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Foreign words, Gramophones and Truth in “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell (1946)

Les mots étrangers, les gramophones et la vérité dans « La politique et la langue anglaise » de George Orwell
Pierre Guerlain

Résumés

Cet article analyse la position d’Orwell en ce qui concerne l’utilisation de mots étrangers en anglais et fait le lien entre cette position et les options politiques et philosophiques du romancier et essayiste britannique. Cette analyse déconstruit la perception d’un Orwell chauvin sur le plan linguistique et se focalise sur les affinités existant entre Orwell, Russell et Chomsky afin de commenter la lutte entre les postmodernes et ceux que l’on appelle les rationalistes.

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The moment you say that any idea system is sacred
whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular
ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be
immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt,
freedom of thought becomes impossible.
Salman Rushdie1

  • 2 The American Ideology, New York: Routledge, 2004, 13 (discussed 19-23).

In recent years, it is curious that Reason has come under
attack in quarters identified with the Left.
Andrew Levine2

1The essay by George Orwell entitled “Politics and the English Language” was published in 1946, that is to say three years before his novel 1984. However, it was written in the same time frame as that political novel which, together with Animal Farm (published in 1945) made Orwell famous and even a household name, which he remains. The focus here will be on two aspects of Orwell’s essay and what it reveals about his political and philosophical views. Since the text was chosen for its references to foreign words used in English I will, of course, deal with this aspect, but I will mostly use the mention of foreign words as an entry point into Orwell’s philosophy. I use the term “philosophy” deliberately although Orwell was not a professional philosopher but a journalist, essayist and a novelist.

2The sections about foreign words constitute but a small portion of this article dealing mostly with the “slovenliness of our language” which as Orwell says (p. 1) “makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” So I propose to first investigate who Orwell was as a thinker, then I will tackle Orwell and foreign words or rather their uses in specific discourses, and finally I will move from foreign words to the philosophical realm.

Mapping George Orwell on the Political Landscape

  • 3 Mark Falcoff, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” National Review, 4 De (...)

3One difficulty when dealing with Orwell is the fact that he is claimed as a mentor or a source of inspiration by almost everyone from the neoconservative right to the democratic socialist left. Norman Podhoretz, one of the leading neoconservatives in the US in the 1980s, published an article entitled “If Orwell Were Alive Today” (Harper’s, January 1983) in which he claims that Orwell would basically approve of American conservatives in their fight against the now defunct Soviet Union. The National Review has celebrated Orwell; one writer in this far-right publication even refers approvingly to “Politics and the English Language”.3 This might seem surprising since Orwell always declared himself a democratic socialist and fought in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans in a Trotskyite group called POUM. He recorded these experiences in his book Homage to Catalonia.

  • 4 Christopher Hitchens, Why Orwell Matters, New York: Basic Books, 2002. See also Adam Ho (...)
  • 5 In his Reflexions on Exile and other essays (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 20 (...)

4What the right or far-right relate to is his denunciation of Communism, prompted by the Stalinist attempt to wipe out all non-Communist fighters in the ranks of the Republicans but their reading is skewed and based on a partial interpretation of Orwell’s work. Even though Animal Farm does follow the historical events of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, Orwell always made a point of saying he was targeting all forms of totalitarianism, not just the Soviet one. He also remained a lifelong socialist. In many ways, for the far right to claim Orwell as one of its own is like Glenn Beck and the Tea Party riding on the coat-tails of Martin Luther King’s fame: a usurpation of celebrity based upon, at best, a hemiplegic reading of his texts. Christopher Hitchens, author of Why Orwell Matters,4 moved from the progressive left when he wrote with Edward Said (who, for his part, had some very harsh words to say about Orwell5) to support of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. He celebrates Orwell as if he were a contrarian and polemicist like himself and enlists him in his right-wing combats.

  • 6 Colloque du Collège de France, 28 May 2010, Rationalité, vérité et démocratie : Bertran (...)
  • 7 Orwell’s quotation includes the word “nationalism”. “Nationalism is Power Hunger Temper (...)

5At the other end of the ideological spectrum, Noam Chomsky very often quotes Orwell when he deals with the role played by liberal intellectuals in the US political debate. Chomsky also quotes Bertrand Russell and these three writers were the focus of a conference organized by Jacques Bouveresse at the Collège de France in May 2010.6 Chomsky chose a quotation by Orwell for the title of his address: “Power Hunger Tempered by Self-deception”.7 These three writers have many ideological affinities and they take similar stands as far as current philosophical debates over relativism and postmodernism are concerned. As J. Bouveresse writes in his presentation of the symposium:

All three of them are convinced that in spite of all the criticisms which may have been formulated against concepts such as those of “truth” and “objectivity”, the latter are as significant as ever, from a practical point of view – in particular in politics – as well as from a theoretical point of view. And all three of them also accept as something that cannot really be challenged that there are objective facts concerning what is true and what is not and that if we consider it is important to believe, as far as possible, only in things which have a reasonable chance of being (objectively) true, then it is science – in spite of all the abuses it can be held responsible for, in spite of all the justifiable blame levelled at it – which provides the best example of the way one can achieve justified beliefs, at least as far as facts are concerned.8

6Orwell is thus, like most widely-read thinkers, perceived differently by different people and serves as a screen upon which readers may project their own preferences. Some interpretations though are closer to the truth than others, assuming one does not jettison the concept of truth or consider that all interpretations have equal validity – a key point made by all three writers.9 There are opposed yet complementary ways of dismissing Orwell. For instance in some literary circles he is considered as an essayist or a journalist and therefore not a writer as such, while for others Orwell’s political ideas are mere fiction and therefore not deep enough.10 He is a source of inspiration for Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed the extent of NSA surveillance in 2013 as well as for Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who cooperated with Snowden.11 Indeed, the adjective “Orwellian” is used by every single political or ideological grouping as, more or less, a synonym of “in bad faith”, “dishonest” and is an attack on opponents. It comes from the newspeak described in 1984 and suggests, as Chomsky was to observe, that people can hold two contradictory views in mind at the same time but also that language has become so debased and disconnected from the real life of ordinary people that it prevents unacceptable thoughts from even forming into their minds.

