Individualism In Totalitarianism - Pratt Institute FA18 - Assignment

1899 words - 8 pages

Benjamin Kim
Kwame Heshimu
Individualism in Totalitarianism
If one were to discern the vast amount of contemporary societies which exist as
countless groups ranging in various sizes from small communities, to immensely
populated countries, the majority of them tend to be variations of a democratic society.
This is a result of people reflecting on the failures of totalitarian societies that seized to
exist quite recently in terms of history, making today’s generation opting for a more
democratic way of living. During the century where totalitarianism exponentially made its
presence, many individuals feared the future of their societies most obviously because
the high death tolls and regressive ideologies of totalitarianism slowly conquering
people’s minds. Few bold individuals acted out in ways such as artistic expression that
warned the dangers of a robust development in totalitarian societies. An effective way to
do so was the dissemination of fictional works that depicted exaggerated future
hypothetical dystopian societies as a result of totalitarianism. Examples of these include
the film Alphaville directed by Jean Luc Godard and the novel 1984 written by George
Orwell. This exploration hopes to analyze the relationship of individualist ideologies, a
strong motif in both works, in the formation of the two respective totalitarian societies
depicted in the works mentioned previously. Hence, throughout the exploration the
question ‘What role does individualism play in a totalitarian society?’ is necessary to
refer back to. Such analysis will hopefully help understand the relevance of
individualism in real life examples of totalitarian societies in the 20th century, particularly
Maoist China.
Benjamin Kim
Kwame Heshimu
Individualism seems to be an omnipresent motif in totalitarian societies. So
before dissecting its relevance, it is important to identify the notions that fall under the
umbrella of individualism. Firstly, it is a direct derivation of the word individual which is
also an antonym of ‘group’. According to the social theorist Barry Barnes, individualism
stresses that “individuals are to be treated as independent reasoning and
information-processing systems with independent ends or objectives.” “Reasoning” and
“information-processing” refer to the reflective tools individualists use in order to
understand the surrounding environment and notions such as emotion fall under the
same category where emotion is a cognitive response after one interacts with
environmental stimuli. Therefore, it is safe to say that under the loose concept of
individualism, for the purpose of this exploration, one can reduce this ideology into
‘emotion’ and ‘reasoning’ which both are cognitive mechanisms.
The film “Alphaville” directed by Jean Luc Godard tells the tale of a secret agent
called Lemmy Caution who enters a dystopian society called Alphaville to perform a
series of missions. This society is dystopian...

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