The Politics of STAR WARS

by Karen Winter

STAR WARS is a Saturday afternoon matinee, a fairy-tale for children, a powerful myth for adults, an action-adventure SP fantasy. Tt is also a story heavily dependent on political concepts. The opening 'crawl' sets the stage with "it is a period of civil war..." and invites us to identify unquestioningly with the rebels. Before we accept Lucas' simplistic premise, however, we might do well to examine what we can actually determine about the nature of that civil was and the general political structure of the STAR WARS universe.

Unfortunately, our information is so vague and incomplete it is difficult to determine much that is definite. We have two major sources: the movies themselves and the novelizations (in historians' jargon the primary and secondary sources), both of which are of course prejudiced by the attitudes of those who produced them and the audience for which they were intended. The contemporary or near-contemporary Journal of the Whills, which influenced Lucas heavily, has since been lost; but it was evidently favorable toward the rebel cause, since it was adopted by the Alliance as its official version of the conflict. Lucas himself makes no attempt at objectivity in his treatment of the Empire in our surviving sources. References in this article will be to the versions of STAR WARS and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in paperback and the script versions in THE ART OF STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STKIKES BACK NOTEBOOK.

Reading between the lines, it is clear that the STAR WARS Saga describes, not the downfall of a tyranny, but the rise and consolidation of a successful empire based on progressive political philosophy. This process has parallels in several of our own planet's historical periods. Furthermore, it is clear that the Rebellion represents only one of a variety of political and social forces opposing this development.

It may help to begin with a brief list of specific political terms which are found in our sources. These include, in the films:

Princess ("your Highness")
consular
Lord
diplomatic mission
Rebel Alliance (Alliance to Restore the Republic)
bureaucracy
mining guild
Imperial Senate (Council)
Jedi knights
restricted system
Old Republic
draft (military); commission
"freedom fighters"
regional governor
traitor
Empire
"nationalize commerce"

The novels add:

revolutionary
system crest (heraldic)
elected President
royal family

Obviously, there is no single Terran historical period in which the structures and concepts represented by these terms all played a major part at the same time, but an underlying pattern emerges in Lucas' treatment of political concepts which is echoed in several Terran cultures over a long period.

The most important physical factor in the STAR WARS universe is the vast size of any interstellar political body. Even with FTL drive and the high level of technology we see in the movies, it would be almost impossible for any central authority to exercise close and detailed control over its outlying territories. The Empire, at the time of SW and TESB, shows many similarities to the empires of the ancient world such as the Roman, Persian, Hellenistic, or Byzantine. All of these, because of long distances and slow means of travel or communication between center and periphery, tended to have diffused sources of power and to allow considerable local autonomy. Persian satraps, Hellenistic or Roman provincial governors, and so forth, had a high degree of independence in practice (and sometimes in theory) in spite of the philosophical autocracy of the imperial ruler. This remained true in such early post-mediaeval empires as the British state of the American colonial period, and the emerging nation-states of the New Monarchies period, such as France or Spain, which also show many similarities to the STAR WARS model. However, in the latter cases, there is the additional factor of feudal fragmentation to consider, and they will be discussed under a slightly different heading below.

The STAR WARS Empire clearly is not a rigidly centralized tyranny. In A NEW HOPE, Vader is shown combating an armed, large-scale insurrectionary movement against the Empire as a whole, yet when he has to send a "detachment" down to find the stolen plans, he says, "There will be no one to stop us this time," and tells his forces "never mind the protests of the planetary governor" (novel, p. 109). Nevertheless, he stresses that they are to be "as subtle as possible" (p. 24), strongly suggesting that local authorities have, in the past, successfully protested the actions of the imperial government and/or military. In addition, Leia threatens Vader with the Senate's displeasure, and Vader goes to considerable effort to disguise the loss of her ship as an accident. This suggests a very nervous central government rather than an all-powerful autocracy trampling roughshod on local civil rights.

The actions of the searching troopers bear this out. There are no mass executions, no campaign of terror against civilians to locate the local rebel sympathizers. Instead, the troopers -- rather in-effectively -- merely search the city, the desert, and the patrons of the dubious spaceport cantina. It is true that the Jawas and Luke's aunt and uncle are killed, but they are the only ones we see injured or even roughed up, and they were traced directly to the suspected droids. Undoubtedly, they were identified as rebel partisans.

After the dissolution of the Senate, the Empire's centrifugal tendencies are even more evident. Tarkin says that "the regional governors now have direct control over their territories," (ART, p. 52), and Tagge questions whether the emperor will be able to maintain control under these circumstances.

