Thursday, May 30, 2013

Edward Bellamy called his own book propaganda

Edward Bellamy, author of the book "Looking Backward: 2000-1887" (text and audio) wrote the following in an essay of his titled "Progress of Nationalism in the United States":
A book of propaganda like "Looking Backward" produces an effect precisely in proportion as it is a bare anticipation in expression of what everybody was thinking and about to say. Indeed, the seeming paradox might almost be defended that in proportion as a book is effective it is unnecessary. The particular service of the book in question was to interpret the purport and direction of the conditions and forces which were tending towards Nationalism, and thereby to make the evolution henceforth a conscious, and not, as previously, an unconscious, one. The Nationalist who accepts that interpretation no longer sees in the unprecedented economical disturbances of the day a mere chaos of conflicting forces, but rather a stream of tendencies through ever larger experiments in concentration and combination towards the ultimate complete integration of the nation for economic as well as for political purposes. The sentiment of faith and good cheer born of this clear vision of the glorious end, and of the conviction that the seemingly contradictory and dangerous phenomena of the times are necessary means to that end, distinguishes the temper of the Nationalist as compared with that of other schools of reformers.

This is significant because at the time, Looking Backward was a best-selling novel:

Bellamy published Looking Backward, a utopian novel that spawned some 165 "Bellamy Clubs" throughout the United States devoted to consideration of its ideas. Although most people in the early twenty-first century have never heard of Bellamy, his influence in his time is difficult to overstate. Looking backward was one of the best-selling books at the turn of the century, third only to Ben-Hur and Uncle Tom's Cabin.

What Bellamy's words highlight, is that his book did exactly what it was supposed to do. Make socialism "mainstream" to the American people by calling it a different name: Nationalism.

1 comment:

  1. Reading the paragraph I quoted makes it clear that Bellamy is using "Nationalism" as a euphemism for socialism, as he is talking about "concentration", "combination", and "integration".