‘The Mother or Her Substitute’: Sexuality and Self-preservation in Huxley’s ‘Anti-world’


Paulo Auladell

–Our Ford—or Our Freud, as, for some inscrutable reason, he chose to call himself whenever he spoke of psychological matters—Our Freud has been the first to reveal the appalling dangers of family life. The world was full of fathers—was therefore full of misery; full of mothers—therefore of every kind of perversion from sadism to chastity; full of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts—full of madness and suicide (Huxley, p. 39).

For all of its fictional recasting of famous names, perhaps Huxley’s Brave New World is a utopia that should be considered as a text of counter-intertextuality insofar as it constitutes a responsive or counter-insurgent textuality. With all the names that circulate, like Trotsky, Ford, Lenin(a) and Marx who are scattered on almost every page of the text, Huxley makes it difficult to disavow the fact that he is wanting to call attention to this re-contextualization. Yet it is particularly striking that Freud’s name only shows up in one passage in his novel—ironically at that—precisely in the form of a Freudian slip[1]. Nevertheless, this single instance of naming should not be taken as a sign that Freud’s influence is not readily apparent. On the contrary, an understanding of Freud’s work—mainly his Civilization and Its Discontents published two years prior—is essential for grasping the genetic inspiration behind the crafting of the themes of Huxley’s novel. Instead, what should be focused on is the very fact that Huxley chooses to refer to Freud ironically through the very medium with which his name has become eponymous: the slip. Investigating the importance of this humorous reference to Freud will help to shed some light on what is at stake in Huxley’s narrative.

In his work on utopia(s), Raymond Ruyer classifies Huxley’s Brave New World among the utopias with a critical intention[2]. Characterizing this type of utopia, he writes: “The critical intention can even be in an almost pure state, like in the works of Swift, Butler and Aldous Huxley. Instead of being exercised directly, utopia exercises this critique in an indirect, more expressive and effective way by presenting an anti-world, a parallel or deformed world” (6, translation mine). This type of assertion would be valid, except for the fact that in the case of Brave New World the notion of the words “parallel or deformed” signify something perhaps quite different in relation to the Freudian reference. What needs to be unraveled is the question: parallel or deformed in relation to what, exactly? The only way to validate or qualify this type of phrasing is to indicate the extent to which the deformed parallelism of Huxley’s text is an ironic rendition of and experimentation with Freud’s own text. The model for Huxley’s critique is nothing more than Civilization and Its Discontents, and it is of mere historical interest whether or not Huxley actually read this text, for if he did not then his novel proceeds by way of an osmotic Zeitgeist or a phenomenon of telepathy. For Brave New World provides us with a way to read this text against the grain. In other words, in what way is Huxley’s novel a critique of Freud? The stakes—or the cornerstone of what is at stake—for both thinkers reside in nothing more than the theorization and problematization of libidinal economies in relation to societal structures and “instinctual impulses[3]”.

But let’s slow down here and identify what the opening concerns of Freud’s text highlight. Freud elaborates the opening chapter of his work with a certain discontent directed towards the “intangible quantities” that he admits “is very difficult” to “work with” (21). This somewhat famous opening chapter works through notions that Freud received from a friend concerning an “oceanic feeling” associated with religion[4] that will be reduced in this text to “the restoration of limitless narcissism” (20). In light of this, Freud extrapolates the genesis of religious feelings from the “feeling of infantile helplessness” in relation to the threats of the external world, “the need for a father’s protection”—which he considers to be the strongest need—and the presence/absence of the mother’s breast, which is not yet distinguished by the infant as being a part of the external world (14, 20). As he makes clear, the whole problem of the notion of “ego” is already compromised because, even for adults, the “feeling of our own ego[5]” is not as constant and stable as we might think (12-13). In fact, Freud will relate this instability to the co-presence of infantile psychic life in its differentiation of internal and external reality and thus to the movement towards the reality principle that will delimit the reign of what he calls the “pure pleasure-ego” (14-15). This will lead him to rhetorically situate his analogy between mental life and a city that retains all of its temporal manifestations side-by-side in spatial configuration, thus taking back up a metaphor that he had been using at least as early as the Dora case nearly three decades earlier. Although Freud suggests that the analogy “go[es] too far”, his main point is to highlight that this type of preservation takes place in unconscious mental life and gives credence to his narrative about the genesis and development of the ego. In this way, Freud sets up his engagement with religion in order to be able to critique what can now be readily recognized as the residue of a prior ontogenetic (and phylogenetic) stage of human psychic development that can be discarded (perhaps with the aid of analysis) or transformed. Somewhat reminiscent of St. Paul’s dictum about doing away with childish things once adulthood is reached, religion seems to be the first aspect of what constitutes society’s modern malaise or Unbehagen.

