Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England, human society has had to struggle to adapt to new technology. There is a shift from traditional society to a modern one. Within the last ten years we have seen tremendous advances in science and technology, and we are becoming more and more socially dependent on it. In the Brave New World, Huxley states that we are moving in the direction of Utopia much more rapidly than anyone had ever anticipated. Its goal is achieving happiness by giving up science, art, religion and other things we cherish in our world. It is an inhumane society controlled by technology where human beings are produced on assembly line. His prophetic elements of human beings being conditioned, the concerns for the environment, importance of genetic engineering and reproduction, and our physical and mental development has now been one of the major factors that the governments, businesses and educational institutions are exploiting today. We are subconsciously moving to this bureaucracy of conformity, and Brave New World is a wake up call from our obsessions of standardization socially, economically and politically.
The story took place in A.F (After Ford) 632, this is 632years after Ford has released the first T-ford. Huxley used “After Ford”to show its great advancement in making automobiles as a company over the years. In 1932, Huxley introduced Brave New World to show his great concern of the Western civilization. He saw that in the 1900s there was a dramatic economic change in different countries, where the wholesalers are being eliminated, and manufacturers selling directly to the consumers. For example, at that time Ford makes cars and even sells them. They control who and where they sell. Technology and transportation was increasing tremendously, which caused more and bigger factories, mass-productions (eg. automobiles), and more manufactured goods. There were more volumes of trade and production due to more machinery. As markets are growing, activities, structures, as well as attitudes towards companies are changing. Robert Heibroner suggests that “the rise of such giant enterprises has changed the face of capitalism as they attempt to alter the market setting through a system of public and private planning (p.43).” Like the video Turbulence, companies sees exportation as a good thing and importation as a disadvantage. It is a “Faceless Structure”, the company didn’t see the workers in Thailand as human,they saw them as robots where there are no human rights. There was horrible working and living conditions and huge social problems. Capitalism has caused a wider wealth gap since the rich get richer and the poor gets poorer. People moved from rural to urban areas and individuals are exploited, each molded with the same mask. We grew more and more dependent on technology, as it seems to make things more efficient. Huxley sees people are losing more and more of their individuality as they are performing assembly line tasks where rules and regulations are standardized. He saw the threat to man’s independence and freedom and writes this book as a warning. He said, “ Science and technology should be servants of man-man should not be adapted and enslaved to them.”
In Brave New World, the motto is Community, Identity, and Stability. It believes it is in the Utopia state, which means “no place” in Greek. The World State would only tolerate a single political ideology. This system of bureaucracy constructs the community as a whole, where a person is prevented from solitude. The identities of the individuals are invented already before the artificial reproduction, where they are computed to conform. Those who are indifferent and do not follow the rules and regulations are regarded as outcasts. Most important of all, this society emphasizes on stability. In order to prevent conflict, risk and change, genetically identical “individuals” are produced. It sees that conformity is the key to keeping the society in peace- free from war, love, and hate.
The government in the Brave New World gives orders to Hatchery and Conditioning Centre to produce a certain number for individuals with a predetermined set of abilities, characteristics and beliefs. The director states that, “All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny.” There is no true freedom in this society but the environment blinds the individuals. There’s also no true happiness since they have no emotions, and are dependent on a drug called soma (like LSD in our world). All of this may sound quite familiar. So are we really living in a world different from them? If you look at the hippies, they are quite similar to the people in Brave New World. They too, used drugs to gain happiness and considered themselves as a group more than individual. They longed for peace, love and unity. We may have more human rights and laws, that gives us freedom of speech and religion, but a lot of times we are sheltered by the truth. Journalism is a fine example of this. It informs and notifies events that takes place in our society, but propaganda still exists in some countries today. The Utopia world abolishes people’s knowledge of History to prevent from people wanting to change the present. It is similar to the big tragedy in 1964 in China eliminated the outside world’s knowledge of the big protest in China by university students at Tiananmen Square, where they were slaughtered by the military. The government tried to alter the truth to prevent the history from happening again. The idea of Social Activism in both worlds are hostile as it is a sign of people causing trouble as they want to stand up for their rights and change things. In our society, each and every one of us are trying to be different and wanted to be treated as an unique individual. I think we are not much better than the society of Brave New World. The Capitalist society we are living in are dominated by ones who have money. Working in assembly lines and doing the same monotonous work over and over again has taken away our individuality. This bureaucracy has no room for exceptions and individuality, as well as non-accountability. This competition between businesses to gain profit and for own self-interest leads to inequality, immorality of hierarchy, exploitation, and alienation. It gave technology a great boost and as Smith said “dismantle the state bureaucracy and leaving economic decisions to free play of self regulating market forces.”
We are conditioned in ways that don’t really notice, just like the individuals in the Brave New World. For example, advertising is to inform consumers so they can buy the goods. We are manipulated by the images and many false advertising is introduced in order to increase sales. We do not have perfect information. Years ago, advertisers used subliminal messages to lure consumers to buy their goods. These hidden messages like, “buy popcorn” on theatre screen while a movie is playing and in response people will have the urge to go purchase the popcorn. This psychological technique is similar to hypnopaedia, a sleeping conditioning for individuals in the Brave New World. The World State plants suggestion that will make them behave in a certain way. Like our world, man’s chief importance is his ability to produce and consume manufactured good. This psychological manipulation takes place among our world to benefit shareholders and businesses and much of the morality is lost in the way work is done.
This novel contributes to Huxley’s expression of his beliefs and concerns for our fast growing society in technology and science. Year by year we see more and more of Huxley’s fantasy becoming reality. He sense the danger of our Capitalist society, which is dependent on technology and becoming a dehumanizing force. He portrays the society negatively with people who depend on drugs that evoke pleasure, produce humans in factories, and conditioning that replaces families. Our history shows the evolution of the business process and the change in attitudes towards the society. It is bureaucracy where the citizens of Utopia are to conform to rules and regulations and hostile to change. We must ask ourselves, do we have as much freedom as we think we do? Are we much better off than we are before (in terms of wealth, happiness, etc)? Are we too reliant on technology and science? Where is our individuality? Where is the tradeoff? How can we change to stop ourselves from moving toward the so-called “Utopia”society? It seems that we too, are living in an incubator, trapped and conditioned, and we must do something to stop this from happening.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperPerennial, 1946.
Sexty,Robert. “Overview of the Business System” ,in Canadian Business and Society, Prentice-Hall, Scarborough, Ontario, 1995, pp5-22
Steiner,G.A. and Steiner,J.F., “Critics of Business”, in Business,Government and Society: A Managerial Perspective, 8th ed., McGraw-Hill, 1997.pp,69-90