57

While it is well understood that The Party had a goal of

achieving complete control over the population,

what was the longer objective after that goal had been achieved?

  • 4
    Not sure if more clarification is necessary, but one thing that has bothered me about 1984 is the "OK, and then what?" question that arises if The Party succeeds. If we look to the USSR at the time, while there was consolidation of power whit individuals, there is at least some thought that the Russian people as a whole was better off under communism than before. However, it doesn't seem like The Party had this in mind and was just seeking to consolidate party for the sake of power. – anonymous Sep 12 at 15:28
  • 50
    Does there have to be a goal after world domination? In most works that is the ultimate goal and then they just "watch the sun rise on a grateful universe". – TheLethalCarrot Sep 12 at 15:33
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    @Rebel-Scum He could have done those things without absolute power and domination though. The domination seems to mainly be because the Sith seek power but we're getting into an off topic discussion now. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 12 at 15:45
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    @TheLethalCarrot There doesn't always have to be an ultimate goal, but typically human nature seems to be that there is one. Plus I don't think the party really wanted world domination given they were always at war. However, I've always been hard pressed to believe that people would labor that much if there wasn't some other goal in mind. Recall that "Brave New World" wanted to maintain the status quo to prevent returning to chaos (i.e., we are better off than before). However, that doesn't seem to be the case with "1984" – anonymous Sep 12 at 15:50
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    My take on this is that it's ultimately more frightening and makes for a better story when the enemy doesn't have a known or tangible end goal, because knowing that they have a concrete goal means there's something to rally against or focus your efforts on preventing. An intangible, open-ended goal like "power" is harder to fight against. – dwizum Sep 13 at 14:33
107

O'Brien tells us explicitly:

There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.

Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

— Part III, Chapter III, Nineteen Eighty-Four

The Party's ultimate objective is to retain and exercise power because power only exists when it is being exercised.

The Party breaks people not because it needs to, not because it wants to but because it can. Power for the Party is not material power, or even military power, it’s power over the 6 cubic inches of brain in each and every Party members (proles don’t matter).

  • 15
    One could go further and say that if they stopped breaking people, they would soon find themselves without that ability. Like a muscle, The Party exercise power because it must. Power, after all, is fleeting and only exists when energy is in motion. – Mindwin Sep 13 at 13:21
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    Agree with @Mindwin that there is a need. "Power only exists when it is being exercised" - in other words, the party needs to exercise power in order to maintain it. The party breaks people because it must in order to be able to continue breaking people. – Nuclear Wang Sep 13 at 13:42
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    Your last statement seems a bit over the top. O'Brien doesn't claim that the inevitability of the exercise of power is independent of human nature. He specifically references "the intoxication of power" and "the thrill of victory". It is not enough that the Party "can" break people; they also (inevitably, Orwell suggests) want to. In comparison, they "can" teach everyone to juggle but choose not to because they don't particularly want to. – Sneftel Sep 13 at 16:21
  • @Sneftel from the perspective of a dictatorship, it seems that it is the harder to maintain total control the less areas of life you have in control (naturally). As far as I remember there was a quote about all the different velvet and Arab Spring revolutions in that they didn't happen (roughly) when people were most oppressed, but when they had reached a certain level of self expression , ie. when the "reins" were a bit slackened. Therefore, one could say that in order to retain total control you have to exercise it. – Gnudiff Sep 14 at 14:04
  • @Mindwin I disagree, if the Party has to do something then that is a constraint on its power - it chooses to do so and it could choose not to do so. – Dale M Sep 15 at 9:58
33

“A boot crushing a human skull forever.”

They have achieved their goal of unassailable, eternal power and control. Their stranglehold on power will only become more cemented as the last generation to even remember bits of the world before die out, and the language eventually loses to capacity to even express or conceptualize dissent. Some other answers note the ongoing and eternal wars and alliances with the neighboring powers, but whether the same government as their rivals is beyond the point. Those nations and the constant wars are necessary to burn off excess production capacity, populations, and as an object of the people’s fear and hatred. They have no need for any further technological advancement, the system is perfect or nearing perfection, power and control being the goals unto itself.

