She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Illyria is a scientific utopia, an enclave of logic and reason founded off the Greek coast in the mid-twenty-first century as a refuge from the Reaction, a wave of religious fundamentalism sweeping the planet. Yet to George Simling, first generation son of a former geneticist who was left emotionally and psychically crippled by the persecution she encountered in her native Chicago, science-dominated Illyria is becoming as closed-minded and stifling as the religion-dominated world outside ….
Unfortunately, it appears to be partly plagiarized: chapter 7 of The Iron Heel is an almost verbatim copy of an ironic essay by Frank Harris published in The Jagged Orbit is set in the United States of America in , when interracial tensions have passed the breaking point. A Mafia-like cartel, the Gottschalks, are exploiting this situation to sell weapons to anyone able to buy them. A split develops within the cartel, between the conservative old men and ambitious underlings prepared to use new computer technology to pull off some spectacular coups.
They are derived By the author? Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears as well.
With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields.
Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. The Lathe of Heaven is an eerily prescient novel from award-winning author Ursula K. It is a classic of the science fiction genre. The Maze Runner is the first book in a young-adult i. When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze.
Then a girl arrives.
The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. The Passion of New Eve is set in a dystopian United States where civil war has broken out between different political, racial, and gendered groups. A dark satire, the book parodies primitive notions of gender, sexual difference, and identity from a post-feminist perspective. Other major themes include sadomasochism and the politics of power. Constantly bombarded by patriotic propaganda, the citizens of these industrial anthills believe they are waiting for the day when the war will be over and they can return aboveground.
But when Nick St. James, president of one anthill, makes an unauthorized trip to the surface, what he finds is more shocking than anything he could imagine. Written in response to the flood of utopian literature in the late 19th century, The Republic of the Future takes satirical aim at various liberal developments of her era, including the first stirrings of the animal rights movement.
Its primary targets, however, are the innovations that utopians of her age most strongly advocated, socialism, feminism, and technological progress. Dodd paints a picture of a future New York as a dreary conformist society, in which the inhabitants live in identical homes and men and women dress alike. Though people work only two hours per day, they live tedious, vacuous lives. A nameless son and father wander a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth.
The Sleeper Awakes is about a man who sleeps for years, waking up in a completely transformed London, where, because of compound interest on his bank accounts, he has become the richest man in the world. But Sleeper Graham has other ideas and becomes a Socialist messiah to the oppressed. The Tube Riders is an indie self-published young-adult page-turner that reviews applaud for being imaginative and exciting.
Mega Britain in is a dangerous place. A man known as the Governor rules the country with an iron hand, but within the towering perimeter walls of London Greater Urban Area, anarchy spreads unchecked through the streets. In the abandoned London Underground station of St. Cannerwells, a group of misfits calling themselves the Tube Riders seek to forget the chaos by playing a dangerous game with trains. The White Mountains is the first book in the young-adult Tripods trilogy, and the Amazon reviews are full of people who read the book when younger and loved it.
Long ago, the Tripods—huge, three-legged machines—descended upon Earth and took control. The people have no control over their thoughts or their lives. For Will, his time of freedom is about to end, unless he can escape to the White Mountains, where the possibility of freedom still exists. The story is set in a seemingly perfect global society. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as human beings, but will remain satisfied and cooperative.
They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce. Borrowing from Philip K. The narrator, Floyd Maquina, is a Seeker. Under the surface, Uglies speaks of high-profile government conspiracies and the danger of trusting the omnipresent Big Brother. While the underlying story condemns war and all the side effects thereof, the true thrust of the story is that individual freedoms are far more important than the need for uniformity and the elimination of personal will. In America after the Second Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.
Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound. Or is he mad?
- How Did the Cold War Start and End?!
- Epigenetics, Brain and Behavior (Research and Perspectives in Neurosciences)!
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What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. Slightly dated feminist sci-fi, Walk To the End of the World is the first book of the Holdfast Chronicles, a four-book series that took over twenty years to write. Superstitious belief had ascribed to the fems the guilt for the terrible Wasting that had destroyed the world.
They were the ideal scapegoat. The truth was lost in death and decay and buried in history. It was going to be a long journey back…. War with the Newts is a satirical story and concerns the discovery in the Pacific of a sea-dwelling race, an intelligent breed of newts, who are initially enslaved and exploited.
They acquire human knowledge and rebel, leading to a global war for supremacy. In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued.
Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier — and whatever alien species are to be found there — will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason. One number, D, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies.
But a chance meeting with the beautiful I results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D believes about himself and the One State. The discovery — or rediscovery — of inner space…and that disease the ancients called the soul. Wither falls short on world-building, but its intense character drama will likely please its targeted audience. A classic feminist novel and well-imagined sci-fi story, Woman on the Edge of Time features a narrator who may or may not be insane.