  • 12 Daphne Patai argues in The Orwell Mystique: a Study in Male Ideology that Orwell was a (...)
  • 13 Victor Klemperer, LTI, la langue du troisième Reich, Paris: Albin Michel, 1996. (origin (...)

7Orwell, anarchiste tory, the revealing title of a book by French writer Jean-Claude Michéa, who belongs to the libertarian left, reminds us of a phrase Orwell used to describe himself (Tory anarchist) between 1927 and 1934. Thus, in his early life as a writer, Orwell gave a rather oxymoronic definition of himself which may have fostered or facilitated the various ways in which he was perceived. Later he would describe himself as a socialist but there are strains of cultural conservatism in his writings and his taste for warm beer, the English countryside, his defence of patriotism were unusual among left-wingers then. His rants against vegetarians or even his real or alleged homophobia and sexism certainly throw a crude light on his political progressivism.12 The anarchist side survived in his writings and led him to challenge all forms of orthodoxy, a topic to which I will return later. Before Hannah Arendt, Orwell talked about totalitarianism and with this concept referred to both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. He denounced the language of totalitarianism, or what in French is known as la langue de bois (stilted ideological language) spoken by, as he writes in “Politics and the English Language, “some kind of dummy”. His work is in many respects akin to that done by Victor Klemperer at roughly the same time on the language of the Third Reich.13 Critics both from the right as from the left seem to have found it difficult to realize that Orwell could be a determined anti-communist and a man of the left at a time when being on the left implied either being a Communist, a fellow-traveller or a member of an intelligentsia who did not want to deviate from a pro-Soviet line. Later, of course, democratic socialism which had no truck with Stalinism became a more potent force.

8Some aspects of Orwell’s style may seem outdated today for the political landscape he is describing is very different from the current one, even if “Orwellian” words, phrases and techniques for deception are still very much with us. What should not be forgotten though is that Orwell targeted British or (maybe only English) intellectuals and focused on the many ways in which censorship and intimidation was practised in London. That is why it is not surprising that Chomsky, who during the Vietnam War wrote an article entitled “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” should have referred to his defence of freedom of speech. In it he writes: “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.”14 He does not quote Orwell in this text but it is clear that both Orwell and Chomsky (as well as Russell for that matter) are progressive intellectuals who target the cowardice, conformism or timidity of other intellectuals, mostly academics who claim to be liberal and assert the possibility of telling the truth about history in the making.

  • 15 “The enemy is the gramophone mind whether or not one agrees with the record that is bei (...)
  • 16 « Il n’y a rien hors du texte – un texte ne doit être lu que dans sa texture propre, sa (...)

9In English, the phrase “true believers” is a particularly apt description of people who cannot think outside the box, be that box religious or ideological. True believers may be Catholics (a favourite target of Orwell), Communists or neoliberals: what they have in common is what Orwell calls the “gramophone mind”.15 What he writes about foreign words must therefore be understood in this context. Contrary to some interpretations of what Jacques Derrida says about (literary) texts,16 there is always an hors-texte to understand a historical text, a context which gives it meaning. I shall return to the philosophical implications of Orwell’s writings in the last part of this paper.

Orwell and Foreign Words

10Let us start our examination of “Politics and the English Language” with a few direct quotes and ponder over their layers of meaning.

Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i. e., e. g. and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers. The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

11Later in the text we find:

[…] and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable.

12And the final recommendation:

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

13As we can see Orwell takes a strong stand against not only foreign words but also Latin and Greek words. Apparently his position is diametrically opposed to that of Adorno or Glissant who defend foreign words or the creolization of languages. For Adorno, a victim of Nazism who had to flee to the US, rehabilitating foreign words was accomplished as de-Nazification of the language and the minds of Germans. He put that point starkly in the texts he wrote at the time of de-Nazification in West Germany: “Foreign loan-words are the Jews of language.”17 Glissant writes in a post-colonial context in which creolization is a way to cure the linguistic wounds of colonialism.18 Why would Orwell, an anti-imperialist who fought in international brigades in Spain and a man of the left take such a position? Does it go with his liking for English pubs, lukewarm English beer and his defence of patriotism? Certainly a reading of this sort could be made but would amount to sidestepping the key point made by Orwell in this text. Orwell did not always respect his own recommendations as he indicates at the end of this piece. For instance he wrote: “The ‘Communism’ of the English intellectual is something explicable enough. It is the patriotism of the deracinated.” (Orwell, 1940), thus using “deracinated” when he could have used “uprooted”. In an era in which we all celebrate “diversity” although it has become an empty word used by everyone (including the Bush administration and the US army) and is as devoid of substance as the word “fascism” was in Orwell’s time, a form of what seems to be linguistic protectionism is either unacceptable or unfashionable. Orwell’s apparent celebration of English words may call to mind French linguistic laws like la loi Toubon which impose the use of French equivalents for foreign, mostly English, words and it may appear chauvinistic.

  • 19 See for instance the article published by Friedrich Engels in Die Neue Rheinische Zeitu (...)

14The idea that the left, liberals or progressives are in favour of foreign words and the right is chauvinistic seems to be apposite. American conservatives disliked the term détente (but they hated even more the reality of it which went against their desire to roll back Communism). The war hawks who demonized France in 2003 after it opposed the war in Iraq wanted to cleanse American English not just of French words but of anything suggesting the country, renaming “French-fries” “freedom fries” in the same way as “Sauerkraut” had been renamed “liberty cabbage” at the time of the First World War. Yet even this easy classification falls short in many cases. Adorno became, according to student activists, “a reactionary” in the 1960s, for he opposed the students’ movements and he was a cultural conservative who hated jazz. Adorno’s dislike of jazz and Orwell’s mockery of vegetarianism, make them singular individuals thus rendering political classification difficult. Indeed, even Marx and Engels may today appear conservative in their qualified defence of British imperialism in India for the industrialization it brought to the country or in Marx’s support for the US invasion of Mexico in 1846.19 Chauvinism and xenophobia are political markers of the right and signs of intellectual incompetence. They restrict intellectual horizons and close minds off, whereas opening up to others, other cultures, and other languages is a marker of intellectual sophistication and competence in thinking for ideas have no borders. Yet political categories might prove too rigid to apprehend writers’ positions. Marx and Engels supported so-called “wars of civilization” which would make them reactionary today. Are Orwell’s linguistic theories a sign of his profound Englishness and do they point up a form of narrow-mindedness based on ethnocentrism?