What is easy to lose sight of in this first chapter is the way in which infantile helplessness and the religious oceanic feeling is mediated by a theoretical hypothesis concerning love and “being in love” (13). This is because Freud moves very quickly when he sneaks love into a conceptualization of ego boundaries. The paragraph—or what Freud calls a “line of thought”—in which this engagement with love is situated precisely concerns the so-called “autonomous and unitary” ego that is normally the most certain thing for us, while instead it is merely a mask for the id from which the ego cannot be clearly distinguished (12). The next associative link in this line of thought reads: “But towards the outside, at any rate, the ego seems to maintain clear and sharp lines of demarcation. There is only one state—admittedly an unusual state, but not one that can be stigmatized as pathological—in which it does not does this” (13).  This is in fact a libidinal state that Freud calls “the height of being in love”. It is here that boundaries between “ego and object” or between ‘I’ and ‘you’ become threatened[6]. Freud, however, does not immediately follow through with this line of argument; instead, he resumes his detour through the religious question. Nevertheless, this detour will prove fruitful for regaining the path back to his fleeting question of love Freud’s text.

That path is resumed by formulating the question of happiness. Foregoing the religious path that situates the question of human life specifically on its “purpose”, Freud instead takes up a question that he considers “less ambitious” : what does human behavior indicate is the “purpose and intention” of life (25)? Answering this question without a doubt, Freud writes: “[People] strive after happiness; they want to become happy and to remain so…what decides the purpose of life is simply the program of the pleasure principle”. But the problem remains that happiness is a sporadic and untimely phenomenon that only comes in fits and starts. Furthermore, Freud argues that it is completely opposed to the way that the “whole world” runs globally or locally: “all the regulations of the universe run counter to it. One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be ‘happy’ is not included in the plan of ‘Creation[7]’”.  This is Freud’s insistence on the imposition of the reality principle that limits and frames the pleasure principle, although to a certain extent the latter functions in tandem with the former insofar as it provides obstacles that must be overcome, thus generating the damming-up instance that Freud believes happiness requires. Since this reality principle seemingly becomes oppressive, it requires “palliative measures” (23). Freud provides three of these in general outline: deflections, substitutes for satisfaction (like art via phantasy) and intoxicating substances (24). On the other hand, we also have to contend with the major forms of unhappiness in the triad of the dissolution of the body, the external world, and the relations to others, the last of which “cannot be any less fatefully inevitable than the suffering which comes from elsewhere” (26). It is in the play or dialectic of happiness and unhappiness in relation to the larger schema of social programming that allows for a pathway into Huxley’s world for which Freud’s reflections constitute a sort of road map.

Huxley’s Brave New World begins with a stylistically humorous dramatization of the reproductive epicenter of what London has become in the year 2540 AD (which is now calculated in terms of Henry Ford’s death, i.e. around 600 A.F.). The opening chapter introduces the reader to the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre in the guise of a guided tour given to up-and-coming eager students of human cloning and embryology. The processes and methods of “hatching” a human from egg and sperm to fully developed embryo are painstakingly arranged and recited in the form of a lesson plan rife with figures, numbers and historical developments in the sciences of human engineering. Just as the Director educates his prospective students, the reader is also put into the position of pupil and must undergo the pedagogy of a science of sexual engineering.

