Free Critical Thinking About The Circle By Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers’ The Circle is a fictional novel about the detrimental impact of technological development on people’s privacy. The novel follows Mae Holland after her recruitment to a technology and Internet company called The Circle that invents and distributes technological innovations, some of which aim towards public engagement and transparency. Eggers’ novel is a social critique of the fusion of entrepreneurship and technological development. The integration of entrepreneurship in technological development has led to corporate ownership of technology, including innovation that is supposed to address the challenges of privacy. Margaret Atwood’s analysis and critique of Eggers’ novel point out how the author explored themes about democracy in The Circle. According to Atwood, Eggers presents an argument that critiques the involvement of corporations and their ownership of information gleaned through technological innovations.
The succeeding discussion is also an analysis of Eggers’ novel. The Circle presents many arguments and ideas, however. To narrow down the discussion, the succeeding points will focus on the ‘cult culture’ as portrayed and depicted in the novel.
The Circle as a Cult
One way to interpret Eggers’ The Circle is to explore how it illustrates and criticizes cults. Mae was recruited to a company in the technology industry called the Circle. At first, Mae appears to be enthralled with the modern or progressive system at the Circle but throughout the novel, we eventually see the flaws of the institution’s system. The Circle is an example of a cult. Essentially, a cult refers to a group that shares dedication or commitment towards a person, thing, or ideology. While dedication and commitment are affirmative traits or characteristics, cults are generally misguided and its members have misplaced approbation towards a subject. Furthermore, leaders of cults force and manipulate their members to display such dedication or commitment to a person, thing, cause or ideology, in a way that is injudicious and against norms, mores, and the individual values. In cults, members are expected to fully submit themselves to a shared goal and ideology. In The Circle, the Circle is a cult because it not only promotes full commitment to work but also unquestioning loyalty to the institution and its quest for total transparency, despite the latter’s violation of privacy and ownership of information.
Committing to work and being transparent are also good traits or characteristics. Nevertheless, the Circle as a cult demands extreme commitment to the workplace as well as transparency to the point of invading people’s privacy. In a way, The Circle criticizes the modern workplace. As in the Circle, many companies or organizations in modern society make extreme demands from employees. For people to move up the corporate ladder, they need to dedicate their time and effort and fully commit themselves to their work. In The Circle, Mae’s supervisor informs her that she is not supposed to limit her involvement in the workplace by clocking out at a specific time at the end of the day. The Circle demanded Mae’s complete involvement in the organization. This draws a parallel to the modern workplace where companies force or influence their employees to ‘give more’ of themselves, so to speak, to their work. The unrealistic expectation and demand from employees, as well as the control and manipulation of people in the organization, define the Circle and other modern workplaces with the same system as cults. The Circle glorifies full engagement in the workplace despite human beings’ need for a balanced life that includes personal and professional development. Hence, the institution transforms work as a cult activity that requires employees’ unquestioning loyalty and extreme dedication to the service. Some critics suggest that the Circle represents present technology companies such as Google and Apple (Lubin).
The Circle was responsible for inventing and distributing technologies such as the SeeChange. Through this technology, people can watch individuals as they go about their daily lives. Despite the repercussions of such technology particularly when it comes to privacy, May eventually learned to accept the necessity for transparency. Mae’s doubts about the Circle’s technology eventually dissipates through constant ‘indoctrination’ and brainwashing. Eventually, Mae stops protesting the Circle’s projects and ideology.
Towards the end of the novel, Kalden asks Mae for help to take down the Circle. Kalden argues that with the Circle’s increasing control over privacy, it would more likely bring about the emergence of a totalitarian regime similar to the Third Reich. Despite Kalden’s rational arguments, Mae, refusing to believe Kalden’s arguments betrayed him. Mae thinks that the Circle is doing the right thing and she too believes that all information is supposed to be made public and that people deserves to gain access to this information even at the expense of privacy.
Overall, the effect of the Circle on Mae illustrates the ‘cult mentality’. The Circle has completely changed Mae’s points of views in a way that is misguided. The Circle protects its own agenda. The institution’s goal is to acquire power and influence in all aspects of life, which is why the Circle has invented several technologies to draw information for transparency. It is important to draw a parallel between Eggers’ novel and modern society. We are living in the age of information. Through the Internet and social media, we have access to many types of readily available information. Since many technology companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook among others glean widespread types of information from online users, they can use them to create mechanisms to gain money from data and information.
Eggers’ The Circle tackles many social issues concerning technology, privacy, and corporate policies. One of the most prominent issues tackled in the novel, however, is the existence of cults in the corporate landscape and how these institutions that are similar to cults aim to take advantage of information, at the expense of privacy, to drive entrepreneurship and gain power and influence. In The Circle, the Circle attempts to gather and use information even if technologies invade personal privacy. The goal of which is to gain power and influence over the construction of social life and the way that patterns and trends shape society for the benefit of the institution.
The Circle is also a cautionary tale about how cult-like corporations manipulate people into embracing certain ideologies that defy social norms, mores, and values. Hence, it is important that people remain aware about the goals and objectives of corporations in the tech industry. Furthermore, it is necessary that people understand how companies are able to glean personal information from them and these companies’ policies about privacy, so the people would have a choice when it comes to using the Internet and sharing information about themselves.
Atwood, Margaret. “When privacy is theft”. 21 Nov 2013. The New York Review of Books. 14 Feb 2015. <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/nov/21/eggers-circle-when-privacy-is-theft/>.
Eggers, Dave. The Circle. San Franciso, CA: McSweeney’s, 2013.
Kakutani, Michiko. “Inside the World of Big Data”. 3 Oct 2013. The New York Times. 14 Feb 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/04/books/the-circle-dave-eggerss-new-novel.html?pagewanted=all>
Lubin, Guls. “Dave Eggers’s New Novel Scathingly Mocks the Silicon Valley Cult. 29 Sep 2013. Business Insider. 14 Feb 2015. <http://www.businessinsider.com/the-circle-by-dave-eggers-2013-9>
Moran, David. “Retweeting the Bebo Klout: The Circle by Dave Eggers. 8 Oct 2013. TOR. 14 Feb 2015. <http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/10/genre-in-the-mainstream-the-circle-dave-eggers>