Animal Farm Social commentary is sometimes found at the heart of good art, whether that art form is literature or popular music. The novel, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and the rock album, Animals written and performed by Pink Floyd share the same characteristic of scathing social commentary. The artworks also share an animal metaphor that serves to cast a dark light on human social interactions and stratification functions. Conversely, the artworks individually attack the diametrically opposed, socio-economic systems of communism (by Orwell) and capitalism (by Roger Waters). The artworks are individually astounding, but when viewed in tandem, alludes to the idea that socio-economic systems are still evolving and in time the terms capitalism and communism will be thought as ineffective as feudalism.
The shared characteristics of social commentary and animal metaphor literally, are what make these particular artworks the amazing examples of their respective genres that they are. The animal metaphor tends to depict humans as being motivated by our animalistic desires, as well as the tendency among ourselves to be highly competitive and often, ruthless. In Animal Farm, Orwell puts the pigs as being the leaders, or the exploiters of the masses, depending on your point of view. Waters does the same in Animals, depicting the pigs as uncaring, self-involved, and overbearing masters of the masses. In both works, dogs are an enforcer-type, driven either by a sense of patriotism, honor, and pride, but also those misanthropes who relish in the power they have been given and enjoy abusing those weaker than themselves.
The sheep are a shared characteristic of both works, depicting them as easily manipulated and led to the slaughter. The works diverge from one another in which philosophy they individually espouse. Orwells novel is an obvious attack against communism. The pig characters of the novel represent the political figures of the early days of the Soviet Union. Orwell goes on to depict the system of the so-called “class-less” society as an incredible failure, while time would ultimately prove his early analysis as being correct.
Any large-scale, highly organized society in all of human history has required social stratification, and Russia of the early twentieth century would prove to be no different. As with any society, those with power have been and still are tempted to abuse that power for their own individual ends, often at the expense of those that have granted them their power. Capitalism is not immune from this inherent flaw in social stratification either. Roger Waters, who wrote most of the music and all of the lyrics of Animals, viciously attacks capitalism and the illusion of equality. Within our own country, there are numerous occasions on which those with vast amounts of wealth and/or influence are given special treatment.
Celebrities, athletes, and business magnates are among a few that are capable of getting a slap on the wrist, or complete immunity for actions that would land a “nobody” in the nearest federal penitentiary faster than one could blink an eye. By and large, ours is not a society that practices equality, all the while saying that it does. Ours system is on level ground with communism for providing equality, especially when one views the international exploitation of resources and people by multi-national mega-conglomerates, the very embodiment of capitalism on a global scale. This is the ugly side of our system, and this is the full view that comes into focus when one experiences these artworks side by side, a stereoscopic view of the current, prominent socio-economic systems of this century. Neither provides for true equality, and they both exploit their masses, with essentially the same techniques of propaganda.
It seems that capitalism won the twentieth century, but one never knows which way the masses will change over time. This is the scathing social commentary that is sometimes found at the foundation of good art, that will stir in some the consideration of the systems and powers of the day, and of the past.