But the question of sexual reproduction also becomes more nuanced, insofar as “fertility is merely a nuisance” for the hatcheries, i.e. something to be taken control of[8]. This is where the essentials of the utopian genre begin to be filled in, because at this point we have gone “’out of the realm of mere slavish imitation of nature into the much more interesting world of human invention’” (13). While the hatchery still requires females who can functionally produce ova, the majority of the embryos are dosed with a “male sex-hormone” in order to be born “[g]uaranteed sterile” (13). Nevertheless, the functionally reproductive females will have to maintain a strict regimen of birth-control pills to ensure the prohibition of viviparous pregnancy is kept intact. And, although the hatcheries could theoretically make do with only one functional female, they prefer to keep “an enormous margin of safety” to ensure the broadest gene pool upon which to capitalize. In a utopian society where the gene pool is directly governed by the state, Huxley’s fictional dramatization of totalitarianism cannot avoid the prospect of being whole-heartedly eugenicist.

At this point, several correlations can be drawn between the text of Freud and that of Huxley. Freud’s main contention about the role of infantile helplessness as the source of religion becomes strained in Huxley’s utopia. Moreover, in an inversion of the French Revolution’s maxim of liberty, equality, fraternity, Huxley’s hatcheries are functioning under the farcical aegis of “Community, Identity, Stability” (3). Liberty has been replaced by the stability of mass aggregates of egos; consequently, these egos function as identities that indicate an equality relative to the designation of uniforms and bio-mechanical processes that stamp these egos; finally, community is ensured by a fraternity internal to the castes, since, like the French revolution, mothers and fathers have been done away with—albeit this time it is not simply ideological pretense sustained by a beheaded king but the putting into practice of the controlled manufacture of life itself. So, on that front Huxley is able to do away with what Freud finds most essential to religion and to the child’s Hilfslösigkeit: the need for a father’s protection, and the timely/untimely desire for the mother’s breast.

Furthermore, there is an irony in doing away with the familial structure in the utopia of Brave New World that goes beyond dismantling the framework of the Oedipus complex[9]. This is because Freud indicates the “oceanic feeling” of religion as an attempt or search for “something like the restoration of limitless narcissism” (20). But, due to the bokanovsky mass-cloning process, narcissism has now stopped being a question of psychological or individual proportions to become the underpinnings of a massively redundant collective Eros. If narcissism can also be rendered in a pre-Freudian way as l’amour-propre—and this qualification should suffice, since narcissism is “self”-love after the autoerotic infantile, polymorphously perverse stage—then it must be said that there is nothing proper anymore about this type of love. A narcissism, no doubt, but where the Narcissi have become multiplied in external reality without the necessity of a mirror stage, since the mirrors are on a whole swarm of faces of which one constitutes merely a part. This stage in which Narcissus defeats himself through fractalization perhaps is the ironic gesture in Brave New World’s first chapter where Huxley shows how infants are trained to hate books and flowers; they are “conditioned” not to think, i.e. reflect, and not to enjoy nature for its own sake but only for what it can yield as capital. Thus the “flower” refers back to that which Narcissus becomes by withering away facing his own image, and yet it is precisely what the “group” narcissism prevents by forcing an “echo” effect onto the production of mass identity. On the other hand, the sublimation that Freud advocates—beauty as a form of palliation of reality—and that the flower represents has to “melt into [the] air” of the abstract equivalence of economic exchange: “Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks—already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissolubly. What man has joined nature is powerless to put asunder” (22). Considering Heidegger’s reflections on technology and nature, it is precisely the status of the engineer and not the poet that takes precedence here: “A love of nature keeps no factories busy…to abolish the love of nature, but not the tendency to consume transport” (23). This is the ironic cancellation of Nature and History in the equation of “Nature = Industry, Nature = History”, where Nature itself has been cancelled out through History, but where History itself must be suppressed on behalf of Industry (19). This is the production of a new humanity without the reproduction of the sexual drive.