What did the dissolution of the Senate and the shift of power to the local governors mean for the people who lived on the outlying planets? A parallel from Roman history may suggest an answer. In Rome, there was a change to a system of governors appointed directly by Caesar under the Principate in the outer provinces. This change generally benefitted the provinces by removing the most rapacious elements of the former tax-farming system and by encouraging cultural pluralism, local systems of laws, and so forth. The local governors were nearly absolute in legislative, administrative, and judicial power, and the new system was open to abuse by ambitious governors. Similarly, in the STAR WARS universe the Emperor does not seem to have much real power in the outlying areas. In A NEW HOPE, Grand Moff Tarkin apparently acts on his own, even in taking such a major decision as eliminating Alderaan. There is no evidence that he ever requested authorization from the Emperor for any of his actions; and the Death Star is, as far as we can tell, Tarkin's personal project. Tagge notes that "the construction of this station has more to do with Governor Tarkin's bid for personal power and recognition than with any justifiable military strategy" (novel, p. 35); and Tarkin himself refers to "many long years of secretive construction" (p. 36). This leaves open the question of whom the station is to be kept secret from; but Tagge hints at the answer in his remarks about Vader, the Emperor's representative: "this Sith Lord inflicted on us at the urging of the Emperor will be our undoing," he says (novel, p. 34), which strongly suggests that Tarkin threatens the Emperor's authority to some degree.

Two other minor details in the movies reinforce the impression that there is considerable local autonomy within the Empire. The first is Cloud City, which seems to be an independent "free city" like one of the classical Greek or mediaeval city-states. Lando says it does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Empire or the mining guild, and claims to have the authority, as administrator, to make a "deal" with the Empire. There is a parallel here from Earth history to the cities of the Roman empire such as Athens and Rhodes, and to such mediaeval city-states as Venice.

The second example is the position of Alderaan. When the rebel ship is boarded in A NEW HOPE, Leia and her crew refer to her "diplomatic mission" and Vader mentions an "ambassador" and a "consular ship." This is very significant since ambassadors are normally ex- changed between sovereign states, not among parts of the same political entity. This suggests the presence of nominally independent client kingdoms on the Roman model, or feudal subdivisions similar to the German princedoms of the Holy Roman Empire.

It seems reasonably certain, therefore, that the political structure we see in the STAR WARS universe is that of a group of provinces or territories under semi- autonomous local governors with civil and military powers, a system which is analogous to the loose-knit empires of the pre-mediaeval and early modern periods on Earth.

The process of imperial consolidation -- the process we see in Terran history in the development from Babylonian city-states to Persian empire, from Greek polis to Hellenistic state, from Roman city to Roman imperium, from feudal dukedoms and free cities to nation-states -- is also in progress in the universe of STAR WARS. The only elements really necessary for a successful central government in an empire such as STAR WARS' are an efficient military machine, an effective imperial tax system, and a bureaucracy of some kind. In spite of the diffusion of power described above, all three appear to exist in the STAR WARS Empire. We see the Empire's massive and efficient military machine in A NEW HOPE and TESB, and what little information we have on the civilian government indicates that an effective tax system and bureaucracy also exist. "The king dies but the bureaucracy is immortal," said Will Durant of the Persian empire; and from that period on, adequate tax revenues, a good army, and a functional bureaucracy kept successive empires alive and healthy as long as they survived.

Set against the physical obstruction of distance and the inevitable practical limitations on the central government's power, the philosophical thrust of rising empire is toward centralization and rationalization in both politics and economic, toward the concept of the "organic state" -- one with absolute sovereignty over its citizens. In general, this means reducing the power of intermediate political bodies such as senates, assemblies, or independent feudal remnants in favor of a single central authority, usually an emperor. However, in Terran parallels, such centralization has never been complete, either in theory or practice; and some vestige of popular sovereignty or Social Contract theory has usually remained beneath the autocratic concepts. This was true, for example, in the Persian empire, where local aristocrats retained feudal rights of taxation, justice, and private military forces in their own lands, and in the Hellenistic empire, where the various poleis retained considerable self government. Vestiges of feudal and popular representation were also present in the centralizing regimes of early modern times.

The obvious similarity between first-century Rome and the STAR WARS universe has been used by a number of fannish writers: an old republic suffering from internal social/political/economic rot, an ambitious member of the ruling class elected to power who then becomes emperor, and a transition from rule by a senate to rule by an individual through a bureaucracy. This pattern is familiar to us from the regimes of Julius and Augustus Caesar.