Thirty-seven-year-old Hispanic woman Consuelo Connie Ramos, recently released from forced detention in a mental institution, begins to communicate with a figure that may or may not be imaginary: an androgynous young woman named Luciente. She realizes that Luciente is from a future, utopian world in which a number of goals of the political and social agenda of the late sixties and early seventies radical movements have been fulfilled.
In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. How did this book drop from the list? Hmm… Atwood.. Well, maybe not HA-HA funny…. Really good though. Most of us Sci-Fi fans who have piled up a few decades of varied reading have some we would toss into this list who arent there now. A story where the rulers of planets are drug addicts, where installer transportation is monopolised by a single corporation and where computers have been outlaw, just to name a FEW of the dystopic themes of this novel.
Would welcome anyone knowing author or title info. Good list. Keep Rand and Card on there, as both wrote influential seminal works. I particularly like the Jorj X. Yes, Butler did write dystopian works. You, in an innocent comment, have lead me right to it. You have no idea how long I have looked for this series. No one seemed to have ever heard of it. I understand what I stand for, and why, more thoroughly as a result. And now I have a list of more books to seek out. Seeing some of the entries brings back pleasant memories of my teen years when I had much more free time.
Great list! I have reached it looking for a certain book I read somewhat 25 years ago when I was a boy, but eventually read the whole thing. But maybe you could help me find the book in question. The government is replaced every couple of weeks and the streets become more and more chaotic and violent with every passing page, until the peak point, at the end of the book, when the girl herself join the chaos. Does it ring a bell? Found it! Does that sound familiar to anyone?
I found you looking for the same thing. I was thinking of Babel — 17 by Samuel Delany. Awesome book! Looking for a book about a future world where the children stand in front of a uv light because they stay indoors. Also, they travel by transporters. I read this during my childhood and it may have been a short story. I believe the narrator of the story is a young boy who decides to venture outdoors. Would like to revisit this story. I was caught up by the story too in my childhood.
Not sure about the transporters, but it does have the UV light because it rains all the time. Loved it. My daughter moved to Juneau, Alaska and it reminded her of the story since it is raining there alot. Great list. I got here looking for a book I read some years ago about a dystopian world were people were obligated to live under a dome because everyone thought outside the air was toxic and radioactive.
If it sounds familiar tell me please! We by Yevgeny Zamyatin?
Best Dystopian Books
The world outside is considered toxic and dangeours. And they were living under something like a glass dome. The best in literature and in prophecies. Great list, thank you! Too much more to read, just need to find the time! Great list and worthwhile comments and suggestions. Thanks all around for any help…. Looking for a short story from the late 60s or early 70s. May have been published in Playboy. Body modification has become wildly popular and stylish…the more extreme the better.
A plastic surgeon falls in love with one of his patients-an actress? She had been one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. He reminds her there is no going back once she reaches a certain point but her fame grows with each surgery. The style suddenly changes and conventional beauty again reins. Any thoughts on the author or story? The storyline included a man and his friend that awoke the morning after hearing disturbing and thunderous sounds which continued throughout the night before, only to find that much of the population from some unknown worldly attack had turned people in the lower levels of buildings and in the streets to solid metals such as bronze and iron.
They soon discovered those people remained frozen as statues, whereas the more affluent people whom afforded high-rise living or were in the upper floors during the attack, were not turned to bronze or iron, such as the so called street people beneath them, and instead had been transformed into a silicone or crystal like being with rubber like joints and pads on their hands and feet and with cravings for oils and smaller metal bits.
They traveled about and eventually discovered a cure or reversal of the effects which had converted them to their current state. Sounds like Invaders From Rigel by Fletcher Pratt, where many people have been either turned into either metal statues or if they were higher up robots with rubber fingertips that drink oil and absorb electricity. War ensues. Looking for a book I read in high school but lacking on details. Futuristic for the time it was written , gangs, rather short paperback novel. Must have been pretty popular since I read it in English class.
The main character ends up driving north to Canada to see if he could get away from it. In time, he decided to go back to the states to check up on family etc. In the meantime, there was a coup in the USSR because of this. At the end of the book, the Soviet Union collapsed.
On top of my head some very important works missed in this list: Greybeard by Aldiss. Looking backward by Bellami who forecasted the internet, amazon, credit cards in this book. The Long Walk by Stephen King. Walden Two by Skinner. Ecotopia by Callenbach. I would beg you to consider Mockingbird Walter Trevis I was totally enthralled with not only the society created for the story but the secret reasons behind it. Or burning in Paris! The only thing I can remember is that the ending implies the main character was in a dream.
Love this list. Given me many more books to seek out. I am plagued by memories of reading a book and cannot remember the title. Seem to recall a peaceful family travelling to an alien world on a spaceship. The family had been misread and the aliens saw them as peaceful, intelligent etc. However, a lot of bad, bad prisoners had also been put aboard and they start to murder the hosts.