  • 20 Class at the Université populaire de Caen, broadcast by France Culture radio on 16 Augu (...)

15The long quotation which appears at the start of this section may be found under under the heading “pretentious diction”. What Orwell is deriding or lamenting is the use of foreign words, or the intention of the writer using them in specific instances. Indeed “foreign words” are not a concept in themselves, only a category which carries meaning in a specific context. The use of Greek words, or Greek roots, may be used by scientists or fake scientists trying to sell snake oil. Latin plays the same role, as all readers and spectators of Molière’s play Le Malade imaginaire know. The use of Latin may be a sign of erudition or a cover-up for fraud. Molière also mocked pretentious and empty language in Les Précieuses ridicules. Orwell deals with the same snobbery or fraud as Molière when he refers to “pretentious diction”. It is easy to detect fraud when fake doctors resort to Greek or Latin and the use of French, German or Russian in English may have the same function. Orwell targets inauthenticity – or quite simply lies – in the public debate. This is also a point made by Michel Onfray, speaking from a progressive point of view in his talk on Erich Fromm whom he contrasts with Lacan precisely on account of their different attitudes towards neologisms and foreign words used for obfuscation.20

  • 21 T.W. Adorno, Jargon de l’authenticité , (...)

16What Chomsky argued in 1967 is of the same order. In the intellectual world a profusion of foreign phrases may be a mask for the banality of a piece of work. If foreign words are a PR exercise or an attempt to hoodwink supposedly uneducated ordinary people, then their meaning has nothing to do with what Adorno or Glissant say in celebration of the dialogue of languages or cultures. On the contrary they are there to deceive, not enrich or educate. Orwell spoke of the “common decency” of ordinary people which he contrasted with the intellectual orthodoxy and the use of doublespeak among people with power. (“If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy” and “Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style”). So he does differ from Adorno who, in a book entitled Jargon der Eigentlichkeit, Zur deutschen Ideologie (1964), criticized Heidegger for his use of what he calls Eigentlichkeit (usually translated as authenticity in English and authenticité in French).21 For Orwell simplicity and clarity are not anti-intellectual but rather they ensure that the common decency of ordinary people is not politically abused. For this he was naturally often called naïve, bourgeois or unsophisticated in the field of linguistics.

  • 22 Here is a typical tribute paid by Chomsky to Orwell: “Easy contradiction is an importan (...)
  • 23 “Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify th (...)

17Indeed, Orwell does not work as a scholar in linguistics, his field is political discourse. Chomsky who is, of course, a well-known professional linguist, uses Orwell for his political and sociological insights which come from paying close attention to the use of language.22 Let us review Orwell’s presentation of doublespeak: “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible” he writes, before explaining how the word “pacification” is used to make war more acceptable. He has largely won this debate for today everyone is aware of Orwellian doublespeak, doublethink and the tricks of langue de bois. For his own argument, he chooses to refer to known examples such as “British rule in India”, “Russian purges” and “the dropping of the atom bomb in Japan”. Clearly Orwell targets any group or ideology which resorts to pretentious or obfuscating language, with or without foreign words. By asserting that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity,” he takes a very un-Machiavellian political stance. For Machiavelli the Prince had to resort to the ruse of the fox and the force of the lion.23

From Foreign words to an Anti-relativist Philosophy

  • 24 See Tzvetan Todorov, Mémoire du mal, tentation du bien : enquête sur le siècle, Paris: (...)

18Molière and the Jacques Prévert who says: “il ne faut pas laisser les intellectuels jouer avec les allumettes” (one shouldn’t let intellectuals play with matches) make fun of intellectual snobbery or fraud in a widely accepted way. Orwell’s work, whether in fiction or in essays, has the same debunking aspect but it deals with rather weightier matters. Bertrand Russell, who denounced the Bolshevik Revolution after a trip to the USSR as early as 1920, André Gide with his Retour de l’URSS (1936) and David Rousset, also a Trotskyite who was attacked by the Communists of his time, did similar work.24 Today, of course, someone tracking down “Orwellian doublespeak” would have to choose other targets, such as neoliberal propaganda from Hayek to Thatcher, Reagan and Bush, or Chinese distortions of the truth (which is commonly done in the West) or in the rhetoric of “banksters” and their allies in various governments. Orwell suggested a specific attention to the way language was used which is largely relevant today.

  • 25 See: “Lickety splits: two nations divided by a common language. Are there too many ‘Ame (...)

19Foreign words are common in some fields nowadays. Thus, English words abound in French, German and Spanish in computer science and IT. At times there are local translations, but practitioners prefer either the English (mainly American) term or its anglicized version in their vernacular (French uses downloader as a verb). Most of the time it has nothing to do with technological necessity, it just reflects a power relationship and the American domination of this economic, technological and therefore semantic area. The lingua franca of business is English and this translates into the importation of American English terms in management, economics or even political science (for example flowchart or agenda in French when it merely means ordre du jour; gouvernance is an Anglicism (governance) which obfuscates rather than clarifies). Foreign words are then a symptom of a larger pattern of domination with historical roots. In advertising, the use of English words or words derived from English is common and projects an image of modernity, of hipness or of cool, all originating in the US. British slang is itself being Americanized and people complain about Americanisms in the media for they reflect a power relationship in which Britain is dominated. (These words and expressions are foreign even if they are “English” for “American English” differs from “British English”).25

20Foreign words, in some contexts, may be the sign of current or former colonisation (French in the Arabic of North Africa or even English words in Quebec French). That is why one must resist the fashionable reflex in academic circles that foreign words are always a positive sign of open-mindedness, progressivism and/or tolerant multiculturalism. Their presence in a text must be analyzed in a specific context. Orwell indicates in his text that “the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship,” so it is quite clear that chauvinism is not his motive in his remarks about the English language but rather that he intends to deconstruct propaganda and the rhetorical and semantic devices used, which may include the use of foreign words.

