George Orwell 1984 Relevance of Predictions Today Part 3

About George Orwell and his book 1984 a glimpse into a distopian future, relevance of the predictions today, social structure of the future world.


3. Oceania, as Orwell described it, is made up of three social classes: the proles, the mindless workers comprising 85% of the population; the Inner party, the elite upper 2%, which actually controls the state and lives in luxury; and the remaining 13%, the Outer party, which carries out the directives of the state and serves as a rather impoverished middle class. The members of the party are kept under constant surveillance and are not allowed to deviate from the party line. Individualism is sufficient grounds for execution or brainwashing; the party demands unthinking devotion to its slogans.

Where We Stand Today: In the U.S.S.R., the situation is much as Orwell predicted. Only a small portion of the population actually belongs to the Communist party, and only a minute fraction of party members have any power. The elite maintains all of the privileges of the traditional upper classes: fancy cars (Leonid Brezhnev is a collector of classic automobiles), exclusive living facilities, special stores where "unobtainable" goods can be purchased cheaply. Powerful party members can easily bypass the interminable queues so typical of Russia's economy; the sons and daughters of high officials need not worry about passing the strict entrance exams for law or medical schools. The members of the middle echelon share some of these privileges, but they are relatively few compared to those of their superiors. The price paid for these privileges is unbending conformity to the party line, rigidity of thought, and the suppression of initiative and imagination. China is closer to the communist ideal of shared work and shared profits, but it too has an elite ruling cadre which, though not so hypocritical as its Russian counterpart when it comes to capitalist values, does control much of the power. Of China's estimated 800 million people 70-80% are peasants.

In the U.S., a similar power structure also exists. However, in America the power elite derives its political power more from economic advantage and influence than from government placement. Here, the upper 20% of the population earns over 50% of the nation's income and, further and more significant, controls over 75% of the nation's wealth (real estate, material goods, etc.). According to a 1969 study by the IRS, the top 0.008% (17,500 people) of the American population (those with wealth of over $5 million) own more than the bottom 50% (110 million people) combined.

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