I seem to recall the hosts took two forms, one of which was a big white bird? Looking for a book, post-apocalyptic? Wild fire around the world? He barely makes it back inside to tell her that the sky was blue. She got thinking why would the sky be blue if the world is constantly at such a high temperature. Than she tries to figure out if the world outside the dome is really as bad as their government says it is or if it was the government burning people the moment they left. Looking for a book. But I just remember a group of kids maybe 3 or 4 somehow being ripped from their everyday lives and into this other universe where it is a completely white room, there are some stairs.
And I think at one end there is a toilet. But all I remember is them suddenly being ripped out of this white filled universe and a scientist telling them it was all an experiment that used them. And the cover of the book was all white and there may have been a rabbit on it. I read this book when I was in middle school.
It was such a shocking book to me at the time and I really would like to read it again. Sounds like House of Stairs by William Sleator. Is that right? So that film was my first notice of his story. It was dystopian as the whole world was suffering from pervasive wide unemployment and slow crumbling of economic status. Numbers of cops increasing both as a Gov Job program and to control social mayhem is part of it, and a weird aspect from then was the presence of a generation of big headed super-smart young adults in authority all over the world.
An unemployed drifter in the area is the hero; he gets involved in a revolutionary movement that spends lots of time camping and practising martial arts. This ring any bells for anybody? Husband is looking for a book. He thinks it was published in the 70s. He comes back one time to find that another clone has space traveled to earth to kill him for something he made the clone do.
Nebula Award Finalist: A prophetic look at the potential consequences of the escalating destruction of the Earth. In a near future, the air pollution is so bad that everyone wears gas masks. The infant mortality rate is soaring, and birth defects, new diseases, and physical ailments of all kinds abound. Large corporations fighting over profits from gas masks, drinking water, and clean food tower over an ineffectual, corrupt government. Very prophetic. Read it when I was a teen back in the early 60s. Brings back a lot of good memories!
They are living like their ancestors did with no way to defend themselves against modern technology but a neighboring planet full of some kind of radicalized Christians who are technologically advanced come to help them. Does anyone recognize this series of books? Hija, memories of a novel, early 80s, about US city that is protected by a wall, to keep the unwanted out. A bit like Europe today, millions trying to get in. Or did I dream it? Be grateful for any leads! I read a book a couple of years ago where all the kids in the community, including unborn infants started acting weird and then they all died….
I remember the main characters being the husband who was a garbage man and drank lots of beers, the kids being a boy around 7 and a girl around 4. The mom was a house wife and I think they had a dog too. Please help! I am desperately trying to find a book from the 80s or 90s i think.
I was surprised to see there was very few Japanese works on this list. Earth Abides by George Stewart. Written in the s. Post Apocolyptic, though not ultimately dystopian if you favor starting over as a culture. Im looking for a book about a group of 3 friends who hack code and try to bring down a corporation. In the end it turns out that one of the kids cant remeber his past or anything, because he is a program. Its a relativily new book, I read it years ago. Im looking for a book about a school that trains kids to learn talents such as pick pocketing and credit card fruad. Its a cutthroat school where the alphas tend to kill thier rivals.
It was such a cool story and nobody has ever read a story like that. It was about school age kids, I believe high school but it could have been college, who had to maintain a grade level of above a C or their name would be entered into a lottery. It was meant as a motivator to do your schoolwork but also as a means of population control of the less motivated in society. Ring any bells, anyone? Her goose was a hoot too. Then he rose to be the richest man on earth and even ownes his own planet and fell in love with a police woman..
Plus there was also something there about advanced virtual reality. I am also looking for a book from the 80s late 70s. Characters are teens living in London during the Blitz. In the end, they discover everything is fake and that they are clones being raised by robots and everyone else is dead. I think it was called the Unicorn in the Sky but that title does not come up with anything. So if you could please help me find this book that would be great.
I related a lot to the main character Sumner Kagen in Radix. Have also been looking for a book which I forget the name and author, about a dystopian near future where the US government is, unbeknownst to the public if I remember correctly , actually taken over by the mafia. Looking for a book…probably young adult. Teens live in a city in the Pacific Northwest that has been quarantined or shut off from the world.
Really strange stuff is happening like people are stuck half in and half out of the walls. The kids escape but the military takes them back in. A lot of strange stuff…lights and sounds are coming from the downtown hospital. There is a strange hole in the sky that is getting bigger and in the end you realize it will suck the whole world in.
Some allusions to time warps, black holes and alternate universes. I think it would belong in the Dystopian Future genre. There are these little creatures robots? I need HELP. The old pharmacist is moved by the woman bcuz he lost his family to something horrible. Adventures ensue containing age reversing hypersleep, chimera creatures with no rights, and the like. I really want to read this as an adult. Great book. Or did they ever exist in the first place? Dakota to Florida. He walks this group, barefoot, to DC.
