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Author Topic: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?  (Read 4541 times)

Offline cupiscent

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #45 on: May 01, 2018, 11:48:03 PM »
Communism is about group pooling of resources, abolition of marriage, utilitarianism, 'freedom' and children raised by the community rather then their parents. (At least when taken to what I think is its logical extreme.)

In that case, have you tried Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet? Not fantasy, quite space-opera sci-fi, but it's a great exploration of diversity in a galactic conglomerate where humans are barely an important component, and at least one of the alien cultures explored was quite communist in elements.

Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #46 on: May 02, 2018, 03:44:03 PM »
Will look into it.

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #47 on: May 04, 2018, 02:28:28 AM »
Capitalism, I think, predates Feudalism.

Some economists would agree with you, anthropologists would vehemently disagree.
Economists pose theories of human behavior as if they are human nature without actually looking into the past in any depth, other economists with a historical bent agree with the anthropologists and dispute that universal claim.

Anthropologists (who look at changes across cultural boundaries in the present, as well as researching historical and pre-historical human social configurations) would say that capitalism most definitely does not predate feudalism.  The idea is that feudalism led to mercantilism which led to capitalism. Then Marx, studying these transitions, suggested that society would inevitably progress to communism.

You do have some proto-socialist ideas in various ancient religious movements. Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas. The principles can be applied to agrarian societies as well.

I think the difference that came with the industrial revolution was not the methods of production, but rather the development of social mobility. To be an industrialist you didn't have to be born a noble. With the hard borders between upper and lower class removed and the prospect to rise in status becoming more realistic, it would become much easier for people to question the established status quo. It's no loner a fact of life that peasants are poor and nobles are rich, but the division of upper and lower class is clearly a mam made construct that can be remade into something else.

"Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas" is absolutely true, but calling things "proto-socialist" can lead to confusion.  "Everyone is equal" is more of an anarchist idea than a socialist one, especially in the context of representative democracy. Socialism is specifically about redistribution of wealth, it can be democratic or not depending on the way it's implemented. So it's less about everyone being equal than it is about everyone having access to material goods.

I'm not disagreeing with you entirely, but I do want to add some things. Egalitarian ideas are alive and well in non-socialist environments, meaning they don't have to be proto-anything to matter.  Go to the Amazon and you see all sorts of complex egalitarian decision-making structures, communal labor etc. They haven't had any impact on the practice of politics by the states that occupy the cities surrounding them.  Some theorists say that the democracy of the modern nation-state (first implemented in the US) owes a larger debt to Native Americans (like the Iroquois) than Montesquieu, regardless, there are clear lines from the British Bill of Rights to US institutions then back to Europe again.  It's hard to say if traditional nordic "things" (pre-state deomcratic practices) had a hand in the reception of these structures, but there is too much structural convergence in democratic practices, meaning democracy as we practice it a bit of an imperialized structure instead of emergent from previous practices.  Material re-distribution, while it remains active in say monasteries today did not necessarily impact the practices of the state.  So I think you're right and wrong at the same time, specific cases might be proto-socialist practices, but the bulk of egalitarian practices that we can observe out there did not have an influence, and in fact persist *in spite* of the state due to the autonomy they've been afforded.

Yes I read Animal Farm. Even if you can  count Animal Farm as Fantasy, it is not about Communism; it is about the Soviet Union, which is a different entity altogether.
...
Soviet =\=  Communist. I know people who lived there, and I know people who were/are communist, and I can say they have nothing to do with each other. Corruption describes the USSR, not Communism.

Communism is about group pooling of resources, abolition of marriage, utilitarianism, 'freedom' and children raised by the community rather then their parents. (At least when taken to what I think is its logical extreme.) It has existed, (and in some cases still exists) I think, on communes in the US, India and Israel, maybe in some other places, I don't know.

I think you might be blending "communialism" and "communism" into a new word or something.  Communism, by definition is derived from Marx.  That said, millennials have gotten "literally" to mean something new in the dictionary but so far "Communism" still means what it does.

