and hyp­no­tism, and have been great­ly struck by the way in which, for a hun­dred and fifty years, the world has refused to take seri­ous cog­nizance of the dis­cov­er­ies of Mes­mer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Part­ly because of the pre­vail­ing mate­ri­al­ism and part­ly because of pre­vail­ing respectabil­i­ty, nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry philoso­phers and men of sci­ence were not will­ing to inves­ti­gate the odd­er facts of psy­chol­o­gy for prac­ti­cal men, such as politi­cians, sol­diers and police­men, to apply in the field of gov­ern­ment. Thanks to the vol­un­tary igno­rance of our fathers, the advent of the ulti­mate rev­o­lu­tion was delayed for five or six gen­er­a­tions. Anoth­er lucky acci­dent was Freud’s inabil­i­ty to hyp­no­tize suc­cess­ful­ly and his con­se­quent dis­par­age­ment of hyp­no­tism. This delayed the gen­er­al appli­ca­tion of hyp­no­tism to psy­chi­a­try for at least forty years. But now psy­cho-analy­sis is being com­bined with hyp­no­sis; and hyp­no­sis has been made easy and indef­i­nite­ly exten­si­ble through the use of bar­bi­tu­rates, which induce a hyp­noid and sug­gestible state in even the most recal­ci­trant sub­jects.

With­in the next gen­er­a­tion I believe that the world’s rulers will dis­cov­er that infant con­di­tion­ing and nar­co-hyp­no­sis are more effi­cient, as instru­ments of gov­ern­ment, than clubs and pris­ons, and that the lust for pow­er can be just as com­plete­ly sat­is­fied by sug­gest­ing peo­ple into lov­ing their servi­tude as by flog­ging and kick­ing them into obe­di­ence. In oth­er words, I feel that the night­mare of Nine­teen Eighty-Four is des­tined to mod­u­late into the night­mare of a world hav­ing more resem­blance to that which I imag­ined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased effi­cien­cy. Mean­while, of course, there may be a large scale bio­log­i­cal and atom­ic war — in which case we shall have night­mares of oth­er and scarce­ly imag­in­able kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sin­cere­ly,

Aldous Hux­ley

via Let­ters of Note

Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Orwell Explains in a Reveal­ing 1944 Let­ter Why He’d Write 1984

Hear Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and 84 Clas­sic Radio Dra­mas from CBS Radio Work­shop (1956–57)

Aldous Huxley’s Most Beau­ti­ful, LSD-Assist­ed Death: A Let­ter from His Wid­ow

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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Comments (75)
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  • Bill W. says:

    Hux­ley’s vision of the future may have been bet­ter, but Orwell’s descrip­tion was more accu­rate, and we’re liv­ing it today. Between the two, Orwell was the prophet.

  • Andrew A says:

    “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision…” Real­ly? Per­haps (as oth­ers have argued), we have end­ed up in a strange hybrid of the two.

  • Mia says:

    I agree that con­tem­po­rary soci­ety is the com­bined of the two sto­ries.

  • Emily says:

    This is a fas­ci­nat­ing insight into the rela­tion­ship between these two leviathan writers.But your head­line is disingenuous.I per­ceive Hux­ley’s let­ter to be a dis­cus­sion of the ideas the two of them were expound­ing and explor­ing with­in these two works of fic­tion, cer­tain­ly not a com­pet­i­tive goad­ing of the Orwell.
    I can only feel glad for you that you think “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision but the pow­er of both books is that they tap into our fears of the state.”
    I’d sug­gest that we are much clos­er than we would care to admit and per­haps we’d stand more of a chance of sur­vival of free­doms and lib­er­ties if both of these books were required read­ing or viewing(if a suc­cess­ful­ly truth­full ver­sion of either were drama­tised)

  • Juan Carlos says:

    Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision…
    This state­ment can’t be far­ther from the truth, Do you ignore what’s hap­pen­ing in our soci­ety? If you think you are not adict­ed to soma, reach for your iPhone, that lit­tle expen­sive thing con­trols you, it is used to con­trol you and your life swirls arround it, look arround, we are adict­ed to con­sume things that enslave us, just like soma, Actu­aly, I think the por­trait of the soci­ety described by Hux­ley on brave new world is very close to what we are now in almost every way.

