World state in Brave New World

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The World State is the primary setting of Aldous Huxley's 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World. In the novel, the World State is a unified government which administers the entire planet, with a few isolated exceptions.

The motto of the World State is Community, Identity, Stability.

History[edit]

The citizens of the World State use a calendar which takes the year 1908 AD ("0 AF" - "After Ford") as its starting point, as this was the first year in which the Model T automobile was produced by the Ford Motor Company. According to the novel, the "Nine Years' War" broke out in Year 141 AF (2049 AD of the Gregorian calendar). Very little is revealed of the Nine Years' War, but it can be inferred that the conflict broke out in Europe, affected most of the planet, and caused massive physical damage. It is repeatedly stated that chemical and biological weapons were heavily used during the war, particularly in mass air-raids against cities, similar to the portrayal of World War III. Following the war, which seems to have petered out rather than been ended by a decisive victory, the global economy collapsed and created an unprecedented worldwide economic crisis. To deal with the two catastrophes of the Nine Years' War and the Great Economic Collapse, the new world leaders tried to forcibly impose their new ideologies on Earth's populations. This met with widespread resistance, including large-scale riots at Golders Green and a massacre at the British Museum. Realising that they could not force people to adopt the new lifestyle, the World Controllers instead united the planet into the One World State and began a peaceful campaign of change. This campaign included the closing of museums, the suppression of almost all literature published before 150 AF (2058 AD), and the destruction of the few historical world monuments that had survived the Nine Years' War. By the time the novel is set, the World State is fully established and almost all the people of Earth are citizens.

Political geography[edit]

At the time of the novel, the entire planet is united as the World State, governed by ten World Controllers, headquartered in various key cities. Prospective World Controllers are recruited from social outcasts who display unconventional thoughts. A few isolated areas have been left as "savage reservations", including parts of New Mexico, Samoa, and a small group of islands off the coast of New Guinea. Toward the end of the novel, a conversation between John and Western Europe's World Controller, Mustapha Mond, reveals further details of the World State's political geography. Mond explains that certain areas which have very few resources or languish in unpleasant climates are not "civilised" by the government, as it would be uneconomical. Subsequently, these areas are left as reservations, and local life continues—albeit under constant surveillance by the World State. Small islands across the planet, such as the Falkland Islands, Iceland, and the Marquesas Islands, are reserved for citizens of the World State who do not wish to live in, or do not fit into the normal society.

Population[edit]

The two billion citizens of the World State constitute a eusocial consumer society whose individuals are produced in hatcheries by application of "Bokanovsky's"[1] and other techniques to the hatchery line to produce the five classes or castes named after letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and epsilon, respectively. Society is controlled by Alphas and their subordinates, Betas. Below them, in descending order of intelligence and physique, are Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. Each caste is further subdivided into Plus and Minus (with Epsilons having the additional classifications of regular or semi-moron), and are distinguished by colour-coded work clothes. Epsilons are dressed in black, Deltas in khaki, Gammas in leaf green, Betas in mulberry, and Alphas in grey. At the very pinnacle of society sit Alpha Double-Plus, who serve as the future scientists and top administrators of the world. Citizens in the World State of all castes are not born to a mother, but instead created in laboratories through a process of artificial insemination. They are then grown to 'birth' in bottles, the bottles being treated in a manner similar to a production line. Fetuses are pre-determined to be born into specific caste and 'lower' castes such as Deltas or Epsilons are interfered with during development in order to restrict their mental and physical development (for example by adding alcohol to their bottle). People in different castes are conditioned to be happy in their own way; they do not feel resentment towards other castes, but rather feel a slight contempt for people not members of their own caste. At the same time, however, all members of society are repeatedly taught that everyone is equally important to society.

Citizens of the World State enjoy racial, social and economic harmony across the planet. Although England is seen to be mostly populated with Caucasians, the population also contains substantial ethnic proportions, and across the planet, people of different racial heritage live alongside one another in harmony. When visiting an electrical products factory in London, John witnesses Caucasians and black Senegalese working together. The only "feely" (see below) in the novel features a black antagonist with a white heroine. An official at the Central London Hatchery explains that Negro fetuses are slightly easier to grow than Caucasians or Asians. Although all the World State hatcheries attempt to refine the limits of the production process, the Mombasa hatchery is a few hundred ahead of the others in the number of embryos produced from a single ovary (London: 16,012, Singapore: approx 16,500, Mombasa: approx 17,000).

In addition to racial harmony, gender roles appear to have been eliminated in the World State. Both men and women are equals in society. However, a third pseudo-sex has been engineered: freemartins, a hermaphroditic group of humans who appear to have been grown as females, but are sterile and exhibit traits of both the male and female sexes. While freemartins appear female, they exhibit some male characteristics, including the growth of facial hair. The purpose of their creation is to allow citizens to engage in sexual intercourse for pleasure without the need for contraception.

Ageism is a thing of the past in the World State. Biological engineering has eliminated the impact of old age upon the human body; using blood transfusions, chemical enhancements, and hormone replacement therapy, as well as the standard devotion to physical sports, people maintain young, strong bodies for the duration of their lives, and do not exhibit any physical indications of old age, even appearing young when they eventually expire from natural causes. Without these physical signs, it is virtually impossible to gauge a person's age based on appearance, and as a result, ageism is non-existent.