(Extra: not part of my answer: maybe some tweaks could be made to the technology and processes of ferreting out thought crime, erasure of history, and the fighting of their wars, but these would be implemented slowly, if at all, to avoid upsetting the balance of a system that works.. ‘if it ain’t broke..’. I like to think people like Winston function as sort of the ‘blow off valve’ for discontent, existing to funnel any thoughts of resistance or revolt down long since dead ended pathways. Its like if the machines in the matrix just made it so the people-pod doors couldn’t be opened, you would wake up, realize the pointlessness of it, and BEG to go back to sleep :)

  • 6
    You may wish to note that the In-universe appendix is written from the perspective of someone (from the near future) identifying how Ingsoc failed to consolidate its grip over the population. – Valorum Sep 12 at 16:20
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    I REALLY would but it’s been a few years since I last read it, and tbh didnt incorporate that because I don’t think I ever read the appendix.. – Celestialgranturismo Sep 12 at 17:27
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    It seems it’s up for debate as to whether the appendix being written in the past tense from the author’s omniscient point of view actually indicates the eventual failure of Newspeak, the console collapse of Ingsoc, or is just written as an academic explanation in the same tense as the rest of the book. I would have to read it to make an educated statement, so I’ll leave my answer as it stands – Celestialgranturismo Sep 12 at 18:15
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    The Handmaid's Tale ends with a similar device. I had not read 1984 at that point, and I loved the way Handmaid ended. In a recent interview, Atwood stated the appendix is a stright-up indication that Ingsoc failed, and she decided to copy it for her work. I'm going with Atwood. – Maury Markowitz Sep 12 at 19:17
26

I was taught in a Political Science class decades ago that the two goals of all politicians are to get elected, and get re-elected -- or alternatively, to gain and then retain power.

Ingsoc has gained some power; they are absolute rulers of their lands (which remain mostly stable despite continual border wars which whichever other power they aren't current allied with) -- but they are not yet absolute rulers of all lands (unless you believe (as Winston Smith had begun to just before he was taken) that the enemies were all part of the Party and the wars existed solely to keep the citizens in line).

Beyond that goal, however, the goal is to retain power. If you believe that all three Parties are in fact one, that is the ongoing process -- maintain enough apparent conflict and change to hold control over the citizens (the proles take care of themselves, for the most part; it's all they care about to have a place to live and resources to support themselves). Keep things the way they are -- to those few in actual power, it's a perfect world.

  • 9
    Pournelle's law: over time the direction of a bureaucracy will be set more and more by people who have no goal other than the preservation of the bureaucracy itself which employs them. – hobbs Sep 13 at 4:09
8

What's the ultimate objective of any politician? They all, to a man, believe that they present the best solution for how to govern the population. This is not necessarily something they will ever stop doing once in control of the nation, unless forced away, by democratic succession laws or by a revolution.

The final chapter of 1984 offers some insight though: the most prominent members of the ruling party are fanatic patriots and also obsessed with the war effort. Even though they know that the 3 great nations of the world have to maintain a status quo with constant war, and therefore none can ever be allowed to win or lose it, they still hope for victory and cheer as news from the front line arrive.

So their goal could be to win the war, at the same time as they must ensure that they never win the war. It is a paradox, very much in line with doublethink. In pratice: the goal is to maintain status quo.

  • Is there any proof (other than party-created news programs) that there is, in fact, a war going on? – Michael Richardson Sep 13 at 20:57
  • @MichaelRichardson There is no longer a need to feed Winston propaganda at the end of the book, so why would O'Brien be lying? Ignoring that, if I remember correctly, Winston at some point, when working for the Ministry of Truth, has to correct text regarding who the nation is actually in war with. There's no such need, then he wouldn't have been tasked with censoring it. – Amarth Sep 13 at 21:47
1

The goal of gaining the power was to satisfy the internal mental state of those who pursued it, who simply cannot bear life unless they are important.

You make yourself important by minimizing other people's opportunities to ignore you.

At the low level this is accomplished by petty bureaucrats who craft up one pointless regulation after another, who insist that you must have a permit to build a shed in your garden, not because the permit requirement does good for anybody (it does not), or that it staves off some terrible harm to the community (it does not), but so that in order to live your life you have to acknowledge them.

At the higher levels comes the megalomania of folks like Hitler, Stalin, and Kim Jong-un, whose picture is plastered everywhere and whose henchmen flog the populace into continual praise for the Great Leader.

  • Except Big Brother isn't actually the leader of the nation, unlike those dictators you mention. – Amarth Sep 13 at 22:19
  • 2
    At some point someone built a shed that was too tall or impacted someones drainage and a rule was made to make it clear that is not ok, just because you want an exemption doesn't make the regulation petty or pointless – crasic Sep 14 at 1:08

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