PSCI 259
George Orwell: Capitalism, Socialism and Totalitarianism Fall 2023
Division II
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Class Details

It is hard to overstate the enduring influence of George Orwell on political discourse in the 20th century and beyond. Before his death in 1950 at the young age of forty six, Orwell produced a stunningly large and diverse body of work in the fields of journalism, literature, and political commentary. Much of this work was inspired by his own experiences as a police officer in Burma, several years working and traveling with destitute workers in England and France, as well as his experiences fighting against fascism during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. While a fairly obscure and struggling author for much of his life, Orwell achieved worldwide fame after the Second World War with the publication of Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). This tutorial has two main objectives. First, it will introduce students to Orwell’s most important books and essays in the context of a turbulent political era marked by the Great Depression, the rise of totalitarianism, world war, and the emerging Cold War. Second, the tutorial will examine the past and ongoing uses and abuses of Orwell’s legacy by scholars and analysts on both the political left and the right. As Louis Menand argues, “almost everything in the popular understanding of Orwell is a distortion of what he really thought and the kind of writer he was.” The course will conclude by examining what Orwell’s thought contributes to a consideration of current issues ranging from the emergence of cancel culture to the possibilities of democratic socialism in the 21st century.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1705
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: 4 lead essays of 5-6 pages and 4 response essays of 2 pages.
Prerequisites: At least one introductory political science course.
Enrollment Preferences: Declared and prospective political science majors.
Unit Notes: This course could also be listed in other subfields.
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PSCI International Relations Courses

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