By Frank W. Elwell

The hypothesis examined in this chapter is that governments throughout the world are rapidly moving toward totalitarian control of social, political, and economic life. This is a very common theme among futurists as well as some of the more serious science fiction writers. But the hypothesis is complicated by the fact that there are two distinct visions of totalitarianism in futurist literature. 

The first is the type of authoritarian government that is based on terror and force. The exemplars for such a system are Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and the book, 1984. The second vision can only be called the "new totalitarianism." The exemplar for such a system exists in such literature as Brave New World. The new totalitarianism is founded upon the ever more sophisticated methods of manipulation and control given us by science (including social science) and technology. Through techniques of targeted propaganda, press management, surveillance, computerized records, and the rise of the therapeutic perspective--all accomplished within democratic and free market forms--the bureaucratic state will exert its power more efficiently than was possible in the past. This "softening" of power, placing the velvet glove over the iron fist of the state, makes it much more difficult to detect or oppose. In this chapter we will evaluate both totalitarian visions.


Writers in the totalitarian tradition see control as made "necessary" by population growth, the increasing world competition for resources and markets (and subsequent calls for redistribution within and between countries), the increasing complexities of the industrial mode of production, and the crisis of environmental degradation.

Today, world population stands at about 5.3 billion people. At present rates of growth, it will double in less than half a century. Because of faster growth rates, Third World population will double in less than a quarter of a century. The reason for the rapid growth population in the Third World is that such societies have experienced recent declines in their death rates (because of improvements in sanitation and health care) yet maintain a high birth rate because children are both productive assets and represent social security in old age. The growth of population in the Third World is explosive. While Third World countries today comprise about 70 percent of the world's population, by the year 2000 they will comprise about 80 percent. Currently, about one billion of the world's people live in poverty. The United Nations currently projects population will stabilize sometime in the next century between 11 and 14 billion. Increased numbers are absorbing resources at an ever quickening pace. Population in underdeveloped countries is simply growing faster than their ability to produce food.

The most apparent and widely publicized aspect of the population explosion in Third World countries is the mass starvation and human suffering that results. A critical problem that has received much less attention, however, is the impact that this population growth is having on the social structures of these societies.

Third World populations tend to be young. Because of recent birth rates, the dominant age category in these societies is 15 to 35. People within this age category are the ones most likely to be looking for work and housing. Youth in all societies tend to have high expectations. They are the young barbarians who have yet to buy into the present social structure. When their expectations fail to be met, they are the ones likely to rebel, engage in terrorist acts, or emigrate.

Third World nations are also increasingly urban. While the population of Third World countries doubles about every 25 years, it is doubling in Third World cities about every 15 years. Mexico City, which had about 15 million inhabitants in 1980, is growing at the rate of some 2000 people per day, and is projected to have about 31 million people by the turn of the century. Many of these people are being moved off the land by high rural density as well as mechanized agriculture (in an attempt to increase food production). They are also attracted to the cities because of the promise of jobs and housing. It is a promise that Third World nations cannot keep. The people moving into cities are unprepared for life there. Lacking mechanical skills, often illiterate and steeped in rural traditions, they form a surplus of manpower who do not have the skills necessary for employment. 
Worse, the cities are unprepared for them. Employment opportunities are simply not there. Third World nations do not have strong internal markets for industrial goods. The industrial products that they produce tend to be for overseas markets, their competitiveness rests on the exploitation of their workers. 

Third World cities are having difficulty providing for the basic human needs of their residents, let alone the surge of newcomers. The provision of water, food, sewage, and waste removal is hopelessly inadequate. The ever growing concentration of people who are poor will intensify environmental problems such as pollution and depletion. Breathing the air of Mexico City is already the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Mexico City is consuming water at an alarming rate, some 1 billion gallons a day; almost 2 billion gallons are expected to be needed by the year 2000.

