Phoenix from the Ashes: The Literature of the Remade World

By Carl B. Yoke | Go to book overview

Analysis of the cultures in Orion Shall Rise and observation of their conflicts for power reveals that each seeks to design its own perception of dominance in whatever manner possible.

Each culture has social deviance, but what is perceived as deviance in one setting may not be considered so in another. From a sociological perspective, deviance is in the eyes of the beholder and can be considered such only if the beholder has the power to define it. The power to define the situation implies control of the "rule framework" by which normal and deviant are defined. But without the use of direct force, one culture cannot make another immediately accept its "rule framework" for definitions of deviance. One culture must always control power--in some way--if it is to enforce its definitions of deviance and normality on another, powerful culture. 3

In many instances enforcing power and the definitions of deviance is achieved by one culture supplanting another through conflict and then absorbing its existing "rule framework" and adapting it to achieve stratification and balance. This concept comes directly from the work of Ibn Khaldun, the first individual to explain the sociological theme of cultural entropy. An Arab intellectual of the early 1400s, Khaldun studied the historial process of the rise and fall of civilizations. He found that as one culture becomes static and weak, after having reached its pinnacle, it stagnates. An outside group (in Khaldun's studies and research, it is the nomadic tribes) eventually supplants the previously dominant culture, absorbs and replaces it. The process then repeats itself. This unending process, as perceived by Khaldun, is the sociological theme of cultural entropy, or the rise and fall of civilizations. As revealed in Orion Shall Rise, cultures as well as individuals are ready to supplant and displace each other; the sociological theme of cultural entropy applies equally to both in one form or another.

Ibn Khaldun's concept is evident in all of Poul Anderson's fiction as it is in many works by other major writers, such as Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Robert A. Heinlein, James Blish, Brian Aldiss, and André Norton, to name but a few. Each culture, and each individual, in Orion Shall Rise believes its, or his, approach is the more logical one. Consequently, conflict continues until one or the other falls prey to something or someone stronger.

Orion Shall Rise not only contains some of Poul Anderson's finest writing, it is a superb case study of conflict and power. No doubt, in time it will be ranked as a masterpiece of sociological science fiction.


NOTES
1.
An in-depth analysis of Dahrendorf's complex theory may be found in Ralf Dahrendorf , Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society ( Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1959). The researcher and reader will also find the following references valuable as they pertain to sociology and literature: Thomas N. Carver, "The Basis of Social Conflict," American Journal of Sociology XIII ( 1908), pp. 628-37; Lewis A. Coser , The Functions of Social Conflict (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1956); Robert E. Park,

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