Re[2]: LIT: Culture

Guru George (
Thu, 3 Apr 1997 11:07:04 GMT

On Wed, 2 Apr 1997 15:02:58 -0800 (PST) (The Low Golden Willow) wrote:

>On Apr 2, 9:43pm, Guru George wrote:


>} I suppose if we're going to get machines to look after us and drop the *
>} necessity* of work, the Culture's as good a vision of that as you could
>} hope for. But Banks is always wrestling with the inherent boringness of
>} such a situation.
>Boring to write about, yes. That's why all his books deal with abnormal
>circumstances. Boring to live in? Hah. Only for those who don't know
>what to do with their lives, but never have time to worry about it
>because they're too caught up in or exhausted by working for their
The title story of Banks' recent collection of Culture short stories,
'State of the Art', and a few of the other stories in there, are all
about this. (There's also a great anticapitalist rant in State of the
Art itself!)

It's not so much that there's a lack of things to do in the Culture,
it's that there's a lack of any *reason* to do *anything*. Everything's
too easy, or has already been done; while part of the fun of life is
overcoming the world's 'resistance', having something to*push against* -
a cliche, I know, but nevertheless true. (Have you come across the work
of a psychologist called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi?)

As we are now, struggle and all, we might say it's a fair trade: give up
the dubious Daoistic blessings of life's troublesomeness for the
tangible benefits of the Culture. But, as Banks toys with in State of
the Art, people who have lived in the Culture might see it the other way.

(Interestingly reminiscent of theological arguments about evil, this!)

At any rate, I stand by saying that the Culture, while a possible peak
in cultural design space, isn't a peak we could get to by a socialist
(planned/skyhooks) path, but only by a capitalist (Darwinian/cranes)
path. Actually I think that's Banks' only delusion, and that the Culture
is, pretty much as you say, a possible Beyond type of cultural form, and
on the whole an attractive one. In my criticism of it, I was mixing up
a critique of Banks' fervent anticapitalism with a critique of the
Culture as a possible social design.

Guru George