At some point In 1984 by George Orwell, O'Brien gives a copy of Emmanuel Goldstein's book to the protagonist Winston. In the book the official political ideology of the Eastasian Government is called "Death Worship" or "Obliteration of Self".

Many eastern Religions/philosophies - Buddhist and Taoist in particular - talk about releasing attachment to our identities. The language Orwell chose doesn't appear accidental and seems to suggest that government of Eastasia deliberately chose to use those philosophies as the context for their brand of oligarchical collectivism.

Because many Eastasian citizens already practice Buddhism, it could be smart to utilize corrupted versions of their existing beliefs as a vehicle for party propaganda.

Does anyone know if Orwell has spoken about this?

  • Edited a bit, feel free to roll back. – user68762 Nov 15 '16 at 11:17
  • What is the question here? It feels quite broad at the moment. Are you looking for expanded "back story" in-universe? An explanation of real-world phenomena being referenced? – IMSoP Nov 15 '16 at 16:32
  • @IMSoP - what the question is is clear ( has Orwell spoken on this ?). However - I'd accept anything expanding on the implied reference, so long as it isn't just unsupported speculation. – dgo Nov 16 '16 at 0:31
  • @R.Skeeter - it was good - spurred me to edit it more – dgo Nov 16 '16 at 0:48

I can't find anything Orwell said about this. Sorry!

But here's some more data:

What we know in-universe to 1984:

  • O'Brien doesn't say whether Emmanuel Goldstein actually exists or not!
  • Goldstein, if he existed, may have been part of the Party

This makes accepting the "reality" of anything in "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism" kind of dicey!

As for influences: in our universe:


  • was raised Anglican
  • had a pretty low opinion of religion in general
  • lived for a few years in Burma, a Buddhist country. As you probably know, Buddhism has a different notion of what the "self" or "ego" is than, for example, English Socialism.

Additionally, when Orwell was writing, Showa-era Japan gave rise to the "Kyoto School", a philosophy which included the idea of "absolute nothingness" and had a lot of Nationalistic elements. This movement was adapted by the Japanese military, in some ways like the Nazis adapted Nietzsche.

So I would guess Orwell took a stab at making a name for a movement that was evocative of some of this. What do you think?

  • 1
    I think this is a great answer. I think this is likely the best I'm gonna get as well, so I hereby declare you the winner. – dgo Apr 10 '17 at 17:11

Orwell said there was no difference between all three philosophies of Oceania.. eurasia and east asia . .. which to me is implying an already established globalised oligarchicsl world.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE! You may want to take the tour, to better understand how the site works. I'm not sure I'm reading your answer correctly. If I am, you're saying that, since Orwell says there was no difference between the three philosophies, none could be based on a specific region's existing religious beliefs? If so - is it clear that Orwell meant there was literally no difference, or couold he simply have meant that in practice, there was no difference (allowing apparent regional differences, that result in no operational distinctions)? – RDFozz Oct 16 '18 at 0:07

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