The he walks to an old fort on the coast and hangs himself. We are assuming a world identical in every respect with the real planet Earth, except for the profoundest differences in the mental content of life. This implies a different literature, a different philosophy, and a different history, and so soon as I come to talk to him I find that though it remains unavoidable that we should assume the correspondence of the two populations, man for man—unless we would face unthinkable complications—we must assume also that a great succession of persons of extraordinary character and mental gifts, who on earth died in childhood or at birth, or who never learnt to read, or who lived and died amidst savage or brutalising surroundings that gave their gifts no scope, did in Utopia encounter happier chances, and take up the development and application of social theory—from the time of the first Utopists in a steady onward progress down to the present hour.
Jesus Christ had been born into a liberal and progressive Roman Empire that spread from the Arctic Ocean to the Bight of Benin, and was to know no Decline and Fall, and Mahomet, instead of embodying the dense prejudices of Arab ignorance, opened his eyes upon an intellectual horizon already nearly as wide as the world.
And through this empire the flow of thought, the flow of intention, poured always more abundantly.
There were wars, but they were conclusive wars that established new and more permanent relations, that swept aside obstructions, and abolished centres of decay; there were prejudices tempered to an ordered criticism, and hatreds that merged at last in tolerant reactions. It was several hundred years ago that the great organisation of the samurai came into its present form. This organisation of the samurai was a quite deliberate invention. It arose in the course of social and political troubles and complications, analogous to those of our own time on earth, and was, indeed, the last of a number of political and religious experiments dating back to the first dawn of philosophical state-craft in Greece.
That hasty despair of specialisation for government that gave our poor world individualism, democratic liberalism, and anarchism, and that curious disregard of the fund of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice in men, which is the fundamental weakness of worldly economics, do not appear in the history of Utopian thought. Every sane person consists of possibilities beyond the unavoidable needs, is capable of disinterested feeling, even if it amounts only to enthusiasm for a sport or an industrial employment well done, for an art, or for a locality or class. In a modern Utopia there will, indeed, be no perfection; in Utopia there must also be friction, conflicts and waste, but the waste will be enormously less than in our world.
And the co-ordination of activities this relatively smaller waste will measure, will be the achieved end for which the order of the samurai was first devised. Inevitably such an order must have first arisen among a clash of social forces and political systems as a revolutionary organisation. It must have set before itself the attainment of some such Utopian ideal as this modern Utopia does, in the key of mortal imperfection, realise.
At first it may have directed itself to research and discussion, to the elaboration of its ideal, to the discussion of a plan of campaign, but at some stage it must have assumed a more militant organisation, and have prevailed against and assimilated the pre-existing political organisations, and to all intents and purposes have become this present synthesised World State.
Traces of that militancy would, therefore, pervade it still, and a campaigning quality—no longer against specific disorders, but against universal human weaknesses, and the inanimate forces that trouble man—still remain as its essential quality. The idea had reached me, for example, of something to be called a New Republic, which was to be in fact an organisation for revolution something after the fashion of your samurai, as I understand them—only most of the organisation and the rule of life still remained to be invented.
All sorts of people were thinking of something in that way about the time of my coming. The idea, as it reached me, was pretty crude in several respects. It ignored the high possibility of a synthesis of languages in the future; it came from a literary man, who wrote only English, and, as I read him—he was a little vague in his proposals—it was to be a purely English-speaking movement. And his ideas were coloured too much by the peculiar opportunism of his time; he seemed to have more than half an eye for a prince or a millionaire of genius; he seemed looking here and there for support and the structural elements of a party.
Still, the idea of a comprehensive movement of disillusioned and illuminated men behind the shams and patriotisms, the spites and personalities of the ostensible world was there. After all, your world must be as full as ours was of the wreckage and decay of previous attempts; churches, aristocracies, orders, cults Tell me how you manage in Utopia. The social theorists of Utopia, my double explained, did not base their schemes upon the classification of men into labour and capital, the landed interest, the liquor trade, and the like.
They esteemed these as accidental categories, indefinitely amenable to statesmanship, and they looked for some practical and real classification upon which to base organisation. The social speculations of the Greeks, for example, had just the same primary defect as the economic speculations of the eighteenth century—they began with the assumption that the general conditions of the prevalent state of affairs were permanent.
Throughout Utopia there is, of course, no other than provisional classifications, since every being is regarded as finally unique, but for political and social purposes things have long rested upon a classification of temperaments, which attends mainly to differences in the range and quality and character of the individual imagination. This Utopian classification was a rough one, but it served its purpose to determine the broad lines of political organisation; it was so far unscientific that many individuals fall between or within two or even three of its classes.
But that was met by giving the correlated organisation a compensatory looseness of play. Four main classes of mind were distinguished, called, respectively, the Poietic, the Kinetic, the Dull, and the Base. The former two are supposed to constitute the living tissue of the State; the latter are the fulcra and resistances, the bone and cover of its body.