There's all kinds of communal practices that have nothing to do with communism, and others that do.  Marx was writing on the cusp of industrial and political revolutions, he had a lot of great observations, but he wasn't really great when it had to do with understanding rural livelihoods and subsistence. He eventually became aware of this-- after writing Capital, he received letters essentially thanking him for giving the Soviet government a rationale for forcibly integrating rural peasantry into the economy, and Marx was like... uhhh maybe I shouldn't have said all that. A lot of things that we find deplorable about the Soviet variety of communism is built into Marx's ideas, he calls for a anti-democratic phase of government and a lot of what he calls for is a recipe for corruption. The dictatorship of the proletariat, for example.  Famous intellectuals and social movement leaders of his time pointed this out to him repeatedly: Bakunin (later by Emma Goldman).  Bakunin, and other mutualists who opposed statism split the IWA, the international Union that Marx and Bakunin were both a part of.  Anti-statism was much more popular among the poor of Europe as well, leading Marx to move his faction of the IWA to the United States.

There are groups that took communism in different directions (quite a few different directions) and some who circled back and ultimately came to the same conclusions that Bakunin and others did over 100 years ago. But while autonomist communists may have ultimately arrived at an anarcho-sydicalist position, the anarcho-syndicalists were never communists.  Does that make sense?

I guess the intellectual arguments I wanted to make the the two of you aware of are 1) egalitarianism isn't socialism (tho socialism is free to be egalitarian if it feels like it) 2) communalism isn't communism 3) communism shouldn't disown the Soviets or other places it's led to authoritarianism, b/c that's a part of it too (another point I didn't have time to make in this space is that critical theorists see communism as built on capitalism-- where else do you get the profits for the state to redistribute?-- and it's all just state-captialism really), i mean you can't separate Capitalism and Western Democracy from the corrupt shitshow that was our last US election, corruption is built into all of it, just as it's built into communism 4) personally, I'd categorize non-state egalitarianism more as anarchist than proto-socialist, or autonomist entities with their own trajectories outside of socialism and the state entirely.

Anyway, I hope that didn't come off as too pushy.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 06:31:53 AM by Bradley Darewood »

Online Skip

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #48 on: May 04, 2018, 05:10:50 AM »
The historian in me can't sit out this dance.

Capitalism is not a political system, it's an economic system. It's probably also worth observing that Lenin called it socialism, not communism. The latter was the goal.

Also, Lucien Febvre makes a pretty good argument that there was no such thing as capitalism prior to the 17th century, when the word first makes an appearance, and probably ought not to be applied to anything prior to the 18th. "Capitalism" is not a synonym for private property or for making money.

But hey, this is a fantasy forum, so let a thousand flowers bloom. *chortle*

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #49 on: May 04, 2018, 07:04:30 AM »
The historian in me can't sit out this dance.

Capitalism is not a political system, it's an economic system. It's probably also worth observing that Lenin called it socialism, not communism. The latter was the goal.

Also, Lucien Febvre makes a pretty good argument that there was no such thing as capitalism prior to the 17th century, when the word first makes an appearance, and probably ought not to be applied to anything prior to the 18th. "Capitalism" is not a synonym for private property or for making money.

But hey, this is a fantasy forum, so let a thousand flowers bloom. *chortle*

@Skip  In American high school textbooks (aka thinly veiled propaganda) they pit Democracy vs. Communism as if they were in direct opposition, which is obviously wrong.  So when Yora mentioned everyone being equal, I wanted to highlight that socialism could mean economically egalitarian with or without being politically egalitarian (basically what you just said-- one is a political system the other is an economic system).  That said, the economic and political spheres can't entirely be separated.  Capitalist representative democracy, for example, relies on having the money necessary to win a campaign-- by design it creates a debt between politicians and the wealthy, and the state is largely an instrument of corporate interest.