  • MIke says:

    As usu­al the author over­looks the oth­er great nov­el of a dystopi­an future, “Play­er Piano” by Kurt Von­negut. In Von­negut’s vision of the future the mass­es are sup­pressed by eco­nom­ic fac­tors. It is unfor­tu­nate “Play­er Piano” is so often ignored. I con­sid­er it a nec­es­sary book of the 20th cen­tu­ry dystopia genre.

  • John says:

    “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision”

    Oh please. We have a per­fect mix of the two. Con­sumers sat­ed by a non-stop deliv­ery of mind­less plea­sur­ing prod­ucts, and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly kept in a con­tin­u­ous state of fear via a non-ana­lyt­i­cal, emo­tion-tug­ging 24 hour news cycle.

    We may not be com­plete­ly “there”, but we are cer­tain­ly MUCH clos­er than “nowhere near”.

  • CS says:

    They each envi­sioned their own ver­sion of a night­mar­ish dystopi­an future, hop­ing to alert us to not let things get so far. Well, we not only ignored their prophet­ic warn­ings, but some­how we man­aged to design a soci­ety in which we live a very strange and some­times real­ly scary hybrid of both worlds. There are clear ele­ments of both books in our present lives and we still seem to be in a severe state of denial. Sad…

  • bert says:

    I think in this analy­sis, one MUST take into con­sid­er­a­tion the sovi­et ver­sion by ZAMYATIN enti­tled WE.

  • Johnny says:

    Of course the doom­say­ers and alarmists chirp in… If you think we are near either dystopia then you need to adjust your per­spec­tive. Sure, one can see a tra­jec­to­ry towards either, but com­pare what east, west & europe have now to the past and you can see an impres­sive tra­jec­to­ry of progress. Free­doms and stan­dards are quite com­fy. If you com­pare an iphone to soma you are the def­i­n­i­tion of alarmist. Tech­nol­o­gy is extreme­ly empow­er­ing and I’m sure Hux­ley or Orwell would be adjust­ing their per­spec­tives of the future a fair amount if they could wit­ness the progress made since their pass­ing. I find The Island was much more prophet­ic than Brave new World.

  • Frantz says:

    Orwell had the exam­ple of the Sovi­et Union in the 30’s to draw from. And while he could be con­sid­ered a prophet for the lat­ter part of the 20th cen­tu­ry, Hux­ley will be the prophet for the 21st. Not in wide­spread use of genet­ic con­di­tion­ing per­haps, but cer­tain­ly in the use of plea­sure and the pro­mo­tion of apa­thy as means to con­trol the mass­es.

  • Mike says:

    Not nec­es­sar­i­ly. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal busi­ness is a 2 bil­lion dol­lar com­pa­ny annu­al­ly in the Unit­ed States alone. There are lit­er­al­ly mil­lions of peo­ple, school chil­dren and recent birth moth­ers on psy­chotrop­ic drugs. Drugs are the scourge of Mankind and these mind alter­ing sub­stances are destroy­ing peo­ples fam­i­lies and their per­son­al lives. Sol­diers in the mil­i­tary are on 10 or more of these drugs being dri­ven to insan­i­ty and men­tal roboti­cism. This has become a huge prob­lem.

  • Kevin Patrick McCarthy says:

    Sheesh! No one has sub­tle­ty of mind any­more. It’s all, “Hey, Hux­ley dissed Orwell!” Baloney. Read the let­ter again. Hux saw the valid­i­ty of both sad sce­nar­ios — he just said 1984 would like­ly morph (can’t say “evolve”) into BRAVE NEW WORLD. He was right. Fur­ther, you should read AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH — the best non­fic­tion book writ­ten in the last 40 years, IMHO. Neil Post­man does a mas­ter­ful job of com­par­ing the two books. Long-term, BNW is much more like­ly. And fright­en­ing. And what’s more, we’re well on our way. Large­ly because no one knows how to think any­more. It’s all, “Hey, Hux­ley …”

  • Philip Kemp says:

    This is a great item. I am sur­prised there was no men­tion of Hux­ley’s post apoc­a­lyp­tic nov­el “Ape and Essence”, in which he explores the after­math of, ” a large scale bio­log­i­cal and atom­ic war…”. From what i under­stand “Ape and Essence” was Hux­ley’s attempt to adjust the hor­rid vision of the future he offered in “Brave New World”, con­sid­er­ing the globe alter­ing events of the sec­ond World War and the onset of the nuclear arms race which was char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Cold War.

