VOLUME 3 (2001) - ISSUE 5 (SUMMER)

Aldous Huxley and The International Scope Review

by Patrick HUNOUT

Patrick HUNOUT is the President and Founder of The International Scope Review.

Dear readers,

In his 1946 foreword to Brave New World, Aldous Huxley wrote that "all things considered, it looks as though Utopia were far closer to us than anyone, only fifteen years ago, could have imagined. Then, I projected it six hundred years into the future. Today, it seems quite possible that the horror may be upon us within a single century. That is, if we refrain from blowing ourselves to smithereens in the interval. Indeed (...) we have only two alternatives to choose from: either a number of national, militarized totalitarianisms, having as (...) their consequence the destruction of civilization (or, if the warfare is limited, the perpetuation of militarism); or else one supra-national totalitarianism, called into existence by the social chaos resulting from rapid technological progress in general and the atom revolution in particular, and developing, under the need for efficiency and stability, into the welfare-tyranny of Utopia" (my italics). A single century... that means 2030, in other words, our present time.

Actually, Huxley's terrible vision is, mutatis mutandis, not so far from today's society.If some national totalitarianisms and ambitions do exist locally,in the Balkans and elsewhere, the most striking similarity between Huxley's premonitions and the development of reality is certainly the gradual emergence of a single type of society in the Western world and beyond,in the context of the so-called economic "globalization", accompanied with the first organization of a "global governance". Economic globalization, as it leads to corporate mergers and restructurings, concentrates the power in an all the time fewer number of hands. This is blatant for example in the case of new French global capitalism, that has constituted in the past years very large international companies and utilities that are still led by the same narrow, closed, bureaucratic, and arrogant circles. This global governance is in fact exerted through institutions (such as the UN, NATO, or WTO) controlled by a small number of countries, always the same, mainly the US, the UK and France - the victors of World War II, who took advantage of the situation created by their victory to whitewash the most reactionary ideas of their leaders, presented as the nec plus ultra of democracy. Today, the moral crusades of these countries against the dictators of the Third World or Central Europe do not have the aim they say they have - they have been made to stabilize the economy, enhance corrupted governments, and replace step by step the local powers by a more global, subtle type of leadership - what The International Scope Review, fifty years after Huxley, calls The New Leviathan.

It is startling to see how Huxley's vision, elaborated at a time when these developments were just beginning and when therefore the ulterior developments of society could not be felt easily, was already near to our today's reality. Many sociologists and observers would probably agree that "rapid technological changes, taking place in a mass-producing economy and among a population predominantly propertyless, have always tended to produce economic and social confusion. To deal with confusion, power has been centralized and government control increased. Only a large-scale popular movement towards decentralization and self-help can arrest the present tendency towards statism. At present there is no sign that such a movement will take place".

But the inspirational author of Brave New World had also understood the "soft", moral, and ideological nature of the new totalitarianism."There is of course no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old", he argued, "government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares about that nowadays), it is demonstrably inefficient - and in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspapers editors and school teachers. But their methods are still crude and antiscientific.(...) the greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is the truth, but still greater, from practical point is silence about truth (...) totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciation, the most compelling of logical rebuttals".

The US is probably the country where mental control has gone the farthest: this is a country where a majority of citizens, who speak one single language and have been accustomed to think from childhood on that the system under which they live is undoubtedly per se "the best" that has ever existed and will ever exist, lack comparison benchmarks and are too close for a proper, critical view. This is the crucial reason why this Review exists : disclosing the strategies that the New Leviathan carries on by using disinformation and silence, and as such, with the weapons of rationality and expression, contributing to the emergence of a new political consciousness.

Europe represents more clearly the statist drift, with the launch of the "euro" and the Nice treaty. Since the Maastricht treaty, the statist nature of the European construction - should we say the European destruction? - has become very clear. The persistent difficulties of the "euro", that lost a substantial part of its value since its launch despite a massive intervention of the Central Banks (including, ironically, the US Federal Reserve) in September 2000, did not change the will of the European politicians to put it in force. On January 1, 2002, the jaws of the trap will close up, and the European citizens will be involved in spite of themselves in the uneven and morose venture of the "euro". Still, there is a blatant lack of popular support for this project. Citizens do not only think that it might bring inflationary or practical difficulties, they are indifferent to the project with which they do not identify despite huge means of propaganda. Their only weapon is generally apathy, but in a number of countries, such as Denmark, they rejected the "euro" clearly. The Danes did it! The most cynical European politicians chosed to ignore these signals, trying to minimize their significance and stating that they would continue their policy with no change - so did they also when Ireland rejected the Nice treaty, that is likely to concentrate again decisionmaking into a fewer number of hands. For Huxley, the "most important Manhattan projects of the future will be vast government inquiries into what the politicians and the participating scientists will call 'the problem of happiness' - in other words, the problem of making people love their servitude".

