Authoritarian Utopias and Dystopias

Authoritarian Utopias

Power corrupts, and absolute power…makes for a rather good story. And so, with a touch of embarrassment, I present you with a variety of authoritarian utopias. We have variety, because authoritarianism is not a political philosophy, but an infinite collection. Once you opt for mighty government, there is still the question as to what to do with all that might. So peruse the works below, and indulge you inner megalomaniac safely within the confines of your imagination.

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Remember the good old days when sea captains had ultimate authority, and a breech of regulations resulted in a good flogging? David Feintuch does, and he envisions a star travelling future combining the “best” aspects of the old British Empire with a bit of Saudi influence thrown in for authoritarian fun in Midshipman’s Hope and its sequels. Technically speaking, these are not utopian stories – only an excuse to do Horatio Hornblower style fiction in space – but if you are a fan of Sheriff Arpaio or ISIS, you can treat them as utopian…

Or if you prefer a more gentle vision, try Thea Alexander’s 2150 A.D. [18+]: a benevolent New Age computer guides the population serenely to higher levels of enlightenment. Given the hedonic nature of this utopia, I could almost place it in the social liberal utopia category. But given the amount of monitoring, including clothing that changes color to match your current level of enlightenment, I need to place it in the authoritarian category.

If all that feminist New Age enlightenment stuff makes you sick, how about some full-on endarkenment: Might makes right! In Tarnsman of Gor [18+] and its many sequels, heroes get glory and comely lasses, while girly-men (and girlies) get the chains they deserve. A serious political philosophy, or just grist for bedroom games? You decide, but do note that the author is a philosophy professor. Anyway, some of the books are decent science fiction, reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and they are guaranteed to offend all feminists within a five mile radius.

On with other hand, if you are an authoritarian feminist with a yen for heroic fantasy, try Robert Jordan’s immense Wheel of Time series. The series is extremely popular, and in places the writing sparkles. And there are enough scheming nobles, secret societies, sewing circle power games, hazing ceremonies, and clothing descriptions to satiate an authoritarian with obsessive compulsive disorder. The series opens with women having a millennia long monopoly on magic, and all the many societies are matriarchal to varying degrees.

No list of authoritarian utopias would be complete without some Nazi vision. So how about science fiction by Adolph Hitler himself? In The Iron Dream, Norman Spinrad envisions an alternate reality where Hitler emigrated to the United States after the failed Munich Putsch. He then used his artistic skills to illustrate science fiction magazines and eventually took up writing himself. Lord of the Swastika is his last and greatest work. The parallel universe intro remarks and afterward are darkly hilarious. The novel itself – set in a post nuclear age populated by mutants – will allow you to think like a Nazi without hating any extant humans. Indeed, the novel so resembles more popular heroic fantasies that you may realize that you have already been indulging your inner Nazi. Disturbing.

Equal time requires a Bolshevik novel. How about Joseph Stalin’s favorite: Cement by Fyodor Gladkov. Feel the proletarian solidarity as working class men and women struggle to get a cement factory working despite bureaucrats and saboteurs. Utterly unheroic, and a mostly dull read, but if you are a Bolshevik, you deserve every page. (Bonus: compare the opening scene to that of Atlas Shrugged. The parallels are ominous.)

Finally, I leave you with a bit of all-American authoritarianism, from Hollywood. Arresting and trying people for pursuing happiness incorrectly is just too inconvenient. Shoot them in the streets! And check out our clothes! Styling! Miami Vice is the TV show that inspired the authoritarian utopia we live in today.

For more communist utopias see the lefty utopias page. Authoritarians may also enjoy reading some libertarian dystopias, and possibly some of the social liberal and conservative dystopias as well.

On the other hand, it might be well to contemplate the real consequences of authoritarianism with some authoritarian dystopias:

Authoritarian Dystopias

The classic totalitarian dystopia is George Orwell’s 1984. With the fall of the Soviet Empire this bleak work may seem a bit dated. But note how the history rewrites resembles mainstream news coverage today and how the cable news networks resemble extended versions of the Ten Minute Hate. Maybe not so dated after all.

Now imagine a Monty Pythonesque take on 1984. That’s what you get in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Instead of a fully socialist police state, you have something a bit more rightwing, which has resorted to extreme police state tactics to deal with terrorists. This movie has turned out to be rather prophetic…

For a truly surreal experience, try The Prisoner. A British spy resigns over a matter of conscience. He is drugged and wakes up in The Village, a resort/prison inspired by Jeremy Bentham’s Panoptikon (using electronic surveillance instead of geometry to carry out the surveillance). Most episodes involve ever more bizarre schemes to get the hero, Number 6, to reveal why he quit.

For some of us, the thought of a totalitarian state is truly horrifying. So how about a dystopian novel by horror writer Ira Levin, This Perfect Day [17+]? With computerized communism enforced with regular drug regimens, how do you get free?

If effective communism isn’t horrifying enough, how about a “human” society modeled after insects, complete with radical specialization induced through biotechnology. Frank Herbert’s Hellstrom’s Hive [18+] is about as creepy as it gets without resorting to a full-on gorefest.

Finally, for some much lighter fare, try the Stallone action movie Demolition Man. A policeman is sentenced to suspended animation for inflicting too much collateral damage. He wakes up in a squeaky clean New Agey authoritarian society which maybe should be considered a utopia. But it’s an action movie, so lots of things get broken…

If you want more socialist/communist dystopias, see the lefty dystopias page.

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