Marcuse spends a lot of time regarding the state as a machine that works endlessly at swallowing its inhabitants; forcing them to obey its mandates (that they create themselves) and reducing people to robots. To him, the machine is an adapting, expanding, and unstoppable process:
“If we attempt to relate the causes of the danger to the way in which society is organized and organizes its members, we are immediately confronted with the fact that advanced industrial society becomes richer, bigger, and better as it perpetuates the danger” (Marcuse ix)
“All liberation depends on the consciousness of servitude, and the emergence of this consciousness is always hampered by the predominance of needs and satisfactions which, to a great extent, have become the individual’s own” (Marcuse 7)
“We live and die rationally and productively. We know that destruction is the price of progress as death is the price of life, that reunification and toil are the for gratification and joy, that business must go on, and that the alternatives are Utopian” (Marcuse 145)
Butler, on the other hand, has defined the political system in Parable of the Sower as a system long-since broken down. Hell, no one in the story besides her father even talks about politics or law-making for more than a moment or without utter sarcasm/disdain. There’s not even an American company to be spoken of. The police, which could have been a source of some control or stability, accomplish nothing but being a common street-gang, easily likened to racketeers.
“No. Donner hasn’t got a chance” (Butler 54)
“Even if the cops came today instead of tomorrow, they’d just add to the death toll” (Butler 229)
“I don’t think it’s ever been this bad. Those people, those animals back there…” (Butler 229)
Marcuse sees our system as a self-fulfilling prophecy; we will become cogs in the greater machine bent on progress, or at least that’s what it tells us. Its installed needs and the ramifications for straying from the herd keep close tabs on the already invaded, jaded, and persuaded man – the one-dimensional man. This is a far-cry from Butler’s sci-fi, apocalyptic wasteland that has replaced the land-of-the-brave.
Butler is way off, in a literal sense, of what could happen to the states. At a point much sooner than the time the story takes place, other nations would have moved in for the kill on a country that has long held the envious, anxious eyes of the globe. Cocky, self-righteous America on its knees by its own hands; the world would have its pickings at the most influential and wasteful nation, a nation that has held the world in a hegemonic grip for the past century. Marcuse’s theory of a perpetuating cause/effect brought on by an attempt to control the dangers that we ourselves create is spot on with the never-ending arms race of economies and missiles we work to stockpile every year. Even if we were capable of destroying all we built, as Butler rests her entire story in, what logic could ever bring her to say that other powers, power that have taken note of our behavior, would not leap at an opportunity to share in the glories of our rich past? There is general fear of this even today; false superstitions about China, a so-called super-power, that will ransack America at her prime, but as pointed out by Joseph Stiglitz, former Senior VP and Chief Economist of the World Bank, “China is not only a developing economy; it is a low-income developing country. Yet the United States insisted that China be treated like a developed country! China went along with the fiction…” I believe the wheels are turning too fast for any one monkey-wrench to cause them to falter. When the society is backed so solidly by the drones of a one shallower generation after another, it would take more than force or ‘ro to rip through the machine.
I think the only argument that affronts mine is an idea that Butler proposes; we have the capacity to rot the Earth and turn our climate against us. While I do not intend to argue the legitimacy of global warming or climate shifts, as the phenomenon has been renamed (in an attempt to include any change in our weather, and thus make its creators infallibly correct), I feel the need to stick up for our intelligence. Though irrational at times, people need the system because, well, the system wants them to need it. We die to support that system every day. “We know that destruction is the price of progress as death is the price of life, that reunification and toil are the for gratification and joy, that business must go on, and that the alternatives are Utopian” (Marcuse 145). A utopia may be the death of the system, for all we know, but in our life time, with the nations of the world racing to be (almost) exact replicas of the U.S., the escape or downfall of one would mean nothing but the inevitable and very prompt installation of a shiny new one.
All the world’s a stage, and the theater refuses to go out of business – they have a bottom-line, you know.