Brave New World Revisited

Brave New World Revisited

by Aldous Huxley


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When the novel Brave New World first appeared in 1932, its shocking analysis of a scientific dictatorship seemed a projection into the remote future.

Here, in one of the most important and fascinating books of his career, Aldous Huxley uses his tremendous knowledge of human relations to compare the modern-day world with his prophetic fantasy. He scrutinizes threats to humanity, such as overpopulation, propaganda, and chemical persuasion, and explains why we have found it virtually impossible to avoid them. Brave New World Revisited is a trenchant plea that humankind should educate itself for freedom before it is too late.

Author Biography:

The longer fiction of Aldous Huxley has been in the mainstream of the "Novel of Ideas" since the publication in England in 1921 (America 1922) of Crome Yellow, his first novel. Huxley is one of the most skillful and most successful social satirists of the twentieth century. His novels go far in defining the character of modern man, while his later work reflects an interest in mysticism and the effect of the consciousness-expanding drugs.

Born in England in 1894, Mr. Huxley took to writing when his eyesight temporarily failed. From 1934 until his death in 1963, Aldous Huxley lived in California.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780701107918
Publisher: Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/1992
Pages: 164

About the Author

Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) is the author of the classic novels Brave New World, Island, Eyeless in Gaza, and The Genius and the Goddess, as well as such critically acclaimed nonfiction works as The Perennial Philosophy and The Doors of Perception. Born in Surrey, England, and educated at Oxford, he died in Los Angeles, California.

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In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society, the scientific caste system, the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning, the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically induced happiness, the orthodoxies drummed in by nightly courses of sleep-teaching--these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren. I forget the exact date of the events recorded in Brave New World; but it was somewhere in the sixth or seventh century A.F. (After Ford). We who were living in the second quarter of the twentieth century A.D. were the inhabitants, admittedly, of a gruesome kind of universe; but the nightmare of those depression years was radically different from the nightmare of the future, described in Brave New World. Ours was a nightmare of too little order; theirs, in the seventh century A.F., Of too much. In the passing from one extreme to the other, there would be a long interval, so I imagined, during which the more fortunate third of the human race would make the best of both worlds--the disorderly world of liberalism and the much too orderly Brave New World where perfect efficiency left no room for freedom or personal initiative.

Twenty-seven years later, in this third quarter of the twentieth century A.D., and long before the end of the first century A.F., I feel a good deal less optimistic than I did when I was writing Brave New World. The prophecies made in 1931 are coming true much sooner than I thought they would. The blessedinterval between too little order and the nightmare of too much has not begun and shows no sign of beginning. In the West, it is true, individual men and women still enjoy a large measure of freedom. But even in those countries that have a tradition of democratic government, this freedom and even the desire for this freedom seem to be on the wane. In the rest of the world freedom for individuals has already gone, or is manifestly about to go. The nightmare of total organization, which I had situated in the seventh century After Ford, has emerged from the safe, remote future and is now awaiting us, just around the next comer.

George Orwell's 1984 was a magnified projection into the future of a present that had contained Stalinism and an immediate past that had witnessed the flowering of Nazism. Brave New World was written before the rise of Hider to supreme power in Germany and when the Russian tyrant had not yet got into his stride. In 1931 systematic terrorism was not the obsessive contemporary fact which it had become in 1948, and the future dictatorship of my imaginary world was a good deal less brutal than the future dictatorship so brilliantly portrayed by Orwell. In the context of 1948, 1984 seemed dreadfully convincing. But tyrants, after all, are mortal and circumstances change. Recent developments in Russia and recent advances in science and technology have robbed Orwell's book of some of its gruesome verisimilitude. A nuclear war will, of course, make nonsense of everybody's predictions. But, assuming for the moment that the Great Powers can somehow refrain from destroying us, we can say that it now looks as though the odds were more in favor of something like Brave New World than of something like 1984.

In the fight of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effective, in the long run, than control through the reinforcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manipulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children. Punishment temporarily puts a stop to undesirable behavior, but does not permanently reduce the victim's tendency to indulge in it. Moreover, the psychophysical by-products of punishment may be just as undesirable as the behavior for which an individual has been punished. Psychotherapy is largely concerned with the debilitating or anti-social consequences of past punishments.

