Star Trek’s Post-Capitalist Society

Star Trek’s Post-Capitalist Society October 12, 2021

A great quote from an article by Usha Alexander about the near-utopian vision of Star Trek and the importance of imagining alternatives to capitalism if we are to make real-world progress.

The world of Star Trek appeals so widely, I think, because it presents us with something colorfully short of a utopia, a flawed human attempt toward a just, caring, and individually enabling social order. It imagines a society based on a shared set of human values—fairness, cooperation, political and economic egalitarianism—where basic human needs are equitably answered so that no one has to compete for basic subsistence and wellbeing. As the venerable Captain Picard has put it, “We’ve overcome hunger and greed, and we’re no longer interested in the accumulation of things.” Some Libertarian Trekkies have been scandalized to realize that Star Trek actually depicts a post-capitalist vision of society.

But Star Trek’s world is premised upon the existence of a cheap, concentrated, and non-polluting source of effectively infinite energy. Obviously, no such energy source has ever been discovered (solar-paneled dreamscapes notwithstanding). And the replicator, which eliminates both material waste and scarcity, is a magical technology. The Star Trek vision is also a picture of human chauvinism and hubris, presuming H. Sapiens as the only relevant form of Earthly life. So it falls short of a vivid and plausible imagining of an ecologically sustainable, technologically advanced, and egalitarian human civilization.

It is, of course, too much to expect the creators of Star Trek, by themselves, to fully and flawlessly reimagine our global human society. Indeed, it’s become an aphorism of our age that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Yet, though this might sound like a joke, at this point the matter is all too serious, and reimagining human civilization is a project we all must engage with, to whatever extent we’re able.

Expanding our imaginary of possible economies, social structures, value systems, and more is an urgent matter as our present way of life is driving the catastrophic collapse of the biosphere, potentially precipitating the demise of humankind. In this context, we have everything to gain by risking new courses, which might offer a better chance for ecological balance and survival. And as our suicidally extractive, fossil-fueled civilization comes to an end, we must finally answer the question: What will we build in its place? Can we build a world more caring, more just, more sustainable?

To manifest any desired outcome, one must first imagine it: a real and vivid world—not a utopia, but a human world—in which fairness, generosity, cooperation, and care are the animating values that guide collective human behavior and social institutions. We know such a vision is possible—without the simplification and sanitization of Star Trek—because these values really did guide some of the most ancient social orders that actually existed, including those that predated the rise of city-states and promoted human flourishing for the greater part of our time on Earth. Indeed, rather than starting from science fiction, we might recognize our past might point the way, with real-world principles—or at least inspiration—for imagining alternate economies and social structures that can further enable human flourishing through the challenges of climate instability, which has so long shaped the human story.

Read the rest of the article, and indeed the whole series thus far, on 3 Quarks Daily:

Stories Of Wealth And Distribution

Of related interest:

Star Trek Discovery’s trailer for the next season has appeared

Babylon 5 is getting rebooted. J. Michael Straczynski explains why this is needed.

The teaser trailer for Doctor Who season 13 has appeared

The date for the arrival of the Book of Boba Fett has been announced

I’ve begun watching Foundation. Have you?

Everyone is waiting for Dune. The final trailer is here. Denis Villeneuve thought his career was over with Blade Runner 2049. Jason Momoa talks about working on the movie.

The trailer for the next season of the Expanse is here

So much science fiction to be excited about!

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