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After Nineteen Eighty-Four, After Theory and After Snowden: A World-System Theory Reading

McQueen, Stephen (2015) After Nineteen Eighty-Four, After Theory and After Snowden: A World-System Theory Reading. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis draws on the insights of George Orwell’s (1949[1984]) Nineteen Eighty-Four to explore contemporary surveillance issues. It is argued that Nineteen Eighty-Four can be read from a variety of theoretical approaches that have developed since its publication in 1949. This is demonstrated by drawing on Eagleton’s (2003) After Theory and the parallels the text has with Eagleton’s call for a return to a less reductive and more self-reflexive class based analysis. Research that utilises different theoretical approaches to read Nineteen Eighty-Four is also discussed. The thesis then considers various ways in which the different main characters have been analysed. An alternative reading is then provided, that argues that Winston, Julia and O’Brien can be read as representing aspects of modernism, cultural theory and postmodernism respectively. It is then argued that through their interactions, the text encourages a rapprochement of cultural theory and modernist class based analysis, as a means of resistance to the state. Finally, by drawing on World-system theory, an alternative reading of the global political economy of Nineteen Eighty-Four is employed to explore issues of stability and surveillance in this fictive world. This analysis is then used to explore contemporary surveillance issues after the Snowden revelations, including the role of global capital and the state in employing surveillance to control labour. Issues of resistance are then discussed in terms of the importance for a return to a class based analysis of surveillance that draws on the insights of World-system theory, but which emphasises the insights provided by cultural theory. This includes, for example, how state and capital utilise language to limit the subject positions of citizens to suspect and consumer, as well as enabling a more self-reflexive range of subject positions than those imposed by the state and global capital in the contemporary global political economy.

Publication Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor: Moody, David
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