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Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Chapter 2

Summary Chapter 2

Analysis: Chapter 2

The first half of the students’ tour, described in the previous section, illustrates the World State’s abuse of biological science in conditioning its citizens. This section focuses on the use of psychological technologies to control the future behavior of World State citizens. Conditioning, combined with prenatal treatment, creates individuals without individuality: each one is programmed to behave exactly like the next. This system allows for social stability, economic productivity within narrow constraints, and a society dominated by unthinking obedience and infantile behavior.

The conditioning technique used to instill a dislike for flowers and books in infants is modeled after the research of Ivan Pavlov, a Russian scientist. Pavlov demonstrated that dogs could be trained to salivate at the ringing of a bell if the sound was consistently visually associated with food. This led to the observation that other kinds of responses could also be conditioned. His work became known to Western science in the decade before Brave New World was written. By applying Pavlovian theory to human infants, the state literally programs human beings to uphold the status quo.

The conditioning also drives the population to support the capitalist economic system. Because the World State wants children to be loyal consumers as adults, the importance of the individual is diminished in order to further the interests of the larger community. Even during their off-work hours, World State citizens serve the interests of production and, therefore, the interests of the whole economy and society, by consuming transportation and expensive sporting equipment. Any opportunity for individual, idiosyncratic behavior that might not feed the economy is eliminated.