There is little hope that this need can be met. Population growth in Third World cities will inevitably lead toward an intensifying struggle for survival. The high concentration of people who are young, hungry, and unemployed will put enormous strain on existing political and economic institutions. A tidal wave of human beings demanding food, shelter, work, livable environments, and human dignity is likely to engulf many Third World nations. Both Aldous Huxley, writing about the possibilities of a "Brave New World" in the near future, and Robert Heilbroner, writing of what he perceives to be the rather dim prospects for human life, forecast that this tidal wave of human beings will bring about totalitarian government in the Third World. Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World, Revisited (1959), had this to say about the impact that population growth was likely to have on Third World governments:  "In an underdeveloped and over-populated country, where four-fifths of the people get less than two thousand calories a day and one-fifth enjoys an adequate diet, can democratic institutions arise spontaneously? Or if they should be imposed from the outside or from above, can they possibly survive?" (Huxley, 1959: 14).

Robert Heilbroner, in The Human Prospect (1980), agrees, believing only two outcomes are imaginable. "One is the descent of large populations of the underdeveloped world into a condition of steadily worsening social disorder, marked by shorter life expectancies, further stunting of physical and mental capabilities, political apathy intermingled with riots and pillaging when crops fail" (Heilbroner, 1980: 37-38). Heilbroner sees this type of society as being ruled by authoritarian elites serving the interests of a small economic and military upper class. Such elites would preside over the society "with mixed resignation, indifference, and despair" (Heilbroner, 1980: 38). Huxley provides the rationale for such a prediction: Whenever the economic life of a nation becomes precarious, the central government is forced to assume additional responsibilities for the general welfare. It must work out elaborate plans for dealing with a critical situation; it must impose ever greater restrictions upon the activities of its subjects; and if, as is very likely, worsening economic conditions result in political unrest, or open rebellion, the central government must intervene to preserve public order and its own authority. More and more power is then concentrated in the hands of the executives and their bureaucratic managers. . . . Unrest and insecurity lead to more control by central governments and an increase of their power. In the absence of a constitutional tradition, this increased power will probably be exercised in a dictatorial fashion (Huxley, 1959: 10-11).

The rationale, it seems to me, is excellent. Many theorists (Spencer, for example) and social observers have pointed to the relationship between national crisis and increasing government regulation and control. In times of national crisis, governments take on increased power. The probability of the forecast, it would appear, depends almost exclusively on the answer to the following question: How intractable is the population problem?

Since World War II, the world has pursued a strategy of "development." The goal of this strategy is to stimulate the economies in Third World nations so that they can provide jobs for their citizens and, as societies, undergo a demographic transition. The demographic transition refers to the tendency of societies to stop population growth once a certain level of development has been reached. It is the result of a decline in the birthrate, thought to occur because children in developed societies are no longer productive assets (with the passage of child labor laws and compulsory education) nor are they necessary as social security in old age (government and private pension plans take over this function). But the rate of population growth in most of these nations has outstripped economic growth and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Consequently, the task of developing the economy to the point of achieving the transition becomes more distant with each passing year.

Worse still, the foreign debt of Third World nations, much of it a result of ill-conceived development policies, is now more than a trillion dollars. The debt of many countries is now simply too great to pay. Interest payments alone are likely to keep these nations in a position of poverty for years. As a result, many demographers are now giving up hope in the strategy of development. While we still pay lip service to the strategy, the world is not transferring wealth to the "underdeveloped nations" in any way near the amount necessary to implement the strategy. Rather, we seem to be pursuing a strategy of accomodation--giving aid to address the most visible suffering.

Heilbroner, going a step further than Huxley in his forecast, posits a more "probable" alternative to the strategy of accomodation. Writing in 1970, Heilbroner foresaw the probability of "revolutionary" governments, that is authoritarian governments with dedicated leadership, extensive party structure, and an absence of inhibition in exercising power for the good of the society as a whole, to limit family size.