They are not hereditary classes, nor is there any attempt to develop any class by special breeding, simply because the intricate interplay of heredity is untraceable and incalculable. They are classes to which people drift of their own accord. Education is uniform until differentiation becomes unmistakable, and each man and woman must establish his position with regard to the lines of this abstract classification by his own quality, choice, and development The Poietic or creative class of mental individuality embraces a wide range of types, but they agree in possessing imaginations that range beyond the known and accepted, and that involve the desire to bring the discoveries made in such excursions, into knowledge and recognition.
The scope and direction of the imaginative excursion may vary very greatly. It may be the invention of something new or the discovery of something hitherto unperceived. When the invention or discovery is primarily beauty then we have the artistic type of Poietic mind; when it is not so, we have the true scientific man.
The range of discovery may be narrowed as it is in the art of Whistler or the science of a cytologist, or it may embrace a wide extent of relevance, until at last both artist or scientific inquirer merge in the universal reference of the true philosopher. To the accumulated activities of the Poietic type, reacted upon by circumstances, are due almost all the forms assumed by human thought and feeling.
All religious ideas, all ideas of what is good or beautiful, entered life through the poietic inspirations of man. Except for processes of decay, the forms of the human future must come also through men of this same type, and it is a primary essential to our modern idea of an abundant secular progress that these activities should be unhampered and stimulated. The Kinetic class consists of types, various, of course, and merging insensibly along the boundary into the less representative constituents of the Poietic group, but distinguished by a more restricted range of imagination.
Their imaginations do not range beyond the known, experienced, and accepted, though within these limits they may imagine as vividly or more vividly than members of the former group. They are often very clever and capable people, but they do not do, and they do not desire to do, new things.
The more vigorous individuals of this class are the most teachable people in the world, and they are generally more moral and more trustworthy than the Poietic types. They live,—while the Poietics are always something of experimentalists with life. The very definition of the Poietic class involves a certain abnormality. The Utopians distinguished two extremes of this Kinetic class according to the quality of their imaginative preferences, the Dan and Beersheba, as it were, of this division.
At one end is the mainly intellectual, unoriginal type, which, with energy of personality, makes an admirable judge or administrator and without it an uninventive, laborious, common mathematician, or common scholar, or common scientific man; while at the other end is the mainly emotional, unoriginal man, the type to which—at a low level of personal energy—my botanist inclines.
The second type includes, amidst its energetic forms, great actors, and popular politicians and preachers. Between these extremes is a long and wide region of varieties, into which one would put most of the people who form the reputable workmen, the men of substance, the trustworthy men and women, the pillars of society on earth.
Below these two classes in the Utopian scheme of things, and merging insensibly into them, come the Dull. The Dull are persons of altogether inadequate imagination, the people who never seem to learn thoroughly, or hear distinctly, or think clearly. It is clearly a matter of an arbitrary line. They are the stupid people, the incompetent people, the formal, imitative people, the people who, in any properly organised State, should, as a class, gravitate towards and below the minimum wage that qualifies for marriage. The laws of heredity are far too mysterious for such offspring as they do produce to be excluded from a fair chance in the world, but for themselves, they count neither for work nor direction in the State.
The Base may, indeed, be either poietic, kinetic, or dull, though most commonly they are the last, and their definition concerns not so much the quality of their imagination as a certain bias in it, that to a statesman makes it a matter for special attention. The Base have a narrower and more persistent egoistic reference than the common run of humanity; they may boast, but they have no frankness; they have relatively great powers of concealment, and they are capable of, and sometimes have an aptitude and inclination towards, cruelty.
It is not a classification for Truth, but a classification to an end. Taking humanity as a multitude of unique individuals in mass, one may, for practical purposes, deal with it far more conveniently by disregarding its uniquenesses and its mixed cases altogether, and supposing it to be an assembly of poietic, kinetic, dull, and base people. In many respects it behaves as if it were that. In a world of hasty judgments and carping criticism, it cannot be repeated too often that the fundamental ideas of a modern Utopia imply everywhere and in everything, margins and elasticities, a certain universal compensatory looseness of play.
Now these Utopian statesmen who founded the World State put the problem of social organisation in the following fashion:—To contrive a revolutionary movement that shall absorb all existing governments and fuse them with itself, and that must be rapidly progressive and adaptable, and yet coherent, persistent, powerful, and efficient.
The problem of combining progress with political stability had never been accomplished in Utopia before that time, any more than it has been accomplished on earth.
Just as on earth, Utopian history was a succession of powers rising and falling in an alternation of efficient conservative with unstable liberal States. Just as on earth, so in Utopia, the kinetic type of men had displayed a more or less unintentional antagonism to the poietic. The general life-history of a State had been the same on either planet. First, through poietic activities, the idea of a community has developed, and the State has shaped itself; poietic men have arisen first in this department of national life, and then that, and have given place to kinetic men of a high type—for it seems to be in their nature that poietic men should be mutually repulsive, and not succeed and develop one another consecutively—and a period of expansion and vigour has set in.
