Consumerism in America and Huxley's World State
At first glance, the society within Brave New World bares a striking resemblance to the world of America today but what differentiates the two is access to knowledge. The people within Brave New World have no choice in what they do. They are taught to never question and constantly consume. That is not the same in America today. People simply refuse to educate themselves on topics like consumerism and why this current economic state exists. Autonomy of the people is essentially the difference between Huxley's World State and America. The government in Brave New World does not allow any books or any other access to knowledge that would cause someone to question the world they live in because "You can't consume much if you sit still and read books" (60). But in today's world, it's a choice to become aware and it's also a choice to remain in the dark.
The issue of the consumer society in “Brave New World”
So for comparing the aspect of consumption in the Brave New World to our world, it should be defined why consumption is a main issue in the Brave New World and why it actually is a major aspect of the running (economic) system.
Citizens of the Brave New World are conditioned through hypnopeadic teaching to behave in a way that supports the consumption for example, they are taught to throw things away instead of repairing them. That leads to a manipulated supply and demand because if everyone throws (fixable) stuff away, someone else needs to produce a new good for this individual.
“The more stitches the less riches…” (Huxley 51) This phrase is taught to everyone at a young age through hypnopaedia, basically meaning that the more you repair, the less you will buy, resulting in less money for the economic system , less routine for everybody and last but not least a higher risk of failing for the Brave New World which’s motto is “community, identity, stability”.
Consumerism keeps the routine for the producing employee and keeps him also away from thoughts which could lead to disruptive behavior in the system. So we can see that consumption is a needed aspect for the leaders of the system to keep the whole thing running.
Thinking about the fact that citizens of the Brave New World are manipulated to buy goods we can say that there is no real market in the Brave New World because people’s demand isn’t actually their own intention or demand.
“We condition the masses to hate the country,” concluded the Director in the Brave New World. “But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same time, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport. Hence those electric shocks.”
Sports with minimal apparatus such as soccer have been eliminated in their society to increase the consumption of manufactured goods. The State conditions people to use more goods in their daily life which leads to more consumption.
The funny thing about this is that we have something really similar to this going on in our world. The industrial revolution started in the 19th century and through it , companies began advertising their goods. There were too many goods so there were an excess of supply so the industry tried to create a demand, which happened successfully as we all know. Through the “second industrial revolution” the internet, we all started to consume ads more often and in a very intensive way which lead even to more consumption, so it wouldn’t be totally wrong to say that we’re also manipulated. But we’re not that manipulated as people in the Brave New World because we are allowed to make our own decisions. So we have a real market with a real working function of supply and demand. That is a humongous advantage compared to the Brave New World. Saying this, i don’t want to conceal that we’re also a society that tends to throw away stuff more often than trying to repair it.
Everybody knows that it’s often the older people who tend to repair things and the younger people to throw stuff away. Our created dump is transported to the 3rd world where people try to find something useable in it.
That is a huge problem too.
So what intended Huxley?
I already said something about ads which are created to persuade consumers to purchase new things. Although advertisers are successful, the disadvantage of our consumerism is that it has an negative environmental impact. If our society was exactly like the one in Brave New World, we would aggregate huge amounts of waste which than we had to deal with by ourself. Obviously we all shop as it is a normal thing to do, the question is why do we shop for new things when we could be re-using certain goods?
Huxley describes a world where you do not have a choice. Along with the dependance on consumerism in the novel, there are the steps taken to reach this dependance which involve a loss of individuality in the society. The citizens are stripped of any real emotions as they are manufactured to become slaves of consumerism and their whole life is created for and about consumerism. The State is the ultimate provider and distributor of anything that is demanded (which reminds us of socialistic or communistic ideas- Marx).
That should make us think about our own consumption and whether we could really reduce it sometimes.