Yet the fundamental question to which Freud is winding his way in the first chapter of Civilization and Its Discontents principally concerns the status of happiness, unhappiness, pleasure and pain or unpleasure in relation to human behavior. In this sense, Huxley and Freud are both reframing and problematizing the status of woman taking the name of Eve when she and Adam are exiled from Eden: man will toil in the field and suffer from physical labor, woman will suffer from an equally physical albeit different sort of labor. This perhaps marks the mythical origin of civilization’s malaise, but the directors of human engineering and predestination in Brave New World have also thought about this question as well and attempted to provide a solution[10]. In addition to all the other aspects of manipulation of the embryos in the hatcheries, the social predestination center modifies embryos in accordance with the specific labor their “unit” is supposed to perform. In his lesson to the students, the Director refers to those who are predestined to work in the tropical zone. These embryos are subjected to a mixture of X-rays with an alternation of hot and cool tunnels (16). In this way, the “conditioning” is meant to prime their “minds” to “endorse the judgment of their bodies”. But the fascinating key to this reasoning is not for productive purposes or for the ability for the embryos to survive in their climate; instead, the argument is that they will thrive because of it. In other words, they will be programmed to enjoy the conditions in which their social lost has cast them: “‘that is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you’ve got to do. All condition aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny’”. On the other hand, Freud notices that this type of conception is definitively utopian insofar as it does not seem to be able to be realized within current social conditions. Nevertheless, he points to it as a problem to be reconciled: “And yet, as a path to happiness, work is not highly prized by men….The great majority of people only work under the stress of necessity, and this natural human aversion to work raises most difficult social problems” (30, fn. 5). This is why Huxley does well to heed Freud’s footnote and provide a “solution” to the problem of labor that is socially predetermined already in his opening chapter of Brave New World. It is precisely the “stress of necessity” that is lifted and made a little lighter in Huxley’s utopia insofar as one is always-already a replaceable cog in the social machine that leaves virtually no options open to consideration for an individual to pursue various careers or expenditures of libidinal energy. One becomes what one does and is programmed to do from the moment of conception.

It is at this point that we can point to the opening of Freud’s third chapter which acts as a recapitulation of his previous arguments and an extension. Here Freud reminds us of the sources of human suffering that he has lain out earlier in the text: nature, feeble bodies and the inadequacies of the “regulations” that govern the relationships of human beings, i.e. the state and the family. He writes: “We shall never completely master nature; and our bodily organism, itself a part of that nature, will always remain a transient structure with a limited capacity for adaptation and achievement” (37). On the other hand, the “social source of suffering” should instead be available for modification and “be a protection and a benefit for every one of us” (37-38). Yet for Huxley these concerns fall away and become moot. Nature has been appropriated to the point of being directly exploited on various dimensions; furthermore and most importantly, “our bodily organism” has been mastered, albeit by the utopian world hatchery and not by any particular individual in relation to him- or herself. On the other hand, in terms of Brave New World, the transiency of bodies—ours or others—is completely unperturbed by the “limited capacity” that one has to adapt and achieve precisely because they have been preprogrammed to constitute the larger unities that this manufactured group Eros is aiming towards. Finally, the manipulation and overcoming of these two physical sufferings is enough to achieve the elimination of Freud’s third point, namely that the modification of the regulations regarding social relationships should be put in the service of communities of humans. Although Freud here seems more or less to be advocating the freedom for individuals and collectives to negotiate this latter problem on their own, for Huxley this utopic vision is only plausible and probable through the massive network of coordinated systems of psychic and physiological conditioning. In that sense, group Eros becomes the most smoothly functioning aspect of the society insofar as it comes pre-installed and preprogrammed as an “instinctual impulse” or drive that automatically executes without the intervention of external social mechanisms (law, castration, initiation rituals, incest, etc.).