21Before moving to the philosophical argument, it is important to stress that a purely political analysis of a writer’s texts is problematic. Political classification which leads to intellectual evaluation is totally rejected in literary studies. Pound, who worked for the fascists in Italy, can be considered a good poet; Céline, who wrote anti-Semitic tracts, is a major novelist; Éluard who wrote an ideologically misguided and poetically terrible Ode à Staline, is a respected poet. In the case of political writers, works tend to be evaluated on the basis of their ideological preferences. This approach seems more justified than in literature yet negates the complexity of writers. Orwell was rejected by Communists of his time or later hailed by neoconservatives in the US on the basis of a hasty generalization. Said and Chomsky who agree on many foreign policy topics and are considered (somewhat problematically) to be on the far left are in total disagreement as far as Orwell is concerned: basically, I think, because Said had a literary approach and did not focus on Orwell’s socio-political commentary.

  • 26 Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994.
  • 27 Here is a typical comment by Chomsky: “ Left intellectuals took an active part in (...)
  • 28 Orwell argued against verbiage in British society; Chomsky does so for France: “French (...)

22In his book entitled Orwell ou l’horreur de la politique,26 Simon Leys points out that Orwell hated the dishonesty or the ruse that are part and parcel of politics and political debates. He could never have been a politician and he spoke in defence of common decency. This explains his style which is often called simplistic and/or naïve, for his target audience was made up of ordinary citizens. Comparing Derrida’s writing to Orwell’s or Chomsky’s political writings shows that they address different groups, highly educated humanities specialists in Derrida’s case, ordinary people in the case of Orwell and Chomsky. Chomsky even theorized this difference: he said and wrote on many occasions that to be interested in the affairs of this world there is no need for a special vocabulary, that 15 year-olds are competent enough to understand politics if they read a little.27 It is much easier to reject Orwell’s writings as simplistic than Chomsky’s, as the latter’s fame in the field of linguistics prevents any accusation of lack of intelligence or sophistication. Nevertheless, both Orwell and Chomsky denounce jargon and obfuscation and they target not only the leaders of conservative parties in power but also liberal, left-wing academics or intellectual stars, those that Chomsky called “the New Mandarins”. Chomsky’s political work started with the denunciation of lies during the Vietnam War whether they came from politicians or academics. In the academic field Chomsky talks about “Paris follies” to refer to what is known as French Theory in US academia.28 There is indeed a link between Orwell, Russell and Chomsky in that they were all independent thinkers, all at odds with the dominant ideas of their intellectual milieus, all progressive but non-communist, all famous and all on the side of the common people even though they belonged to the elite. Philosophically they all took a stand against relativism and what later came to be called post-modernism, which explains why they are called “rationalists”, a term of abuse according to postmodernists.

23Pierre Bourdieu analyzed what he called La Distinction, meaning the strategies adopted by various groups in order to be different or distinct from others.29 Distinction of course works in academia too and in the humanities distinction adopts linguistic strategies. Writing in a simple unsophisticated style is perceived as a sign of incompetence. Literary criteria are applied to social sciences as if beauty meant scientific validity.30 A well-written apologia of social Darwinism is not, however, better than a dry presentation of the socio-economic factors which lead to crime. An interesting erudite style may even be a mask for either scientific mumbo jumbo or vacuity. When Alan Sokal published his hoax about physics in a famous cultural studies journal, Social Text, no one on the board realized it was a hoax. Approved abstruse language was enough to satisfy the editors of the journal. In other words fashionable theory masked scientific vacuity.31 As Todorov wrote about literary criticism: “le pédantisme du style peut tuer la liberté de penser.”(stylistic pedantry can kill freedom of thought) 32

  • 33 The paper he presented at the Collège de France. On 28 May 2010 can be read at <http:// (...)
  • 34 This is a direct reference to Bertrand Russell who wrote in History of Western Philosophy: “The con (...)

24Then we come to a philosophical debate which exists today between the so-called rationalists, Orwell, Russell and Chomsky and the so-called post-moderns or cultural relativists. In his presentation at the Collège de France symposium, Jean-Jacques Rosat argued in accordance with his title (“Russell, Orwell : une famille de pensée et d’action”) that these writers believe in the possibility of searching for objective truth, and the existence of an objective reality outside the observer. This is what distinguishes them from Foucault who argued that truth depended on regimes of power and that therefore truth was a power relation. For post-modernism, Rosat argued, there is no truth any longer. He quoted Orwell’s novel 1984 when the hero wants to resist O’Brien and the propaganda of the party and reminds himself that “stones are hard,” in other words that reality exists outside the presence of observers.33 Rosat, summing up the position of all three writers, argued that “la vérité échappe à tout pouvoir humain”. (truth escapes all human power)34

  • 35 Just one example among many: Loïc Wacquant, Les Prisons de la misère, Paris: Raisons d’ (...)