  • Dan King says:

    I do believe the state­ment “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision” is a bit wide of the mark. Can you seri­ous­ly say you can look at 21st cen­tu­ry west­ern soci­ety and even began to claim that it does not exhib­it many of the hall­marks of a total­i­tar­i­an soci­ety as laid out in both books. One exam­ple of this is the fact that Leo Strauss, the polit­i­cal philoso­pher who laid the ground­work of US neo-con ide­ol­o­gy, claimed that one of the bet­ter ways to con­trol and uni­fy a pop­u­la­tion is to have a per­pet­u­al ene­my. This is akin to Orwells idea of per­pet­u­al war, and it is also akin to what has hap­pened in real­i­ty, the war on drugs and the war on ter­ror being two very good exam­ples. I could go on but I but I can­not be arsed.

    PS: Dystopic is not a word, it’s Dystopi­an.

  • Alex says:

    Well, it is not with­out Rea­son,
    that Hux­ley wrote a sequel,

    Brave New World revis­it­ed,
    (ISBN 0–06-095551–1)
    where he com­pares the two books in hind­sight, yup,

    so your arti­cle does­n’t sur­prise at all!

    Noth­ing new there.

    1984.… well I guess North Korea, but, then all the West­ern World is Hap­pi­ly liv­ing in the Brave new world.
    all-in and full time, just don’t see it yet.
    Sim­ple fact.

    Don’t wor­ry, there are still a few Sav­age Reser­va­tion left for the non par­tic­i­pat­ing.

  • monologician says:

    Spot on.

  • Fionio says:

    “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision”
    What?? Open your eyes! Both are in full flow

  • Bob Walton says:

    That is a real­ly good arti­cle, how­ev­er I find the notice­able act of using the neol­o­gism for Dystopia.
    Hey, I use neol­o­gisms all the time, though only in dia­logue.

  • bus griffith says:

    Orwell saw a future where the truth would be spun into Newspeak. Hux­ley saw a future where the truth would be drowned in a sea of insignif­i­cance. Today, both authors were cor­rect because the News is told the way the Cor­po­rate Adver­tis­ers want it told, and News sto­ries are mixed in with mul­ti­tudes of Non-News Sto­ries to water down their impact on those not too busy to watch. My favorite though is Orwell’s “Ani­mal Farm.” It lays bare the truth about pol­i­tics and how pow­er cor­rupts, about revi­sion­ist his­to­ry, about bro­ken polit­i­cal promis­es, and about how those that would rule are often unfit to do so, in one way or anoth­er.

  • Angela says:

    I agree

  • Richard says:

    We have a chance to save our­selves by doing exact­ly what those in pow­er have always done, which is to cre­ate a net­work. Oth­er­wise we are just grist for the mill. This is the essence of The God­fa­ther. The nov­el is clear­er than the films about this.

  • Aditya says:

    Hey, thanks for men­tion­ing play­er piano, i’mn a big fan of BNW and 1984, will read the Von­negut book ASAP

  • Robert says:

    “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision but the pow­er of both books is that they tap into our fears of the state.”

    Obvi­ous­ly both were excru­ci­at­ing­ly accu­rate and eeri­ly rem­nis­cent to our own real­i­ty. Big broth­er (NSA, DoD, CIA, TSA), caste sys­tems, body/genetic mod­i­fi­ca­tion, big phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies sell­ing us sub­stances that por­tray the pos­si­bil­i­ty of lead­ing a bet­ter life while slow­ly killing us in actu­al­i­ty… They both accu­rate­ly por­trayed our impend­ing doom by over 100 years.

