Wisdom and Warnings for the 21st Century
With Orwell claimed by all sides of the culture wars, returning to his own world and words offers sharp and surprising lessons for today’s crises.
Seventy-five years after the publication of his classic dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell is experiencing a renaissance. Conservatives accuse governments and mainstream media of ‘Orwellian’ censorship, while progressives denounce the narrative manipulations of ‘Orwellian’ leaders including Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro and Putin, especially around the Ukraine War. But what does it really mean to call something Orwellian? What would the man himself say about these crises, and what can we learn from his ideas?
Orwell’s Ghosts introduces readers to Orwell in all his complexity, exploring his commitment to political liberty and economic justice alongside his problematic attitudes towards women. This free thinker’s witty and perceptive commentaries remain invaluable, from remarks on political truth and disinformation and observations on class, race and empire, to insights on the appeal and threat of authoritarianism, and the promise of socialism. Even Orwell’s misogyny offers troubling lessons about the left’s flawed relationship with gender equality. All of his books offer a remarkably resonant bridge between the first half of the twentieth century and the present day.
Revisiting Orwell’s own age of rapid change and urgent crossroads, this book sheds unique light on both our recent past and the upheavals of today’s world.
Laura Beers is a historian of modern Britain, and author of the award-winning Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist; and Your Britain: Media and the Making of the Labour Party. A professor at American University, she comments frequently on British politics for CNN and the BBC.