My one-sentence definition of a dystopia is a society (mostly fictional) where the population experiences extreme structural oppression from their authority and does not have control to change their conditions.
The things we have learned in this course support this definition. First, we learned about various philosophies of human nature and oppression. The Hobbesian jungle is one of those philosophies. The Hobbesian jungle is described by Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan, Chapter 13 as a state of anarchy in which any authority is absent. Hobbes theorized that, in the state of nature, it is a war “of every man against every man”. There are no rules, no sense of morality, and justice does not exist and people fight one another for material gains, safety, and reputation. This idea focuses on how without government, humanity is dangerous. This is in direct conflict with the text “Civilization and Its Discontents,” by Sigmund Freud.
Freud that any form of government is ultimately repressive of human nature, however, I find his agreement interesting. Freud states, “A person becomes neurotic because he cannot tolerate the amount of frustration which society imposes on him in the service of its cultural ideals, and it was inferred from this that the abolition or reduction of those demands would result in a return to possibilities of happiness.” This discrepancy shows that the presence or lack of a government does not establish whether something is dystopian or not. I think the best qualifications for a dystopian society can be found using Iris Young’s Five Faces of Oppression. The 5 faces are exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural domination, and violence.
These themes have been seen consistently through the dystopian media we discussed. In The Handmaid’s Tale, women are marginalized and exploited for their reproductive abilities with threats of violence. In Brown Girl the Ring, Rudy uses conventional and magical violence in order to control the city. Ruby also used exploited people’s weaknesses (like Tony’s bluff addiction). Among other examples from class.