Redefining Dystopia

When the word dystopia is plugged into Google, the result is its definition: “an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.” On the other hand, Merriam-Webster describes a dystopia as “an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.” Both of these definitions cover similar themes like only being a part of someone’s imagination and being a society that involves its people suffering. While that could have been the first definition coined when it started showing up in history, I would argue that these definitions are now outdated and have since evolved to encompass more facets than these.

These definitions have clear origins from authors who have popularized the term dystopia like 1984’s author George Orwell, a novel set in a totalitarian society that controls its people using fear and oppressive practices. It is indeed a part of Orwell’s imagination, however, it stemmed from ideas from his reality as his predictions of a post-WWII society conceivably came true. This debunks the notion of it being entirely out of touch with reality. In addition, the definition implies that all people in said dystopia are suffering. People are definitely suffering under the Party’s rule in Orwell’s novel, but that is so the Party can maintain its power; the Party specifically isn’t suffering in this dystopia. That seems to be the case in many dystopian setups as well; one group suffers while the other thrives. (which is similar to reality too but I digress)

The new definition I propose for dystopia is the following: “a societal setup in which a group of individuals endure insufferable dehumanization and oppression at the hands of another group/individual’s flourishing” This definition does not restrict it to complete imagination. It also includes the point that not all people are suffering under the setup.

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