25What is more, Orwell and later Chomsky, Sokal and countless others mostly in scientific fields establish a link between the truth, scientific method and the fight against oppression. If, following Nietzsche, there are no facts but only interpretations, then there is only a difference of interpretation between exploiter and exploited. Postmodernism deprives the downtrodden of the liberating power of truth. Of course, as Engels famously said, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” when he called agnosticism “shamefaced materialism”, post-modern thinkers do not really believe in their discourse on truth when it comes to physical reality. They believe that some bridges can be built when you know the laws of physics and that the chemical effects of drugs can be known, that sanitation is the result of the study of objective reality. It is only in social science and the humanities that power replaces truth. It is quite accurate that in the social sciences that Chomsky calls “ideological disciplines”, consensus about interpretation cannot be arrived at in the same way as in hard sciences. Often power relationships determine who is appointed, published, considered a star. Yet giving up the concept of an objective reality which can be studied means that, for instance, in sociology there is no way to determine whether social Darwinism is superior to Durkheim or the urban sociology that focuses on socio-economic and political factors to explain, for instance, the persistent marginalization of African-Americans. It is because Loïc Wacquant believes in truth, scientific inquiry and rationality that he can so brilliantly deconstruct the social Darwinism that has come back into fashion in the US and France.35

  • 36 Here is what I wrote in Cahiers de l’Herne : « […] dans un article du Monde diplomatiq (...)
  • 37 Joyce O. Appleby, Lynn A. Hunt and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth About History, New York: W.W. (...)
  • 38 Article entitled “Historical Truth,” series As I Please, Tribune, 4 February, 1944, ava (...)

26Pundits and political scientists who use elaborate language bought the lies of the Bush administration before the Iraq war. Russell and Orwell – even with his simple, easy style – got the point of Soviet totalitarianism before the experts. When Derrida makes political points he often relies on the work of others, notably Chomsky the rationalist whom he mines for facts.36 In an essay entitled “Historical Truth”, published in Tribune on February 4, 1944 – long before postmodernism, Hayden White and Susan Jacoby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob37 – Orwell wrote: “There is some hope, therefore, that the liberal habit of mind, which thinks of truth as something outside yourself, something to be discovered, and not as something you can make up as you go along, will survive.”38

  • 39 Historian Jennifer Pitts documents this shift as far as views on imperialism are concer (...)

27Here once again we find political thoughts in common between Orwell the essayist, Russell the philosopher and Chomsky the linguist and political writer. They all argue that traditional liberalism was not the travesty that its defenders later on presented. They all argue that liberalism in its traditional canonical philosophical form had to do with what later came to be known as the left. Russell explains why he moved from liberalism to socialism and Chomsky often quotes Adam Smith to denounce the “power of merchants” in his society. They take a philosophical stand that puts them at odds with the so-called “liberals” of their different times but also with the Marxists. Their “liberalism” is another word for “common decency” and they could not consider that freedom of thought or freedom of speech was a mere “formal freedom”.39

28Have I strayed too far from foreign words in Orwell’s “Politics and the English language”? Actually if we now bear in mind the various elements of this analysis we can link Orwell’s attacks on “humbug”, “foolish thoughts” and “insincerity” with a philosophical position dictated by “common decency”. Ordinary people can understand politics, they can resist obfuscation, and the scientific search for truth is their best ally. Rosat therefore called the three writers he dealt with “ordinary philosophers”, that is philosophers who did not feel they were superior to ordinary people and who could engage people outside academia. The fireworks of postmodernism can make academic careers in the humanities but cannot enlighten ordinary people.

  • 40 Eric Hobsbawm, “The New Threat to History,” New York Review of Books, 16 December, 1993. (...)
  • 41 In his book Le Nouveau gouvernement du monde. Idéologies, structures, contre-pouvoirs ( (...)

29By making power the arbiter of truth, postmodernism takes the side of all propagandas as opposed to scholarly or good faith intellectual endeavours; it demolishes the Enlightenment, it does not improve on its limitations. We know about the camps in both Nazi Germany and the USSR, US crimes in Iraq or French atrocities in Algeria, there are not mere interpretations. How could one have an informed opinion about, for instance, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it were not based on facts? Or as Eric Hobsbawm writes: “Either the present Turkish government, which denies the attempted genocide of the Armenians in 1915, is right or it is not.”40 Here precisely it is the scientific method and the rationalist conviction that one can establish some facts that are on the side of knowledge and truth as opposed to propaganda which is always based on lies. Truth is not only a necessity in history, it is the basis of democracy. Orwell fought against “la pensée unique” (“blinkered thinking” or “hegemonic thought”) of his time and offered tools to deconstruct every form of it like Thatcher’s TINA (There Is No Alternative) for example. He was not a chauvinist but a debunker of gramophone philosophy.41

30Let’s end with a fairly long quote from “The Freedom of the Press”:

The British press is extremely centralized, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was “not done” to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.42

31There remains the question of the impact of debunkers and rationalists upon societies which want to believe and idolize rather than to analyze and judge, but that is a different topic. As Seneca argued a long time ago: “Everyone prefers belief to the exercise of judgement.” Orwell’s debunking of gramophone minds is a technique which can be employed in very different historical contexts, so also against neoliberalism – the political religion of our time.

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Bibliographie

ADORNO Theodor, Notes to Literature, vol. 1, New York: Columbia U.P, 1991.

ADORNO Theodor, Jargon de l’authenticité, trans. Éliane Escoubas, Paris, Payot, 1989.

APPLEBY Joyce O., HUNT Lynn A. and Margaret JACOB, Telling the Truth About History, New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.

BOURDIEU Pierre, La Distinction. Critique sociale du jugement, Paris: Éditions de minuit, 1979.

BOUVERESSE Jacques, Prodiges et vertiges de l’analogie, Paris: Raisons d’agir, 1999.

BOUVERESSE Jacques, opening address, Colloque du Collège de France, 28 May 2010, Rationalité, vérité et démocratie : Bertrand Russell, George Orwell, Noam Chomsky. <http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/jacques-bouveresse/p1358779596483_content.htm>

CHOMSKY Noam, Hopes and Prospects, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010.

CHOMSKY Noam, “Power Hunger Tempered by Self-deception”, title of the Collège de France address.

CORM Georges, Le Nouveau gouvernement du monde. Idéologies, structures, contre-pouvoirs, Paris: La Découverte, 2010.

EAGLETON Terry, Why Marx Was Right, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

GLISSANT Édouard, Introduction à une politique du divers, Paris: Gallimard, 1996.

GOTTLIEB Erika, The Orwell Conundrum, Canada: Carleton University Press, 1992.