The relationship between emperor and senate in the STAR WARS universe also is reminiscent of that in most late mediaeval and early modem states, where the legislative assembly was called only periodically by the king to ratify laws or grant money in the form of taxation. The Imperial Senate in STAR WARS is dissolved by the emperor, but not abolished (novel, p. 36). While Tarkin states that "the last remnants of the old republic have been swept away," (ART, p. 53), this is clearly incorrect, for the novel states that the assembly was superseded only for the "duration of the emergency" (p. 36), just as the Roman Senate was superseded in an emergency by the Dictator. Later the Senate is referred to as still in existence even after the dissolution (p. 116), so we may assume that the body continued as the legal source of political sovereignty even when it was not in session, just as, for example, the British Parliament remained the legal expression of government in England even during the periods when it was not called by the king (such as during the early part of Charles I's reign). There was never any suggestion that the king had abolished Parliament by dissolving it, or that the King-in-Parliament did not remain the true sovereign, superior to the king alone. There is nothing either illegal nor particularly unusual in such a situation.

There is, in fact, considerable evidence that the transfer of effective power from Senate to Emperor in STAR WARS was entirely legitimate. We are told that Palpatine was elected president of the Republic. We are not told whether he had declared his intention of becoming emperor previous to this or not, hiiitit is certainly possible, if not indeed probable, that the electorate was aware of his intension before he gained power. In any case, it is clear that Palpatine was chosen by whatever portion of the populace had the franchise and represented the popular will in the old republic. There is no mention of a military coup or civil disturbance at the time when Pal- patine declared himself emperor, so we may assume that this change was carried out peacefully. Very probably it was desired or at least readily accepted by the majority of the empire's population. We certainly can find numerous examples of such popular delegations of power to imperial rulers in our own Terran history.

What kind of government is the STAR WARS Empire? What sort of treatment, what kinds of services and benefits could the people of the Empire actually expect to receive from that government? For a possible answer, we may draw on parallels from similar regimes in Terran history. The most appropriate parallel is probably that of the "organic state" which arose during the early modern period in Europe and England out of the dissolution of feudal ties. The "organic state" is the ancestor of the modem "welfare state", the state that assumes responsibility for the well-being of its citizens. The early modern movement toward centralization had a self-conscious base in political theory. Throughout Europe during this period (the period of the New Monarchies), a major shift in political thought was taking place from the mediaeval concept of Genossenschaftsrecht (feudal reciprocal relationship and corporate political structures) toward a revival of the Roman idea of the state as sovereign, with direct and absolute authority over all its citizens. The state (not the king, the populace, nor any intermediate political or religious body) was absolutely sovereign and the national body politic was an organic unity.

A group of Continental political theorists, the politiques, upheld the idea that only a strong, imperial monarch could provide the centralized authority necessary to assure an orderly society with impartial and just laws for the people as a whole. In England, during the same period, Thomas Cromwell asserted in the preamble to the Act of Appeals during the reign of Henry VIII that "this realm of England is an Empire," using 'Empire' in the Roman sense.

This concept of the organic state was carried through in the economic policies of the New Monarchies (policies generally known as Mercantilism), and in all the centralizing empires previously mentioned. The state saw itself as responsible for the economic welfare of the people as a whole. Special economic interests frequently were subordinated to the government's perception of the general good, though these were often impossible to enforce in practice, due, again, to the size of the territories involved and the practical limits of existing technology.*

[* Economic regulation by the state has been common in central imperial regimes since ancient times. The Selucid kings of the Hellenistic Near East controlled what we would call their country's mineral rights and maintained a national system of canals, while the Ptolemies inherited an economic system from the earlier Pharaohs which was rigid and complete enough to be called a form of state socialism. They regulated commerce, licensed and supervised minor industries, controlled the major industries such as mines and the production of olive oil, set tariffs on such commodities as salt, natron, incense, papyrus and textiles, and owned and managed both the waterways and all land by means of a vast bureaucracy. Imperial Rome later maintained this Egyptian system to assure the government corn dole on which the city depended for its very life, and nationalized some economic resources such as mines, quarries, fisheries, farmland, and salt. Imperial Rome reflected the social aspects of the organic state concept by providing public works and public games to support the unemployed and amuse the poor, and, under Augustus' Principate, there was a collection of rather ineffective laws designed to control sexual standards, marriage, dress, and so on. Toward the end of the Imperial period, social standards in the Roman empire petrified into a rigid and smothering system following the reforms of Diocletian.]

