Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Paul Mason on Game of Thrones

...If you apply historical materialism to Westeros, the plot of season five and six becomes possible to predict. What happened with feudalism, when kings found themselves in hock to bankers, is that – at first – they tried to sort it out with naked power. The real-life Edward III had his Italian bankers locked up in the Tower of London until they waived his debts.
But eventually the power of commerce began to squash the power of kings. Feudalism gave way to a capitalism based on merchants, bankers, colonial plunder and the slave trade. Paper money emerged, as did a complex banking system for assuaging problems like your gold mine running dry.
But for this to happen you need the rule of law. You need the power of kings to become subject to constitutional right, and a moral code imposed on business, trade and family life. But that won’t happen in Westeros, where the elite lifestyle is synonymous with rape, pillage, arbitrary killing, torture and recreational sex.
So what Westeros needs is not an invasion of werewolves from the frozen north, but the arrival of a new kind of human being: they should be dressed in black, with white lace collars, stern faces and an aversion to sex and drink. In a word, Westeros needs capitalists – such as those who frown puritanically at us from Dutch portraits in the 17th century. And they should, as in the Dutch Republic and the English civil war, launch a revolution.
But that can’t happen in the secondary world of fantasy fiction. The thinning process can never be allowed to end; it must be perpetual for the conceit of the drama to work.
There is a reason so much fantasy fiction adopts the conceit of a feudalism that is always in crisis but never overthrown. It forms the ideal landscape in which to dramatise the secret desires of people who live under modern capitalism...

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