GUERLAIN Pierre, « Affaire Sokal : Swift sociologue; les Cultural Studies entre jargon, mystification et recherche », Annales du Monde Anglophone, n° 9, 1er semestre 1999, 141-160.

GUERLAIN Pierre, “Noam Chomsky et l’université” in Jean Bricmont et Julie Franck (dir.), Cahier de l’Herne, Livre 88, “Chomsky,” Paris: Éditions de L’Herne, 2007, 244-258.

HITCHENS Christopher, Why Orwell Matters, New York: Basic Books, 2002.

KLEMPERER Viktor, LTI, la langue du troisième Reich, Paris: Albin Michel, 1996.

LEYS Simon, Orwell ou l’Horreur de la politique, Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994.

MICHÉA Jean-Claude, Orwell, anarchiste tory, Castelnau-les-Lez: Climats, 1995.

ORWELL George, Inside the Whale and Other Essays, London: Victor Gollancz, 1940.

ORWELL George, Homage to Catalonia, London: Penguin, 2003. [Secker & Warburg, 1938]

ORWELL George, “Politics and the English Language,” in Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, London: Secker & Warburg, 1950. Also available at <https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm>

PATAI Daphne, The Orwell Mystique: a Study in Male Ideology, Amherst (MA): University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.

SAID Edward, Reflexions on Exile and other essays, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press 2000.

SOKAL Alan, Beyond the Hoax, Science, Philosophy, Culture, New York, Oxford University Press, 2010.

SOKAL Alan, BRICMONT Jean, Impostures intellectuelles, Paris: Odile Jacob, 1997, trans. as Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, New York: Picador USA, 1999, c1998.

TODOROV Tzvetan, Mémoire du mal, tentation du bien : enquête sur le siècle, Paris, Robert Laffont, 2002.

TODOROV Tzvetan, La Critique de la critique, Un roman d’apprentissage, Paris: Le Seuil, 1984.

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Notes

1 “Defend the right to be offended,” Open Democracy, 7 February, 2005, <https://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/article_2331.jsp>

2 The American Ideology, New York: Routledge, 2004, 13 (discussed 19-23).

3 Mark Falcoff, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” National Review, 4 December, 2009. See <http://www.aei.org/publication/the-perversion-of-language-or-orwell-revisited/>

4 Christopher Hitchens, Why Orwell Matters, New York: Basic Books, 2002. See also Adam Hochschild, “Orwell: Homage to the ‘Homage,’” New York Review of Books, 19 December, 2013.

5 In his Reflexions on Exile and other essays (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2000, 96), Said writes: “When he was not verbally abusing people he considered opponents or competitors, he was holing up as a reviewer of more or less unchallenging books.” In a book of conversations with David Barsamian (Culture and Resistance) he even accused Orwell of anti-Semitism. Orwell published an essay which cannot be construed as condoning anti-Semitism in any way: “Antisemitism in Britain,” Contemporary Jewish Record, London, April 1945. Available at <http://orwell.ru/library/articles/antisemitism/english/e_antib>

6 Colloque du Collège de France, 28 May 2010, Rationalité, vérité et démocratie : Bertrand Russell, George Orwell, Noam Chomsky, <http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/jacques-bouveresse/p1358779596483_content.htm>

7 Orwell’s quotation includes the word “nationalism”. “Nationalism is Power Hunger Tempered by Self-deception.”

8 My translation. For the original version in French, see <http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/jacques-bouveresse/p1358779596483_content.htm>

9 Thus Erika Gottlieb writes: “In 1984, conservatives, liberals, neo-conservatives and the New Left battled over the possession of Orwell’s political legacy often blithely oblivious to the literary text, let alone aesthetic considerations.” Erika Gottlieb, The Orwell Conundrum, Canada: Carleton University Press, 1992, p. 3.

10 For example, in a book about mostly other topics, French writer Roland Gori pays Orwell the following backhanded compliment which suggests a strange conception of the relation between fiction and thinking: «C’est un peu comme si avec le système technicien et l’économie capitaliste auquel il appartient, nous risquions de rendre possible ce rêve, ou plutôt ce cauchemar, d’une tyrannie en germe dans toute philosophie politique, ce que l’écriture de fiction d’un Orwell avait anticipé sans l’avoir analysé. ». La Fabrique des imposteurs, Paris : Les Liens qui libèrent, 2013, 156-7.

11 See, among others, <http://leaksource.info/2013/12/24/a-christmas-message-from-edward-snowden-video/> and Glenn Greenwald: “Orwell, 9/11, Emmanuel Goldstein and Wikileaks,” <http://www.wikileaks-forum.com/-wikileaks-related-news/23/glenn-greenwald-orwell-911-emmanuel-goldstein-and-wikileaks/4826/msg20819#msg20819>

12 Daphne Patai argues in The Orwell Mystique: a Study in Male Ideology that Orwell was a male supremacist and homophobic writer.

13 Victor Klemperer, LTI, la langue du troisième Reich, Paris: Albin Michel, 1996. (original German publication, LTI, Notizbuch eines Philologen, Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1947). One could also read such celebrations as that by Hans Magnus Enzensberger “Armer Orwell” (Poor Orwell) in Der Spiegel, 26 March 2012 (142-143), which acknowledges Orwell’s visionary comprehension of totalitarianism yet claims that things are now much worse than he foresaw, mostly because people accept tyranny even without a dictatorship. This is a direct reference to La Boétie’s idea of “voluntary servitude”. Available at: <http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-84519417.html>

14 Noam Chomsky, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” The New York Review of Books, 23 February 1967.

15 “The enemy is the gramophone mind whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.” (“The Freedom of the Press,” unpublished preface to Animal Farm.)

16 « Il n’y a rien hors du texte – un texte ne doit être lu que dans sa texture propre, sans référent, ni signifié transcendantal, ni hors-texte. » Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie, Paris : Éditions de Minuit, 1967, 227. One interpretation of this “axiom” (propos axial) can be found at <http://www.idixa.net/Pixa/pagixa-0512152008.html>. It is, of course, beyond the scope of this paper to discuss this proposition.