Such a policy was begun in China in 1978. China's one-child policy was begun because the communist party of China recognized that the continued growth of the population would quickly eliminate any gains made in more efficient production processes. Even limiting the Chinese family to two children per couple would be a future disaster. The Chinese one-child policy consists of permission cards for having a child; block organizations (granny patrols) that visit women of child bearing ages to make sure that they are effectively practicing birth control; abortion; extensive propaganda campaigns; factory, neighborhood, and collective farm incentives for limiting births; organized social pressure on those who attempt to disobey the policy; as well as rewards and punishments to pressure families into following the policy. To date, the policy is having only limited success. The mechanisms for ensuring compliance have yet to be instituted throughout the country. In addition, the government has granted numerous exemptions to minority groups and rural farmers. If China's policy were to become a success, however, it could well serve as a model for other Third World nations.

The problem with this policy, according to Heilbroner, is that such a revolutionary government would probably not limit itself to population control. A reorganization of agriculture, both technically and socially, the provision of employment by massive public works, and above all the resurrection of hope in a demoralized and apathetic people are logical next steps for any regime that is able to bring about social changes so fundamental as limitations in family size (Heilbroner, 1980: 38-39). Population pressures on Third World countries will lead to the eventual rise of totalitarian governments, governments that attempt to control and regulate all forms of social, economic, and political activities.

Industrial Intensification

There are two very popular social-evolutionary ideas in the West. One is the idea of progress, dealt with throughout this book. The other is a tendency to view history as the unceasing march of man toward greater freedom from the constraints of the state. Aside from the frightening chord struck by George Orwell in 1984, we almost take the march toward democracy for granted. With the bankruptcy of totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe, our faith in the march of democracy and freedom has been strengthened. But Marvin Harris detects a very different evolutionary trend. "In anthropological perspective, the emergence of bourgeois parliamentary democracies in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Europe was a rare reversal of that descent from freedom to slavery which had been the main characteristic of the evolution of the state for 6,000 years" (Harris, 1977: 264). Indeed, many futurists feel that democracy and freedom are threatened by the continuing intensification of the industrial mode of production.

One of the chief reasons given for the coming of totalitarianism is runaway industrial growth in both capitalist and communist countries. Here the hypothesis is that governments will be forced to grow in order to control the resulting depletion and pollution of the planet. "For it becomes increasingly clear that the central issue of the future will lodge in the capability of dealing with the environmental limitations that emerge ever more insistently as the most intransigent of the problems of the future" (Heilbroner, 1980: 98). The regulatory function of government will grow as it becomes increasingly necessary to prevent private concerns from not only polluting the environment, but from depleting strategic reserves as well. Government, the argument goes, must expand its economic regulatory functions to prevent economic growth hostile to the environment. It is the only institution in the position to regulate overall production processes.

Industrialism, under the auspices of capitalist economic systems, has been committed to growth. Economic growth serves two main functions for the social system. First, it dramatically increases the wealth of elites, thereby rewarding those who dominate the system. Second, it provides a mechanism by which the income of the masses can be increased without seriously threatening existing distribution systems. There is no need for the government to play Robin Hood, taking from the rich to give to the poor; economic growth will provide the necessary resources to keep the masses pacified. Growth is the mechanism by which industrial society increases the absolute income to all classes, leaving the relative shares undisturbed. Popularly known as the "trickle down theory," it has been used repeatedly to justify tax cuts benefitting elites as well as government policies promoting economic growth and environmental degradation.

One reason for this pessimism regarding democracy is its past association with material progress. If material progress were to significantly slow down or come to a halt, ". . . the required transformation will likely exceed the capabilities of representative democracy" (Heilbroner, 1980: 106). Without a growing economy to increase the income and living standards of the lower social classes, social tensions over redistribution are likely to explode. Heilbroner goes on to point out that in times of social crisis people often turn to centralized authority in the belief that it is better able to cope successfully than democratic structures. "As the histories of ancient and modern democracies illustrate, the pressure of political movements in times of war, civil commotion, or general anxiety pushes in the direction of authority, not away from it" (Heilbroner, 1980, 128-129). This has been the American experience in terms of our Civil War, the two world wars, the Great Depression, and civil unrest throughout our history.