The society described in 1984 is a society controlled almost exclusively by punishment and the fear of punishment. In the imaginary world of my own fable punishment is infrequent and generally mild. The nearly perfect control exercised by the government is achieved by systematic reinforcement of desirable behavior, by many kinds of nearly non-violent manipulation, both physical and psychological, and by genetic standardization. Babies in bottles and the centralized control of reproduction are not perhaps impossible; but it is quite clear that for a long time to come we shall remain a viviparous species breeding at random. For practical purposes genetic standardization may be ruled out. Societies will continue to be controlled post-natalty--by punishment, as in the past, and to an ever increasing extent by the more effective methods of reward and scientific manipulation.

In Russia the old-fashioned, 1984-style dictatorship of Stalin has begun to give way to a more up-to-date form of tyranny. In the upper levels of the Soviets' hierarchical society the reinforcement of desirable behavior has begun to replace the older methods of control through the punishment of undesirable behavior. Engineers and scientists, teachers and administrators, are handsomely paid for good work and , so moderately taxed that they are under a constant incentive to do better and so be more highly rewarded. In certain areas they are at liberty to think and do more or less what they like. Punishment awaits them only when they stray beyond their prescribed limits into the realms of ideology and politics. It is because they have been granted a measure of professional freedom that Russian teachers, scientists and technicians have achieved such remarkable successes.

Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Quantity, Quality, Morality
Propaganda in a Democratic Society
Propaganda Under a Dictatorship
The Arts of Selling
Chemical Persuasion
Subconscious Persuasion
Education for Freedom
What Can Be Done?
About Aldous Huxley
Brave New World Revisited, 1958 129

Reading Group Guide

About the Book
Unlike the earlier book that inspired it, Brave New World Revisited is not a work of fiction -- although its message is, in many ways, more disturbing than the classic novel's. For while Brave New World, published in 1932, predicted a totalitarian society precipitated by various forms of mind control, these 1958 essays postdate the rise of Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators who actually manipulated whole populations in some of the ways that Huxley had predicted. "Brave New World presents a fanciful and somewhat ribald picture of a society, in which the attempt to recreate human beings in the likeness of termites has been pushed almost to the limits of the possible," Huxley writes. "That we are being propelled in the direction of Brave New World is obvious. But no less obvious is the fact that we can, if we so desire, refuse to cooperate with the blind forces that are propelling us."

Huxley is concerned primarily with the loss of human freedoms. He views overpopulation due to advances in medicine and technology as the most pressing problem, resulting in widespread misery around the globe. At the same time, modern technology has led to the concentration of economic and political power, to a society controlled by Big Business and Big Government, which Huxley calls "over-organization." In Brave New World, Huxley "imagined" dictatorship by drugs (he invented a euphoria-inducing drug called "soma"), but his fictional depiction of chemical persuasion, he feels, has nothing on the reality of our over-medicated society. There are many other kind of mind control at work today as well -- propaganda spewed by media owned by a corporateelite, the subtle (and not so subtle) manipulation of advertising, and the possibilities of subconscious persuasion through hypnosis, subliminal projection, and hypnopaedia (teaching a person while he sleeps).

Huxley feels that we know what ought to be done to guarantee our freedoms, yet forty years after Brave New World Revisited was published, so many of the threats to individual freedom that he cites continue, and new ones have appeared. His book continues to challenge complacency and enter a plea that we educate ourselves in freedom before it is too late.

Topics for Discussion

  • Huxley wrote Brave New World Revisited at the height of the Cold War. Can any of his predictions now be dismissed in light of the fall of the Soviet Union?

  • Do you think that Huxley's concerns about dictatorship by drugs has become even more possible in the age of Prozac and other psychological medications?

  • When Huxley wrote these articles, DDT still was considered a scientific advance. What other aspects of Huxley's articles now, seem dated? Which of his predictions have become even more timely?

  • Huxley writes of economic censorship, with the press controlled by the Big Business/Big Government elite. Has this censorship been diluted by the rise of the Internet? Alternatively, in what ways could the Internet pose new threats to our freedoms?

  • The birth control pill was not available when Huxley wrote Brave New World Revisited. Has its dissemination helped solve any of the problems that he predicted?

  • Should legislation be enacted that curtails the rights of government, advertisers, or religious organizations to manipulate the mind of individuals?

    About the Author: Poet, playwright, novelist and short story writer, travel writer, essayist, critic, philosopher, mystic, and social prophet, Aldous Huxley was one of the most accomplished and influential English literary figures of the mid-20th century. He was born in Surrey in 1894, and his books include Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves, Point Counter Point, Brave New World, and The Doors of Perception. From 1937 on, Huxley made his home in Southern California. He died in 1963. Today he is remembered as one of the great explorers of 20th century literature, a writer who continually reinvented himself as he pushed his way deeper and deeper into the mysteries of human consciousness.

