Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks – Sci Phi Journal


40 bookmarks. First posted by xmarquez november 2017.


Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks - Added May 12, 2018 at 10:51AM
13 days ago by keldlundgaard
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s Use of Weapons. I glanced over the j…
livros  ficção-científica 
february 2018 by guictx
That’s what the Culture is, it’s like the evolutionary winner of the contest between all cultures, the ultimate basin of attraction
attractors 
february 2018 by zryb
Given all these options, how do you choose? More fundamentally, who are you? What is it that creates your identity, or that makes you distinctive? If we reflect upon our own lives, the significant choices we have made were all in important ways informed by the constraints we are subject to, the hand that we were dealt: our natural talents, our gender, the country that we were born in. Once the constraints are gone, what basis is there for choosing one path over another?

This is the problem that existentialist writers, like Albert Camus, grappled with. The paradox of freedom is that it deprives choice of all meaningfulness. The answer that Camus recommended was absurdism – simply embracing the paradox. Few have followed him on this path. Sociologically, there are generally two ways in which citizens of modern societies resolve the crisis of meaning. The first is by choosing to embrace a traditional identity – call this “neotraditionalism” – celebrating the supposed authenticity of an ascriptive category. Most religious fundamentalism has this structure, but it also takes more benign forms, such as the suburban American who rediscovers his Celtic heritage, names his child Cahal or Aidan, and takes up residence at the local Irish pub. The other option is moral affirmation of freedom itself, as the sole meaningful value. This is often accompanied by a proselytizing desire to bring freedom to others.17

Because of this, there is a very powerful tendency within liberal societies for the development of precisely the type of “secular evangelism” that Banks described. It acquires a peculiar urgency, because it serves to resolve a powerful tension, indeed to resolve an identity crisis, within modern cultures. It often becomes strident, in part due to a lingering suspicion that it is not strong enough to support the weight that it is being forced to bear.
Essay  Modernity  Philosophy  Politics  Literature  Books 
february 2018 by ejb1569
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s…
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february 2018 by pelles
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s…
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february 2018 by loganrhyne
RT : Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks
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february 2018 by rjw1
RT : Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks via
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february 2018 by burritojustice
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s…
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february 2018 by dainiusblynas
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s…
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february 2018 by anglepoised
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s…
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february 2018 by indirect
A particularly cogent summary of the subversive Banks's works. I especially like the off-hand observation that '"Getting to know someone," in our society, involves asking them about the choices they have made in life, not the circumstances they were born into.' This implies a great deal about how to evaluate cultures' values.
books  culture  politics  scifi  writing  philosophy  worldbuilding 
february 2018 by dogrover
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s…
from instapaper
february 2018 by adrianhon
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s Use of Weapons. “In Thailand, they have this thing called the Dog. via Pocket
IFTTT  Pocket 
february 2018 by subsonik
Many years ago, a friend of mine who knows about these sorts of things handed me a book and said “Here, you have to read this.” It was a copy of Iain M. Banks’s Use of Weapons. “In Thailand, they have this thing called the Dog.
Pocket 
february 2018 by iiska
RT : Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks
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december 2017 by wolverian
In fact, modern science fiction writers have had so little to say about the evolution of culture and society that it has become a standard trope of the genre to imagine a technologically advanced future that contains archaic social structures. The most influential example of this is undoubtedly Frank Herbert’s Dune, which imagines an advanced galactic civilization, but where society is dominated by warring “houses,” organized as extended clans, all under the nominal authority of an “emperor.” Part of the appeal obviously lies in the juxtaposition of a social structure that belongs to the distant past – one that could be lifted, almost without modification, from a fantasy novel – and futuristic technology.

Such a postulate can be entertaining, to the extent that it involves a dramatic rejection of Marx’s view, that the development of the forces of production drives the relations of production (“The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.”1). Put in more contemporary terms, Marx’s claim is that there are functional relations between technology and social structure, so that you can’t just combine them any old way. Marx was, in this regard, certainly right, hence the sociological naiveté that lies at the heart of Dune. Feudalism with energy weapons makes no sense – a feudal society could not produce energy weapons, and energy weapons would undermine feudal social relations.

In this context, what distinguishes Banks’s work is that he imagines a scenario in which technological development has also driven changes in the social structure, such that the social and political challenges people confront are new. Indeed, Banks distinguishes himself in having thought carefully about the social and political consequences of technological development. For example, once a society has semi-intelligent drones that can be assigned to supervise individuals at all times, what need is there for a criminal justice system? Thus in the Culture, an individual who commits a sufficiently serious crime is assigned – involuntarily – a “slap drone,” who simply prevents that person from committing any crime again. Not only does this reduce recidivism to zero, the prospect of being supervised by a drone for the rest of one’s life also serves as a powerful deterrent to crime.

This is an absolutely plausible extrapolation from current trends – even just looking at how ankle monitoring bracelets work today. But it also raises further questions. For instance, once there is no need for a criminal justice system, one of the central functions of the state has been eliminated. This is one of the social changes underlying the political anarchism that is a central feature of the Culture. There is, however, a more fundamental postulate. The core feature of Banks’s universe is that he imagines a scenario in which technological development has freed culture from all functional constraints – and thus, he imagines a situation in which culture has become purely memetic. This is perhaps the most important idea in his work, but it requires some unpacking.
cultural_analysis  book_review  memetics 
december 2017 by anaximander