But a government bent on stopping environmental destruction, one that seriously limits growth of the manufacture of goods in the name of environmental necessity, would not serve the immediate interests of its people. Centralized government planning is not a viable substitute for free market economies in terms of meeting the bio-psychological needs of either the elites or the masses. Such a government would violate the central values of bureaucratic-industrial society, efficiency and the creation of ever more material wealth. As experience in the East has indicated, the hand of government on the rudder of the economy is a dead hand. Not only does government coordination of the economy place decision making in the hands of bureaucrats unfettered by either industry or market concerns, totalitarian government hinders the free exchange of ideas essential for technological and social innovation. Moreover, such a government would be be completely ineffective in stopping the environmental destruction perpetrated by other industrial nations.

The West, as well as the rest of the world, is committed to economic growth. Increasingly, this growth is seen to be fostered by free market economies and democratic governments. Social and technological measures to limit environmental destruction will only be taken if such measures are consistent with an intensifying economy. More drastic steps will be taken only if environmental problems actually reach the "crisis" stage; that is, pollution and depletion seriously undermine further efforts to intensify production processes. The World 3 modelers called this the "overshoot and collapse" stage. Free market economies, unfortunately, are not suited to protecting our environment. However, they have produced an ideology that purports to minimize the problem--the further application of science and technology to extend environmental limits. Therefore, there is little probability that traditionaltotalitarian regimes will rise in the West to more "efficiently" manage the environmental degradation.

Heilbroner's projections are thus limited by his outmoded conception of totalitarianism. The ideology of democracy and freedom permeates the West; indeed the ideology appears to be headed for almost global acceptance. Any government system that evolves must encourage the continued development of science and technology--the old forms of totalitarianism do not. Any government system that evolves must efficiently coordinate and control extremely complex production and distribution systems--the old forms of totalitarianism have proven themselves incapable of doing so. Any system of government that evolves must have the hearts and minds of its people so as to efficiently coordinate and control massive populations--again, traditional totalitarianism has lost its legitimacy.


But there is another form of the hypothesis that is not so easily disposed of. As environmental degradation continues, we will see the greater sophistication and complexity of production processes to offset depletion and pollution in order to maintain existing levels of production as well as provide for continued growth. These ever more sophisticated production techniques will require the further growth of huge private and public bureaucracies to coordinate and control these activities. These bureaucracies, consistent with the theories of both Weber and Michels (as well as our experience over the last century), are incompatible with democracy. Increasing population and advancing technology have resulted in an increase in the number and complexity of organizations, an increase in the amount and power concentrated in the hands of officials and a corresponding decrease in the amount of control exercised by electors, coupled with a decrease in the public's regard for democratic procedures (Huxley, 1959: 53-54).

In accordance with the theory of cultural materialism, the intensification of infrastructure leads to the rationalization of social life. While industrialism can be defined as the ever greater application of science, logic, and reason to problems posed by our environment, bureaucratization can be seen as those same thought processes applied to problems of human organization. Modes of production establish constraints with which humanity must come to terms, and the constraints of the industrial mode of production are peculiarly demanding . ". . . (I)ndustrial production . . . confronts men with machines that imbody 'imperatives' if they are to be used at all, and these imperatives lead easily to the organization of work, of life, even of thought, in ways that accomodate men to machines rather than the much more difficult alternative" (Heilbroner, 1980: 94).

As the process of industrialization continues, the bureaucratization of structure and rationalization of superstructure continues apace. "During the past century the successive advances in technology have been accompanied by corresponding advances in organization. Complicated machinery has had to be matched by complicated social arrangements, designed to work as smoothly and efficiently as the new instruments of production" (Huxley, 1959: 21). It is these new methods of social control that I call the "new totalitarianism."

This new totalitarianism is not based on terror and external force, although the police powers of the state undergird its authority. Human organization that depends on the constant use of force and intimidation to discipline its members is extremely inefficient and ultimately ineffective. A system based solely on force must expend much energy policing its members; it stifles initiative, and it provides an obvious target for rallying opposition. The "inefficiency" of the old totalitarianism, its inability to fit in with the needs of an intensifying industrial system, is apparent in the disintegration of communist party power in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Rather, the new totalitarianism is founded upon the ever more sophisticated methods of control given us by science (including social science) and technology. The truly efficient organization is based on the techniques and technologies of surveillance and manipulation.

