Sunday, 27 April 2014

Anarchic State?

"If you had a society with a simple economic structure (automation helped marvelously in that respect, provided that the material desires of the people remained modest) and if you had a homogeneous population of high average intelligence and low average nastiness, well, then perhaps the ideal anarchic state was possible."
-Poul Anderson, "The Night Face" IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), pp. 541-660 AT p. 560.

Terminological comment: "...anarchic state..." is contradictory and should have read "...anarchic society..."

General comment: I agree and would add that a heterogeneous population of high intelligence could be anarchic, "not ruled."

Heym, a character in Anderson's short story "Genius" (Astounding, 1948) explains how social pressure and mental conditioning usually determine individual behavior. Thus, he argues, a peaceful scientist rarely refuses to engage in war research and:

"'A "born" pacifist, growing up in a warlike culture, will generally accept war as part of the natural order of things.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Genius" IN Anderson, The Complete Short Works Of Poul Anderson, Volume 1, Call Me Joe (Framingham MA, 2009), pp. 196-222 AT p. 218.

Thus also, someone "born nasty" but growing up in an anarchic society should accept cooperation as part of the natural order of things. However, the apparently ideal society in "The Night Face" is on the planet Gwydion where another factor is operating.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I would argue, however, that "anarchic state" can also mean an "anarchistic state of being or existing," and is thus not contradictory. At least, that is how I would understand the term!

And THE NIGHT FACE is yet another of the masterly stories of Poul Anderson. He carefully shows us an apparently near ideal society and then gradually gives us increasingly ominous hints indicating something is not quite right. And then comes a CRASHING conclusion showing us the unexpected flaw in what seemed an ideal set up.


Paul Shackley said...

I grant that "state" can be "state of being" but think that it is confusing to use it in that sense when discussing society.
I agree about THE NIGHT FACE.