The general poietic activity has declined with the development of an efficient and settled social and political organisation; the statesman has given way to the politician who has incorporated the wisdom of the statesman with his own energy, the original genius in arts, letters, science, and every department of activity to the cultivated and scholarly man. The kinetic man of wide range, who has assimilated his poietic predecessor, succeeds with far more readiness than his poietic contemporary in almost every human activity.
The latter is by his very nature undisciplined and experimental, and is positively hampered by precedents and good order. With this substitution of the efficient for the creative type, the State ceases to grow, first in this department of activity, and then in that, and so long as its conditions remain the same it remains orderly and efficient. But it has lost its power of initiative and change; its power of adaptation is gone, and with that secular change of conditions which is the law of life, stresses must arise within and without, and bring at last either through revolution or through defeat the release of fresh poietic power.
The process, of course, is not in its entirety simple; it may be masked by the fact that one department of activity may be in its poietic stage, while another is in a phase of realisation. In the United States of America, for example, during the nineteenth century, there was great poietic activity in industrial organisation, and none whatever in political philosophy; but a careful analysis of the history of any period will show the rhythm almost invariably present, and the initial problem before the Utopian philosopher, therefore, was whether this was an inevitable alternation, whether human progress was necessarily a series of developments, collapses, and fresh beginnings, after an interval of disorder, unrest, and often great unhappiness, or whether it was possible to maintain a secure, happy, and progressive State beside an unbroken flow of poietic activity.
Clearly they decided upon the second alternative. If, indeed, I am listening to my Utopian self, then they not only decided the problem could be solved, but they solved it. To a large extent he followed the older Utopists in assuming that the philosophical and constructive problem could be done once for all, and he worked the results out simply under an organised kinetic government. But what seems to be merely an addition to the difficulty may in the end turn out to be a simplification, just as the introduction of a fresh term to an intricate irreducible mathematical expression will at times bring it to unity.
Now philosophers after my Utopian pattern, who find the ultimate significance in life in individuality, novelty and the undefined, would not only regard the poietic element as the most important in human society, but would perceive quite clearly the impossibility of its organisation. This, indeed, is simply the application to the moral and intellectual fabric of the principles already applied in discussing the State control of reproduction in Chapter the Sixth, section 2.
But just as in the case of births it was possible for the State to frame limiting conditions within which individuality plays more freely than in the void, so the founders of this modern Utopia believed it possible to define conditions under which every individual born with poietic gifts should be enabled and encouraged to give them a full development, in art, philosophy, invention, or discovery. Certain general conditions presented themselves as obviously reasonable:—to give every citizen as good an education as he or she could acquire, for example; to so frame it that the directed educational process would never at any period occupy the whole available time of the learner, but would provide throughout a marginal free leisure with opportunities for developing idiosyncrasies, and to ensure by the expedient of a minimum wage for a specified amount of work, that leisure and opportunity did not cease throughout life.
But, in addition to thus making poietic activities universally possible, the founders of this modern Utopia sought to supply incentives, which was an altogether more difficult research, a problem in its nature irresolvably complex, and admitting of no systematic solution. But my double told me of a great variety of devices by which poietic men and women were given honour and enlarged freedoms, so soon as they produced an earnest of their quality, and he explained to me how great an ambition they might entertain.
There were great systems of laboratories attached to every municipal force station at which research could be conducted under the most favourable conditions, and every mine, and, indeed, almost every great industrial establishment, was saddled under its lease with similar obligations.
So much for poietic ability and research in physical science. The World State tried the claims of every living contributor to any materially valuable invention, and paid or charged a royalty on its use that went partly to him personally, and partly to the research institution that had produced him. In the matter of literature and the philosophical and sociological sciences, every higher educational establishment carried its studentships, its fellowships, its occasional lectureships, and to produce a poem, a novel, a speculative work of force or merit, was to become the object of a generous competition between rival Universities.
In Utopia, any author has the option either of publishing his works through the public bookseller as a private speculation, or, if he is of sufficient merit, of accepting a University endowment and conceding his copyright to the University press. All sorts of grants in the hands of committees of the most varied constitution, supplemented these academic resources, and ensured that no possible contributor to the wide flow of the Utopian mind slipped into neglect.
Apart from those who engaged mainly in teaching and administration, my double told me that the world-wide House of Saloman [Footnote: The New Atlantis. For all the rarity of large fortunes, therefore, no original man with the desire and capacity for material or mental experiments went long without resources and the stimulus of attention, criticism, and rivalry.
See a Problem?
For it is quite clear, in my mind, that these samurai form the real body of the State. All this time that I have spent going to and fro in this planet, it has been growing upon me that this order of men and women, wearing such a uniform as you wear, and with faces strengthened by discipline and touched with devotion, is the Utopian reality; but that for them, the whole fabric of these fair appearances would crumble and tarnish, shrink and shrivel, until at last, back I should be amidst the grime and disorders of the life of earth. What are they?