Aldous Huxley, of Brave New World fame, saw this form of totalitarianism clearly. In his non-fiction work, Brave New World, Revisited, Huxley writes of the foundation of the new totalitarianism: "In light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effective, in the long run, than control through the reinforcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manipulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women, and children . . . . Societies will continue to be controlled post-natally--by punishment, as in the past, and to an ever increasing extent by the more effective methods of reward and scientific manipulation" (Huxley, 1959: 3). The scope and technology of monitoring and manipulation have grown tremendously since Huxley.


The use of sophisticated electronic "monitoring systems" is pervasive, even in supposed democratic societies. Video-cams are becoming commonplace--in stores, banks, subways, even on some street corners. It is possible to purchase sophisticated bugging equipment by mail. Computer information systems now have the capability of electronically monitoring most of our actions. Credit reports (and ratings) are instantly available (on line fax machines) to financial institutions and retail outlets. "Social transactions leave digitized footprints that afford opportunities that have a menacing aspect" (Winner, 1984: 95). Employers and governments are quickly eroding our sense of privacy and replacing it with the pervasive feeling of being watched.

Other monitoring techniques include the polygraph (or lie detector) and drug tests (usually through the chemical analysis of urine). Until very recently an estimated 30 percent of America's largest corporations routinely used polygraph machines in screening job applicants or employees (since Congress has prohibited such indiscriminant use, many corporations have turned to hand-writing analysis to uncover potential character flaws; it is doubtful that either the polygraph or handwriting analysis is accurate, but issues of accuracy rarely disturb the inquisitor). The drug tests are one of the most recent threats to traditional guarantees against unreasonable searches and the right to privacy. Advocated by many government and industry leaders to combat the drug epidemic in America, many citizens feel the drug threat is so severe that the suspension of some individual rights are justified. It is precisely these types of severe threats that will be used to justify the slow erosion of freedom.

The wedding of these sophisticated monitoring devices with computerized information storage systems is a civil libertarian's nightmare. Both public and private bureaucracies are growing in power. The growth in the power of both public and private bureaucracies in relation to the ordinary citizen, Burnham (1980) contends, is a direct result of their ability to collect, analyze, and distribute large quantities of digitized information. The new tools of the information age are employed by the old bureaucracies to further enhance their efficiency and thereby their power. "The computer thus has wrought a fundamental change in American life by encouraging the physical migration of information about the most minute details of our personal and public lives into the computerized files of a large and growing number of corporations, government bureaucracies, trade associations and other institutions" (Burnham, 1980: 11). In the name of efficiency, private and public bureaucracies construct data bases containing information about our financial transactions, criminal records, taxes, credit, magazine subscriptions, employment, welfare assistance, health, banking, and a host of other personal data about our lives. As a result, we have lost most of our privacy, opening ourselves to manipulation and control by these powerful organizations.

All of these data bases are built to make the organization more efficient in achieving its instrumental goals. For example, the Internal Revenue Service routinely uses the computer to detect taxpayer fraud. In one recent survey, 200 separate items were collected about each of the 50,000 individuals who had been randomly selected to represent the entire population of 93 million American taxpayers. "Once collected by the auditors, the 10 million bits of information collected by the survey were fed into a giant IRS computer for analyis. The result: a line-by-line, income-level-by- income-level, region-by-region list of probabilities that a taxpayer in any one of these categories incorrectly state the amount of tax due the government . . . . From the elaborate statistical tables developed from the periodic audits of selected taxpayers, the IRS develops its enforcement strategy for the entire nation, the marching orders for its 87,000 employees" (Burnham, 1980: 109-110). "The U.S. government alone has collected more than 4 billion separate records about American citizens, about seventeen files for every man, woman and child in the country" (Burnham, 1980: 51).