Here the main stakes of the interaction between Huxley and Freud can best be situated in relation to Jean Laplanche’s generalized theory of seduction. Tracking the meandering path that Freud trekked vis-à-vis the unconscious in relation to his initial seduction theory, Laplanche figures Freud’s Anlehnung (étayage or leaning-on) of the self-preservation onto the sexual drive as the “truth” of seduction properly understood. In the little book of lectures given in 1992 titled La Sexualité humaine, Laplanche indicates the difficulties in placing signification of Anlehnung in the Freudian corpus. As he points out, part of the difficulty in parsing this term is that it does not have the status of concept but that of a quasi- or para-concept. This ambiguity most often leads to a “bastard synthesis” between drive and instinct, indicated by the interpretations of Strachey, Freud’s English translator, and Lacan: the one collapses Trieb or drive to “instinct” alone, while the latter does not acknowledge that Freud ever uses the term “Instinkt” at all (23). The concept of “leaning-on”, like the differentiation between drive and instinct, only becomes apparent afterwards through the medium of translation into another language, something that Laplanche himself explicitly points out (31). This confusion is taken up and translated by Huxley himself through the fictional and utopian vision he constructs of a human species in which self-preservation and the sexual drive lose their tangential point of contact and the leaning of the latter on the former collapses or is dismantled. How does this happen?

Quoting from Freud’s text on narcissism, Laplanche points out that sexuality leans on self-preservation through those who are responsible for the child’s nourishment, who is primarily the mother “or her substitute” (68). On the other hand, Laplanche also shows a hint of ambiguity on Freud’s part insofar as this nourishment equally involves protection: thus foreshadowing his work in Civilization and Its Discontents, this position is held either by the nourishing mother or the father who protects (69). In any case, what is at stake is the other of self-preservation or the “biological other person” (68). However, in the libidinal economy of Huxley’s Brave New World, the self-enclosed utopia radically cuts short the ‘normal’ relationship between fathers, mothers and children by eradicating their familial and nurturing relations. “Hatched” in large, mechanically supervised batches rather than born from the flesh of adult others, these children bear little resemblance to mammalian offspring and are much more akin to reptilian or insect spawn. In a world where the word ‘father’ subsists as a “pornographic” remainder and the word ‘mother’ is a “scatological” signifier, Anlehnung has from the start been perverted and subverted away from what one would normally call a ‘natural relationship’: if ‘nature’ means anything in this text, then it is a nature that is implanted in the decanting of test tubes rather than in the rearing of the young. In that sense, caretakers have been replaced by anonymous or impersonal clones, and so the leaning-on of the sexual drive can only be referred to in terms that evoke simulation and a disastrous “fourvoiement” of self-preservation.

Noting that the condemnation of infantile sexuality verifies its existence and the repression of adults concerning their own infantile sexuality externally, Laplanche ironizes contra and with Foucault the notion that the individual has become ‘liberated’ (25, fn. 1). If sexuality and the individual’s relation to it has been set free in Brave New World, then it must be asked: towards what end? The goal is to leave individuals in the grips of a collective Eros that will render them all exchangeable with one another qua sexual objects. Thus the liberation for this collective Eros will instead foster the sexuality of children rather than attempt to disavow it. Recalling a “rudimentary sexual game” between a boy and girl of around seven and eight years old, the narrator depicts how they explore each other’s sexuality “with all the focused attention of scientists intent on a labour of discovery” (31). In this sense, whether or not it is a question of polymorphous perversity or the more mature exploration of genital sexual relations here, it should be noted that the playfulness here is neither innocent nor malicious but thoroughly compromised: the children are “playing” at adult sexuality. This, however, does not occur—despite hypnopaedia and psychological conditioning—without some resistances here and there: “ ‘He started yelling just now…’ ‘Honestly,’ put in the anxious-looking little girl, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt him or anything. Honestly.’ ‘Of course you didn’t, dear,’ said the nurse reassuringly. ‘And so,’ she went on, turning back to the Director, ‘I’m taking him in to see the Assistant Superintendent of Psychology. Just to see if anything’s at all abnormal.’” (32, emphasis added). Here the sexuality of children is “free” or is given free reign insofar as it is normal to externalize itself and is in fact encouraged in that sense.