Are they an hereditary caste, a specially educated order, an elected class? For, certainly, this world turns upon them as a door upon its hinges. I am supposed to be ingenious with expedients in this direction. Typically, the samurai are engaged in administrative work. Practically the whole of the responsible rule of the world is in their hands; all our head teachers and disciplinary heads of colleges, our judges, barristers, employers of labour beyond a certain limit, practising medical men, legislators, must be samurai, and all the executive committees, and so forth, that play so large a part in our affairs are drawn by lot exclusively from them.
The order is not hereditary—we know just enough of biology and the uncertainties of inheritance to know how silly that would be—and it does not require an early consecration or novitiate or ceremonies and initiations of that sort. The samurai are, in fact, volunteers. Any intelligent adult in a reasonably healthy and efficient state may, at any age after five-and-twenty, become one of the samurai, and take a hand in the universal control.
They made a noble and privileged order—open to the whole world. No one could complain of an unjust exclusion, for the only thing that could exclude from the order was unwillingness or inability to follow the Rule. The Rule was planned to exclude the dull, to be unattractive to the base, and to direct and co-ordinate all sound citizens of good intent. Life is still imperfect, still a thick felt of dissatisfactions and perplexing problems, but most certainly the quality of all its problems has been raised, and there has been no war, no grinding poverty, not half the disease, and an enormous increase of the order, beauty, and resources of life since the samurai, who began as a private aggressive cult, won their way to the rule of the world.
It does as much of this as well as it can, but, of course, like all general propositions, it does not do it in any case with absolute precision. On the whole, it is so good that most men who, like myself, are doing poietic work, and who would be just as well off without obedience, find a satisfaction in adhesion. At first, in the militant days, it was a trifle hard and uncompromising; it had rather too strong an appeal to the moral prig and harshly righteous man, but it has undergone, and still undergoes, revision and expansion, and every year it becomes a little better adapted to the need of a general rule of life that all men may try to follow.
We have now a whole literature, with many very fine things in it, written about the Rule. Qualification exacts a little exertion, as evidence of good faith, and it is designed to weed out the duller dull and many of the base. Our schooling period ends now about fourteen, and a small number of boys and girls—about three per cent. And they pass out of college at eighteen. There are several different college courses, but one or other must be followed and a satisfactory examination passed at the end—perhaps ten per cent.
And so anyone who has failed to pass the college leaving examination may at any time in later life sit for it again—and again and again. Certain carefully specified things excuse it altogether. That is quite possible. And, besides these two educational qualifications, there are two others of a similar kind of more debateable value.
One is practically not in operation now. Our Founders put it that a candidate for the samurai must possess what they called a Technique, and, as it operated in the beginning, he had to hold the qualification for a doctor, for a lawyer, for a military officer, or an engineer, or teacher, or have painted acceptable pictures, or written a book, or something of the sort. To play a violin skilfully has been accepted as sufficient for this qualification.
There may have been a reason in the past for this provision; in those days there were many daughters of prosperous parents—and even some sons—who did nothing whatever but idle uninterestingly in the world, and the organisation might have suffered by their invasion, but that reason has gone now, and the requirement remains a merely ceremonial requirement. But, on the other hand, another has developed. Our Founders made a collection of several volumes, which they called, collectively, the Book of the Samurai, a compilation of articles and extracts, poems and prose pieces, which were supposed to embody the idea of the order.
It was to play the part for the samurai that the Bible did for the ancient Hebrews. To tell you the truth, the stuff was of very unequal merit; there was a lot of very second-rate rhetoric, and some nearly namby-pamby verse. There was also included some very obscure verse and prose that had the trick of seeming wise. But for all such defects, much of the Book, from the very beginning, was splendid and inspiring matter.
From that time to this, the Book of the Samurai has been under revision, much has been added, much rejected, and some deliberately rewritten. Now, there is hardly anything in it that is not beautiful and perfect in form. The whole range of noble emotions finds expression there, and all the guiding ideas of our Modern State.
We have recently admitted some terse criticism of its contents by a man named Henley. And he was in Utopia, too! He was a great red-faced man, with fiery hair, a noisy, intolerant maker of enemies, with a tender heart—and he was one of the samurai? He wrote like wine; in our world he wrote wine; red wine with the light shining through. For the revising and bracing of our Canon is work for poietic as well as kinetic men. You knew him in your world? All good earthly things are in Utopia also.
As a matter of fact, very much of it is read and learnt in the schools Next to the intellectual qualification comes the physical, the man must be in sound health, free from certain foul, avoidable, and demoralising diseases, and in good training. We reject men who are fat, or thin and flabby, or whose nerves are shaky—we refer them back to training.
And finally the man or woman must be fully adult. At first it was twenty-five or over; then the minimum became twenty-five for men and twenty-one for women. Now there is a feeling that it ought to be raised. Our hygiene and regimen are rapidly pushing back old age and death, and keeping men hale and hearty to eighty and more. Let them have a chance of wine, love, and song; let them feel the bite of full-bodied desire, and know what devils they have to reckon with.