While Burnham writes about some abuses of these data systems (auditing taxes of Nixon's political opponents, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies tracking civil rights and anti-war demonstrators), it is the "legitimate" uses of these data bases that are far more frightening. Criminal records are routinely scrutinized, not only by agencies of the criminal justice system but by private corporations seeking information about their employees. Burnham details how computer programs have been used to match the information in many of these data bases. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare matched the computerized files of federal employees to welfare recipients in order to detect fraud. Selective Service registration and student loans are now routinely matched; those failing to register are denied student loans. Tax rolls and other data bases are now routinely used to track down runaway parents and deny tax refunds, at first to those whose children have had to rely on public assistance to live, later to all those who avoid their child support payments.

The number and size of these vast data bases are growing, as bureaucracies seek to increase their power and efficiency. Currently, the establisment of electronic funds transfer systems (EFT) are being encouraged by the Federal Reserve Board. Designed to streamline banking, the systems will also allow increasingly detailed electronic monitoring of the individual's financial transactions and status. Marketers are currently experimenting with systems to correlate the buying habits of families with other aspects of their lifestyle. One bizarre example of this particular use of the computer involves about two thousand families in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who have been tied into an automatic reporting system called Behaviorscan that keeps track of every single item the sample families purchase at their local supermarket. Simultaneously, the same families receive special test commercials on their home television sets . . . . (A)fter the Behaviorscan system records the purchases of the test families, a central computer in Chicago checks for correlations between what they saw in their television ads and what they bought at their supermarkets. The market researchers then use the information about the responses of the test families to predict the behavior of huge segments of the population (Burnham, 1980: 15).

These same marketeers are using similar methods to study the effectiveness of political messages and slogans. The problem with these instruments of effiency is that they enhance the power of already powerful organizations over our lives. Because of their efficiency, we lose all privacy, giving large organizations the ability to use or abuse their data bases at will.

Computer scientists and manufacturers purport to believe their machines are neutral. This is true, of course, as long as the technology remains in the showroom. The neutrality evaporates, however, when powerful officials running powerful bureaucracies harness the computers to achieve their collective goals. Often both the goals and methods of achieving them are in the public interest. History tells us however, that organizations of fallible men sometimes lose their way (Burnham, 1980: 84).

Even more dangerous than their abuse, however, is the danger of their further development and more sophisticated use. There is little difference between using computer and telecommunications technology to achieve efficient political administration and political domination; little difference between their use in efficient marketing and dictating to the marketplace. Virtually unchecked by law or custom, they are the primary tools by which public and private bureaucracies increasingly dominate social, economic, and political life. "Unless preventative steps are taken, we may develop systems that contain a perpetual, pervasive but apparently benign surveillance. Confronted with omnipresent, all-seeing data banks, the populace may find passivity and compliance the safest route, avoiding activities that once comprised political liberty" (Winner, 1984: 96). Even barring the centralization of these files for the foreseeable future, today both private and government organizations have unprecedented access to information about all aspects of the personal lives of the individuals they serve.


Tracking and matching individual records is not the only use of the computer to large organizations. The computer also increases the power of bureaucracies by providing them with the means of predicting opinions and activities of groups, thereby opening the members of these groups to targeted propaganda and appeals. For example, Burnham details a campaign by a coalition of labor groups to defeat right-to-work legislation in Missouri. Right-to-work legislation eliminates mandatory dues in unionized shops, thereby weakening the bargaining position of organized labor. Early polls in the state indicated that about two-thirds of the voters approved of right-to-work legislation. In order to stop this erosion of their power, labor leaders in the state hired three political consultants: Matt Reese, a Democratic political consultant; William Hamilton, a polster; and Jonathon Robbin, a sociologist and developer of "Geodemographics," a computer marketing technique based on census data. First, a computerized list of 1,467,823 telephone households in Missouri were purchased from a commercial supplier. Then, by means of a computer, each household was labeled by social class according to the location of the household in any one of the state's 6,104 census units . .
A random sample telephone poll was conducted. The poll was large enough so that the views about the right-to-work issue of each of the state's social clusters could be predicted . . . . Again using the computer, the technicians obtained the telephone number and address of every household located in the clusters that the polls had shown contained the largest proportion of favorable or persuadable voters. The computers printed out phone-bank call sheets. The labor unions recruited the large number of volunteers necessary to operate the phone banks . . . Based on the information collected during the original poll and the massive telephone survey, the team of Reese, Hamilton, and Robbin again used the computer to print and mail eighteen different letters about why the right-to-work law should be defeated. One version of the letter, for example, was tailored to answer the questions of Missouri farmers, who the pulse finders had determined were willing to listen to labor's message. The other seventeen letters, while not providing any directly conflicting information, were carefully designed to appeal to the other specific economic and social groups that labor was attempting to influence (Burnham, 1980: 93-94).

