What is Oligarchical Collective and what meaning does it have in 1984? I know Emmanuel Goldstein's book is on Oligarchical Collectivism, but I don't completely understand it all and what it means.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An oligarchy is a government controlled by a small group of people. Collectivism is a political theory of organization. In Orwell's 1984, the government is arranged much as Communist Russia was under Josef Stalin. In 1984, at the top is the Inner Party, which is composed of only 2% of the population; then, there is a middle section called the Outer Party, composed of 13% of the population; and, finally, at the bottom of the government pyramid are the Proles, who are 87% of the population, the majority. These people lead a miserable life, and are kept in a state of ignorance and confusion.

Under Collectivism, the ownership of property and the means of production are controlled by the people in general (collectively) and not by individuals, as it is under capitalism. For example, under Josef Stalin's Communist government, there were collective farms that were run by government appointed individuals. However, they failed to produce crops because the appointed government "farmers" knew very little about husbandry. Consequently, it fell to the peasants who had been farming for generations to feed all of Russia and, of course, a famine occurred because of tremendous shortages.

In 1984 The book has three chapters entitled "War is Peace," "Ignorance is Strength," and "Freedom is Slavery"; these chapter titles are also the main slogans of the Party. Of course, Orwell is satirizing Communism and other controlling governments here.

  • "War is Peace"

All three world powers in the world of 1984 do not really need to fight each other because they all have enough resources. They simply have wars because wars are a means of the consumption of produced goods. Doing so also prevents improving the lives of the citizens by using resources to increase the standard of living. For, if the standard of living improves, the Proles would advance by gaining knowledge through education and such. With a more knowledgeable populace, the Party might lose its control over the population and there could easily be social unrest. But, by keeping the Proles ignorant of history, underfed, and such, the 2% at the top maintains control. Since constant war keeps the status quo, "War is Peace." 

  • "Ignorance is Strength"

Members of the Party are allowed to hate and fear Big Brother and to hate traitors and foreigners, but that is all; no other emotions are allowed. Beginning in childhood, there is intricate training using doublespeak to control people's emotions and thoughts so that they cannot compare their lives to others and perceive anything better. In this way, the government can tell the people anything and they will believe without question. The higher-ups can remain in position.

  • "Freedom is Slavery" 

This slogan is not developed in the book. However, it again is a method of controlling the masses by blurring the lines between what is and what is not.