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Orwell didn’t live to see the compromise which English Socialism now represents – a minimum of public ownership, a social-security apparatus that costs too much, a mass of ‘equalizing’ laws not easily enforceable, and a necessary thwarting of individual, as opposed to collective, endeavour.

1985 by Anthony Burgess

I assume that "compromise" means "a minimum of public ownership...". But there is a problem.

Burgess says that "a necessary thwarting of individual, as opposed to collective, endeavour" is included in this compromise (If I'm not interpreting this sentence wrong). The problem is the word "as opposed to". I think Burgess means that a socialism other than "English Socialism" would "thwart" collective endeavour. But because of the compromise, now English Socialism does thwart individual endeavour.

Am I correct? Or am I interpreting the sentence wrong?

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  • The word "compromise" refers to some necessary accommodation between 2 different principles. But, the list following the first sentence doesn't show opposite notions. Your interpretation concerning individual endeavour is correct, however I wonder whether it's the consequence of the compromise or inherent to socialism.
    – Graffito
    Aug 31, 2023 at 9:54
  • It's explained in the paragraph. Also, please use a dictionary.
    – Lambie
    Feb 27 at 19:52
  • Burgess was a novelist (and composer) not a philosophical or political thinker. 1985 is pretty eccentric and probably not to be taken too seriously.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 27 at 23:53

2 Answers 2

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I think Burgess means that a socialism other than "English Socialism" would "thwart" collective endeavour.

This is not my understanding of the sentence. One of the "necessary accommodations" for English socialism is a thwarting of individual endeavour. That is all that Burgess is saying. In my opinion, it is probably true in any country (look at the USSR), but Burgess is not talking about other countries.

The inclusion of the phrase "as opposed to collective" is merely a clarification: he does not include collective endeavour in his statement.

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Compromise refers to finding a "middle ground" between positions or possibilities. The only clear example of that meaning in the quote is the one you focused on, the extent or degree of public ownership (vs private ownership). The other things Burgess cites:

  • a social-security apparatus that costs too much
  • a mass of ‘equalizing’ laws not easily enforceable,
  • and a necessary thwarting of individual, as opposed to collective, endeavour

seem to involve unintended consequences of the compromise, as Burgess sees things, although a social-security apparatus and equalizing laws could each be taken as a quid-pro-quo offered in return for limited public ownership.

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  • I agree with you. But the construction of the third sentence you mentioned implies that the intended consequence of the compromise should be the thwarting of collective. But it happened to be the reverse. Is it correct?
    – Abw
    Aug 31, 2023 at 11:44
  • The word necessary is slippery there. Was the thwarting of "individual endeavor" (very vague phrase) a socialist "demand"? Or is that a veiled reference to the taxation required to pay for the social-security system? Aug 31, 2023 at 11:47
  • Seen in light of his A Clockwork Orange, it could be a reference to a required elimination of strident individualism as it would threaten a collective system where everyone must pitch in some of their resources to ensure a social safety net and modest pensions for retirement. Aug 31, 2023 at 11:56

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