Thus it can be said that Huxley creates a utopia in which elements of the Oedipal complex can be structurally dismantled or exploded. Beyond the figure of the family itself, Huxley’s society dissects its principal structure, the home: “Home, home—a few small rooms, stiflingly over-inhabited by a man, by a periodically teeming woman, by a rabble of boys and girls of all ages. No air, no space; an understerilized prison; darkness, disease, and smells” (37). What is more striking is that Huxley’s utopia—by inventing his society’s conditions through a scientific fictionalization of psycho-biology—has not simply unsettled Oedipus but also calls attention to the general status of leaning-on. Dismantling and undoing the object-source (or metonymy/metaphor) of milk-breast-(m)other in Brave New World begs the question of the other’s role in relation to seduction. Straight from the World Controller’s mouth, the following description gives a sense of how the role of caretaker, as the other adult person in seduction, is called into question by this society’s organizational principles:

  And home was as squalid psychically as physically. Psychically, it was a rabbit hole, a midden, hot with the frictions of tightly packed life, reeking with emotion. What suffocating intimacies, what dangerous, insane, obscene relationships between the members of the family group! Maniacally, the mother brooded over her children (her children) . . .[11] brooded over them like a cat over its kittens; but a cat that could talk, a cat that could say, “My baby, my baby,” over and over again. “My baby, and oh, oh, at my  breast, the little hands, the hunger, and that unspeakable agonizing pleasure! Till at last my baby sleeps, my baby sleeps with a bubble of white milk at the corner of his mouth.  My little baby sleeps . . .” (38).

Everything concerning the theory of leaning-on can be unpacked from this passage, at least insofar as we take Huxley’s ironized version—through the mouth of his World Controller—as our guiding thread. The prop of self-preservation is undermined and removed from its mooring in the alimentation of the mother or the protection of the father. Although we cannot fully unravel all the intricacies behind this figure of the maniacal mother, it should be pointed out that Huxley is correct to emphasize the role of speech that the mother possesses in her distinction from the other animals. It is the compulsion to repeat “my baby” in her “brooding” that depicts this mother as exciting the child with more than a simple act of feeding. Although reference is made to the “agonizing pleasure” that the child experiences, it is also at the same time immediately qualified as “unspeakable”. The only reason it can be spoken in this passage at all is the fact that the World Controller is mimicking what the mother ‘would say’ insofar as he performs her mania for his students. Nevertheless, this “unspeakable” quality joined with the mother’s compulsive utterances highlights the role of enigmatic messages for seduction theory, especially since this pleasure is just as unspeakable for a mother as it is for the child, indicating that she knows not what she transfers.

This is why the “home” is “squalid” and “over-inhabited”.  What is “over-inhabited” is the unconscious by the sexually enigmatic messages of adulthood. Thus it can be said that what the inhabitants of Huxley’s society—whose fantasy is shared and uttered by the World Controller—is to be free of seduction in its psychoanalytic formalization in order to be free for exploitation. This exploitation is figured through the taking-control-of-life in a society whose labor power is engineered by bio-power. In other words, what happens to seduction when self-preservation and sexuality are co-produced and “implanted” beforehand? Or, in short, when seduction is production? The terrifying aspect of Huxley’s utopia is that it cuts through the debate between the endogenous and exogenous “origins” of fantasy, seduction, and the unconscious. Rather than siding with Laplanche or the Kleinians, Huxley makes the foreign body into something that is produced externally but planted internally from the start. He carries out the bastard synthesis between instinct and drive, leading to an instinct that is there at the origin of a drive that has been mechanistically manufactured or vice versa. He can only discover an exogenous origin of the unconscious by inventing one that is pre-programmed. He scrambles the death and life drives to negate the family but to promote the pantheon of a pansexual collective Ero in which narcissism defeats itself by becoming embodied through science. Although it can be argued that Huxley simply wants to “critique” Freud, it would be more appropriate to argue that he is trying to determine the proper limits that Freud himself was constantly at pain to rework. Thus Huxley can be said to carry out a “critical” rather than “criticizing” reading of Freud, one that attempts not only to read him but also read with him.

[1] Cf. the epigraph above.

[2] Ruyer, Raymond. L’Utopie et les utopies. PUF: Paris, 1950, p. 6.

