No more viviparous reproduction; instead, the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre has taken over the whole work of producing each generation of citizens.
With reproduction cordoned off from sex — with every woman who is not hormonally engineered to be a sterile “freemartin” always going about equipped with her “Malthusian belt” of contraceptives, and strategically located Abortion Centres ready in case of accident — a wholly indiscriminate recreational sexuality can be unleashed, indeed encouraged, in both sexes.
Paramount for maintaining the basic structure of both Huxley’s World State and Plato’s city are their educational regimes.
But then, unlike the rulers in Socrates’ city — unlike Socrates himself — they have wholly mastered a science that is (in Socrates’ words) “sovereign of better and worse begettings.” For the need to conquer human nature by eugenics is only the most obvious matter where Plato and Huxley meet on common ground.
(All quotations from the Republic in this essay are drawn from Allan Bloom’s translation.) The necessity of eugenics is driven by another principle the two polities have in common: “one man, one art.” Each cell in the social body has its peculiar work to do.
Socrates blithely leads Glaucon to neglect even the possibility that there is an art of mothering, and to agree to the joint exercise of the sexes, naked, in their gymnastic training.
Conditioning over time, they say, will accustom the male and female guardians to this immodesty.rom the first paragraph of the novel, we learn the motto of the World State of Huxley’s imagination: “Community, Identity, Stability.” This brings to mind Socrates’ question to Glaucon in The Republic: “Have we any greater evil for a city than what splits it and makes it many instead of one?Or a greater good than what binds it together and makes it one?But the bad joke of Socrates’ naked unisex gymnastics is retold in Huxley’s early conditioning of both sexes to treat intercourse as play.Children at the Conditioning Centre, “naked in the warm June sunshine,” engage in “ordinary erotic play.” No need to restrain the natural sexual urges and channel them for eugenic purposes, as Socrates had to do.Whereas Huxley’s other novels are largely forgotten today by the general public, and his later visits to the themes of Brave New World are those of a crank whose imaginative gifts have deserted him, in writing his greatest work he seems to have been in the grip of an idea larger than himself.Plato’s Socrates tells us in the Apology that when he “went to the poets” to “ask them thoroughly what they meant” in their greatest poems, he found to his surprise that “almost everyone present, so to speak, would have spoken better than the poets did about the poetry that they themselves had made.” For as Socrates said (not without some biting irony) in Plato’s Ion, “all the good epic poets speak all their fine poems not from art but by being inspired and possessed, and it is the same for the good lyric poets.” Perhaps during the mere four months it took Huxley to write Brave New World, he was “possessed” in this way and remained forever unconscious of his debt to Plato.With the Cold War now long over, and with that era’s public preoccupation with space, military technology, and the physical sciences redirected toward the biological and behavioral sciences and their potential to reshape human beings and society, Huxley’s dark tale has seemed “relevant” again.This is a judgment that would not have surprised its author.” Socrates and Glaucon agree that “that city [is] best governed which is most like a single human being.” In the same vein, the individual in the World State is “just a cell in the social body.” As for stability, described by one of Huxley’s chief characters as “the primal and the ultimate need,” this is something Socrates cannot guarantee regarding his city in speech: he tells his young friends that their city is “so composed” as to be “hard to be moved,” but that “since for everything that has come into being there is decay,” even it will not “remain for all time.” At the end of Brave New World, we have no reason to believe that Huxley’s World Controllers have not conquered the problem of decay.They appear to have achieved a perfectly static perfect justice.