Actually, the new morality - against which some thinkers have already reacted, such as Amitai Etzioni in the US - involves extreme individualism, seeking out one's self-identity, sexual freedom, and the search for material happiness. This religion of happiness through individual accomplishment is, as French novelist Michel Houellebecq would probably agree, destructive of the social link. Consistent and harmonious personal and social relationships cannot be based on the sole selfish quest of individual interest. As for sexual freedom, the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World, based on an inversion of traditional values and correlated with individualistic values of amoral self-accomplishment, seems to have been largely realized since then. This inversion made a breakthrough in the seventies, but in 1946 already, Huxley could write that "there are already a number of American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licenses will be sold like dog licenses, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time. As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate". Actually, the destabilization of traditional forms of personal relationships has reached a high point in all economically advanced countries, and is starting in developing countries. Our Review will certainly release new publications on this subject in the future. One of Huxley's strokes of genius was to have discovered that, despite its apparent instability and the increase in the pace of change, the system is in a last resort seeking stability. We do not say anything else when we say that the Leviathan's policy in the past decades has tried to recreate a traditional, vertical, and hierarchal class structure that was disappearing due to the development of the middle class and the regression of the working class. Huxley also raised the problem of multiethnicity in our societies. He said that to establish the love of servitude, a fully developed science of human differences is needed, enabling government managers to assign any given individual to his or her proper place in the social and economic hierarchy. He said correlatively that (but this is a long-term project, which would take generations of totalitarian control to bring to a successful conclusion) another tool is a foolproof system of eugenics, designed to standardize the human product and so to facilitate the task of managers. In fact, the long-range will of big, global business is one single race, one single market of both standardized and highly individually differentiated consumers who would know perfectly the specificity of their deepest "needs". The most profound, interesting view expressed by Huxley is that this apparent increased differentiation, either individual or ethnic, has as a long-term objective the same search for stability, homogeneity and standardization we mentioned previously. In Brave New World this standardization of the "human product", said the author, has been pushed to fantastic, though perhaps not impossible, extremes - but by A. F. 600, who knows what may not be happening? Meanwhile the other characteristic features of that happier and more stable world (...) are probably not more than three or four generations away. Although this Review is cross-cultural, we would not like to contribute to this program here - in general, we do not wish either to contribute to what human, social and economic sciences tend nowadays to become : a slavish, technical tool instrumentalized and designed to illustrate, refine and implement the policies of the Power. We already had the opportunity to underline in our previous publications how the recourse to immigration strengthens the authoritarian, centralized governance of society and recreate vertical class structures. This a constant, determined policy of the Power to bring more migrants to the West, and, after some UN specialists working for the Power had evaluated in 2000 a huge "need" for migrants in Europe, the first signs of preparation of this new wave can already be perceived - the European Commission sent to all member states a request for evaluating their "needs" : thus, migrations are presented and pre-categorized as something useful. However harder the reactions to ethnic change might be, with electoral victories of the extreme-right wing movements in Austria and Belgium and an increase in violence in Germany and elsewhere (official statistics measure only the autochthon violence towards foreigners, violence from foreigners towards autochthons is negated), the Power's policy doesn't change : governments prefer to forbid the political movements that express ethnic identity claims rather than tackle the root of the problem. This TISR's fifth issue contains new good work on some of today's world's crucial transformations. It is not astonishing that a broad part of this work bears on the so-called economic "globalization" - its content, its effects on the respective societies, and the way we can try to manage or cope with these effects. This issue begins with an article by the well-known Dutch expert of the analysis of cultures, Geert Hofstede. He presents a comparison between Dutch and Japanese cultures in the managerial field. It states some complementarities between the two cultures, but these do not mean that the Dutch should learn Japanese management or that the Japanese should reciprocally adopt the Dutch poldermodel. Even though popular media want to make us believe that new communication technologies will unite people round the world in a "global village" where cultural differences will cease to matter, in fact these technologies will not eliminate cultural differences. The software of the machines may be globalized, but the software of the minds is not. The need for intercultural learning and understanding will thus remain with us on the long range, and