    You’d have to be naive to miss the warn­ings resid­ing with­in both of these mas­ter­ful pieces. They were born of genius, and with them did it die.

  • sublithium says:

    I like this tid­bit. I think what this rep­re­sents to me is 2 men who agree on where these kinds of things lead but take 2 dif­fer­ent routes to get to the same point. Inter­est­ing because that is the way our (in the U.S.) polit­i­cal par­ties used to work. Now we not only have 2 dif­fer­ent paths, but we also have 2 dif­fer­ent end goals with each par­ty attempt­ing to make the oth­ers path and end game appear as hell. The fun­ny part of it all is which ever route we choose will still end in the same unwant­ed goal of a totalitarian.….hell.

    I would say that these guys were sort of genius prophets but actu­al­ly, by the time these guys pub­lished their thoughts, human his­to­ry had already gone through a lot of this stuff over and over again so the “prophe­cy” of their works and the praised heaped upon them is inter­est­ing. My guess is that the praise they recieved gave them some joy at the inside joke of exact­ly why these things repeat them­selves in his­to­ry. Peo­ple are fick­le crea­tures that do not learn from mis­takes and “prophe­cy,” is just a retelling of the past more than a pre­dic­tion of the future.

    My guess is that they laugh at us ( or recoil in hor­ror) when they see what is going on in the world today. They would prob­a­bly say that there is a very good rea­son that a lot of things are going on at this very spe­cif­ic time in His­to­ry. It is no coin­ci­dence that on the sun­set of what we call,“The Great­est Gen­er­a­tion,” who lived through and fought an apoc­a­lyp­tic war which left at least 10’s of mil­lions of peo­ple dead,that we see what we see. Rus­sia is look­ing aggres­sive once again, Iran nears nuclear weapons, North Korea and Pak­istan have nuclear weapons, many in the west want to pun­ish those that are suc­cess­ful, and a group of ter­ror­ists are on the march in the mid­dle east. There are so many par­al­lels going on and we raised a gen­er­a­tion of idiots that refuse to read the writ­ings on the wall and the mantra of “nev­er for­get,” that was past on. We find our­selves for­get­ting once again!

  • Claude says:

    ‘Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision’ — bull­shit, we’re exact­ly right there!

  • Hugo Alberto Damelles says:

    Sor­ry but I have to argue. We are liv­ing in Brave New World, and instead of mak­ing Ford a God we are mak­ing Steve Jobs. In Huxley´s book real­ly not any infor­ma­tion was cen­sored, just peo­ple don’t think that it was impor­tant. Tec­nol­o­gy was all for them, like now (i don’t know any­one that don’t want an Iphone). Clothes aren’t fixed cuase they just buy new ones, like in our world. Each thing is descartable. They were learnt to live in a con­sum­ism world and don’t ques­tion it, like now. They are taught to be hap­py doing things that are pre­de­temit­ed for them, sep­a­rat­ing them in cas­tas (alpha, beta, etc), like now we want a poor hap­py of being poor. Sor­ry Bill but I think that you live on a buble.

  • Misthiocracy says:

    One can eas­i­ly inter­pret Brave New World as depict­ing a world with no crime, no pover­ty, no hunger, no war, no want, no sad­ness, no vio­lence, etc, where even those who rebel are not pun­ished but rather are reward­ed by being moved to a enclave set aside for free-thinkers like them­selves.

    How, exact­ly, does that count as a “dystopia”?

  • Oracle says:

    I just read the entire let­ter. It’s a very polite and respect­ful piece of cor­re­spon­dence. One great thinker talk­ing freely to anoth­er. And he does­n’t claim to be bet­ter, or more cor­rect — he sur­mis­es that a soci­ety like the one in 1984 would like­ly under­go a grad­ual change that would turn into one like in Brave New World.

    Per­haps he was right, in a sense. Instead of actu­al­ly think­ing about the con­tent of the let­ter, our first instinct is to gos­sip about a few lines from a per­son­al let­ter, which maybe sort of could be read as mild claims of supe­ri­or­i­ty because they’re tak­en out of their con­text.

