Dystopia: A Natural History by Gregory Claeys

Dystopia: A Natural History

byGregory Claeys

Hardcover | February 3, 2017

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Dystopia: A Natural History is the first monograph devoted to the concept of dystopia. Taking the term to encompass both a literary tradition of satirical works, mostly on totalitarianism, as well as real despotisms and societies in a state of disastrous collapse, this volume redefines thecentral concepts and the chronology of the genre and offers a paradigm-shifting understanding of the subject.Part One assesses the theory and prehistory of "dystopia". By contrast to utopia, conceived as promoting an ideal of friendship defined as "enhanced sociability", dystopia is defined by estrangement, fear, and the proliferation of "enemy" categories. A "natural history" of dystopia thus concentratesupon the centrality of the passion or emotion of fear and hatred in modern despotisms. The work of Le Bon, Freud, and others is used to show how dystopian groups use such emotions. Utopia and dystopia are portrayed not as opposites, but as extremes on a spectrum of sociability, defined by aheightened form of group identity. The prehistory of the process whereby 'enemies' are demonised is explored from early conceptions of monstrosity through Christian conceptions of the devil and witchcraft, and the persecution of heresy.Part Two surveys the major dystopian moments in twentieth century despotisms, focussing in particular upon Nazi Germany, Stalinism, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and Cambodia under Pol Pot. The concentration here is upon the political religion hypothesis as a key explanation for the chiefexcesses of communism in particular.Part Three examines literary dystopias. It commences well before the usual starting-point in the secondary literature, in anti-Jacobin writings of the 1790s. Two chapters address the main twentieth-century texts usually studied as representative of the genre, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World andGeorge Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The remainder of the section examines the evolution of the genre in the second half of the twentieth century down to the present.

About The Author

Born in France, and educated in Canada and the UK, Gregory Claeys is Professor of the History of Political Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London. A historian of British radicalism and socialism from 1750 to the present, he is the author of eight books and editor of some fifty volumes, mostly of primary sources. He has written...
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Details & Specs

Title:Dystopia: A Natural HistoryFormat:HardcoverDimensions:720 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.03 inPublished:February 3, 2017Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198785682

ISBN - 13:9780198785682

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Table of Contents

PART I: The Theory and Pre-History of Dystopia1. Rethinking the Political Dystopia: the Group and the Crowd2. Monstrosity and the Origin of Dystopian SpacePART II: Totalitarianism and Dystopia3. The Caveman's Century: The Development of Totalitarianism from Jacobinism to Stalinism4. Totalitarianism from Hitler to Pol PotPART III: The Literary Revolt against Collectivism5. Mechanism, Collectivism, and Humanity: The Origins of Dystopian Literature, 1810-19456. The Huxleyan Conundrum: Brave New World as Anti-Utopia7. Vaporising the Soviet Myth: Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four8. The Post-Totalitarian Dystopia, 1950-2015Conclusion: Dystopia in the 21st CenturyBibliographyIndex