Can you imagine living in a society where the amount of money you have determines life or death? It shouldn’t be too difficult, since it’s currently the state in which we all live. Health care in the United States is ran under a capitalist economy, where insurance and pharmaceutical companies have made billions of dollars profiting off of the sick and the dying.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of Marxism, were early nineteenth century German philosophers, who shared very similar views of philosophy and politics. Perhaps the most important point Marx and Engels tried to drive home was that the way humans experience most things in life is conditioned by the economy and its structure. Marx and Engels co-published several literary works together, forming the basis for all Marxist theories. Marxist theorists then take those pieces of literature, and use them to break the theories into multiple fields, one of them being the Marxist literary criticism. “In Marxist literary criticism social class and class relations function as central instruments of analysis” (Bertens 62).
The components that make up the Marxist literary theory are base v.s. superstructure, and ideology. The base refers to the economy’s structure, while superstructure emerges from the base. “Taken together, these ‘forces’ and ‘relations’ of production form what Marx calls ‘the economic structure of society’, or what is more commonly known by Marxism as the economic ‘base’ or ‘infrastructure’. From this economic base, in every period, emerges a ‘superstructure’—certain forms of law and politics, a certain kind of state, whose essential function is to legitimate the power of the social class which owns the means of economic production” (Eagleton 3). Ideology, which is a part of the superstructure, refers to the shared beliefs and values held in an unquestioning manner by a certain culture. “The function of ideology, also, is to legitimate the power of the ruling class in society; the dominant ideas of a society are the ideas of its ruling class” (Eagleton 3). When you give this kind of power to the ruling class, it creates and helps maintain the gap between each social class.
Using Marxism as a lens to view World of Tomorrow allows the viewer to recognize just how social ideology validated the upper class’s hegemonic control over the working class. What one is looking for is described by Terry Eagleton as “an element in that complex structure of social perception, which ensures that the situation in which one social class has power over the others, is either seen by most members of the society as ‘natural’, or not seen at all” (Eagleton 3). Eagleton is basically saying that social ideology is this invisible rule that is created by the ruling class to enforce and retain its control over the lower classes. In order to identify what the social ideologies are, we have to understand how the social hierarchy works in the story. To do this, we must determine the social status of the main character, Emily Clone.
Emily Clone initially tells us is that this “cloning process” for eternal life in her world cannot be afforded by all people. This tells us that Emily Clone is not a part of the lower class, since she is a third generation clone, and that the story will told from an upper or middle class point of view. From this we are also able to find out that there is social inequality in the film. Since the cloning corporation is in control of how much they want to make the process cost, they are free to oppress the lower classes. This forces the lower class into a situation where they can either die or look into cheaper options, like the digital consciousness cube or the simple animatronic robot.
These other options only serve as a way to increase the wealth of the ruling class, furthering the disparity between classes. ? Another example of how an upper class oppresses and controls a lower class is when Emily Clone describes her first job, supervising robots on the moon. In this scene, Emily Clone’s company is the upper class, Emily Clone is the middle class, and the robots being supervised are the working class. As their supervisor, she programmed the robots to fear death, to make it so that they were always working. Emily Clone programmed them to be aware of their surroundings, creating fear in them which made them work harder, generating her company more profit. After the moon’s economy underwent a recession, Emily Clone was relocated to a different robot supervision job by her employer, while the lunar robots were stranded on the moon.
The company thought of Emily Clone as valuable and moving her would be cheap for them. On the flip side, moving robots is expensive and would cost the company more money than they are worth. Being the in the lowest class, the robots were oppressed by the middle and upper classes. When the world was threatened by a meteor, the wealthy individuals were able to buy digital cubes and upload their consciousness into it to save themselves. This indicates that in their society whoever has enough money can afford to save their own life, tying back into the entire cloning process.
In this film’s society, the economy plays such a huge role to the point where if you don’t have enough money, your life could end. The company prioritizes making money over saving people from the meteor, and the wealthy even use the lower classes dead bodies as entertainment when they look like shooting stars, returning back to earth. Therefore the company who owns the digital consciousness cubes is allowed to dictate when people die, and how much money you require to actually live.
Emily Clone then begins to talk about time travel, as she references the “brave test clones” who are employed to test time travel and are constantly risking their life. The fact that the brave test clones aren’t doing what the other clones like Clone Emily(presumably still middle class) are doing, they are lower class, and are being manipulated by the time travel corporation to perfect the act of time travel for money.
- Bertens, Johannes Willem. Literary Theory : The Basics. Vol. 2nd ed, Taylor & Francis [CAM], 2008. EBSCOhost, scclib.sccollege.edu:2443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=211943&site=eds-live.