A New World is the engine driving the success

A
Utopia of Consumption

            Interarts
Studies is the investigation of relationships between literature and other
arts. “The focus still tends to be on “texts” and the preferred kind of text,
and for a long time the only one, has been the kind that could be considered a
work of art. Aesthetic concerns were initially of considerable importance”
(Clüver 20). In this regard, there is an aesthetic correlation, as well as an
allied critique of consumption between Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
and the Art movement spearheaded by Ezra pound and Wyndham Lewis called
Vorticism.

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            Vorticism
was an English avant-garde movement that consisted primarily of sculptures and
painters. Thanks to the roles of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, Vorticism was
also important in regard to emergent Modern literature. The Vorticists:
Manifesto for a Modern World argues that Vorticism wasn’t an entirely new
movement. Taking cues from Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, and Futurism, these
artists created an aesthetic movement that, nevertheless, denounced the
philosophies of their influences. “Their polemics, as shown in the
appropriately titled Blast manifestos, did not glorify the war, the machine,
its violence and speed, as the Futurists did” (Weston). Whereas Futurism endorsed
war as a cleansing force in accordance with the ideas of Thomas Malthus,
Vorticism saw no good outcomes and only estrangement between nations and people
alike. Vorticism rejected the politics of Futurism but embraced the machine age
if not the efficiency science that brought the world the assembly lines of the
likes of Henry Ford. Its artistic aesthetic, while following the hard-edged
machine-like abstractions of Cubism and futurism, were ultimately critical of
their unabashed worship of speed and mechanization. “In the visual arts, this
involved a critique of both cubism’s alleged stasis and of the futurist worship
of speed and motion” (Bush). While Vorticism represents an aesthetic style specific
to the machine age, it cannot be said to be an outright advocate.

Throughout Brave
New World the concepts of consumption and utopia are constantly juxtaposed
and compared. Adorno summarized an enduring tradition of reading Brave New
World as a critique of consumerism when he wrote about its “perception of
the universal similarity of everything mass-produced, things as well as human
beings,” and about Huxley’s own conviction that under the conditions of
capitalism men and women are relentlessly worn down until they become “deindividualized
products of the corporation’s absolute power” (Adorno 97). One might argue that
the citizens of Brave New World are genuinely happy. It is the result,
however, of ignorance and blindness rather than anything truly fulfilling. The
State in Brave New World elevated consumption to a near holy stature. As
a result, the markers of identity have been obliterated to foster a complete
reliance on the State. It is through the character John Savage that the reader
is made aware that consumerism and utopia are not entirely compatible. Through
John’s experience, it is possible to see how these opposing forces breed
dependence and destroy the individual.

The culture of
consumption in Brave New World is the engine driving the success and
“happiness” of the state. All traces of individuality and identity are
replaced by the concept of the common good. Even love, family, and sex have
been reduced to the maxim, “everybody belongs to everyone else” (26).
Further, the value of life in Brave New World, is firmly rooted in Ford’s
famous model of production, the assembly line. Human beings are “hatched”
according to a narrow set of specifications, and once no longer useful, can be
quickly replaced.

As Mr. Foster, who
presides over the conditioning and “hatching” of new citizens, states
“Murder kills only the individual and, after all what is an individual? …We can
make a new one with the greatest ease—as many as we like” (133). We are
introduced to the process of (re)production, which describes how, “a
bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to
ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and
every embryo into a full-sized adult” (6). With the aid of technology, identity
and the function of natural reproduction have been destroyed simultaneously.
After the process of conditioning, the concept of the self is further limited
to an individual’s participation in the economy and his or her value or obedience
as member of a caste. By obliterating the concept of the individual, all that
is left is the state and its capacity to meet the relatively simple supply and
demand-based needs of the citizen. The worker is completely reliant on the
state to provide for them and depends on the state to control all aspects of
industrial and cultural society. This state control includes the individual’s
understanding of the world and their place within it.

Just as the state
has destroyed the meaning and value of the individual so too has it altered the
individual’s understanding of the natural world.  Huxley describes a culture dictated by static
forces dependent science and technology alone, and a culture that disregards
the natural world has deeper significance for the state. The controlling state
is keenly aware that nature and unchecked consumerism are essentially at odds.
“A love of nature keeps no factories busy” (19). The pleasure of the
masses is directed toward what is economically desirable instead of what is
personally enjoyable and thus individual fulfillment is inexorably linked to
economic stability and consumerism.

 Conditioning has caused the “masses to hate
the country…to love all country sports…and have all country sports entail the
use of elaborate apparatus” (23). Even though citizens are outdoors, it is
for the purpose of self-gratification and for the good of the economy only. The
position of the State is that nature itself is useless since it could be
enjoyed without benefit to the state. Mond explains, “Universal happiness keeps
the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t” (228). He is
suggesting that only instant gratification is truly meaningful to consumer and
provider alike and that appreciating nature is something that requires more
thought—something that state discourages from the time of birth. The indulgence
of Nature and beauty are thus resigned to the Reservation.

The pattern of
consumption will invariably continue and the economy will thrive as long as
citizens are kept as docile as possible. They are aptly and constantly reminded
of their dependent status and the State makes it clear that, “No pains have
been spared to make your lives emotionally easy—to preserve you, as far as that
is possible, from having emotions at all” (44). Through the repeated use
of soma and other mind-altering substances, the sense or need for individuality
is further lost to the doctrine of consumption. The consumption of Soma is used
as well to replace the function of religion, “Anyone can be virtuous now. You
carry at least half your mortality about in a mottle. Christianity without
tears—that’s what soma is” (238).

With the state
taking over all aspects that contributed to an understanding of social
construct and society, all that is left is the state. By proxy the State
becomes dictatorial when it possesses both the means of production and the
distribution of consumer commodities. In many ways, the citizens of Brave
New World are children, incapable of functioning without consumption and
provision. This is evidenced by Linda who, after being left with Indians could
not think or act for herself. John Savage stands as the voice of reason, seeing
the hollowness of an existence lived solely for consumption and so begs for the
right to suffer, “I don’t want comfort, I want God, I want poetry, I want real
danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin” (240).