17 Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia, <https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/adorno/1951/mm/ch02.htm> See also “Words from Abroad,” Notes to Literature, vol. 1, New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, 185-199.

18 « Langues et langages », in Introduction à une politique du divers, Paris: Gallimard, 1996.

19 See for instance the article published by Friedrich Engels in Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 15 February 1949 under the title “Der Demokratische Panslawismus” (Democratic Pan Slavism) and the quotation which can be found in German at: http://www.mlwerke.de/me/me06/me06_270.htm. Translated into English, it reads: “Will Bakunin accuse the Americans of a ‘war of conquest’, which, although it deals […] a severe blow to his theory based on ‘justice and humanity’, was nevertheless waged wholly and solely in the interest of civilization? [my emphasis]. Or is it perhaps unfortunate that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexicans, who could not do anything with it? That the energetic Yankees by rapid exploitation of the California gold mines will increase the means of circulation, in a few years will concentrate a dense population and extensive trade at the most suitable places on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, create large cities, open up communications by steamship, construct a railway from New York to San Francisco, for the first time really open the Pacific Ocean to civilization, and for the third time in history give […] world trade a new direction? The ‘independence’ of a few Spanish Californians and Texans may suffer because of it, in some places ‘justice’ and other moral principles may be violated; but what does that matter to such facts of world-historic significance?” Found at < http://www.workersliberty.org/node/989>. Terry Eagleton deals with this topic in an astute way showing both the conservative ideas entertained by Marx and Engels and also their changes over time and the complexity of the issue of colonization and progress. Why Marx Was Right, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

20 Class at the Université populaire de Caen, broadcast by France Culture radio on 16 August, 2011: <http://www.franceculture.fr/emission-conferences-de-michel-onfray-erich-fromm-et-la-psychanalyse-humaniste-2011-08-16.html>.

21 T.W. Adorno, Jargon de l’authenticité , translated by Éliane Escoubas, Paris: Payot, 1989.

22 Here is a typical tribute paid by Chomsky to Orwell: “Easy contradiction is an important talent to acquire, the talent for Orwell’s ‘doublethink’: the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, while accepting both of them.” N. Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010, 45. Thus Chomsky the linguist accepts an intellectual debt to Orwell the non-linguist for what matters here is the psychological and sociological insight which have now become common knowledge.

23 “Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.” The Prince, ch 18.

24 See Tzvetan Todorov, Mémoire du mal, tentation du bien : enquête sur le siècle, Paris: Robert Laffont, 2002.

25 See: “Lickety splits: two nations divided by a common language. Are there too many ‘Americanisms’ in The Guardian?”, The Guardian, November 26, 2010.

26 Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994.

27 Here is a typical comment by Chomsky: “ Left intellectuals took an active part in the lively working class culture. Some sought to compensate for the class character of the cultural institutions through programs of workers’ education, or by writing best-selling books on mathematics, science, and other topics for the general public. Remarkably, their left counterparts today often seek to deprive working people of these tools of emancipation, informing us that the “project of the Enlightenment” is dead, that we must abandon the “illusions” of science and rationality – a message that will gladden the hearts of the powerful, delighted to monopolize these instruments for their own use.” Year 501: The Conquest Continues, Boston: South End Press, 1993. Quoted by Alan Sokal in Beyond the Hoax, Science, Philosophy, Culture, Oxford University Press, 2010, XVII. Jacques Bouveresse explicitly established a link between Orwell and Chomsky: « Tout comme George Orwell, Chomsky trouve difficilement compréhensible et inquiétant le peu d’empressement que les intellectuels de gauche mettent à défendre des notions comme celles de ‘vérité’ et d’ ‘objectivité’, quand ils ne proposent pas ouvertement de les considérer désormais comme réactionnaires et dépassées. » J. Bouveresse, “Noam Chomsky et ses calomniateurs,” Le Monde diplomatique, mai 2010.

28 Orwell argued against verbiage in British society; Chomsky does so for France: “French intellectual life has, in my opinion been turned into something cheap and meretricious by the ‘star’ system. It is something like Hollywood. Thus we go from one absurdity to another – Stalinism, existentialism, structuralism, Lacan, Derrida – some of them obscene (Stalinism), some simply infantile and ridiculous (Lacan and Derrida). What is striking, however is the pomposity and self-importance at each stage.” Chomsky Notebook, ed Jean Bricmont and Julie Frank, Columbia University Press, New York, 2010, p. 72. Jacques Bouveresse chose the following quote from Paul Valéry as an epigraph for his book Prodiges et vertiges de l’analogie (Paris: Raisons d’agir, 1999): « Le mal de prendre une hypallage pour une découverte, une métaphore pour une démonstration, un vomissement de mots pour un torrent de connaissances capitales, et soi-même pour un oracle, ce mal naît avec nous. ». See also “Chomsky on Postmodernism” a text written in 1995 in which his charges are more detailed. Available at <http://www.mrbauld.com/chomsky1.html> and Language and Politics, C.P. Otero (ed.), 2d ed., Oakland (CA): AK Press, 2004.

29 Pierre Bourdieu, La Distinction. Critique sociale du jugement, Paris : Éditions de minuit, 1979.

30 For a philosophical discussion of the impact of “literary” criteria in sciences, see J. Bouveresse, Prodiges et vertiges de l’analogie, Paris : Raisons d’agir, 1999.

31 “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” Social Text , N. 46/47, Spring/Summer 1996, 217-252. See also his “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies,” Lingua Franca , May/June 1996, 62-64. See my own analysis of the whole affair: Pierre Guerlain, « Affaire Sokal : Swift sociologue; les Cultural Studies entre jargon, mystification et recherche », Annales du Monde Anglophone, n° 9, 1er semestre 1999, 141-160. See also Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont , Impostures intellectuelles , Paris: Odile Jacob, 1997, trans. as Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, New York: Picador USA, 1999.

