George Orwell’s “1984” is a criticism on the New Deal and the Progressives of the 1930s. The movie has lots of concepts related to the New Deal era. I’ll discuss some connections between the movie and the New Deal.
For example, the movie shows Oceania’s two minute hate of Emmanual Goldstein, which resembles Progressive hatred of the Lochner decision. At the time of the New Deal, Progressives hated the Lochner decision because it got in the way of Progressive legislation. Such legislation included: minimum wage laws, maximum hour laws, collective bargaining, safety laws, worker’s compensation, unions, sterilization acts, racial integrity acts, etc. Plus, many people felt the Supreme Court was deciding issues like minimum etc. as opposed to the political process, which infuriated the progressives of the time. Anyways, Emmanual Goldstein is the enemy of Oceania and Big Brother.
Additionally, popular Progressive concepts like eugenics appear in the movie. In one scene, we see two women discussing marriages approved by a committee. Also, in another scene, women are talking about redefining the concept of love. Moreover, they discuss how many kids can be born. At this time, Progressives passed legislation for eugenic purposes and sterilization purposes.
Also, Big Brother regulates all aspects of daily life, which the Progressives did during the New Deal. In the movie, we see Winston being searched by Big Brother as he enters his home. Likewise, Progressives regulated all aspects of federal and state commerce during this time. The movie reflects a Progressive agenda.
During the New Deal, as this movie points to, a lot of regulations were changing in regards to the federal government and states. For example, under substantive due process, the federal government started to set labor conditions, which, in the past, was the jurisdiction of the state police power. Also, it’s this period where States began to lose power over working hours, maximum hour laws, worker’s compensation, etc. because the federal government started regulating this area under the Commerce clause of the Constitution. Moreover, prior to the New Deal, states had a liberty interest in contract, which meant the federal government couldn’t get between individual and employer when making contracts. Now, as this movie points out, the Federal government began to regulate intrastate and interstate commerce, which must of seemed like Big Brother to the states in this era.
Obviously, the movie is a take on meaning of liberty. For Winston and Julia, liberty meant freedom from government or less government, which was a Conservative idea. For the Progressive, liberty meant government provides freedom or social benefits.
In summary, conservatives were scared of the New Deal of the 1930s, and these fears were reflected in the movie. People were scared of Lochnerism; that is, the federal government or Supreme Court taking over state areas of regulations and forgetting about the political process. Plus, the Progressive eugenics and sterilization agenda worried people, which the movie reflected. Interestingly, the book 1984 was banned in many countries for being ideologically corrupting.