    These were great thinkers, do you think that in their years of study and obser­va­tion they had not mas­tered the skill of assum­ing dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives? They’re fic­tion writ­ers.
    This is just a let­ter from one great thinker to anoth­er, about a top­ic in which both they’re clear­ly inter­est­ed.

    At worst it could be called con­struc­tive crit­i­cism.
    At very worst it’s just a rea­son to in com­ment sec­tions.

  • Oracle says:

    Also, the peo­ple in pow­er have read both those books, prob­a­bly.

  • Mark Waterhouse says:

    Orwell was­n’t pre­dict­ing a future in 1984, he reversed 1948 for the title and was refer­ring to what was already hap­pen­ing.

  • ctodd says:

    Came here to say this, yes.

  • ctodd says:

    oooops, my reply does not appear beneath the remark I am refer­ring to! Came here to lam­baste the writer for say­ing, “Obvi­ous­ly…” This—or some com­bi­na­tion thereof—is exact­ly where we are head­ed! If we’re not there already.

  • paul says:

    Hux­ley argued in the let­ter that Orwell’s vision would morph into his Brave New World, by a per­ceived
    desire by the elites for a more effi­cient method of con­trol; they are not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive. Did­n’t you read the letter/article?

  • Denny says:

    The two visions work togeth­er to pre­dict the car­rot and stick ver­sion of con­trol that is cur­rent­ly being imple­ment­ed.

  • José San Vicente says:

    En cor­re­spon­den­cia con los comen­tar­ios vivi­mos una per­fec­ta mez­cla entre los mun­dos descritos por Orwell y Hux­ley. En el cual las dro­gas, medios y la propia com­puta­do­ra cumplen el cometi­do de hac­er real­i­dad las predic­ciones de los escritores.
    Creo que en la lista de los nar­radores de nue­stro mun­do actu­al fal­tan varias nov­e­las de antic­i­pación entre ellas la potente de Ray Brad­bury Faren­heit 451.

  • Shabb says:

    The broth­ers Stru­gatzky’s almost all the books might be added to the list as well (just rec­ol­lect­ing their hyp­no­tiz­ing tow­ers radi­at­ing “truth” twice a day makes me trem­ble).

  • dex weis says:

    Cau­tion­ary tales both. Orwell’s satir­ic. Hux­ley’s fan­tas­tic.

  • Alison says:

    It seems to me, between the proven nar­cot­ic effects of sug­ar and HFCS added to every­thing, tv turn­ing our brains off, jobs and life that are built to take all per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty away while hav­ing laws that see any­one with more than 3 days water to be flagged as pos­si­ble ter­ror­ist (sur­vival­ist sort) when any ‘ter­ror­ist’ can be detained with­out tri­al for an unlim­it­ed amount of time all puts togeth­er to say we are, right now, liv­ing in a mix of these real­i­ties. Turn off or else you have rea­son to be afraid. Turn on the news and you’ll see why these wars that we must stop, must pro­tect our­selves at any means nec­es­sary. Get all the ‘bad guys’.

    But that’s ok. You can just eat some cake and turn on The Biggest Los­er and you’ll feel good again. Every­thing will be ok… just don’t think about how your phone, which is now absolute­ly nec­es­sary to take every­where (includ­ing the bath­room), is being tracked and even start­ing to map out hous­es and build­ings.

  • Jacob E says:

    You are utter­ly wrong to say that we are no where near the dystopi­an future in which Orwell described.

  • M says:

    Of course Hunger Games has both.

  • Jim53 says:

    It seems to me that the writer of this arti­cle is using irony when he says: “Obvi­ous­ly…”. You only have to look at what he says in the pre­vi­ous sen­tences and the con­text in gen­er­al.

  • @joanpla says:

    As Kevin Patrick McCarthy point­ed out here in the com­ments, for a con­densed and incred­i­bly lucid com­par­i­son between Orwell and Hux­ley books just read the fore­word of Neil Post­man’s “Amus­ing Our­selves to Death” (1985):

  • DK says:

    both are right just look around you 1984 is hap­pen­ing and lead­ing to hux­ley’s vision all accord­ing to both of them.

