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Über dieses Buch

The Star Trek franchise reflects, conveys, and comments upon the key philosophical tensions of the modern era. This book details the manner in which these tensions and controversies are manifested in Star Trek across its iterations, arguing that Star Trek offers an indispensable contribution to our understanding of politics in the modern era.




Aesthetics or art in the modern era has been critiqued as trivial (frivolous entertainment), solely epiphenomenal (purely reflecting social/political processes), or, worse yet, a kind of propaganda (the new opiate of the masses). This critique is seemingly sharpest for popular culture—especially television, and to a lesser extent, the movies.1

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 1. Star Trek (the Original Series)

An Anti-Cold War Narrative

The field of Star Trek studies (to coin a phrase) has been maligned by two hugely flawed assumptions: (1) that the original series is a metaphor for the Cold War (professor of US television history, Rick Worland: “The Klingons and the Federation were firmly established as two ideologically opposed superpower blocs”)1 and, even more egregious, (2) that the Federation represents a kind of pro-American political trope (professor of international relations, Mark P. Lagon: “The zealous desire of James T. Kirk, as the hero of the original Star Trek, to spread the Federation’s way of life serves as a mirror to observe the American style of foreign policy”).2 (English professor, M. Keith Booker: “[Captain] Kirk is a walking icon of Americanism.”)3 These misplaced assumptions have worked to devalue Star Trek as pro-American Cold War propaganda.

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 2. Star Trek, Utopia, and Pragmatism

The Star Trek franchise is the quintessential philosophical text of the American century. This is reflected in the popularity of the series, its tremendous financial success, and more impressive, its loyal and devoted following.1 Interpreting Star Trek as philosophy2 with a broad American audience3 is consistent with Carlin Romano’s claim in America the Philosophical that US society is highly philosophical.4 Given that we are currently in the television age, it should not be surprising that political theory in the form of television-based fiction exists.5Star Trek does not simply reflect American political reasoning. It gives us insight into this reasoning.

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 3. Star Trek, American Military Policy, and the Developing World

In the preceding chapter, I outlined how a progressive ontology/teleology informs the Star Trek franchise. Nevertheless, there is a notable shift in Star Trek that occurs between the original series and The Next Generations. This chapter focuses on this shift. Importantly, the original series sought to directly comment on US foreign policy and the Cold War, whereas The Next Generation explicitly forewent these issues. Moreover, while the original series hinted at the clash of civilizations between the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans,1The Next Generation centers its narrative on this clash, and the idea that the world system is inherently unstable—as are the politics of the developing world. Very significantly, The Next Generation expands on the original series’ notions of social justice and universalism.

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 4. Star Trek and the Clash of Civilizations

Traditionalism versus Modernity (Universalism)

Samuel P. Huntington, in his “clash of civilizations” concept, argues that much of the world is rooted in “traditionalism.” Traditionalist societies (mostly underdeveloped countries) are resistant to modernity—that is, secularism, democracy, gender equality, and so on. In juxtaposition to modernity, traditionalists advocate state-imposed religion (theocracy), paternalism (male dominance), and obscurantism. Significantly, much of the broadcast Star Trek franchise illustrates Huntington’s conceptualization of world politics—particularly beginning with The Next Generation series (as outlined in Chapter 3).

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 5. Star Trek and World Government

Federation, Empire, or Neoliberalism

As outlined in Chapter 2, humanity is desperately in need of world government. Global political/military tension and upheaval among nation-states suggests the very real possibility of the outbreak of a planetary conflagration—even involving nuclear weapons. Additionally, the global warming phenomenon/crisis indicates the outstanding need for a worldwide regime governing humanity’s interaction with the environment. The Star Trek franchise posits a future with Earth having a world government, pointing to both the geopolitical and environmental reasons for such a government.

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 6. Star Trek and Technologies of Empire

The Star Trek franchise outlines the key political tension/disagreement in modernity: pragmatism versus the attaining of justice (as explained in Chapter 2). At the heart of Star Trek is an explicit critique/rejection of pragmatism—that is, an excessive fixation on stability—and the active argument that free, thriving, and stable societies are those that are based on justice, and not on intersubjective agreement (neopragmatism).