[3] Strachey’s translation of Freud’s “Triebregungen” in: Civilization and Its Discontents. Norton: New York, 1961. It should be noted that Freud never uses the word “Instinkt” in this work, although his use of Trieb and its combinations are more or less always translated in terms of “instinct” rather than “drive” by Strachey (although it should be noted that Strachey once uses the word “drive” in English as a verb. Irony of all ironies, the word is “treibt”, which corresponds with Freud’s only use of trieb as a verb). This should be noted when considering some of the psychic “mechanisms” in Brave New World that may need to be parsed in relation to this confusion in Freud’s translation.

[4] We shall return to this later on in relation to the activities of group Eros in Brave New World.

[5] Acknowledging the instability of the ego puts Freud close to Hume’s “bundles of perceptions” to a certain degree; but insofar as Freud decides to usually relate this instability to pathology and to the virtual co-presence of infantile psychic life, i.e. the primal scene, he can be said to take his distance.

[6] It should be noted that Freud here footnotes his remark that a man will declare this collapse of two to one “as a fact”. Of course, what Freud tells the reader to reference is his work on the famous Schreber case. It is perhaps quite unusual that Freud would reference his work on schizophrenia to back up a statement about love as not being able to be stigmatized as pathological.

[7] This line read against the grain (i.e. in a Huxleyesque manner) seems to be a challenge for a different plan of creation, a world that perhaps would be “braver” in a sense that engages the limits of a critical inspiration guided by a fictional lens.

[8] Perhaps it could be argued that Huxley’s Brave New World is a fictional dramatization of Foucault’s rendition of the “repressive hypothesis”; on the other hand, the most essential connection between Foucault and Huxley would most definitely be found in the problematization of bio-power presented in the last chapter of History of Sexuality: An Introduction and in Huxley’s first chapter of his novel.

[9] In relation to what Marx refers to as “non-human sex”, Deleuze and Guattari write: “In a few sentences Marx, who is nonetheless so miserly and reticent where sexuality is concerned, exploded something that will hold Freud and all of psychoanalysis forever captive: the anthropomorphic representation of sex!  (Anti-Oedipus, p. 294).  On the other hand, considering this type of statement in light of Brave New World, I cannot help but wonder if somehow Anti-Oedipus is also ironized before-the-fact by Huxley. Another way to put this is that by reading Huxley with an eye to schizoanalysis, perhaps the notion of a “machinic unconscious” is reduced ad absurdum by taking such a conception to its limits albeit in a literal mode.

[10] This could be classified in terms of what Nietzsche refers to as his “utopia”, in which functions in society would be delegated in terms of who would suffer least from their assigned tasks. Although it should be noted that Nietzsche still considers types who would be sensitive to the “sublimest” type of suffering, types who ideally would be eliminated in Huxley’s world. Cf. section 462 of Human All Too Human.

[11] This ellipsis—along with the one at the end of the quote—and this emphasis of “her” is reproduced directly from Huxley’s text.

This entry was written by Taylor Adkins and published on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:01 am. It’s filed under Politics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “‘The Mother or Her Substitute’: Sexuality and Self-preservation in Huxley’s ‘Anti-world’

  1. This is great work. Some immediate reactions. It seems to me you’ve identified a kind of implicit pseudo-Nietzscheanism throughout Brave New World (a reflection of technocapital and indeed our Freud himself for that matter…) — in this generalized subversion of destiny itself, whether biological or cultural; or rather making “real” this impossible task of reconfiguring them at their limit. Analysis and technocracy fail to become-equal to the patient, resort to subtracting rather multiplying the potential for new lines of development.

    I think I mean to say that in psychoanalysis we find the shocking and manual construction of a “diminished” universe — psychically, socially, libidinally; life, humanity, spirit cut off from what they can do.

    I’m also struck by the lack of intelligent machines in London in 2504. Is it simply that the singularity was diverted? I’m tempted to offer the reading that in fact BNW tells the story of a singularity captured, harnessed. I think this reflects the basic reading: destiny transformed, weakened, become the convergent series of all the various disempowerments of life. (BNW is about the last men, it would seem to me.)

    The remark of Freud’s that the metaphor between city and psyche “goes too far” is very curious to me. Let’s discuss this soon.

  2. Wondering what Freud and Huxley would say- do- think- in the context of contemporary genomics and cybernetics?

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