Peace Through Bureaucracy: Star Trek’s Federation as Utopian Fascism

Without getting into depressing (and obvious) specifics, I’ve been thinking about fascism lately—specifically the concept of “utopian fascism”. As is often the case when grappling with such issues, I turned to science fiction for a guide. Fortunately, there is a fictional government perfectly suited to explore the question “can democracy and universal prosperity ever be successfully combined with fascism?”: Star Trek’s Federation.

The Federation’s exact political structure is sometimes difficult to pin down, but it seems to be a combination of a democratic interplanetary parliament, a massive military alliance, and a totalitarian bureaucracy.

federation-space-nazis

This isn’t what it looks like.

Now don’t panic! This isn’t going to be super depressing nor is it going to be about space Nazis (unless you count the above-pictured episode TOS episode “Patterns of Force). When I talk about fascism, I’m talking about the philosophical concept as it dates back to Rome, not the actual horrific reality of modern-day fascism. I am not about to ruin all of our moods by writing some anti-Starfleet propaganda… at least, not too much of it. What I will do is take a look at how the Federation is utopian, how it’s fascist, how (and if) the two can be combined, and what that all says about our vision of a perfect government.

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Wilson Fisk, Il Duce of Hell’s Kitchen

wilsonfiskinjailIt means that I am not the Samaritan. That I’m not the priest, or the Levite. That I am the ill intent who set upon the traveler on a road that he should not have been on.

Wilson Fisk transformed the villain’s role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is not an evil robot, or the head of a vast conspiracy, or an ancient god of chaos. His life story is not the tale of a festering wound inflicted by the hero. He’s not even a Nazi. Wilson Fisk is a purely human force. He has no magic, no powers, no wondrous technology—nor does he seek to acquire any. He lacks the kind of megalomania that drives others to take over the world.

He relies on human powers: money, muscle, and connections – powers which can be leveraged through his knowing white privilege. He ascends as populist dictators do, staying within the boundaries of the elite as he consolidates power.

His basic desire is chillingly simple: dominance. He aspires to wrest the chaos of Hell’s Kitchen into an orderly fiefdom, where the demolition of all opposition will mean that at last, the trains will run on time. And he’s not the only burly bald man to harbor such ambitions.

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