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Orwell's Despair and Oakeshott's Solution

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Abstract:

Most interpretations of Orwell's political thought have concentrated on his critique of the ideology of totalitari-anism, especially as this ideology manifested itself in the 1930's in the Soviet Union under Stalin and in Nazi Germany under Hitler.2 These interpretations have provided valuable insights into Orwell's own perceptions of the dangers of cen-tralized state tyranny. However, they suffer from two weak-nesses connected with the concept of totalitarianism. First, the concept of totalitarianism as it has been developed in aca-demic political science has been related specifically to the Soviet and Nazi experiences, and, thus, does not adequately account for other types of tyrannical regimes.3 Second, the application of the totalitarian model to the examination of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four tends to emphasize the pro-phetic aspects of the novel and to diminish its character as an investigation of contemporary political life.4 Instead of using the normal rubric of totalitarianism, I shall examine Orwell's political thought as expressed in Nineteen Eighty-four in terms of the conception of the modern state as a teleocracy, a con-cept which was elaborated by the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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