IPA1 Critique as Imitative Rivalry: George Orwell as Political Anthropologist

Tom Boland 


Drawing on the work of René Girard on imitation, I argue that George Orwell’s 1984 should be read as a work of political anthropology of pressing contemporary relevance. The setting of 1984 is a totalitarian society, but Orwell’s main focus is the rebellious subject and how imitative rivalry and disfiguring critique replicates and even extends the very power it seeks to oppose. This reading is supported intertextually by a shorter analysis of Keep the Aspidistra Flying, wherein the protagonist’s opposition to money – disfigured as the “Money-God” – makes money or its lack omnipresent for him. From this political anthropology of the rebellious subject, I draw the conclusion that critique, social or political, is imitative and is less a revelation than a disfigurement.



  • Cambridge University, U.K.
  • Roskilde University, Denmark
  • University College Cork, Ireland
  • Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland
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