The early modem organic state at least attempted to carry through its social and economic policies consistently. Accelerating the transition of the military and of national finances from a feudal to a state system of management, such governments engaged in a considerable amount of "social engineering" such as laws against enclosure, rent, wage, and price controls, regulation of the corn supply, tariffs and other methods of encouraging uncompetitive local industries, and public works such as draining fenland and controlling waterways, as well as a variety of sumptuary regulations and moral "blue laws." Thomas Cromwell of England, the same thinker who declared England to be an "Empire," proposed one of the most radical poor laws in history. Cromwell's proposal is strikingly similar to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's economic recovery projects during the Depression of the 1930's in this country. Cromwell advocated a WPA-type public works program to combat unemployment, complete with public medical care and a graduated income tax to finance the costs. The date on it was 1536.

The major economic conflict of the next two centuries was the conflict between government-sponsored mercantilism and the interests of the rising class of bougeois entrepreneurs. Large companies could benefit from government monopoly, but small businessmen universally disliked government interference. Occasionally, especially restrictive policies provoked reactions such as the Boston Tea Party and the widespread toleration of smuggling in the American colonies.

The same process is clearly visible in the STAR WARS universe. There is mention in the published script that the Empire is "starting to nationalize commerce in the central systems" (ART, p. 29), and Biggs tries to encourage Luke's anti-government attitude by appealing to him in the classic accents of petit-bourgeois laissez-faire capitalism: "What good is all your uncle's work if it's taken over by the Empire". . .It won't be long before your uncle is merely a tenant, slaving for the greater glory of the Empire.'" (ibid.) It may well be that much of the Rebellion's support comes from the same class of small farmers (like Luke's uncle), merchants, and craftsmen who supported the American revolution in the more industrialized colonies, and for the same pragmatic economic motives.

The Empire in STAR WARS follows a pattern of economic, social and political development which is common to centralizing empire and nation-states throughout Terran political history, in many historical periods and geographic areas, a pattern which has a logical rationale and a legitimate political and economic theory behind it. Opposition to the Empire's policies in the STAR WARS universe is evidently based not so much on abstract moral indignation as on understandable political/economic interests of particular social groups or classes. The STAR WARS saga is not so much the epic clash of Good and Evil as a complex interaction of social and economic forces.

However, as mentioned above, the Rebellion is only one of several foci of opposition to the Empire. There appear to be five other major foci identified in the sources: the Senate, the nobility, the Jedi, the Alliance, and the Corellian pirates.

It is difficult to determine what role heriditary nobility plays in the STAR WARS universe, since neither of our two examples is very well defined. Leia is identified as a princess, and while this could be a life title, there is also the mention of "the royal family" (novel, p. 11) of Alderaan, which indicates the rank is territorial and inherited. There is no indication, however, whether her prominent role in the Alliance results from her rank, her position as a senator, or her revolutionary fervor.

Vader"s position is equally vague. He is addressed as "my Lord," and called a lord of the Sith, but the Sith is never described. Again, the source of his power over the military is not clear. It may be a heriditary prerogative, an established command rank, or simply the Emperor's delegated authority. And we have no way of knowing whether Vader's expression of loyalty to his own dynasty rather than the Emperor ("together we can rule the galaxy as father and son") represents his own personal position, that of his class, or perhaps no more than an attempt to gain Luke's aid. Yet if the similarity between the STAR WARS universe and the early-modern monarchies extends this far, Vader's position may represent an analogy to that of the feudal nobility in the late mediaeval period. As feudal levies were replaced by national armies, the chivalric nobility became increasingly powerless and superfluous, and many of them were absorbed into the royal bureaucracy as part of the state's administrative personnel. There was a period of intermediate struggle between the central monarch and its "overmighty subjects" during which the high nobility fought to retain its independence; during the New Monarchies period, the nobility were in retreat, as shown in developments such as the acts to control livery and maintenance in Tudor England, which sharply curbed the private military forces in the hands of the nobility and limited feudal retinues. The philosophy of the imperial sovereign state invalidated the entire concept of an independant feudal nobility, and the organic social/political/economic policies described above made them a danger to the state's unity.