From a historical point of view, it was a combination of colonialism and human rights violations that made the industrial revolution possible (basically colonial exploitation brought both wealth and cheap calories like sugar that could be used by impoverished families forced into urban poverty after enclosure laws made living off the land illegal, where they could be exploited by industrialists, everyone over the age of 7 working to the bone so they could barely survive. Some of this is in Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz but there's a ton of other books on the subject).  Industrialization was central to capitalism-- a mass market didn't really exist on a large scale during medieval times-- some goods were traded but the poor were largely self sufficient and trade was primarily luxury economy of the rich.  The industrial revolution created a motive for the wealthy to sell goods to the common people, and also a desire to see the common people have enough money to pay them. The urban economy was sort of born out of that. This coincided with political changes, the first bill of rights in the UK, a wide range of attempts at democratic revolutions in Europe, and ultimately the US revolution.  So basically the birth of the particular kind of democracy that we see in states today was very much tied to economic transformations. If you write a political history of Communism, you can see that it ends up with it's own corruptions that are built into it's history and are very much by design, not by accident. Meanwhile there are all kinds of social arrangements (perhaps you could describe them as "democratic" or "socialistic") found everywhere from pirate ships to monasteries to tribes in the Amazon rainforest that have their own trajectories, completely independent of the state, and perhaps much more humane because of it. So I guess what I was trying to say above was that these aren't socialistic or proto-socialist in the sense that they're related to the capitalisms and socialisms of the state-- they are their own thing.

So anyway, I guess I really didn't mean to leave you with the impression that I'm conflating political and economic systems, but it's important to recognize that they are interrelated.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 07:14:02 AM by Bradley Darewood »

Offline Yora

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #50 on: May 04, 2018, 07:30:14 PM »
Any economical sytem is also a social system. And the state's involvement in shaping and supporting the social system is politics! *waves a red banner*

Capitalism can only exist in the presence of states that guarantee and protect certain rights and enforce duties. And in our world, these states also regulate taxes, subsidies, and which types of contracts are considered legally binding and are enforced by the states. There is no clear border between or economic and political system and the two are impossible to separate. States are actively involved in business and companies are actively involved in politics. If you have a problem with capitalism, you have to approach it politically. Voting with your wallet is of limited use when the state subsidized and protects monopolies.

"Everyone is equal and everything should be shared are not radically new ideas" is absolutely true, but calling things "proto-socialist" can lead to confusion.  "Everyone is equal" is more of an anarchist idea than a socialist one, especially in the context of representative democracy. Socialism is specifically about redistribution of wealth, it can be democratic or not depending on the way it's implemented. So it's less about everyone being equal than it is about everyone having access to material goods.
To me, the more important aspect was collective ownership.

Everyone is equal also applies in hardcore wild west capitalism. If you're poor and getting exploited, sucks to be you. By random chance, you could have been the one exploiting others to get rich. You totally have the right to work your way up and get rich. Good luck.  8)

In other news, I decided to remove one site from my link list. There wasn't anything objectionable written by the owner of that site, but his link section includes a whole bunch of political rant blogs that occasionally have a little piece on fantasy books. Both far left and far right, to his credit, but I really don't want to link to a fantasy site that thinks its readers would be interested in political agitation.  :P
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 07:39:03 PM by Yora »
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Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #51 on: May 06, 2018, 03:33:04 AM »
I see I need to do a good @bit of reading before i talk about politic, economic systems and government systems again.
Thank you, @Skip @Bradley Darewood

Online Skip

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #52 on: May 06, 2018, 04:12:34 AM »
Please do keep talking, Dark Squiggle. If we all fell silent just because someone else knows more about the subject, none of us would ever speak again!
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #53 on: May 06, 2018, 04:21:25 AM »
I only half know what I'm talking about and I haven't quite mastered sharing what I know without sounding like a pompous dick

Offline Rostum

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Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #54 on: May 06, 2018, 07:03:40 AM »
Quote
I only half know what I'm talking about

Like every economist ever

Quote
and I haven't quite mastered sharing what I know without sounding like a pompous dick

very much not the case. I always feel you are reigning in and using little words not to confuse us.

Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #55 on: May 06, 2018, 05:49:59 PM »
Okay @Skip , I will go on even though I am quite sure I am outgunned.  ;D
I thought Feudalism only truly appeared in the after the rise of Babylon/Assyria? From reading The Illiad, The Odyssey, and the Old Testament, I was under the influence that what was going on was a mix of communalism, capitalism and a (not strictly) Patriarchic society. A "slave" in ancient Greece or Israel had rights, for example, in Ancient Israel a master who beat or raped a slave had to set him/her free, and pay for damages; a "concubine" was what today we would call "a girlfriend" or "mistress", rather than someone who was chained to a master with no control over her body. A lord/king did not have the power to arbitrate, the "Judges", or "Elders", or "people of the land" or some other group usually could veto anything and even "impeach" a king. Towns and cities were often run as large, extended families, even if not everyone was related by blood, with the "Lord", "High Priest", "Queen", "King", or "Chief Judge" serving as head of the house, and therefore handling any squabbling, allotment of resources, and any dealings with the outside world, including trade.
All of these ills really only became an issue with the introduction of standing armies and Empires, where countries went from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. We see no complaints of a "Third Estate" in
The Illiad, The Odyssey, or the beginning of the Old Testament, but by the time of Alexander, or Saul we see such complaints, because the ruling class had grown large and strong enough to begin crushing those beneath it. I thought that Communism was supposed to be a return to the old roots of government, with some mods to allow it to scale up and work without religion as a force. I did not realize that The Manifesto is considered to be in err, and that Marx retracted later in life, or that the USSR ever attempted to implement Communism at all.
(words in quotations are ones I don't like much).

Online Skip

Re: Is fantasy a bit fixated on culture politics?
« Reply #56 on: May 06, 2018, 06:33:31 PM »
Oof. There's a lot in that post, so I'm going to stick to my own turf, which even that little will require some 'splainin'.

Most medievalists (but not all!) will say there was never a system called feudalism. The critique was first raised in the 1960s and was more or less definitively delivered by Susan Reynolds in the 1990s. Crassly oversimplified, the argument runs like this:  yes, there were fiefs (feodum is the original Latin term). Yes there were oaths of fealty (unrelated word) between lords and vassals. But that's really as far as we can go.

That society--even the society of the ruling classes--was ever organized around this principle is largely the invention of 13th century lawyers employed in justifying and explaining various claims put forward by lords, mostly in France and England. That was Susan Reynolds' main contribution. Well before her, however, historians had noticed that Italy did not fit this mold, nor did much of Germany, nor the Iberian peninsula, and that even in the "heartland of feudalism"--northern France and England--there were so many exceptions that it's really impossible to speak of a system.

Which brings in the final point. The very use of "-ism" to create a noun is a modern invention. We love to simplify the world, including the past, so we are attracted to summing up a thousand years of human experience across an entire continent with a single word, and think we've explained something. It doesn't, and we haven't. The term in fact obscures the wonderfully complex network of relationships that informed the daily life of anyone with land and a title in the Middle Ages.

And this is really why Engels (more than Marx) got it utterly wrong. He misread history. There was no feudal system. What the "rising middle class" fought against was a world largely created in the late 16th and 17th centuries, the world of absolute monarchies and rigid social structures. It's fairly easy to make this mistake, as early modern Europe inherited its vocabulary from the Middle Ages. But just because we find the word "rex" in 1550 doesn't mean it's the same institution as it was in 1150 or 850 or 250. Romans called the barbarian chieftains they encountered "rex" mainly because that was the word they had.

I will venture outside my back yard long enough to say that there were no fiefs and no feudalism in Babylonia. We cannot document that practice prior to about 800AD, and even then there is much room for disagreement.