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    Brave New World Revisited 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    There are spaces missing so words which should be separated are not. The title of the book and a random (page?) number will be stuck in the middle of a sentence. Careless formatting is annoying and occasionally confusing.
    JakeNJ More than 1 year ago
    If you enjoyed "Brave New World", only because it is a fiction, this book, which is psycho-analysis, if you will, of the Brave New World and our World in general, might not be for you. I personally enjoyed this one, because I didn't look at the Brave New World as strictly a fiction novel, but a warning sign, an example and explanation of scientifically induced soft tyrannical society. The world is painted in the bright lights and happiness, but at the same time lack of individual decision making, choices or freedom. You are expected, as per your preconditioned state, to act, work, live and play a certain way according to you caste. Since I saw Brave New World through a lens of reality, the Brave New World Revisited was a must read for me and anyone who saw it in the same light, with the pinch of reality. I do recommend that if you haven't read Brave New World, do that first, to understand what Revisited (collection of assays packaged into a book) is all about and also, read 1984, since Huxley does reference it here as well, so that you can draw your own conclusions better. Brave new world vs 1984. Both draw distinct definition of "Utopian" society. Where social structure, conditioning and interaction is controlled. Even though one is "beautiful" at a first glance and the other is very despotic and dark, they are not much different in the outcome or "social justice" forced upon centralized ruling body. Moral of both is that an individual freedom is discouraged and suppressed, which is the utmost source of basic human nature. To be him/her person is one thing that pro "Utopian" writers tend to dismiss or choose to suggest that can be controlled, but not negative "Utopian" writers, like Huxley and Orwell, who point out that eventually a human spirit tends to search to be distinct and FREE. Any other society, whether painted in fake Utopian colors or forced on everyone, is the same and carries the same meaning, hence outcome. Whether it is soft tyranny, as in "Brave New World", or it is despotic tyranny as in "1984", the human spirit is contained which begs to search for it's path to freedom. Every person defines freedom in his or her way, so which ever way the forced tyranny is induced, the human spirit wants something else and something that will provide way out of that tyranny. I know, it is not a big book, but it took me a bit slower to read it, because I want to devour every word. It is brilliant. I didn't know what to expect, but I was just amazed on how remarkable it is. Huxley points out that in the more modern world, the tyranny and take over would be more likely like "Brave New World", rather than "1984". Through "this is good for you" notion, tyranny will flourish / sort tyranny. In laments turns Huxley compared that "you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar", not in so many terms. He also analyzes ways and methods in which the governments already have, at the time of him writing this book, and eventually will, as we see now in the current time, will use propaganda, induced conditioning and methods to sway the public opinion. He was so close on many levels when he wrote "Brave New World" only 27 years prior to this book, that he points out what he has predicted, what he hasn't foreseen, but thought of and what came true faster than he even expected, in his wildest "fictional Utopian" dreams. Over all, I am fascinated with this book and analysis he has provided to all and more, that I describe in this review.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Huxely in his typical slightly sarcastic tone provers that nearly everything he wrote in Brave New World is coming true. Everyone must read this book so that they can help prevent our society from giong down that path
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Interesting read
    edwinbcn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Dated -- obviously--, boring and written in an uninteresting way.
    KatharineDB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    another book on the evils of the future- was pretty good and if you consider he wrote it in 1933 it is excellent . would recomend it to those interested in this genre and would like to read his other works.
    TakeItOrLeaveIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    my favorite book of all time. including, Heaven and Hell BNWR tells it EXACTLY how it is.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Burst out of the bracken and chased after the mouse and yelped scaring the mouse towards VinePelt
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is one of my favorite book. It's amazing story that I ever heard. My favorite part of the story is Lenina and Henry dancing together. Also went they are talking to each other.
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    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I didnt feel that the book was that exciting.It was lacking in excitement and suspense. The beginning was very hard to understand but at the same time, it was interesting.It was interesting to see what the technology could be like in the future. But my interest was soon lost, the book just got boring and even more confusing. There was a part in the middle, the part that dealt with Lenina meeting John, that interested me. I was interested because it was the only part that i could understand. The ending was ok but it was nothing spectacular. It didnt have a happy ending, or a cliff hanger, which really was disappointing. If you're into science and technology then this might be a good book for you but it wasn't the right book for me.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Narrowed HER eyes and delivere the killing blow. She padded back to camp