Signs of the T: Aldous Huxley, High Art, and American Technocracy
Although the question of Aldous Huxley’s attitude towards the state systems depicted in Brave New World (1932) remains the stuff of fierce debate, the technocratic features of that state have long been recognized by scholars, students, and general readers alike. Indeed, Brave New World is often grouped with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) as one of the twentieth century’s most compelling representations of ‘the threat posed by technocracy and totalitarianism to civil society’, Huxley’s grey future reminding its readers of the power of technology and the allure it holds for those who seek to use technical expertise for political goals.1 As this quotation indicates, scholars tend to interpret this future as a scenario depicting the systematic and objectionable purging of individual liberty. Evelyn Cobley, for instance, writing about Brave New World in relation to the Ford Motor Company, proposes that Huxley’s text ‘associates the assembly line with the utopian dream of the perfect society that devolves into the dystopian nightmare of the totalitarian state.’2 Technocracy—rule or government by a class of technical specialists—is in these terms an object of Huxley’s satire, something the text queries rather than celebrates. And yet at other times Huxley’s support for illiberal sentiments comes to the fore. Hence David Bradshaw’s claim that for ‘all its hideousness, the hierarchical, aseptic, colour-coded world of A.F. 632 is not aeons away from the scientific utopia Huxley was promoting elsewhere before, during and after he wrote Brave New World in 1931’ (BNW xxii). This approach foregrounds the text’s ambivalence. It asks us to decide whether Huxley’s apparent mockery of a politics based on scientific knowledge co-exists with an approval of technocratic authority. In other words, different readings of Huxley’s account of technocracy diverge on the nature of his response to technocracy, yet agree that a response exists. Brave New World may analyse technocracy this way or that. Analyse technocracy, however, the text unarguably and unforgettably does.