The novel stresses that while all three powers (Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia) are in a perpetual war against each other, none of these three powers believes that victory is possible nor wants to achieve it. Instead of victory, all powers want and need perpetual war, as it allows them to:

  • keep their people in poverty by spending surplus resources;
  • implement population control by sending suplus people to death;
  • keep their population in a state of a constant patriotic histery.

However, the novel also stresses that the Party's actions are fueled by its desire of power and that it desires power only for its own sake.

But, the Inner Party still consists of its members. So, ultimately, we must conclude that the whole system is founded on, and dependant on, Inner Party members' lust for power.

The problem with human lust for power seems to be that it never ends. Usually, the appetite grows with what it feeds on. In the novel, it is already shown to be of monstrous magnitudes; so I think it is unlikely that the Inner Party members (or the Inner Party itself) would be themselves able to curb it. Doublethink and similar devices of mind control seem unlikely to be helpful here, since they themselves exist only because they are deemed necessary to satisfy this enormous lust for power.

In the end, I fail to understand how can the regime tolerate the existence of two opposing superpowers. The Party clearly wants to control everything, even the reality itself; yet it cannot, nor does it want to, control two concurrent superstates?

I would rather imagine that this state of perpetual war cannot last forever. Sooner or later, in one of the three superpowers, the lust for power - the true root of their totalitarian regimes and therefore, the only thing that cannot be controlled by these regimes - will just grow out of control. Sooner or later it must cause these states to try and grasp absolute control over everything, including the concurring states. Sooner or later, regardless of what O'Brien says, these superstates must either evolve to no longer have their policies dictated solely by an unwiedly lust of power (but then they would cease to be totalitarian to such an extreme), or succumb to their lust of power completely, and go to an all-out war for absolute world domination.

How can the Party not desire to extend its power over the concurring states? How can the perpetual war, in which no participant tries its best to break the equilibrum, last forever, as the novel says it will?

  • 3
    "I would rather imagine that this state of perpetual war cannot last forever" - That is quite literally the stated goal of the Party. Assuming the parties are happy to exist in a state of equilibrium, who's to say that the year is 1984 or 19984?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 20:39
  • 1
    @Valorum This is what the Party's propaganda says and wants OUTER Party members to believe; however, if I recall, O'Brien makes it very clear that the decidents do not believe in the possibility of victory, nor do they want to achieve it
    – gaazkam
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 20:41
  • 5
    "None of the three super-states could be definitively conquered even by the other two in combination. They are too evenly matched, and their natural defences are too formidable. Eurasia is protected by its vast land spaces, Oceania by the width of the Atlantic and the Pacific, Eastasia by the fecundity and industriousness of its inhabitants." - Although Goldstein's book is a tissue of lies, we can assume it also contains truths
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 20:45
  • 1
    "The primary aim of modern warfare ... is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living." - So conquest isn't even being considered.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 20:47
  • 5
    The desire of the party is to control the people, which eternal war helps accomplish. If there were victory, probing questions will start to be asked...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


The Party (and it's implied that the other two superpowers have similar forms of government, given how easily they switch alliances) wants total control over its population, and having an external threat gives an enemy for the population to focus negative emotions on while providing excuses for the standard of living and lack of freedoms the vast majority are required to deal with.

It's given in the text (although it's truthfulness can of course be questioned) that at the current time and for the foreseeable future complete victory is impossible: no two of the states can beat the third. Therefore, even if members of the Inner Party really do want to win, they don't have the ability to do it. Any urge they have for total control can be directed inward; the Party doesn't, as yet, have complete control over its own population. Newspeak is still in the process of replacing English, there's still dissent, however muted. Anyone who has a hankering for getting their oppression on still has plenty of opportunities to work on their own people.

There's also the issue that the novel really only gives the status of Airstrip One. For all the people there know, there's been a rebellion or outright civil war going on in the Americas, but they wouldn't know about it due to the Party's total control over information. So Oceania might have its own internal security issues to deal with before it starts looking at actual world conquest.

  • An excellent point in the middle paragraph. Even if the Party wanted to take over the world, they'd just be laying themselves open for a sneak attack from their supposed ally
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 23:04
  • 7
    Do we even know for certain that The Party (or the Inner Party) doesn't secretly rule all three superpowers already? Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 1:56
  • IIRC, it is not that no two of the states can beat the third but that, as soon as a victory of the third seems to be within reach, the two allies begin scheming one against the other and the alliances change.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 7:10
  • 1
    @Harry, that's one of the points of the novel; you don't know what reality, outside of what MinTruth tells you, actually is. They've always been at war with Eastasia, even if they weren't last week. For all the ordinary people of Airstrip One know, the rest of the world is in the middle of a golden age of democratic prosperity and freedom and they're the equivalent of modern North Korea. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 15:44
  • There is, in fact, no way to prove that there's a war at all. The three countries could conceivably be acting in concert to keep their respective populaces in the dark. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 20:05

To defeat Eurasia and Eastasia would result in the end of the war. Why isn't this a desired state? The perpetual war provides two things to society and more importantly to the inner party.

1) It provides consumption
2) it legitimises the totalitarian society

The basis of this is in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein, the so called "book within the book".

The purpose of war is to destroy or lock up the prole's labour. Machines of war

All of the disputed territories contain valuable minerals, and some of them yield important vegetable products such as rubber which in colder climates it is necessary to synthesize by comparatively expensive methods. But above all they contain a bottomless reserve of cheap labour.

Moreover, the labour of the exploited peoples round the Equator is not really necessary to the world's economy. They add nothing to the wealth of the world, since whatever they produce is used for purposes of war, and the object of waging a war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war.

The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.

with the economies of the world aligned to feed the war machine, the labour of the people is spent feeding the war. Because the articles of war are destroyed there is no surplus in good. It is this surplus in goods which was attributed to the cyclic nature of economies as they move between recession and growth

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed

This cyclic nature of economies provide the view that there was better times and usher in change (via elections or uprising). If the concept of better times did not exist why would the people push for change

If there was hope, it MUST lie in the proles

A poor, ignorant populace is easier to rule over than a wealthy, well-informed one.

Every aspect of the inner party exists to maintain a consistent norm

MiniPlenty the utilisation of labour, holding the masses at a certain state of economic servitude. MiniPax the destruction of labour via war.
MiniTruth to rewrite history to ensure now has always been.
MiniLuv to enforce loyalty by re-educating and releasing back into society (not creating martyr but people that re-enforces the ideal citizen)

Why would they want to end the war if it would remove the means to destroy labour.

Now whether there is an actual war, Whether Oceania, Eurasia or Eastasia really exist is something completely different. It is highly conceivable that there is only one party in the world destroying the products of labour in a proxy war with itself all to maintain the the status quo


Because there was never a war in the first place

Of course there are many valid theories about the state of the world outside Airstrip One, and the other answers deal with those, but here's my take on the world.

Oceania isn't a world-spanning empire, but rather a single tiny nation in the island of Britain that lies to the populace about the state of the world to ensure their compliance.

The regular "attacks" from the other nations (missiles and etc.) are actually fired by Oceania itself and blamed on the outside world to inspire a hatred for these countries.

That's why they don't want to win, even if they stood any chance in the first place. If they "won", then there would be no longer an external threat to inspire fear of to control the populace.

  • 6
    Sorry, but your personal (and wrong, I might add) headcanon doesn't make the basis for a good answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 7:09
  • 5
    While this is a deeply interesting story, that the Party is completely faking not only the war but its own tininess -- it is not the story that Orwell wanted to tell. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 19:48

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