32 T. Todorov, La Critique de la critique, Un roman d’apprentissage, Paris : Le Seuil, 1984, 123.

33 The paper he presented at the Collège de France. On 28 May 2010 can be read at <http://revueagone.revues.org/958>. Here is the relevant passage translated into English: “The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. [sic]. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

34 This is a direct reference to Bertrand Russell who wrote in History of Western Philosophy: “The concept of ‘truth’ as something dependent upon facts largely outside human control has been one of the ways in which philosophy hitherto has inculcated the necessary element of humility. When this check upon pride is removed, a further step is taken on towards a certain kind of madness – the intoxication of power which invaded philosophy with Fichte, and to which modern men, whether philosophers or not, are prone.” Quoted in A. Sokal, Beyond the Hoax, op cit., 339.

35 Just one example among many: Loïc Wacquant, Les Prisons de la misère, Paris: Raisons d’agir, 1999, trans. as Prisons of Poverty, Minneapolis (MN): University of Minnesota Press, 2009).

36 Here is what I wrote in Cahiers de l’Herne : « […] dans un article du Monde diplomatique, tiré d’un ouvrage (“Voyous”, Galilée, 2003) Derrida écrit en parlant de Chomsky et W. Blum et de leurs travaux sur les États voyous : “Ce n’est pas faire injure à ces ouvrages courageux que d’y regretter l’absence d’une pensée politique conséquente, notamment au sujet de l’histoire et de la structure, de la “logique” du concept de souveraineté. “Évidemment nous avons affaire à une dénégation aussi claire que celle du patient de Freud qui déclare ‘ce n’est pas ma mère’, car il s’agit de l’injure suprême que l’on peut adresser à des penseurs politiques” (le ton doucereux et le mot “courageux” ne changent rien à l’injure). Derrida poursuit : “Cette ‘logique’ ferait apparaître que, a priori, les États qui sont en état de faire la guerre aux rogue States sont eux-mêmes, dans leur souveraineté la plus légitime, des rogue States.” Le livre de William Blum (Rogue State; A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, Londres: Zed Books, 2001) tente de déconstruire l’image flatteuse des États-Unis que ses dirigeants érigent en doctrine. Il peut être critiqué lorsque toutes les sources ne sont pas citées mais il ne se présente pas comme un livre théorique. En ce qui concerne Chomsky, on peut se demander si Derrida l’a vraiment lu, aussi bien sur les États voyous que sur la souveraineté. Derrida procède alors à la déconstruction du mot “voyou” et de l’expression “État voyou” en s’affirmant lui-même voyou et en affirmant : “Il n’y a donc que des États voyous”. Il détruit donc le concept par sa généralisation mais le maintient aussi en vie. Sur le fond il ne dit rien de politique que Chomsky n’ait déjà dit mais offre des jeux de mots et un style qui tentent de masquer la totale absence d’originalité de sa pensée “politique”. » P. Guerlain, “Noam Chomsky et l’université”, in J. Bricmont et Julie Franck (dir.), Cahier de l’Herne, Livre 88, “Chomsky,” Paris: Éditions de L’Herne, 2007, 244-258.

37 Joyce O. Appleby, Lynn A. Hunt and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth About History, New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.

38 Article entitled “Historical Truth,” series As I Please, Tribune, 4 February, 1944, available at <http://www.newspeakdictionary.com/go-history.html>

39 Historian Jennifer Pitts documents this shift as far as views on imperialism are concerned in A Turn to Empire: the Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France, Princeton University Press, 2005.

40 Eric Hobsbawm, “The New Threat to History,” New York Review of Books, 16 December, 1993. Earlier in the same piece he had written: “The other [development] is the rise of ‘postmodernist’ intellectual fashions in Western universities, particularly in departments of literature and anthropology, which imply that all ‘facts’ claiming objective existence are simply intellectual constructions. In short, that there is no clear difference between fact and fiction. But there is, and for historians, even for the most militantly antipositivist ones among us, the ability to distinguish between the two is absolutely fundamental. We cannot invent our facts. Either Elvis Presley is dead or he isn’t.” Hobsbawm was one of the Communists that Orwell targeted.

41 In his book Le Nouveau gouvernement du monde. Idéologies, structures, contre-pouvoirs (Paris: La Découverte, 2010), Georges Corm considers that neoliberalism is a religious creed which he likens to Marxism-Leninism (not to Marx’s ideas) and proceeds to deconstruct in a way not unlike Orwell’s (see 30-32). On page 91-92 he quotes Orwell explictly: « Les pires prédictions du roman d’Orwell 1984 sont réalisées aujourd’hui grâce à la société consumériste. » And later: «Ce nouveau langage néolibéral a adopté les mêmes techniques linguistiques que celles mises en œuvre par les régimes totalitaires, qui prétendaient régler toutes les conduites humaines afin d’atteindre le stade suprême du bonheur de l’humanité. Il y a d’ailleurs quelque ironie à constater que ce sont les techniques mêmes des langages totalitaires qui ont été utilisées pour détruire ces régimes. » (204).

42 The text can be found at <http://home.iprimus.com.au/korob/Orwell.html>.

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Pierre Guerlain, « Foreign words, Gramophones and Truth in “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell (1946) », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XIII-n°1 | 2015, mis en ligne le 18 février 2015, consulté le 25 juin 2017. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/7915 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.7915

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Pierre Guerlain

Pierre Guerlain is Professor of American Studies at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre. His fields of research are US foreign policy and Intercultural Studies. He has worked extensively on “anti-Americanism” and the image of the US abroad. He has published a book about the mutual perceptions of the Americans and the French: Miroirs transatlantiques: la France et les États-Unis entre passions et indifferences (L’Harmattan, 1996) and articles in Revue Française d’Études Américaines, Recherches internationales, L’Homme et la Société, South Atlantic Quarterly (USA), Passport, The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Review (USA), JAST (Journal of American Studies in Turkey), Amerikastudien (Germany), REDEN (Revista Española de Estudios Norteamericanos), (Spain) and Op Cit. (Portugal).

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