ideology and dystopia

Image: Silvia Faustino Saes
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By SERGIO SCHARGEL*

Ideology is one of those terms that is difficult to define and that is subject to extensive debate in the social sciences due to its polysemy. Not that there is disagreement about its meaning, it is a consensus that implies a worldview, a system of beliefs, but the dissent revolves around its extent: how far does ideology go? In other words: how far does this filter of the real go? Can science be ideological? And the art?

At this point, there are two main possible paths: (a) ideology as an unscientific belief system, distorted interpretation of reality; (b) ideology as a global phenomenon, which encompasses all spheres and does not exempt even science or art. A division that has polarized studies on ideology since the term first appeared, used during the French Revolution.

But let us take the second interpretation here. Not without first emphasizing that, of course, we are not depriving art or science of any objective value by stating that they are not immune to ideology either – let us remember all the mechanisms that both developed to curb it –, we are just rejecting here the positivist pretension of absolutizing the real through the scientific. But there is one artistic-literary genre in particular that deals curiously with ideology: dystopia.

Karl Mannheim, a theorist who studied conservatism, noted the link between ideology and utopia in his book utopia and ideology. Paul Ricoeur, in his homonymous book, not only unravels Mannheim's positions, but develops the discussion by crossing it with other theorists. Both realize that ideology acts as a driving force for an interpretation that sanctifies what is possible, hence the utopia. But both ignore the curious contrary aspect of the ideology: its view of the opposite side.

You see, if ideology is responsible for enshrining a dream in the form of utopia, it also becomes equally responsible for imagining a nightmare related to the opposing ideology. In other words, dystopia becomes the literary medium par excellence for distilling political attacks. The future devastated by others, the possible impossible future, a nightmare in which the ideology opposed to the writer's is imagined as totalitarian, dominant, hegemonic.

But this is nothing new. Dystopia emerges, historically, as a literary genre in itself intrinsically political. Perhaps the most political genre there is, at least next to satire. George Orwell, as we know, writes 1984 e animal revolution to attack Stalinism. Aldous Huxley is more subtle in his Admirable new world, but the political and social inspirations are also notable. Evgueni Zamyatin, with About, does not fail to even anticipate some of the policies of Stalinism. So, how can we deny the political character of a genre that was born — and wanted — ideological?

The twentieth century brought enough violence to fuel the creativity of a generation of pessimistic writers, on its many fronts. Dystopia is just one of these many effects. A hyperbolic genre that draws real fictional nightmares as a tool to attack real nightmares. At least this is its origin, a method of creating aesthetic violence to fight against barbarism. Of course, in the XNUMXst century, this function has been distorted.

For dystopia remains as a method of attack on opposing ideologies, this is immutable. Bernardo Kucinski takes aim at Bolsonarism and the military dictatorship when you write the new order, Margaret Atwood on Christian fundamentalism and the reactionary far right with the nurse's tale e the wills. But something changed, or at least became more evident: dystopia, too, was captured by barbarism. It is no longer just a literary tool of struggle, an attempt to warn against destruction, but to spread it. More than ever, the ideological and political dispute overflowed into dystopia.

That's because far-right dystopias began to spread. First we have the now classic of Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. There is also no lack of Brazilian examples, echoing old and well-known scarecrows such as the “fight against corruption” and “communism”. the indoctrinator is an example, in which a superhero, a less than creatively inspired version of the Punisher, dedicates himself to slaughtering politicians. Much more explicit, Destro imagine a Brazil completely destroyed by the dominion of communism. “The mere existence of this comic should already be celebrated as historic and pioneering in Brazil”, says the website Terça Livre, by Allan dos Santos, investigated in the survey of fake news.

Nor is the ideological thrust on dystopia limited to writers: the public responds en masse. Naturally, the readership of The New Order is not expected to consist of Bolsonarists or sympathizers, but of those who detest Bolsonaro's absurd government, which is dystopian in itself. With the election of Donald Trump, 1984 returned to the list of bestselling books in the US. Previously, with Barack Obama, it was the turn of Rand's book. Conservatives write about a future ruined by liberals, liberals write about a future ruined by conservatives. And the public, willing to any echo chamber that corroborates with its political ideology and demonizes the opposite, migrates according to the dystopia of the time.

Dystopia prints a ethos, accentuated in times of worldwide democratic recession: each political ideology begins to imagine a future in which the opposition group becomes supreme and totalitarian. The possible impossible future, the idea that the present is headed towards destruction, is the driving force behind dystopia. Rejecting prejudice, it is possible to produce good pamphlet literature. Historical examples abound. But there is also no lack of contemporary examples of dystopian literature being used without any pretensions to form or content, just as a means of attacking opposing ideologies.

Sergio Scargel is a doctoral candidate in political science at UFF and in Brazilian literature at USP.

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