I Told You So – George Orwell and 11 Quotes About War and Power

George Orwell hated his fellow intellectuals, whom he accused of a range of sins: a lack of patriotism, resentment of money and physical vigor, concealed sexual frustration, pretension, and dishonesty. He loved “the ordinary person” and the lives led by those “not especially blessed by material goods, people who work in ordinary jobs, who don’t have much of an education, who won’t achieve greatness, and who nevertheless love, care for others, work, have fun, raise children, and have large thoughts about the deepest questions in ways Orwell thought especially admirable.

His novels, “1984” and “Animal Farm” were written out of disdain for his fellow intellectuals, reflecting his shortcomings in life. Here are 10 quotes that are still relevant today, more than a half a century after his works were published.

George Orwell on Mind on Fire Books

“Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.”

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me.”

Thank you for reading, you can find more about the distribution of power and war by reading Racism as a Governing Apparatus or Fidel Castro VS Shakespeare.

“Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.”

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell quotes for Mind on Fire Books

“Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

“Liberal: a power worshiper without power.”

“We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

“Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

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George Orwell quotes for Mind on Fire Books

“War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.”

“The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”

Thank you for reading, you can find more about the distribution of power and war by reading Racism as a Governing Apparatus or Fidel Castro VS Shakespeare.

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Racism as a Governing Apparatus: The Biopower of Michel Foucault

Racism as a Governing Apparatus is a study of the different power systems applied by governments. I first heard the name, “Michel Foucault” during my undergraduate work… barely scratching the surface to his in depth thought, analyses, and historical overviews in linguistics and power systems. As a graduate student, I learned even more about the power of language, power systems and how we can use language to either give or take away institutional power. Rather than bogging down this thread with heavy discourse theory, I will provide some thoughts on racism for today’s volatile uprising in race talks.


Around the 19th century, there began a shift in the form of governance from sovereign power based on punishment and death to control and discipline its population to a new form of power.

Foucault identified this new form of power as “biopower,” a governance technique focused on various mechanisms that subjugated individual bodies for population control [1]

According to Foucault, biopower is a form of power that was concerned with the administration, optimization, and fostering of life by promoting the care for and well-being of its population under the state’s control [2].

From biopower emerged “biopolitics,” a second form of biopower ‘focused on the species body’… of reproduction, mortality, health, life expectancy, and so on [3]

Under this new form of power, the population is managed through knowledge. For example, the emergence of demography via the evaluation of the relationship between resources and inhabitants was one way this modern power was able to achieve population control [1]

The state no longer managed its population through punishment, i.e. physical death, but rather through political rationality for precise control and comprehensive regulations. 

In this sense, biopower moves from a sovereign power with the right to ‘kill and let live‘, to a biopolitical governance concerned with to ‘make live and let die‘ [2, 3].

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Biopower and racism

Within this modern power’s desire to administrate, optimize, and foster the biological makeup of its population was “the latent potential to eliminate that which is perceived to threaten the vital health of the population” [4]

Biopower’s ability to be preoccupied with the care of its population, and to ‘make live,’ while at the same time exercising the elimination of certain sectors of the population by ‘let[ting] die,’ is what Foucault regarded as the paradoxes of biopower.

Foucault was interested in how biopower can justify its killing (killing here is metaphorical) “if it is true that its basic function is to improve life, to prolong its duration, to improve its chance, to avoid accidents, and to compensate for failings” [2]

In other words, if biopower’s function is to maximize the wellbeing of its population, how do we account for the part of the population that slip from the care of the State? What are the mechanisms by which, if any, biopower can justify its power to make some live, while it let(s) others die?

Michel Foucault on power. Photo for mind on fire books website

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For Foucault, the answer was racism.

Foucault regarded racism as the mechanism by which biopower exercises the right to ‘make live and let die,’ and contended “racism is inscribed at the basic mechanism of power, as it is exercised in modern States” [2].  

For Foucault, racism is a governing apparatus that establishes the racial subject as a threat to the social body that needs to be removed from society via means of institutions, such as prisons, residential segregation, and so forth [2]

In fact, Foucault goes as far as to assert that this kind of racism is not “a truly ethnic racism, but racism of the evolutionist kind, biological racism” to “justify the exercise of the sovereign right to kill in an economy of power concerned with the life and well-being of the population” [2 (p. 261)]. 

The historical construction of the black body, which I will discuss in detail below, greatly illustrates this argument.

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The racial subject: A genealogy of racism and the black body 

The historical construction of the black body can be traced back to the 17th century when the development of the global market and trade between continents laid the foundation for racial classifications to emerge.

The growing industrialization of America’s economy in the 17th century called for a large labor force to produce goods to meet the market demand. During that time, highly civilized West African societies were engaged in trade relations with Europeans, and these West African nations had a ready supply of slaves to trade with Europeans in exchange for weapons and other resources [5]

The new power that emerged around the same time, concerned with the protection of its population, needed a justification for the enslavement of black bodies. This, in turn, led to the fabrication of a new type of categorization for humanity, i.e. racial categories.

Thomas Jefferson was the first to suggest the natural inferiority of black people, bringing science to the support his race ideology, as a rationale for the enslavement of blacks . A scientific explanation of race fought to assert the natural superiority of whites and the inherent inferiority of blacks. In the early 20th century, intelligence tests became the dominant way in which scientists tried to document significant differences between black people and whites [5].

As Enoch eloquently put it, “medical discourse served to create biologized subjects through the establishment of racial norms and their application as part of a statewide regulatory apparatus.” [4 (p. 70)].

If you are enjoying this article, we have more great Literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

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Around the turn of the 20th century, biological explanations for racial difference were deemed inadequate and unscientific. Various medical experts denounced racial differences as biological, which changed the social discourse on race and racism.

Nonetheless, despite the lack of any scientific evidence to prove its validity, the 18th century ideology of race as something that is natural and biological continues to have a lingering influence on contemporary social realities of different racial groups.

Biopolitics ability to construct biological explanations, i.e. racial differences, for a host of social problems has greatly increased the potential for biopower to divide human beings into competing races, normalizing the view that the ‘death’ of the inferior race will make life in general healthier [4].

Death in this sense is symbolical— the inferior “Other” is left to ‘die’ through segregation, isolation, and eventually eradication from the broader society.

The killing of the inferior subject is exercised and then justified, through the discourse on the biologized black subject that is continuously conflated with the discourses of inferiority and criminality implicated in a host of social ills.

Simply put, the construction of the black body as a threat to society justifies their punishment, whether it is through segregated neighbourhoods, police brutality, and the prison–industrial complex.

As black people continue to be presented as a threat to the social body, their elimination from the broader society through segregation, isolation, and eventually eradication becomes to be rationalized and justified under the protection of the social body deemed worthy of protection by biopower governance [3, 4].

Michel Foucault, talks Racism as a governing apparatus

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To conclude, a critical analysis of Foucault’s work on racism, the racial subject, and biopower reveals the constructedness of our racialized world that, nonetheless, have real and devastating consequences for racial minorities [6]

Foucault’s idea of racism breaks away from the common understanding of racism as a form of irrational prejudice, social discrimination, and political ideology, and encourages us to rethink racism as a form of biopolitical government that impinges on individuals in their most basic relationship to themselves and others [6].

Evidently, racism should be re-conceptualized as a governmental rationality that is central to the apparatus of biopower in the 21st century.

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