The campaign was very effective; the right to work proposal was defeated by a two-to-one margin. Census data, magazine subscription lists, organizational and professional rolls, lists of political donors from the Federal Elections Commission are all used by organizations to predict political and social opinions of respondents and to tailor appeals for contributions and votes. These same and other lists are also used by major corporations to more efficiently market their goods and services.

Much of the technology of manipulation--radio, television, the printed word--were well developed when Huxley was writing. Rather than inventing new media of manipulation, we have merely improved on the old forms and made them more pervasive. But advances in the techniques of manipulation have come from the social sciences as well as advertising. Focus group and survey information can uncover the emotional levers that will get us to buy a deodorant or a candidate (it was the focus group that demonstrated to the Bush campaign the effectiveness of the Willie Horton canard). Advertising through mass media can pull many of these levers at will. Campaign organizations, special interest groups, and advertisers can target their propaganda by obtaining mailing lists (from magazines, special interest organizations, or by matching zip codes with census information) composed of people likely to respond to the message. Governments manipulate the press through photo-ops and blatant irrational propaganda so often that it is not even news anymore--the American people, if they recognize it at all, seem to accept it as normal behavior by their government officials. Press agents and "spin doctors" put the best face on disasters. Image, particularly the image put forth on television, has become more important than reality.

It was Huxley's belief that impersonal social forces, such as environmental depletion brought on by runaway population and industrial growth, were pushing democracies toward the necessity of more efficiently coordinating its population. The growth of formal organizations as well as advances in the science and technology of manipulation were meeting this need for control. The drift toward totalitarianism was being accelerated, he believed, by the self-interest of elites at the top of commercial and political hierarchies. Commercial propaganda is essential in a capitalisic society. The techniques of advertising rely on the manipulation of symbols that attempt to create a bridge between the consumer's unconscious desires, fears, or anxieties and the product being sold. The objective of advertising is to get the consumer to believe that the purchase of the product will make his dream come true, or that she will be able to avoid her worst fears. But the advertising techniques developed to sell industrial goods and services are harmful when applied to political campaigns. Democracy can only survive if the people stay knowledgeable and make rational choices based on unbiased information and enlightened self-interest. "A dictatorship, on the other hand, maintains itself by censoring or distorting the facts, and by appealing, not to reason, not to enlightened self-interest, but to passion and prejudice, to the powerful 'hidden forces,' as Hitler called them, present in the unconscious depths of every human mind" (Huxley, 1959: 45). Democratic institutions, Huxley believed, were increasingly being undermined from within by politicians and their propagandists.

In one particularly prophetic passage, Huxley writes of the candidate of the future: "In one way or another, as vigorous he-man or kindly father, the candidate must be glamorous. He must also be an entertainer who never bores his audience. Inured to television and radio, that audience is accustomed to being distracted and does not like to be asked to concentrate or make a prolonged intellectual effort. All speeches of the entertainer-candidate must therefore be short and snappy. The great issues of the day must be dealt with in five minutes at the most--and preferable (since the audience will be eager to pass on to something a little livelier than inflation or the H-bomb) in sixty seconds flat" (Huxley, 1959: 55). Political propagandists and their candidates make no attempt to educate the masses for self government, they are content to merely exploit them for their votes. While the present day corruption of the political campaign is widely recognized, it is usually perceived as only a slight problem in democratic procedures, in need of reform but certainly nothing that threatens the foundation of the system. After all, it is reasoned, 'trivial' campaigns are well known in American history ("Tippicanoe and Tyler too"). Such a view ignores the present day sophistication and pervasiveness of manipulative technology.

