Star Trek and Star Wars

The Enlightenment versus the Anti-Enlightenment

by George Gonzalez (Author)
©2022 Prompt VIII, 124 Pages


In Star Trek and Star Wars: The Enlightenment versus the Anti-Enlightenment, George A. Gonzalez shows that these two behemoths of popular culture put the Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment before the viewing public. Star Trek is arguably the popular culture vehicle most reflective of the Enlightenment: a belief in political and social progress, leading to a society that is modern, classless, and totally free of gender and ethnic biases. The Star Wars franchise, meanwhile, is seemingly the artistic embodiment of the anti-Enlightenment: societal progress (to the extent that it occurs) is solely a function of technology and not a perfecting of justice and fairness. Gonzalez shows that this reflects the pessimism and demoralization underlying the Trump phenomenon and the rise of anti-democratic, virulent nationalism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Hegel/Marx Political Philosophy Paradigm
  • 2. Praxis: Enlightenment versus the Anti-Enlightenment
  • 3. Star Trek (Original Series) Against Patriarchy and Jim Crow
  • 4. The Early Cold War and Star Trek (Original Series)
  • 5. Star Trek and the Clash of Civilizations: Anti-Enlightenment versus Modernism (Universal Justice)
  • 6. Nazi Takeover of America: The Man in the High Castle and Star Trek
  • Conclusion The Trump Phenomenon and the Anti-Enlightenment
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index

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The Enlightenment is predicated on two fundamental assumptions. First, there is a big picture (or meta-narrative) to any political system – politics/(in)justice (at the highest levels) is knowable. We can attain truth/knowledge of the political world through reason and empiricism. Second, the broader public is capable of collectively shaping the big picture (meta-narrative) of society – and should do so (democracy). The presumption is that people (again, collectively) desire justice/fairness for all (universalism), as well as the public good.1 Indeed, it is the public’s demands over the course of history that has moved the world toward regimes based on legal equality – a rejection of aristocracy/monarchy/colonialism.

There is what can be labeled as an anti-Enlightenment outlook. The most significant aspect of the anti-Enlightenment is there is no meta-narrative to the operation of society. Politics is only about the maintenance of stability (social order). Societal progress (to the extent that it ←1 | 2→occurs) is solely a function of technology and not a perfecting of justice/fairness. Because people lack sufficient knowledge of the world, democracy may not be the appropriate means of making political decisions.

As I note below, popular culture (television, movies) is the democratization of art. With popular culture, the Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment are put before the broad public. Hence, popular culture is praxis – the application, practice of political philosophy (i.e., the Enlightenment versus the anti-Enlightenment). Star Trek is arguably the popular culture vehicle most reflective of the Enlightenment (Chapter One). The Star Wars franchise is seemingly the artistic embodiment of the anti-Enlightenment (Chapter Two). The Star Trek series of the 1960s was not simply metaphorical of the Enlightenment, but directly participated (even led) in the civil rights and feminist movements of the era (Chapter Three). With former President Donald J. Trump (2017–2021) openly courting the forces of hate,2 it is appropriate to revisit the 1950s (Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” a.k.a. MAGA) – when hate (of communism – anti-communism) was politically dominant in the U.S. (Chapter Four). The anti-communist regime of hate in America resulted in the U.S. war in Vietnam (1965–1973) – whereby the American military measured success by the number of enemy (“communists”) dead.3 Star Trek (as Enlightenment popular culture) warns against the anti-Enlightenment – Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations ideation (Chapter Five). In Chapter Six I argue that Man in the High Castle (a series about a Nazi conquest of America) reflects the pessimism/demoralization underlying the Trump phenomenon – the rise of (anti-democratic) virulent nationalism.

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Chapter One

The Hegel/Marx Political Philosophy Paradigm

The political philosophy of the Hegel/Marx paradigm is composed of a four-part methodology: (1) Mediation, (2) Totality, (3) Genesis, and (4) Praxis.1 These components inform our understanding of what Georg Hegel (1770–1831) labels the “Whole” – otherwise referred to the as the Absolute.2 All four components of this methodology will be treated herein – with Praxis being specifically addressed in Chapter Two. I will start with two broad points: the methodology operates dialectically (as is to be fully expected with Hegelian/Marxist reasoning). Thus, mediation -> totality -> genesis -> praxis – the process also operates in reverse and interactively overall. Again, this is textbook Hegel/Marx. A second ←3 | 4→point I want to emphasize is that in the realm of praxis art is salient.3 Praxis is the application, practice of Hegel/Marxist theorizing, speculation. Praxis, however, is more than the application of such theorizing, speculation. Praxis communicates knowledge of the “whole”. Put differently, praxis in a sense stands alone in the dialectic – as it confirms or disproves the other aspects of the dialectic and, as a result, it is a source of knowledge.

Hegel himself held that philosophy, religion, and art were sources of knowledge of the Whole. During Hegel’s time he came to conclude that art was no longer a source of knowledge as it had become ossified and an instrument of the religious, political hierarchy.4 Art, however, has been revitalized as it has been de-linked from religious, political institutions. This de-linking has taken the form of popular culture.


VIII, 124
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (August)
Star Trek Star Wars the Enlightenment the Anti-Enlightenment popular culture television movies U.S. Containment Policy Donald J. Trump politics George A. Gonzalez Clash of Civilizations
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Lausanne, Oxford, 2022. VIII, 124 pp.

Biographical notes

George Gonzalez (Author)

George A. Gonzalez (Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1997) is Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami. He is the author of Star Trek and Popular Culture: Television at the Frontier of Social and Political Change in the 1960s (also published by Peter Lang).


Title: Star Trek and Star Wars