we must get used to thinking that cultural differences do not disappear rapidly, do not merge in a spontaneous and easy way in the uneven paradise of the new globalized culture, but that they will continue to influence our behaviors and beliefs for a very long time. In a second article, Baumgarte et al. take over Hofstede's distinction between "individualistic" and "collectivistic" cultures in an attempt to grasp the nature of interpersonal relationships in these respective types of cultures. Similarly, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor distinguishes two opposed theories of modernity : the cultural one and the acultural one. The former admits that modern social organization is based on a determined set of values ; the latter, which is the dominant one, pictures the process of the demise of traditional society and of its replacement by a "natural" order as if it were "neutral" : thus, modern individualism, for example, is assumed to be a natural way to behave once the myth and error of the ancient times have been dissipated. The author points out the illusory assumptions of this theory and its negative effects, suggesting notably a more diverse, pluralistic conception of modernity within our societies and in the different parts of the world. Two years ago, Marcelo Aftalion had correctly predicted the current events in Argentina, in an article published in our Review. The opinion he expresses here - with which many will probably agree after the Summit of the American States held in Montreal in 2001 -, is that "globalization" is a new form of the previous "imperialism". At present, governance has become an illegitimate form of government of "most of the people" - the economic and political "havenots" -, by and for a privileged few - the economic and political "haves". And the latter couldn't care less about deluding the masses regarding how power is exercized. Power is primarily in the hands of a global network of euphemistically called elites that should be properly called mafias. Shouldn't we call the hegemonically leading form of government a neo-degenerate democracy? Couldn't we agree to find a way to overcome this perversion? Aftalion suggests discussing a new, ingenious form of government with no politicians. James Goodman raises the question whether and how it is possible to react to the effects of "globalization", an approach that is particularly relevant to a situation coined with the disturbances that now accompany all international meetings linked with the new "global governance", such as the G8 summit held in Genoa and the European summits held in Nice and Gothenburg in 2000 and 2001. Globalization, Goodman argues, disrupts structures of legitimacy. Practices and institutions are politicized in new ways, opening up new avenues for political and social change. With globalization, at least three power sources have emerged: transnational corporations, inter-governmental institutions, and global norms. Social movements have emerged to contest these sources, with the logic of contestation reflecting the different ways in which power is exercized and experienced. His article debates the three responses resulting from these social movements, characterizing the first as "globalist adaptation", the second as "localist confrontation", and the third as "transnational resistance". The article ends with some discussion of how the three perspectives might interact to influence developments in global politics. The spreading of a globalized economy where money circulates rapidly from one marketplace to another, has created a fragile economy, with major stock exchange crises occurring in Asia and Latin America at the turn of the New Century. The article by the Korean sociologist Kwang-Yeong Shin explores the class-specific and gender-specific effects of the economic crisis of the end of the nineties in Korea - the so-called Asian crisis. The foreign exchange crisis generated massive layoffs and unemployment. It disclosed the implicit rules of recruitment and layoff which were associated with class and gender. The working class and married women were the most vulnerable to unemployment. However, married women in search for an alternative source of income increased simultaneously their participation to the labor force. All this entailed a paradoxical reconfiguration of gender relations: social patriarchy was reinforced, while familial patriarchy was undermined. Based on fieldwork among lower middle class families in West Bengal, India, the article by Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase examines the emergence of new class identities prompted by economic liberalization and globalization. One of the crucial markers of emerging middle class identity is the desire for the public visibility of women and their relative freedom to pursue careers. This article focuses on the worldviews of Bengali lower middle classes concerning gender equality, mediated by both public debate and popular media. This adds to the information delivered in our next issues on the deep destructuring consequences of globalization on the respective societies, like Mexico, Singapore, Japan, and India. However, the article by Hossain and Akther published in this issue tends to show that the societal and mental consequences of the current transformations in some less advanced developing countries like Bangladesh are still limited. Aldous Huxley would probably have said that humankind should use its means to produce a race of free human beings, instead of pursuing ends to which human beings are to be made the means. I would rather say that a determined class of people should not enclose the other classes of people within a power framework where the latter would be instrumentalized to the aims of the former. This is ineluctably linked with the future struggles that are still to come.