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Ken Mac Leod: assimilation

in an interview of Ken Mac Leod, by Ernest Lilley

SFR: Which culture will assimilate which? Communism, Capitalism, or Islam?

Ken: Capitalism will assimilate everything that exists in the world today, no question. The interesting question is what happens then. Professor Meghnad Desai of the London Schoolo of Economics has recently written an interesting book called Marx’s Revenge, in which he argues that what happens then is that capitalism begins to press hard against its limits, and socialism comes on the agenda for the first time.

Ken: Islam is a religion, not a mode of production, and is not counterposed to capitalism. Communism is a potential mode of production which, in the words of Lenin, ‘requires the joint efforts of several advanced countries, which do not include Russia’. Well, today Russia is arguably an advanced country, but it could only reach socialism through joint efforts with other advanced countries. Stalin’s ‘socialism in one country’ was always a utopia, and a reactionary one at that. There was never the slightest chance of the Stalinist states assimilating the capitalist countries. Nor is there the slightest chance now of the Islamic countries assimilating or overwhelming the largely secular West.

The West could destroy itself, and it’s possible – if the destruction wasn’t universal – that the successor civilization would be Muslim, but then *they* would be ‘the advanced capitalist countries’ and the religion would have to bend to that – as it was beginning to do, in Moorish Spain for instance, before it was over-run by Christians and sank into a long sulk.

SFR: You don’t seem to give faith based cultures much staying power in you fiction, is that because you see them as antithetical to advanced tech and hence limited in their ability to propagate themselves through space?

Ken: I don’t see faith-based cultures as antithetical to advanced tech, at all. Islamic societies were among the most advanced in the world in the Middle Ages. There’s no reason why a space-going civilization couldn’t be religious, so long as the religion’s dogmas didn’t rule out space exploration. As to my fiction, the future culture in The Sky Road has in the story endured for centuries, and is either Deist or pantheist, and is reaching out to space. The Christian fundamentalist Beulah City, in The Star Fraction, is a kind of like Singapore – repressive, but not anti-technological. The religion that really gets the boot in my books is that of the Greens and ‘their evil goddess, Gaia.’

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