Huxley sees the "quaint old forms" and trappings of democracy--elections, supreme courts, congress, the constitution--as remaining in place. The traditional names and slogans will remain; freedom and democracy will continue to be the theme of presidential speeches and editorials. As in the present day, political scientists and sociologists will continue to be in hot debate over the elitist hypothesis. But it will be democracy and freedom in a trivial sense. "Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit" (Huxley, 1959: 108).

The belief in democracy actually works to the advantage of the power elite, as Parenti has noted in the following passage:

As now constituted, elections serve as a great asset in consolidating the existing social order by propagating the appearances of popular rule. History demonstrates that the people might be moved to overthrow a tyrant who shows himself provocatively indifferent to their woes, but they are far less inclined to make war upon a state, even one dominated by the propertied class, if it preserves what Madison called `the spirit and form of popular government.' Elections legitimate the rule of the propertied class by investing it with the moral authority of popular consent. By the magic of the ballot, class dominance becomes 'democratic' governance. According to the classical theory of democracy, the purpose of suffrage is to make the rulers more responsive to the will of the people. But history suggests the contrary: more often the effect and even the intent of suffrage has been to make the enfranchised group more responsive to the rulers, or at least committed to the ongoing system of rule. In the classical theory, the vote is an exercise of sovereign power, a popular command over the rulers, but it might just as easily be thought of as an act of support extended by the electorate to those above them. Hence, an election is more a surrender than an assertion of popular power, a gathering up of empowering responses by the elites who have the resources for such periodic harvestings, an institutionalized mechanism providing for the regulated flow of power from the many to the few in order to legitimate the rule of the few in the name of the many" (Parenti, 1978: 201). Once in office, the campaign tactics of manipulation will carry over into styles of governance. For example, "therapy" for the deviant and the criminal, all in the name of scientific advance and enlightenment will become more the norm. Basing its perspective on the medical model of care, the therepeutic solution to the problem of social control is focused on changing the individual to better fit the social environment. It purports to treat the "causes" of crime and deviance instead of merely dealing with its consequences. Under the therapeutic perspective, crime and deviance become diseases, to be treated with chemo- or psycho-therapy. People diverted from the criminal justice system and placed under this medical model of treatment are denied basic constitutional safeguards.

Consequently, under such a system, the coercive power of the state increases dramatically. Such reforms are difficult to oppose because they seem to be the epitome of enlightenment. The state, rather than acting as an agent of punishment, is acting as a "friend" and "helper." But by doing so it is denying the political nature of the deviant act; it is removing an impetus to improve social conditions. The last ditch effort at controlling crime and deviance is but the most obvious form of manipulation. In the name of welfare, the environment, child abuse prevention, social security, nationalized medical care, to name but a few of the laudable goals, state power will confront the individual everywhere. As the science and technique of manipulation continue to improve and become more pervasive, the Brave New World nightmare becomes more of a reality.

Burnham, David.   1980. The Rise of the Computer State.  New York: Vintage Books.

Harris, Marvin.   1977. Canibals and Kings : The Origins of  Cultures.  New York: Vintage Books.

Heilbroner, Robert.  1980. An Inquiry Into the Human Prospect . New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Huxley, Aldous.   1959. Brave New World Revisited.  New York: Harper & Row.

Parenti, Michael.   1978. Power and the Powerless .  New York: St. Martin's Press.

Winner, Langdon.  1984.  'Mythinformation in the high-tech era.'  IEEE Spectrum , June, 21 (6)(1984): 90-96.

* This is an exerpt from The Evolution of the Future, by Frank Elwell, 1991, Praeger Publishers, an imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, CT., used by permission.