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 7. Star Trek: Why Do Soldiers Fight in Modern Warfare?

Preemptive Empire or Federation

Why do people fight in modern warfare? More precisely, why do people agree to serve in militaries (formal and informal) actively engaged in warfare? Why do people risk life and limb in such circumstances—particularly in the modern era, when the technologies of death (fully deployed in war) do inflict high numbers of casualties? The broadcast iterations of the Star Trek franchise provide significant insight into the motives of frontline soldiers who engage in war. According to Star Trek, there are two prime reasons people engage in large-scale warfare: (1) defense/empire and (2) justice.

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 8. Star Trek, the Dominant Social Paradigm, and the Lack of an Environmental Ethos

When Eric C. Otto, in Green Speculations: Science Fiction and Transformative Environmentalism, identifies concern for the environment in the science fiction genre, he ignores Star Trek1—the most widely followed science fiction vehicle.2 This is because the broadcast iterations of the Star Trek franchise convey (on environmental issues) the dominant social paradigm.3 Thus Star Trek lacks an environmental ethic, ignores the global warming crisis, and evades profound environmental problems through what can be deemed as fantasy solutions (most especially, utilizing the literary device dilithium crystals). Perhaps most significant, Star Trek makes the ostensive point that the Enlightenment is inconsistent with a regime fully intended to protect the environment. The end result is that the viewer is left with the pessimist conclusion that reason and science are incompatible with intact planetary ecosystems.

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 9. The Politics of State Building

Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: Enterprise the television series is a prequel to the original series. Thus whereas the original series is set in the twenty-third century, Enterprise takes place in the twenty-second. Enterprise, which was cancelled after four seasons (2001–5), specifically takes up the issue of state-building—that is, the creation of the Federation—with the show concluding with the founding of the interstellar organization. Whereas earlier iterations of the Star Trek franchise centered the domestic politics of the Earth in terms consistent with Marxism (e.g., the Bell Uprising), the movie First Contact and Enterprise seemingly draw their inspiration from the ideation of Carl Schmitt and the German Nazi Party. In the context of Germany’s Weimar Republic, Schmitt argued that the basis of politics is the “friend/enemy” dichotomy, and that the core of political stability was a strong executive who had great latitude in declaring states of emergency and decision making in such instances. The Blond Beast existed in Nazi imagery—handsome, chiseled, and honorable—as the best, highest example of the human species. The Nazis cast themselves as freeing the Blond Beast from the constraints imposed on him by the likes of bankers and communists.

George A. Gonzalez

Chapter 10. Lost in the Developing World

Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001) represents a metaphor of being lost in the so-called Third World. Through this metaphor, Voyager focuses on two specific motifs: pragmatism1 and race relations. The show begins when the star ship Voyager is transported seventy thousand light years from Federation space. It is estimated that to get back to Earth it would take Voyager 75 years using the propulsion means at its disposal. During the course of its daunting effort to traverse this massive expanse of space, the Voyager crew encounters numerous situations fraught with moral/ethnic quandaries. In facing these quandaries/dilemmas, Voyager has to decide whether to be expeditious (pragmatic) in trying to get home, or to prioritize their ethical/moral principles (thereby endangering themselves and their chances of getting home). The strength of the show, in my estimation, is that the Voyager crew consistently chooses to be ethical even in the face of death (or remaining stranded). Moreover, certain villains in the Voyager series are dastardly precisely because they prioritize pragmatism over principle.

George A. Gonzalez


Star Trek From Cold War to Post-Cold War

As noted in the Introduction, the Star Trek franchise represents something of a natural experiment—where one iteration of the franchise is produced during the height of the Cold War, in the midst of the Civil Rights era and the student protest movements (Chapter 1), and later iterations are produced during the politically conservative Reagan Era and the denouement of the Cold War (Chapter 3). In comparing Star Trek during the Cold War and after the Cold War, we can note an outright rejection of any triumphalism of the West’s victory over the Soviet Union.

George A. Gonzalez


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