  • zjas says:

    Yep. Agree. 1000% The ques­tion is, so… what do we do about it? I’ve tow hopes. Uni­ty — Grass root, momen­tunm to rid our sys­tem of the snakes that slith­ered into it, and #BernieSanders2016.

  • Will says:

    I’d love to know why the author thinks we’re “nowhere near” the dystopic states described in these books.

  • Kyle says:

    Does any­one know if Orwell respond­ed to Hux­ley’s let­ter? I would love to read that.

  • Donna Felker says:

    I would be very inter­est­ed in Orwell’s response as well!

  • Jack says:

    I and I think many oth­ers would argue the mod­ern enter­tain­ment com­plex has grown to assume a role very sim­i­lar to Soma’s in Brave New World, and is a far more preva­lent & pow­er­ful sub­ju­ga­tor than any aggres­sive police tac­tics we see these days (at east in the First World.)

  • david gamble says:

    We live in the inter­face. It’s sym­bi­ot­ic. They need each oth­er.

  • E says:

    Yes, plus Orwell ‘bor­rowed’ a lot from Zamy­at­in’s ‘We’.

  • E says:

    Sor­ry, my com­ment was in reply to:

    bert says:

    March 17, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I think in this analy­sis, one MUST take into con­sid­er­a­tion the sovi­et ver­sion by ZAMYATIN enti­tled WE.

  • Fernando Jr. says:

    I’m not so sure, both cre­at­ed exag­ger­at­ed modes of opres­sion, we can per­ceive low­er degrees of those in mod­ern soci­ety, whether it is through plea­sure or fear, we are being con­trolled

  • Liall Linz says:

    I, too, am of the opin­ion that we cur­rent­ly have a hybrid (of sorts) of the two.

  • Simon says:

    Hux­ley’s “Brave new world” was prob­a­bly a pla­giat of pol­ish writer M.Smolarski and his 2 nov­els from 1024 and 1928.

  • Sterling says:

    What a garbage head­line. Did the writer of this even read what Hux­ley wrote? He did­n’t say his vision was bet­ter.

    Learn to read before writ­ing syn­opses of oth­ers words.

  • Aylithe Z. says:

    Read “The Sheep Look Up” eas­i­ly the sin­gle most under­rat­ed nov­el of the genre

  • Randy Crawford says:

    I won­der what Hux­ley would have made of Edward Bernays, the father of pub­lic rela­tions and con­sumerism — ide­al­ly sus­tain­able real­iza­tions of Hux­ley’s “ulti­mate rev­o­lu­tion” because they seem vol­un­tary.

  • jeff goldblum says:

    “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision”


  • Scott B. says:

    This let­ter may give insight to why Orwell wrote Ani­mal Farm a year lat­er, describ­ing two dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment styles but get­ting the same bad results.

    As for today, there does seem to be a “Newspeak” devel­op­ing among the media and the admin­is­tra­tion. Thus, Orwell was spot on.

  • dawg says:

    you haven’t read Hux­ley and it shows.

  • Ersan Seer says:

    Thanks John­ny, for sav­ing me from hav­ing to type what you said. :)

  • Quique says:

    Oth­er read­ers have point­ed out that our con­tem­po­rary soci­ety is a mix of the two dystopias.

    I would argue that it is a mix of (at least) three, Play­er Piano being the most accu­rate for the years to come.

  • Pancho Stanza says:

    “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopia vision”

    Not real­ly obvi­ous at all.

  • Ess Thoms says:

    Hux­ley was right.

  • Ian says:

    “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision but the pow­er of both books is that they tap into our fears of the state.” <- LMAO, are you seri­ous?

  • Ian says:

    also, Idioc­ra­cy

  • Davide Pintus says:

    I def­i­nite­ly believe the oppo­site — we are drugged by enter­tain­men, unheal­ty diets and lifestyles. Per­son­al rela­tion­ships and fam­i­ly mat­ter less and less. Def­i­nite­ly clos­er to BNW.
    Not that there aren’t plen­ty of ele­ments of 1984 going around, espe­cial­ly the manip­u­la­tion of lan­guage.

