As a lifelong reader with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, I feel qualified enough to make the casual and probably unobjectionable observation that most great art, film, or literature often comes with a decidedly socialist or at least social democratic bent to it. (I tend to feel that, in most cases, the piece of work in question is great in spite of and not because of this philosophical slant). One of the first examples that comes to mind is the 2009 film Moon , directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell. It’s a likable film for several reasons, one of which being that it’s a very cleverly executed recreation of the Marxian theory of “labor alienation.” I think there’s something worth appreciating in that, even if I don’t endorse the theory itself.
I’m not going to take on why so many great artists, actors, writers, and musicians tend to take on more leftist, collectivist, or social democratic philosophies, because others more knowledgable than I have provided more interesting theories than I could probably ever manage to put together. (Paul Cantor, for example, advances the thesis that artists reject the market test as a valid criterion for success in art, since the mass appeal on which they would need to rely to pass such a test is at odds with the Romantic vision of the solitary, misunderstood genius that is so pervasive across the arts). My aggressive philosophy kick over the past few weeks, however, has tired me out a little bit, and I’ve decided to return to my roots with a little bit of fiction reading, which I’ll hope to post on here in the weeks to come. Since I’ve mostly studied literary fiction, however, I’ve decided to branch out and try to evaluate some more libertarian leaning literature.
It’s no secret that the worlds of libertarianism and literature generally collide in what is often disparaged as the “lowbrow” world of science fiction, so to that effect I’ve started to read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. I’m aware that Card himself is not a libertarian science fiction writer, and Ender’s Game is decidedly not a libertarian book. But one of the most interesting things about science fiction is that its works tend almost inherently to be concerned with the same questions of political philosophy that interest libertarians, regardless of how any work in particular answers those questions. To that end, I’ve added Frank Herbert’s Dune, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, and Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris to my list.
In addition to this scatter-brained approach to political philosophy in the form of sci-fi, I have also begun rereading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and finally intend to get around to reading recent Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, one of few well-respected literary writers who takes a decidedly individualist tone in his work. As far as Vargas Llosa goes, I’m looking at The Feast of the Goat and The Dream of the Celt .
Any further thoughts or suggestions are welcome, as is any playful ribbing from hardcore sci-fi fans who can’t resist the urge to poke fun at my innocent and uninformed approach to their genre of choice.