A sociologist discusses the political leanings of Katniss Everdeen

Would Katniss fit in with political progressives, the Tea Party, or libertarians? One sociologist weighs in:

“I was convinced to read them by a vegan radical historian I knew from Japanese camp,” she says. While reading it in the context of the growing income gap, and the frustration that was causing, in the States, Armstrong-Hough recalls that it was impossible not to notice the social commentary, nor to untie the strands of it from the plot. And yet, particularly given the flipped switch of Mockingjay, wherein the revolutionaries show their own capacity for cruelty and depravity, she says, “I don’t think the franchise is promoting any particular kind of society.”Instead, according to Armstrong-Hough, it’s a model of total resistance. “We see politicking, corruption, and unjustified violence from both the guardians of the status quo in the Capitol and the architects of the rebellion,” she says. “Katniss, whom we naturally align ourselves with, rejects both these systems.”

This double rejection feels timely, Armstrong-Hough notes. “So many Americans are disenchanted with politics itself, not just one side of the aisle or the other.”

“What I did see, though, was a sort of theory of social change that I found surprisingly sophisticated,” she says, adding that the books remind her of the ideas of James C. Scott, a Yale-based social and political theorist. An influential, self-described “crude Marxist” professor who lives on a farm and raises animals in between publishing tomes about anarchism, Scott is a figure of interest to people on both ends of the ideological spectrum. The New York Times called one of Scott’s books “a magisterial critique of top-down social planning that has been cited, and debated, by the free-market libertarians of the Cato Institute… development economists and partisans of Occupy Wall Street alike.”…

Beyond just advocating personal resistance to forces of political control, she says the books put forth the idea that “violence breeds docility.” “I don’t mean that threatening people with violence makes them docile, because it doesn’t. I mean that teaching people to be violent and consume violence makes them docile,” she explains. “The Games institutionalize a political docility not so much because they threaten violence to the districts’ children, but because they create a society in which people think they must choose survival over solidarity. I think a lot of people, regardless of their political affiliation, feel like there has been a lot of being forced to choose survival over solidarity going around in the US.”

So The Hunger Games is a Marxist critique where the games distract everyone from the oppression from the Capitol? Or is it at the end primarily about not giving into revenge and instead establishing a stable society (since Katniss shoots Coin rather than Snow)?

The book ends like a lot of these kinds of stories often do: the heroine returns home, troubled by all the conflict, settled into “normal” family life. In fact, there isn’t much vision at the end of what Panem has become. We are told that kids are taught about the Hunger Games. But, what kind of government do they have? How do all the districts get along? The story isn’t terribly concerned with all of this; much of the energy of the series is about fighting the long battle, not about depicting the better society.

 

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