“Under the capitalist system, in order that England may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation– an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream.  The alternative is to throw the Empire overboard and reduce England to a cold and unimportant little island where we should all have to work very hard and live mainly on herrings and potatoes.  That is the very last thing that any left-winger wants.”  George Orwell wrote these words in 1936.  What do we think of them now?

Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Professor in the Humanites at Columbia University. He is the author of Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State (Princeton, 2007), and Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (NYU, 1999). His most recent book is Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence (Duke, 2012).