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Category archive for: Ballots & Books

Class division in Brave New World and The Hunger Games: How capitalist dystopias limit individual agency

By Ibtisam Ahmed

The idea of utopia is to offer solutions to existing social problems, often in radical ways. The broad scope of the term and the etymological paradox at its heart – a place that is not a place – gives us an understanding of why this particular field of political thought appears so often in fiction. Whether the positive eutopia or the negative dystopia, a range of novels, films, television shows and even comic books have been used to explore these themes. To suggest that fictional accounts are not useful tools, then, is a glaring insult to the potential they hold.

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North and South: ‘A little fierce incendiary’

By Vanessa Pupavac

‘Church and King, and down with the Rump!’ So toasts the aristocratic grandfather in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South. (http://books.wwnorton.com/books/North-and-South/ ) But Gaskell’s 1855 novel engages with building a modern industrial nation, and specifically rejects the political and social order embodied in the old Cavalier anti-parliamentary toast. Her engagement with the challenges posed by industrialisation has insights for today’s global North-South relations and their future direction. Consider the current civil unrest in Hong Kong (http://libcom.org/black-yellow-hk), or the growing strikes in China questioning the official representation of the harmonious society (https://www.jacobinmag.com/2012/08/china-in-revolt/). This month’s opening of the newly restored Elizabeth Gaskell House (http://www.elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk/) is therefore a good time to open North and South to more readers. What is to be found there? Gaskell’s plot has strong parallels with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where a parson’s daughter from the South of England overcomes her prejudices towards a factory owner from the smoky industrial town of Milton in Darkshire.

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