  • dave kuzee says:

    Per­son­al­ly i have always felt that ‘brave new world’ would be the log­i­cal out­come of ‘1984’. You can keep peo­ple down for a long time but ulti­mate­ly they will resist and rebel against oppres­sion. The only way to keep ‘them’ hap­py is to give them indul­gences so they can have a sem­b­lence of free­dom even if they are not. I hope this will not come to pass but we are already liv­ing in the dystopia sketched by Orwell and if human­i­ty does not stand up to it’s rulers then i fear ‘a brave new world’ will be the dystopi­an future of the human race.

  • Ric says:

    This is the line — and the thought that stopped me in my tracks and from a lit­er­ary per­spec­tive, grabbed me by the throat as I start­ed read­ing this arti­cle. “Obvi­ous­ly we are nowhere near either dystopic vision…” may be the sin­gle most naive state­ment of denial I’ve ever read. The state­ment itself is more fright­en­ing than either of the sto­ries it refers to because it is the actu­al phys­i­cal world denial of real­i­ty we are liv­ing today, a denial that opens the door to more extreme forms of oppres­sion.

  • It’s Jan­u­ary 2017 and Don­ald Trump is Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. Whether the cur­rent sce­nario more resem­bles Ani­mal Farm, We, Brave New World, or 1984 I don’t want to get into. But the night­mare has arrived in real­i­ty. From “alter­na­tive facts” to the Pres­i­den­t’s chief advis­er telling the free press to “shut up,” our expe­ri­ence is dai­ly out­rage and a strange pow­er­less­ness, except for very vocal resis­tance ftom the cit­i­zen­ry and a few if our politi­cians. We are resist­ing, and our jour­nal­ists are resist­ing. But we are also being worn down. A minor­i­ty vot­ed in what a major­i­ty do not want, a Pres­i­dent and a Con­gress that want to gov­ern like an abuser, clos­ing off dis­sent and dif­fer­ence and, per­haps even­tu­al­ly, avenues of escape. We see where this is going but not how to stop total­i­tar­i­an­ism in its tracks. I hope we sur­vive this Amer­i­can hell.

  • Gina Hanson says:

    That was a very inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion. I am excit­ed to add all those books men­tioned onto my TBR. Thanks!

  • Viva Hoffmann says:

    Obvi­ous­ly both ver­sions of the Future are with us today.

  • Stephen says:

    I would have to agree with you that we are expe­ri­enc­ing some sort of hybrid where the glob­al­ists are using Huxley’s vision where­by we are inun­dat­ed with infor­ma­tion, so much so, that we can’t pay atten­tion to one sub­ject mat­ter for more than a day and we’re on to the next one. Which in a sense cheap­ens each indi­vid­ual cir­cum­stance and sit­u­a­tion. With this abil­i­ty to con­trol the media the glob­al­ists are using it as a “boot on the face” of us all. I’m not cer­tain if it’s bet­ter to have a soft boot on your face where we will­ing­ly except the ever encroach­ing police state, Or hav­ing a com­bat boot stomp­ing on your head. I sup­pose the lat­ter would be intol­er­a­ble after a cer­tain amount of time we’re peo­ple will invari­ably stack up at the bot­tom and decide to flip the entire game over and take their chances on hav­ing a bet­ter life once the struc­tures of pow­er have been dis­man­tled. Unfor­tu­nate­ly at this time there isn’t a coher­ent struc­ture to replace exist­ing one to fill the vac­u­um that will be cre­at­ed by flip­ping the game. Quite a conun­drum indeed.

  • Milton Arinofsky says:

    Fun­ny, how Aldous Hux­ley was both right and wrong. Right in his book but wrong about why his book is more accu­rate than Orwell’s…And in the end, as we approach this dystopia ever-faster, it seems they were both right in their orig­i­nal nov­els. What we have here, in our mod­ern world, is a mix­ture of both.

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