On the other side, it may seem odd at first glance that the hereditary nobility in the person of Princess Leia supports the Rebellion, but this follows a very common pattern. In most centralizing imperial states, the nobility who were being displaced responded by joining forces with other opponents of the government, whatever their ideology. Such examples as Critias in ancient Athens or Clodius and Julius Caesar in first-century Rome will come to mind at once, as well as the various Plantagenet or pseudo-Plantaganet pretenders who tried to unseat the Tudors. In most modern ideological revolutions as well, the first stages of revolt were led by discontented members of the aristocracy. Several of the early supporters of the French revolution were either major nobles like the Duke of Orleans or minor ones like the Marquis de Lafayette or Mirabeau. Similarly, the first president of the post imperial Russian Provisional Government was Prince George Lvov, and von Hindenburg became head of the post-imperial German government.

Members of the displaced nobility such as the above are usually eliminated as the revolution progresses. Although it is impossible to tell at this point whether the STAR WARS Rebellion will follow this pattern by becoming progressively more radical as it evolves, the examples from Terran history suggest this. It is clear from the context of the sources that the Rebellion is currently at an early stage, as indicated both by internal evidence and reference in the novel to "those first dark days" (p.2).

It is highly probable that the Jedi also represented an independent political body of the feudal type which would be seen as a threat to any centralizing imperial state. Indeed, the evidence we have from the sources is stronger on this point than on almost any other covered by this paper The connotations of the terms "Order" and "Knight", the association of the group with esoteric spiritual disciplines as well as the lightsaber, the hermit-like "Master" Yoda in retreat on Dagobah (and Kenobi on Tatooine), Kenobi's own description of the Order's former purpose and activity, and Motti (or Tagge's) accusation that Vader, the last Jedi on the Imperial side of the conflict, has "sorcerer's ways" (ART, p. 52; novel, p. 37) all point directly to an almost perfect parallel between the Jedi and the crusading monastic orders of mediaeval Europe, such as the Teutonic Knights, the Hospitalers, and the Knights Templars. Conventional mediaeval theory saw knighthood, particularly the religious orders of knighthood, as a universal estate independent of and superior to any local political structure or Church authority, with the function of defending "peace and justice" through private military force. Such monastic orders were usually responsible only to the Pope, free of any other control and acted with almost complete autonomy. They have been romanticized by later writers, but the mediaeval reality was often far from attractive. There was no check by the state or people on such private armies, and atrocities such as the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders during the Fourth Crusade demonstrate how easily such uncontrolled military forces might become a real danger.

When the early-modern state governments began to consolidate their authority, they naturally found themselves in conflict with these independent organizations whose power, regardless of whatever ideals they might profess, was so open to abuse at the expense of the general citizenry. The crusading orders were controlled or suppressed just as the Jedi were, the most well known example of such action being the campaign against the Knights Templars, who were accused of a variety of crimes, including "sorcery." The Imperials' attitude toward Vader and Owen's opinion of Kenobi are suggestive in this context.

Analysis of the Alliance also suffers from a dearth of specific information. The actual ideology or political program of the Rebellion is never described anywhere in our sources. All we have are vague and meaningless references to "freedom," "justice," "peace" and similar buzz-words without objective content or referent. Hence it is virtually impossible to discover what the rebels are fighting for, except to overthrow the existing government by violent revolution and civil war. The attitude of the leaders on the rebel side does give some evidence of a structured revolutionary ideology, or at least a loyalty to a political program of some kind transcending the mere desire to exchange one set of rulers for another. The purpose named in the preface to the novel is "to restore the Old Republic" (p. 2), although it should be obvious from our own history that this tells us nothing about the nature of the former government. Examples from Plato to the Soviet Union demonstrate that a republic is not necessarily democratic, politically representative or just. The opening "crawl" defines the rebels' goal as "to restore freedom to the galaxy" (ART, p. 9), and the rebels are called "freedom fighters" in the opening "crawl" of TESB (NOTEBOOK, p. 7). Tagge in turn refers to the rebels' "perverse reactionary fanaticism" (novel, p. 34) while Kenobi ironically calls his former activities a "damned fool idealistic crusade" (ibid., p. 49). The most direct evidence is Yoda's advice to Luke to sacrifice Han and Leia for the greater good "if you honor what they fight for" (NOTEBOOK, p. 98). Other than this, there is little we can determine.

