Orwell's Ghosts: Wisdom and Warnings for the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)

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Orwell's Ghosts: Wisdom and Warnings for the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)

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For the 75th anniversary of 1984, Laura Beers explores George Orwell’s still-radical ideas and why they are critical today.


George Orwell dedicated his career to exposing social injustice and political duplicity, urging his readers to face hard truths about Western society and politics. Now, the uncanny parallels between the interwar era and our own—rising inequality, censorship, and challenges to traditional social hierarchies—make his writing even more of the moment. Invocations of Orwell and his classic dystopian novel 1984 have reached new heights, with both sides of the political spectrum embracing the rhetoric of Orwellianism.


In Orwell’s Ghosts, historian Laura Beers considers Orwell’s full body of work—his six novels, three nonfiction works, and brilliant essays on politics, language, and the class system—to examine what “Orwellian” truly means and reveal the misconstrued thinker in all his complexity. She explores how Orwell’s writing on free speech addresses the proliferation of “fake news” and the emergence of cancel culture, highlights his vivid critiques of capitalism and the oppressive nature of the British Empire, and, in contrast, analyzes his failure to understand feminism.


Timely, wide-ranging, and thought-provoking, Orwell’s Ghosts investigates how the writings of a lionized champion of truth and freedom can help us face the crises of modernity.



Laura Beers is a professor of British history at American University and the author of Orwell's Ghosts, Your Britain, and Red Ellen, which received the Stansky Award. Her writing has appeared in the New Republic and Washington Post, among other publications, and on CNN.com. She lives in Washington, DC.

Product Details ISBN: 9781324075080
ISBN-10: 1324075082
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English
Nearly three quarters of a century after George Orwell’s death, ‘Orwellian’ is one of the most misused adjectives in the lexicon. In this fascinating and timely study, Laura Beers teases out the real meaning of the word and its implications for the social and political arrangements of the twenty-first century.
— D. J. Taylor, author of Orwell: The New Life

Laura Beers’s reassessment of George Orwell’s legacy seamlessly weaves past and present to offer insightful lessons and cautions for our own time.
— Allan J. Lichtman, author of Repeal the Second Amendment

A brilliantly insightful study of George Orwell. All those interested in Orwell and our world today should read this book.
— Peter Stansky, author of The Unknown Orwell

A perfectly timed and desperately needed book.
— Tristan Snell, author of Taking Down Trump

Laura Beers’s book shows how Orwell’s often forgotten socialist politics ought to matter to his legacy—and how the anti-racism and feminism of our present demonstrate Orwell’s limitations. The wonderful results suggest that the relation between past and present is anything but simple.
— Samuel Moyn, author of Liberalism Against Itself

Laura Beers reveals how Orwell’s politics, shaped by the tragedies of the first half of the twentieth century, can be brought to bear to understand our own age of insecurity. An essential read.
— Rt. Hon. Rachel Reeves, MP, shadow chancellor of Exchequer

With all and sundry taking Orwell’s name in vain these days, it is timely to have a reminder of who he was and what he believed in, and also how his body of work can help us understand the world we live in now. Just the insight it offers to his work beyond the best-known titles makes Orwell’s Ghosts well worth reading.

— Nicola Sturgeon, former first minister of Scotland