The Journal of Libertarian Studies

Home | Mises Library | Orwell's Despair: Nineteen Eighty-four and the Critique of the Teleocratic State

Orwell's Despair: Nineteen Eighty-four and the Critique of the Teleocratic State

JLS

Tags Political Theory

05/20/2021Kenneth B. McIntyre

This paper, I examine aspects of Orwell’s political thought as expressed in Nineteen Eighty-four. I focus on the novel as an exploration of the logic of the conception of the modern state as a teleocracy or managerial enterprise, a concept which was elaborated by the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. I first provide a summary of Oakeshott’s historical account of the emergence of two competing visions of modern morality and the modern state, the individualistic and nomocratic versus the collectivist and teleocratic. I then offer an interpretation of Nineteen Eighty-four within the context of Oakeshott’s historical claims. I suggest that Orwell’s despair is the result of the inherent contradiction between his explicit commitment to moral individualism on the one hand and his more ambiguous commitment to understanding the state as a teleocracy on the other.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
Author:

Kenneth B. McIntyre

Kenneth B. McIntyre is assistant professor of government at Centre College, Danville, Kentucky.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here
Shield icon library