What little we can find suggests strongly that the Rebellion is in fact a reactionary, retrograde political movement. As mentioned above, it has no more positive program than a return to the old republican form of government which has already failed, and it is supported by the Organa dynasty and the remaining Jedi, both presumed feudal recidivists from the Imperial point of view, while Biggs evidently represents a conservative economic class opposed to the progressive Imperial policies. In addition, the Alliance appears to support social attitudes which are considered conservative or traditionalist in our own culture, a trait it shares with the rest of the STAR WARS universe in general. That is, the rebels as well as the Imperials show signs of being both sexist and racist. It is, perhaps understandable that there are no women visible on the warships of the Imperial fleet; the idea of women in combat as a part of the regular military is very new in our own society, and it is not surprising that traditional attitudes are visible in Lucas' version of the Imperial Navy and Marine Corps. But that there are no women to be seen in the rebel combat troops either is significant. Only a few appear, and those in rear echelon support positions at headquarters rather than among the pilots or ground forces. Given the role of women as partisans and regular soldiers in such modem organizations as the Israeli Army or the Spanish Civil War, in the Russian Revolution or the German Communist movement and so on endlessly, this seems unusual for an irregular insurrectionary movement. Unless we assume a vastly disproportionate male/female ratio within the humanoid population as a whole, we are forced to conclude that women are not welcome among the rebel fighters. Why this is so remains uncertain, but it certainly does not suggest strong support for women's equality.

The attitude toward non-humans and droids is even more clearly prejudiced. We have direct evidence that droids are discriminated against by the general population in the cantina scene where the bartender tells Luke, "we don't serve their kind here. . . we don't want them here" (ART, p. 58). Leia, Han and Luke also display a consistently condescending attitude toward C3PO and R2D2. As for organic non-humans, not one is visible among the rebel forces, not even a token ion cannon operator, and, as has frequently been noted, Chewbacca does not get a medal at the award ceremony, although he certainly helped in the rescue of Luke from the Death Star. While the Jedi do include some non-humans, as Yoda indicates, the Jedi seem to be more concerned with removing the Emperor himself, as a powerful darkside adept, than with supporting the Alliance per se.

It is equally true, of course, that there are no non-humans visible among the regular Imperial forces, unless the stormtroops are non-human, and while there are droids on the Death Star and the Executor, we have no information on their status. However, the Empire does employ at least some non-humans such as the long-snouted being who acts as a spy on Tatooine and the bounty hunters used by Vader to track Han to Cloud City. While Piett reacts to them with "we don't need that scum," he appears to be referring to their role as bounty hunters rather than their non-human race.

Finally, the Corellian pirates represent another side effect of the sort of imperial structure described in the first part of this article. Most, if not all, large-scale, loosely administered political bodies acquire small enclaves of economic "independents" who provide illegal or semi-legal services for the general population and are tolerated by the government. Frequently, such enclaves become organized and sizeable enough to have something resembling governments of their own. Examples include the Cretan-based pirates who harassed the first century Roman empire, the English pirates and privateers of the Elizabethan era, and such American-based smuggler-pirates as Lafitte.

Given that the structure of the STAR WARS universe is as we have described it, it may be interesting to speculate on why Lucas has chosen to represent it in this manner. The most superficial survey of Lucas' work makes it clear that he is himself, in political terms, a reactionary romantic looking backward toward an imaginary Golden Age in an earlier historical period or fantasy universe. His earliest film, THX-1138, is a political tract against totalitarian social/political controls; AMERICAN GRAFITTI looks to America before the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War, STAR WARS and TESB to long ago in a galaxy far, far away, and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK to the pre-World War II 1930's. Each of these era is presented as a more innocent and exciting time, with conflicts represented in unrelieved (and unrealistic) black and white -- except in the case of AMERICAN GRAFITTI, which is too close to most of the audience to be convincing as myth rather than nostalgia.

The social, economic, and political forces Lucas opposes in the STAR WARS universe are, in fact, those which have been most noticeable in American society in this century, and most disliked by conservatives in our own country. These include the movement away from control by state and local government to control by the central government in Washington; and decline of individual freedom and privacy created by modern crowding, urbanization, and technological change; and the entire complex of social and economic forces created by and reflected in the long-term shift from nineteenth century laissez-faire economic and Jeffersonian political theory to twentieth-century government social/economic controls and interventionist political theory. This shift in American society and politics is represented by programs such as the New Deal, the Great Society, and modem American government-by-bureaucracy in general.

This is, of course, a vast oversimplification of recent American history and of the political philosophies involved. But its validity at the popular level, as represented in Lucas' grasp of the issues in STAR WARS and TESB, is clear. Thus, in political terms, we can see that the STAR WARS Saga is an appeal for a return to the libertarian political philosophy of an earlier era in America. And this, gentle reader, may be more of a fantasy than any other aspect of the STAR WARS films.

 

 

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