Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ is a fictional novel featured in George Orwell’s 1984. 

The novel is supposedly written by Emmanuel Goldstein, the Party’s primary enemy and a revolutionary who has earned the hatred of most of the population. The Party uses him as a propagandistic force, and it becomes clear throughout the novel that Goldstein may not be a real person, like Big Brother. 

Long excerpts from the non-fiction book appear within 1984. It starts on page 233 with Winston reading the first chapter, Ignorance is Strength. 

Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Definition

Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism is a non-fiction book about the nature of the Party. It explores how the Party came to be, the various ministries, and its overall goals when it comes to controlling and the accumulation of power. 

The book is described as the primary literary should be used by the “brotherhood,” a secretive underground group that’s trying to destroy the Party. Orwell writes about the book: 

There were also whispered stories of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as THE BOOK. 

Everyone in Oceania knows better than to ever mention “THE BOOK” in any way. 

Who is Emmanuel Goldstein? 

In short, Goldstein is a former Inner Party member who conspired to overthrow Big Brother and destroy the Party. In the book, he features in videos that play during Hate Week and the Two Minutes Hate. A great deal of animosity is aimed at him, with citizens directing their dissatisfaction with their lives towards his visage. 

Emmanuel Goldstein may be a fabrication of the Ministry of Truth, as Big Brother appears to be. In the novel, Orwell writes: 

He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even—so it was occasionally rumoured—in some hidingplace in Oceania itself


Content of Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism 

The first chapters of Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism are titled Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery, and War is Peace, named for the Party slogans. 

  • Chapter I: details the class struggle characteristic of societies. He speaks about the Inner and Outer Party as well as the Proles, the latter two making up 85% of the population. 
  • Chapter III: describes how the super states were established, The United States merged with the British Empire and Latin America to create Oceania. Present-day Russia merged with Europe to create Eurasia, and Eastasia is made up of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Tibet. 

Smith never finishes the book and therefore, never learns why the superstates were established or why the Party works as it does. This is information he learns from O’Brien in Room 101. 

Where does Orwell Use Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism in 1984? 

O’Brien and the Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

At one point in the novel, O’Brien (while trying to win Winston’s trust) gives the latter a copy of Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. He tells Winston that the book reveals the truth about the society they are both living in. Winston has to read the book in order to be admitted to the Brotherhood, O’Brien implies. It was described as: 

A heavy black volume, amateurishly bound, with no name or title on the cover. The print also looked slightly irregular. The pages were worn at the edges, and fell apart easily, as though the book had passed through many hands.

Winston reads the book, believing what he’s reading and learning more about what he’s up against. It’s later revealed, though, within the Ministry of Truth (by O’Brien himself) that the book was written by a committee. Regarding whether or not the book is true, O’Brien says: “As description, yes. The programme sets forth is nonsense.”

Here is a quote from Chapter III of the book: 

War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. 

The book goes on to speak about the superstates and their various methods of controlling their populations. It’s clearly stated that one is not that different from the other. 

Related Terms in 1984 

  • Big Brother: the leader of Oceania and the face of the Party. He’s desired as a war hero, inventor, and more. He may also not be real. 
  • INGSOC: newspeak for English Socialism, the governing system used throughout Oceania.
  • Doublethink: cognitive dissonance. Or the act of thinking two contradictory things at once. Or believing that the two things are true. 
  • Newspeak: the language used to diminish the range of thought in Oceania. 
  • Ministry of Love: responsible for brainwashing the citizens of Oceania. 


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