An unspecified number of persons live as "savages" and non-citizens in reservations which figure in sections of the novel, since as noted the creation of the World State was accomplished peacefully as a consolidation of a post-apocalypse consumer society carried to the limit of conscious production of an irreversible division of labor.

Economy[edit]

The World State operates a command economy, in which prices, production, and trade are all regulated by the state. Furthermore, the economy is based on the principles of mass production and mass consumerism. Citizens of the World State have access to a vast array of very high-quality foods, goods, and services, whilst the manufacture and provision of these goods and services creates jobs for all members of society. In order to enhance consumerism and so keep the economy strong, people are encouraged to throw away old or damaged possessions and buy new ones. In this way, every citizen of the World State is kept happy, with a plentiful supply of creature comforts and a permanent job. Later in the novel, World Controller Mustapha Mond explains that approximately one third of the global population is employed permanently in agricultural occupations, a surprisingly high proportion for such a high-tech, industrialised society, although this may have something to do with the fact that Huxley's world is limited in its mechanization and automation. This limitation is deliberately put in place in order to keep the populace busy working to produce new goods, with fears that increased free time and further technological advancements would lead to civil unrest and social instability. This was proven in an experiment in Ireland where all workers were placed on a 4 hour day, which led to unrest and increased consumption of soma.

Culture[edit]

Culture in the World State is homogenous and appears to be fairly similar across the entire planet. Music is very popular, and makes use of the latest gadgets to enhance listening pleasure by adding light shows and pleasant aromas. Television and "feelies" (see below) are widespread throughout the World State. Sport is a cornerstone of culture and is very popular, consisting of various bizarre games played using a bewildering array of high-tech gadgets, in order to keep factories busy. Games such as "Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy", "Riemann Surface Tennis", "Escalator Squash", and "Electro-Magnetic Golf" are major distractions for all levels of society, alongside more recognisable sports, including wrestling and swimming. Citizens of the World State enjoy many frequent holidays, and global travel allows people to journey across the planet for relaxation. Advertisements in Western Europe are seen promoting holidays to "the gorgeous East". One surprising holiday destination is a large (but apparently unimpressive) hotel complex at the North Pole. It is possible that holidays to the moon are available, but as such trips are only given two vague, passing reference in the novel, lunar recreation can neither be confirmed as a physical reality or dismissed as yet another hallucinogenic "holiday" brought on by soma.

Technology[edit]

Life in the World State in (After Ford) A.F. 632 is dominated by very advanced technology, which influences all aspects of life. Sport is a pillar of the World State, consisting of various games and activities which use very high-tech equipment. Another key aspect of entertainment are the "feelies" – the World State's high-tech version of the then-current "talkies". In the later part of the novel, Lenina takes John to a feely, where the concept is explained. Users rest their hands on metal knobs protruding from the arms of their chair, allowing them to feel the physical sensations of the actors on-screen (usually in sexually-themed films). Various other high-tech entertainment devices feature heavily in the book, including Synthetic Music Boxes, Scent Organs (musical instruments which combine music with pleasant aromas), Colour Organs (combining music with a dazzling light show), and televisions.

Transport technology is also highly advanced. The main form of urban transport is the helicopter, with variations including "taxicopters" and expensive, long-range "sporticopters". For the lower castes, high-speed monorails are used to travel around the countryside. Global travel is conducted using rocket planes, which are colour-coded according to their destinations.

In the Hatcheries and Conditioning Centres, advanced technology is used in the creation of new embryos. In addition to high-tech laboratory equipment, the Hatcheries rely on machines to condition bottled embryos to heat, sudden motion, and disease, allowing the embryos to fulfill their predestined jobs in specific climates. Newly 'decanted' children in the Conditioning Centres are exposed to a variety of technologically advanced devices which help to mould them into their predetermined roles. In one early scene, Delta children are trained to hate the countryside and books through operant conditioning involving klaxons and electrocution. Hypnopædia is conducted using speakers built into the beds. The speakers themselves are fed by machines which convert printed material into softly spoken words.

Other aspects of life are greatly influenced by advanced technology. Most clothes are made from fine synthetic materials such as acetate and viscose. Architecture is dominated by "vitra-glass" and "ferroconcrete" skyscrapers. Men shave using electrolytic razors and consume sex-hormone chewing gum. Citizens can relax using "vibro-vac" massage machines and the ever-present soma (the novel reveals that although this is ingested in tablet form, it can also be vaporised to form an anaesthetic cloud).

The novel repeatedly explains that the reason for such advanced technology is to keep workers busy manufacturing products. Interestingly though, the citizens of the World State could enjoy significantly better devices. In a conversation towards the end of the novel, World Controller Mustapha Mond explains to John that countless plans and designs for more advanced technologies already exist. The World State could, he explains, synthetically manufacture all of its food products and use highly efficient labour-saving machines. However, more advanced technology is not developed, as the World Controllers fear that high-tech machines would result in people having too much time on their hands. This, explains Mond, is not in the World State's best interests, following a previous experiment in Ireland, which revealed that more advanced technology simply led to widespread boredom and increased use of soma. Although the citizens of Brave New World enjoy apparently very advanced gadgets, they are unaware that human technology has in fact been limited artificially.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bokanovsky's Process"