Eight Ideal Conditions for the Flowering of Autocracy

The three fictional works I have described [Solaris, 1984 + Brave New World], when combined with those rare political writers who approach autocratic form from the point of view of technology (Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Guy Debord, Herbert Marcuse), begin to yield a system of preconditions from which we can expect monolithic systems of control to emerge. These may be institutional autocracies or dictatorships. For the moment, it will be simpler to use the dictatorship model.

Imagine that like some kind of science fiction dictator you intended to rule the world. You would probably have pinned over your desk a list something like this:

1) Eliminate personal knowledge. Make it hard for people to know about themselves, how they function, what a human being is, or how a human fits into wider, natural systems. This will make it impossible for the human to separate natural from artificial, real from unreal. You provide the answers to all questions.

2) Eliminate points of comparison. Comparisons can be found in earlier societies, older language forms, and cultural artifacts, including print media. Eliminate or museumize indigenous cultures, wilderness, and nonhuman life forms. Re-create internal human experience—instincts, thoughts, and spontaneous, varied feelings—so that it will not evoke the past.

3) Separate people from each other. Reduce interpersonal communication through life-styles that emphasize separateness. When people gather together, be sure it is for a prearranged experience that occupies all their attention at once. Spectator sports are excellent, so are circuses, elections, and any spectacles in which focus is outward and interpersonal exchange is subordinated to mass experience.

4) Unify experience, especially encouraging mental experience at the expense of sensory experience. Separate people’s minds from their bodies, as in sense-deprivation experiments, thus clearing the mental channel for implantation. Idealize the mind. Sensory experience cannot be eliminated totally, so it should be driven into narrow areas. An emphasis on sex as opposed to sense may be useful because it is powerful enough to pass for the whole thing and it has a placebo effect.

5) Occupy the mind. Once people are isolated in their minds, fill the brain with prearranged experience and thought. Content is less important than the fact of the mind being filled. Free-roaming thought is to be discouraged at all costs, because it is difficult to control.

6) Encourage drug use. Recognize that total repression is impossible and so expressions of revolt must be contained on the personal level. Drugs will fill in the cracks of dissatisfaction, making people unresponsive to organized expressions of resistance.

7) Centralize knowledge and information. Having isolated people from each other and minds from bodies, eliminated points of comparison, discouraged sensory experience, and invented technologies to unify and control experience, speak. At this point whatever comes from outside will enter directly into all brains at the same time with great power and believability.

8) Redefine happiness and the meaning of life in terms of new and increasingly unrooted philosophy. Once you’ve established the prior seven conditions, this one is easy. Anything makes sense in a void. All channels are open, receptive and unquestioning. Formal mind structuring is simple. Most important, avoid naturalistic philosophies; they lead to uncontrollable awareness. The least resistible philosophies are the most arbitrary ones, those that make sense only in terms of themselves.