Tuesday, September 22, 2015

George A. Gonzalez's "The Politics of Star Trek"

George A. Gonzalez is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Politics of Star Trek: Justice, War, and the Future, and reported the following:
From page 99:
indicates that the normative core of neoliberalism is the we/they distinction. In the case of the current world system, neoliberalism became hegemonic in the 1980s, in a context where the Reagan Administration was ramping up the Cold War. More specifically, President Ronald Reagan (shifting away from the rhetoric of detente) held that the United States was “a bright beacon of hope and freedom,” and the Soviet Union was an “evil empire.” After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a different foe was identified in Islamofascism—a global movement aimed at secular, modern governments and societies. A similar position was reflected in the “clash of civilizations” thesis—namely, that traditional/religious societies are pitted against modern/secular ones. In 2014, there are efforts to recast Russia as a threat to civilization. Senior Senator and former Republican nominee for President John McCain, for instance, recently castigated Russian President Vladimir V. Putin for being an “unreconstructed Russian imperialist and K.G.B. apparatchik.” He contrasted this with the idea that “America’s greatest strength has always been its hopeful vision of human progress.” Enterprise indicates that these efforts to establish a foe reflect a need to shore up the normative core of the American neoliberal global project.

In pointing out that the normative foundation of neoliberalism is the friend/foe distinction, Enterprise indicates that the normative core of empire and neoliberalism are roughly similar. Notably, Islamofascism is used to anchor the neoliberal world system, and it was used by the Bush Administration to justify the conquest of Iraq. The main component of Hitler and the Nazis’ political/propaganda argumentation was directed at an imaginary coalition of Western bankers and Eastern communists conspiring against Germany. According to Nazi mythology (myopia), Jews were at the center of this worldwide anti-Germany coalition. The Vulcans, in First Contact and Enterprise, are cast as the “they” to humanity’s “we” in the neoliberal Federation. In this context, it is noteworthy that Leonard Nimoy (who was Jewish himself ) held that Vulcans are a metaphor for Jews.
Page 99 is from Chapter 5. The following is a description of this chapter:

Going back to the 1960s, Star Trek made an effective case for world government, pointing somewhat presciently to both the geopolitical and environmental liabilities of the current nation-state system. Star Trek, however, goes further than making a normative case for global government. Its creators also offer three different templates on how to achieve such a world government: (1) federation, (2) empire, and (3) neoliberalism.

In this way, Star Trek helps us to reason through the momentous perils that confront humanity in the modern era—that is, globally devastating war and impending environmental catastrophe (i.e., climate change). Will humanity choose to achieve a global polity through liberal humanism—a concept of universal justice and equality? Alternatively, will we turn to a project of conquest and imperial control to establish stability and environmental sustainability? Finally, will humans rely on an argument of practicality (neoliberalism) to manage global affairs?

In outlining the federation, empire, and neoliberalism paths to world governance, Star Trek describes the normative principles of each. For federation, the normative value propelling the creation of a global polity is liberal humanism—that is, the idea of a classless society, free of ethnic/gender biases. Empire relies on concepts of national (species) superiority and deception. Neoliberalism, while its proponents hold that practical concerns are sufficient to create an international governance structure, Star Trek (Enterprise) posits the compelling argument that concepts of national (species) superiority also serve as the normative foundation of neoliberalism.

Analytically, each of these templates of federation, empire, and neoliberalism can be identified in America’s present leadership of the global economic/political system. Nevertheless, Star Trek demonstrates a bias for the federation form of government—indicating that the solidarity and justice at the heart of federation is the only way to establish an effective, viable, and long-lasting global governance regime. Otherwise, humanity will face ultimate disaster as it seeks to establish world government through empire or neoliberalism.
Learn more about The Politics of Star Trek at the Palgrave Macmillan website.

Writers Read: George A. Gonzalez.

--Marshal Zeringue