Architecture (establishment) as totalitarian dystopia

I've been busy with a lot of petty annoyances (more on that in a future post) and projects, so I just ran across a fascinating part by part comparison of the architectural establishment and Oceania in George Orwell's 1984. Leave it to Norman Blogster over at Part IV to break it down like this:

“‘The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought.’

Orwell divides society into three segments - the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Proletariat. The Inner and Outer Circles are different levels of membership of the Party. The Party is quite clearly the architectural establishment, not the RIBA as you might think. The following quotes are taken from Part 1, Chapter 7.

‘Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens, but even to the ideals that the Party was trying to achieve. Great areas of it, even for a Party member, were neutral and non-political, a matter of slogging through dreary jobs, fighting for a place on the Tube... The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering - a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons - a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting...’

You can think of the proles as the general public - those who are unfettered by the brainwashing of architectural education:

‘...the Party taught that the proles were natural inferiors who must be kept in subjection, like animals, by the application of a few simple rules. In reality very little was known about the proles. It was not necessary to know much. So long as they continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance... To keep them in control was not difficult.’

The Outer Circle are the architects and the students of architecture. They tow the Party line, not really questioning why, just happy to be members in a privileged position (last paragraph of Part2, Chapter 5):

‘In the ramifications of party doctrine she had not the faintest interest. Whenever he began to talk of the principles of Ingsoc, doublethink, the mutability of the past, and the denial of objective reality, and to use Newspeak words, she became bored and confused and said that she never paid any attention to that kind of thing... Talking to her, he realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy while having no grasp whatever of what orthodoxy meant. In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.’

Finally, the Inner Circle. This is where the real power lies and is composed of the starchitects, the architectural press, the RIBA (FAIA) and the architectural academics. There is an implicit agreement between this set who direct the Party.
In 1984, we learn most about the Inner Circle and its relation to the Outer Circle when the hero Winston Smith starts to read a smuggled copy of "The theory and practice of oligarchical collectivism" - the book of the Party. It's online here. I'm quoting from Chapter III - War and Peace:

‘In practice the needs of the population are always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another. By the standards of the early twentieth century, even a member of the Inner Party lives an austere, laborious kind of life. Nevertheless, the few luxuries that he does enjoy his large, well-appointed flat, the better texture of his clothes, the better quality of his food and drink and tobacco, his two or three servants, his private motor-car or helicopter -- set him in a different world from a member of the Outer Party, and the members of the Outer Party have a similar advantage in comparison with the submerged masses whom we call 'the proles'’


‘War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war... In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of doublethink. Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world.’

It is this inert orthodoxy of power and intellectual control that causes those outside the status quo to either lose faith and crumble or, otherwise, become ridiculous characters of themselves through their advocacy of their own position. I was present at a lecture recently by one of these "outsider" thinkers who was hellbent on convincing everybody that his position was the way of the future. After the lecture finally ended somewhere past the three hour mark an influential member of the audience was heard to comment "the longer he tried to convince us of his intelligence, the less I believed it." If unyielding self-advocacy becomes a parody then how is one to fight the entrenched mass of the overlords establishment?

That is a question I may address in the future, but until then I remain open to suggestions.

Read more here:
Part I: The Party
Part II: Doublethink and Duckspeak
Part III: Hate Week, Hangings and More

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