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Huxley’s Influence on Fukuyama

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Huxley’s seminal novel, “The Brave New World” has had extensive influence in over seven decades of its existence. The several paradigms written about by Huxley are only now seeing some form of fructification. While many modern writers have been influenced by Huxley’s writings particularly the novel in question, Francis Fukuyama stands out as one who has probably imbibed a series of themes from Huxley in his writings. Fukuyama is an inventive writer in his own right, but his adoption of Huxley’s ideas provides definitive credence to his book, “Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution”

Francis Fukuyama addresses Huxley’s dystopian vision most fully in this book. In the chapter, A Tale of Two Dystopias, for instance Fukuyama gives three scenarios that are inspired by Huxley’s Brave New World. The first setting denotes evolution of pharmaceuticals as a result of advances in biotechnology. The second involves use of stem cells to increase human longevity in which Fukuyama also addresses the problem posed by repaired and rejuvenated bodies and fixed minds. Finally, the third scenario involves embryonic screening.

Soma is the pharmaceutical of choice in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Controller Mustapha Mond describes soma thus; “There’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are.

Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears-that’s what soma is.”[1] In the Brave New World, pharmaceuticals perform their primary function of curing. Fukuyama has also envisaged such drugs, only unlike Soma; these are not free of unwanted side effects that coexist with current medication.

Huxley believed that completely eliminating disease, discomfort and unwanted emotions is a recipe for disaster, a concept propagated by Fukuyama who points out the dangers of a society that is reliant on psychotropic drugs. Fukuyama states, “The term social control, of course, conjures up right winged fantasies of governments using mind-altering drugs to produce compliant subjects.”[2] Fukuyama also points out that mind control spans beyond governmental abuse. Parents, teachers, schools and others that profit from human behavior will be able to profit from control through mind-altering substances.

Fukuyama fears that this misuse of psychotropic drugs threatens the existence of a democratic society. Fukuyama explains, “If one of the key constituents of our nature, something on which we base our notions of dignity, has to do with the gamut of normal emotions shared by human beings, then we are already trying to narrow the range for the utilitarian ends of health and convenience.” According to Fukuyama this will lead to the death of individuality and democratic thinking.

The Director in The Brave New World has put this theme across very succinctly, “”The greater a man’s talents, the greater his power to lead astray. It is better that one should suffer than that many should be corrupted. Consider the matter dispassionately, Mr. Foster, and you will see that no offence is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behavior. Murder kills only the individual-and, after all, what is an individual?”[3] This is precisely what Fukuyama is afraid of.

Advances in stem cell research promise an extension of life based on its ability to regenerate tissue. As our organs deteriorate, there will be an option to replace them with new organs that have been cultured in other animals. While this sounds like a benefit of science, Fukuyama sees potential harm in this technology.

Fukuyama explains the problem of aging in relation to advances in biotechnology, “People grow mentally rigid and increasingly fixed in their views as they age.”[4] This poses the problem of not allowing younger generations to make necessary changes in society. Fukuyama is concerned that society will experience stagnation due to inability of elders to step aside and allow progress.

Huxley had similarly objected to elimination of aging in society. In chapter seventeen, of Brave New World, Savage extols the virtues of getting older, “[I’m claiming] the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow.”[5] In other words, there is freedom in the ability to exist as an imperfect human that grows old and experiences the benefits and disadvantages of growing older. It is part of being alive and human.

Finally, there is the matter of embryonic screening. Once again, there is a desire to perfect the human species. Fukuyama sees this as a means to further stratify our population economically. Fukuyama gives a scenario regarding social status and genetics, “You can increasingly tell the social background of a young person by his or her looks and intelligence.”[6]

According to Fukuyama embryonic selection will divide society into the “haves and have-nots.” This is eerily similar to the class system in Brave New World. When the director is asked why he keeps some embryos below par he responds, “The lower the caste, the shorter the oxygen.” This illustrates how biotechnology can be used not just for physical development and growth but also to manipulate societal structure and politics.

Fukuyama and Huxley may have written their works many decades apart, but the congruence of thought indicates a powerful influence of one over the other. As Huxley wrote about these ideas in the 1930’s there is no doubt that these would have formed the core of Fukuyama’s thought processes consciously or sub consciously as he wrote, “Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution”.

Works Referenced


Fukuyama, Frances. “Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution,” New York: Picador Publishing, 2002.

Huxley, Aldous. “Brave New World.” New York, 1998.

[1] Huxley 238.

[2] Fukuyama 53

[3] Huxley 148

[4] Fukuyama 9

[5] Huxley 240

[6] Fukuyama 9

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