Saturday, February 11, 2012

Revision 1- Margaret Julian

Margaret Julian
February 11, 2012
Revision 1

Throughout Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick describes a world in which the government and its affiliates, have, in effect, taken over all aspects of the human, and humanoid life. Herbert Marcuse in his One Dimensional Man lays out his description of a “one-dimensional man,” in Dick’s novel we see a world in which the characters are, in many ways, the perfect prototypes for Marcuse’s vision.

First of all, as a society Marcuse believes that at some point in the future we will find ourselves completely dependent on the government and massive corporations (probably controlled by the government) for everything. “The government of advanced and advancing industrial societies can maintain and secure itself only when it succeeds in mobilizing, organizing, and exploiting the technical, scientific, and mechanical productivity available to industrial civilization.[1]” We see that this has already happened with the characters of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, “the government in Washington, with its colonization program, constituted the sole sponsor which Isidore found himself forced to listen to.” [2]

Deckard is also subject to the whims and regulations of the government. As an employee of the Police Force his livelihood on Earth is directly related to how well the government is willing to pay him. Adding another layer of government control, androids and their makers solely exist for the purpose of enticing people to emigrate to Mars, and live in the government settlement there. (A corporation existing only for the benefit of the government, which can only enforce its agenda through the success of the corporation.) Therefore we see the full realization of Marcuse’s fears.

Marcuse also defines the “needs of the “one-dimensional man” in terms of the real or “true” needs of humans “nourishment, clothing, and lodging,” [3] and false needs. As far as true needs are concerned in the book, we don’t see any struggle at all to find lodging. With the abandonment of so many houses and apartments on Earth, you could basically move to any place you choose and find a suitable residence to live in with little effort, and clothing seems to not be a problem either. Nourishment however is a struggle that is almost completely ignored, but the glimpses we get of the food in this reality are dismal. Isidore mentions that the comestibles he collected for he and Pris were difficult to come by and Deckard looks out onto fields at one point and reminisces about how the Earth must have been different with all the plants and fields. Interestingly enough, it is the false needs and their fulfillment that seem to occupy most of the characters time.

The false needs as Marcuse sees them are, “to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate.”[4] The acquisition of animals is the largest example we have of this. They are the ultimate commodity and the driving force behind commerce. The characters desire them for social status, religious purposes, and self-fulfillment, strictly because they were told to do so by a religious figure that works for the aforementioned establishment.

The ability to “dial-up” one’s emotions and moods is another large example of this in the text. It could be argued that this kind of mood and emotion regulation is akin to our treatment of depressives, and it seems the people in this abysmal place would have a lot to be depressed about, but not only is this kind of emotional regulation standard, it is a huge commercial venture that one can judge their position in society from. If you do not have a Penfield Mood Organ you are the lowest on the totem pole and probably an “anthead.” It is the ultimate way to homogenize society into a force of almost pure commercialization.

Marcuse’s discussion of the freedom a one-dimensional man experiences is also something that can easily be applied to the culture in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? . He discusses “freedom” in terms of the system. In order to truly be free there must be a complete subversion of the traditional cultural and political structure in place i.e. “ economic freedom would mean freedom from the economy.” [5] Iran is the template for “unfreedom.” She is in some ways subverting the systems when she dials her mood organ to feel despair, but she is still acting within the confines of the structure that was put in place. She may be different in many ways from people who choose not to feel this at all, but she is still a victim of the powers that be.

The androids are also sad victims of the government’s regime. These humanoid creatures were created for the sake of the government’s relocation and emigration program. They are in fact commodities that people desire to fulfill his or her every whim; akin to slaves androids are trapped in a four-year life of servitude. They have fewer rights than any other living (they do breathe and eat) thing on either Mars or the Earth. The argument here is not between human and android, but how the android industry contributes to the flattening and de-dimensionalizing of the culture in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? .

In an essay by Timothy W. Luke, he raises a question, “how can an economy and a society create attractive forms of freedom in which the “unfreedom” of humanity and nature are preconditions for its success?”[6] Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? provides an answer to this question through its commercialization. People feel free, like today, to choose the products, or animals they wish to possess. They feel free to change the dial on their mood regulator or to emigrate to Mars. In actuality they are not free to do anything but choose from a fixed set of options that the establishment has given them. Luke goes on to say that “Everything in society should be judged by how much actual freedom from material want and arbitrary control is becoming realized as an everyday possibility.”[7] As a society today the solution is so far from reality that we in the words of Marcuse we are, “approaching the stage where continued progress would demand the radical subversion of the prevailing direction and organization of progress.”[8] In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? we find that the process has advanced so far that they have reached the tipping point Marcuse lays out. He says that when “material production (including the necessary services) becomes automated to the extent that all vital needs can be satisfied while necessary labor is reduced to marginal time. From this point on, technical progress would transcend the realm of necessity.” [9]

To fulfill the requirements of a one-dimensional man society has to have devolved (or evolved) so far that all of these contributing factors are true. Deckard, Isidore, Iran, and the androids are products of the consumer driven reality they live in. The future is grim given the apocalyptic perspective from which the book is written. They are stuck figuratively and in some cases literally chasing material and technological happiness in a world where a nuclear haze has set over the planet and an emigration to Mars seems tenuous at best. The question then is; is there still some hope for the world in which we inhabit or are our consumer driven lives going to run us into the ground?

Marcuse might point out that we have not reached the stage in which people in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are living so we can still change the system, albeit still by some major acts of subversion. But, unless we realize this and change quickly we will be heading in the same direction as Deckard and his companions. I would point out that there are some people who have chosen to abandon the system in a sense and “go off the grid.” They haven’t escaped from the physical bounds of the government but are able to live and sustain lives in which technology in the modern sense plays little to no part in their lives. They are not a large subset, but it can still be done. Within the reality of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? it is impossible to do this because reliance on the system is too great, you can’t grow your own food, the nuclear haze destroyed that idea. You can’t live in just any part of the country or world because the haze has become too dense. They are doomed in ways we have yet to be.

Works Cited

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1968. New York: Del Rey

Books, 2007. Print.

Luke, Timothy W. “One-Dimensional Man : A Systematic Critique of Human Domination and Nature-Society Relations.” Organization and Environment. 13:95. (2000).

Marcuse, Herbert. One Dimensional Man. Chapter 1. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.Print.

[1] Marcuse

[2] Dick (Chapter 2 paragraph 10)

[3] Marcuse

[4] Marcuse

[5] Marcuse

[6] Luke

[7] Luke

[8] Marcuse

[9] Marcuse

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