What type of economy did 1984 have and how does this compare to our modern day economy?

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clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The economy in the world of 1984 is constantly recessed and it is referred to as Ingsocwhich is newspeak for English Socialism. There are shortages of commonly used and needed items, buildings are run down with no hope of repair, and the city of Oceania (and probably much of the rest of the world) is dirty. The economy is socialistic. The distribution of wealth and property in the community are controlled by the government. The government controls the means of production of everything in the society, there are no private institutions. With a socialistic economic system there are usually three very distinct classes and rarely any gray areas. The rich, the middle class, and the poor (The Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles).

The society in Oceania is in a constant state of war. Winston questions whether the war is even actually real or it is just present in the media to help keep the economy recessed and the people dependent upon the government. War is also used to explain shortages of everyday use items like razor blades and the reason there is a need for synthetic food.

In comparison the US capitalistic economy it is very different. We have competition which drives the market and not the government. The distribution of wealth is dependent upon individuals and the market. The classes range from the obscenely rich to the poorest of poor with many gray areas between.  

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1984, Oceania has a Socialist economy. This is made clear through the Newspeak word Ingsoc, which stands for English Socialism. In practice, this means that the economy is planned and controlled by the Party. Note, for example, how food and other goods, like razors, are rationed by the Ministry of Plenty and how statistics about economic production are published in the press.

Looking a little deeper, however, it becomes clear that the Party does not strictly adhere to Socialist principles. In Socialism, for instance, society's wealth is equally distributed among the people but, in Oceania, this does not happen. This is shown clearly in the contrast between the run-down Victory Mansions (where Winston lives) and the palatial and luxurious interior of O'Brien's apartment. In other words, the Party has created its own version of Socialism which keeps Party members in poverty and, therefore, easier to control.

By contrast, in a capitalist economy, industry and business are usually not controlled by the government but by private individuals for the purpose of making profit. In addition, it is supply and demand that determine the production of goods and services, meaning that rationing is rare in a capitalist society.

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