Dystopia is a fictional or speculative society that embodies oppressive power structures, systemic oppression across multiple dimensions, and a harsh, inhospitable environment, resulting in the deprivation of agency, freedom, and well-being for its inhabitants.
Dystopia can be defined as a society characterized by oppressive power structures, systemic oppression, and a hostile environment. This definition draws from Iris Young’s “The Five Faces of Oppression” and the concept of the Hobbesian Jungle, highlighting the multi-dimensional nature of dystopia and its effects on individuals and communities. The face of exploitation, as described by Young, manifests in a dystopia through the domination of one group over another. In works like 1984, where the Party exploits and controls its citizens, or The Hunger Games, where the Capitol oppresses the districts, the ruling entities benefit from the subordination and exploitation of the oppressed groups. This form of exploitation restricts agency and denies individuals the right to self-determination.The face of marginalization is often present in dystopian societies. Minority groups or dissenting voices are pushed to the fringes, denied resources, and excluded from participating in the decision-making process. Examples can be found in The Handmaid’s Tale, where women are marginalized and reduced to reproductive vessels, or in Blade Runner, where replicants are treated as second-class citizens. Marginalization perpetuates systemic inequality and hampers individuals’ well-being and freedom. The concept of the Hobbesian Jungle serves as a metaphor for the inhospitable and perilous environment present in dystopian worlds. In The Road, a post-apocalyptic novel, the harsh landscape devoid of resources and overrun by violence creates a constant struggle for survival, mirroring the Hobbesian idea of life being “nasty, brutish, and short.” This hostile environment reinforces the oppressive power structures and amplifies the suffering of the oppressed. By encompassing oppressive power structures, systemic oppression, and a harsh environment, this definition captures the essence of dystopia as a society that deprives individuals of agency, freedom, and well-being. It highlights the interplay between different faces of oppression and the brutal realities depicted in dystopian literature and media, urging us to reflect on the potential consequences of unchecked power and inequality in our own world.