I have always enjoyed science-fiction, so when I was introduced to Star Trek, I fell in love with it instantly. The clip above is from my favorite Star Trek film, Star Trek: First Contact. In this film, the crew of the USS Enterprise, led by Jean-Luc Picard, travel back in time to the 21st Century to prevent the Borg from taking over the plant. In the clip, Picard explains to a 21st Century character on how society has changed in the future.
For those of you who can’t see the clip, he explains how “the economics of the future are different.” He further explained that “the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity”.
I felt that conceptually, Earth in the 24th Century seems very similar to what Karl Marx had envisioned when he wrote The Communist Manifesto. Wealth is in essence abolished, and people are for the most part, created as equal citizens. A form of communism is established in the Star Trek universe, however, it seemed to look at it from a slightly different perspective.
Instead of blaming the bourgeois for the woes of the working class, and using centralization to solve the problem, the government of Star Trek use the idea of self-betterment as a framework to solve the problem. As material wealth in the 24th Century no longer seemed to be a driving force, they have somehow framed it as a betterment of themselves and humanity.
This perspective would solve some of the problems mentioned by a previous post. The blogger argued that three things. First, it argued that communism would stop people from working hard for the benefit of strangers. Second, it argued that communism dismissed inequality as a whole. Finally, it argued that communism prevents innovation in technology and innovation. As the Star Trek perspective of communism is a far more self centered one, it would not have the same problems. At the same time, it would continue to protect civil rights and individual liberties. Perhaps this is what Karl Marx envisioned communism to really be, where there was no class struggle because everyone concentrated on the betterment of themselves.
However, political theorist would argue that Star Trek’s version of communism will not work in reality because the view of society assumes a benevolent humanity. It assumes that people care about other people beyond themselves. Hobbes, for one, argues that it is human nature to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” At the same time, Marshall Sahlins, a noted anthropologist argues in The Western Illusion of Human Nature that human nature is based more on kinship than selfishness. Many of us have had opportunities where we put family before ourselves.
It is difficult to say whether Star Trek’s version of communism is ever possible. Perhaps we’ll have to wait until the 24th Century before we will find out.