But a man who breaks the Rule after his adult adhesion at five-and-twenty is no more in the samurai for ever. Before that age he is free to break it and repent. Many small pleasures do no great harm, but we think it well to forbid them, none the less, so that we can weed out the self-indulgent.
At any rate, it shows that a man is prepared to pay something for his honour and privileges. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughter-houses. And, in a population that is all educated, and at about the same level of physical refinement, it is practically impossible to find anyone who will hew a dead ox or pig. We never settled the hygienic question of meat-eating at all. This other aspect decided us. I can still remember, as a boy, the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughter-house. In our barbaric past horrible flayed carcases of brutes dripping blood, were hung for sale in the public streets.
He looked again at my laxer, coarser face, and did not say whatever thought had passed across his mind. They are still under that interdiction, but since our commercial code practically prevents usury altogether, and our law will not recognise contracts for interest upon private accommodation loans to unprosperous borrowers, it is now scarcely necessary. This, however, is only one part of a series of limitations of the same character. It is felt that to buy simply in order to sell again brings out many unsocial human qualities; it makes a man seek to enhance profits and falsify values, and so the samurai are forbidden to buy to sell on their own account or for any employer save the State, unless some process of manufacture changes the nature of the commodity a mere change in bulk or packing does not suffice , and they are forbidden salesmanship and all its arts.
Consequently they cannot be hotel-keepers, or hotel proprietors, or hotel shareholders, and a doctor—all practising doctors must be samurai—cannot sell drugs except as a public servant of the municipality or the State. Samurai who have invented, organised, and developed new industries, have become rich men, and many men who have grown rich by brilliant and original trading have subsequently become samurai. The bulk of your money-making business must be confined to men who are not samurai. There are rich traders, men who have made discoveries in the economy of distribution, or who have called attention by intelligent, truthful advertisement to the possibilities of neglected commodities, for example.
He protested. If it is so in your world it is so by inadvertency. Wealth is a State-made thing, a convention, the most artificial of powers. You can, by subtle statesmanship, contrive what it shall buy and what it shall not. In your world it would seem you have made leisure, movement, any sort of freedom, life itself, purchaseable. The more fools you! A poor working man with you is a man in discomfort and fear. No wonder your rich have power. But here a reasonable leisure, a decent life, is to be had by every man on easier terms than by selling himself to the rich.
And rich as men are here, there is no private fortune in the whole world that is more than a little thing beside the wealth of the State. The samurai control the State and the wealth of the State, and by their vows they may not avail themselves of any of the coarser pleasures wealth can still buy. Where, then, is the power of your wealthy man? But little or no power over his fellows—unless they are exceptionally weak or self-indulgent persons. But professional mimicry is not only held to be undignified in a man or woman, but to weaken and corrupt the soul; the mind becomes foolishly dependent on applause, over-skilful in producing tawdry and momentary illusions of excellence; it is our experience that actors and actresses as a class are loud, ignoble, and insincere.
If they have not such flamboyant qualities then they are tepid and ineffectual players. Nor may the samurai do personal services, except in the matter of medicine or surgery; they may not be barbers, for example, nor inn waiters, nor boot cleaners. But, nowadays, we have scarcely any barbers or boot cleaners; men do these things for themselves. I suppose no samurai may bet? He may insure his life and his old age for the better equipment of his children, or for certain other specified ends, but that is all his dealings with chance.
And he is also forbidden to play games in public or to watch them being played. Certain dangerous and hardy sports and exercises are prescribed for him, but not competitive sports between man and man or side and side. That lesson was learnt long ago before the coming of the samurai. Gentlemen of honour, according to the old standards, rode horses, raced chariots, fought, and played competitive games of skill, and the dull, cowardly and base came in thousands to admire, and howl, and bet.
The gentlemen of honour degenerated fast enough into a sort of athletic prostitute, with all the defects, all the vanity, trickery, and self-assertion of the common actor, and with even less intelligence. Our Founders made no peace with this organisation of public sports. They did not spend their lives to secure for all men and women on the earth freedom, health, and leisure, in order that they might waste lives in such folly. There is a game called cricket. It is a fine, generous game. But it is thought rather puerile to give very much time to it; men should have graver interests.
It was undignified and unpleasant for the samurai to play conspicuously ill, and impossible for them to play so constantly as to keep hand and eye in training against the man who was fool enough and cheap enough to become an expert. Cricket, tennis, fives, billiards——. You will find clubs and a class of men to play all these things in Utopia, but not the samurai. And they must play their games as games, not as displays; the price of a privacy for playing cricket, so that they could charge for admission, would be overwhelmingly high Negroes are often very clever at cricket.
Related The beginning of the end (The Crumbling Utopia Book 1)
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