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Thread: The Empire of Azad (SPOILERS).

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    Default The Empire of Azad (SPOILERS).

    Out of all the comparatively primitive interstellar humanoid civilizations to feature in the Culture series, the one that I still find horrifyingly fascinating and distinctive is the Empire of Azad (with the humanoid factions in Use of Weapons and Surface Detail having their hang ups with some cruel plutocrats, but still fairly sane and equalitarian in comparison to Azad).

    The Culture noted how the Azadians were able to be governed by an absolute monarchy, a unwieldy system able to endure for many centuries after countless other similar systems were reformed or overthrown. Azad's Game served as a similar function to the Chinese dynasties' exam systems in selecting ruling officials for the Empire, a strong cultural reason for the survival of the Imperial system, and proved to be a relatively fragile lynchpin that Special Circumstances cunningly exploited.

    Also the Azadians had their unusual third sex, the Apex gender who wielded a disproportionate amount of wealth and power, wielding their wealth and power extraordinarily badly I might add. I assume in Azad's security and armed forces the regular males were mainly the grunts, with officers mainly being Apex (though I imagine some Apexes serving as frontline infantrymen as an act of rebellion).

    What do you think of the Empire of Azad? A believable setting or a cartoonish caricature of real life dictatorships and empires?
    'Poverty is not an injustice. There is no such thing as causes for poverty, only causes for wealth. Poverty is not a wrong, but taking money from those who have it to equalize incomes is basically theft, which is wrong.' - Typical Randroid

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    The Empire of Azad. Characterizing the empire as an absolute monarchy is a bit misleading, since there are also elements of oligarchy involved. Monarchy tends to describe a type of governance based on hereditary rule, which doesn't really describe the empire. The empire is a combination of autocratic (dominated by a single person) and aristarchic (controlled and organised by a small group of the most-qualified people). The game is the exam system used to decide who wields power in the Azadian government. The ruling elite is biased in favor of the Apex gender, much as males dominated virtually all Earth governments, and positions of power, until recently. Banks uses these various elements to create a system of government, that seems familiar to us but features its own peculiarities.

    So believable, or not? There is a bit of caricature to it, but Banks skillfully grounds the empire in human systems we are familiarity with, so as to give us a baseline perspective on the whole he's created. The longtime exam system of China, as BO mentions, autocratic systems of the past and present, genocidal elements of the Nazis to provide a sense of horror, and the sexist proclivities of male domination. Is all this a bit over the top, perhaps, but I still think it works pretty well. Watching the Azadian Empire unravel under it's own contradictions and inequities, when the Culture pulls a few threads, is vicariously enjoyable.

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    I'd say in practice the Empire acts an absolute monarchy even though the ruling monarch gets selected in a funny way instead of being born into the role (though sons appointed as successors to the previous Roman Princep did not usually end well).

    Azad in previous centuries could've been not so blatantly tyrannical and batshit insane as it was when Gurgeh paid them a visit, in previous centuries the Game could've been an eccentric but bearable competitive democracy up until the Azadian hardliners (ie the military junta, industrialists, and aristocratic houses, etc) slowly corrupted and then intentionally rigged the Game in their favour (with a long succession of external wars and internal crackdowns cranking up the institutional sadism).

    The Empire of Azad is a winner takes all society taken to pathological extremes, with the quality of life for most sentients living under its yoke being inexcusable given the technology (or because of it, with perhaps early AI and perfected automation abused by the ruling caste to indirectly produce a gigantic slum class). It's shown that even many Apex Azadians, in spite of their privileged gender and racial "purity", get punished by the Empire's economic system that's even less self-aware of its own mercilessness than our own economic system.

    Medical technology was implied to be almost advanced as the Culture's but of course the ruling Azad plutocrats sat on it. The system had grown untenable and there were strange contradictions to it (crushing poverty alongside vulgar gaudiness, noble heroism alongside systematic brutality).

    I imagine in my head that the Empire of Azad would be North Korea in space:
    Last edited by Big Orange; 20-06-2013 at 01:15 AM.
    'Poverty is not an injustice. There is no such thing as causes for poverty, only causes for wealth. Poverty is not a wrong, but taking money from those who have it to equalize incomes is basically theft, which is wrong.' - Typical Randroid

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    Quote Originally Posted by charismatic megafauna View Post
    Characterizing the empire as an absolute monarchy is a bit misleading, since there are also elements of oligarchy involved. Monarchy tends to describe a type of governance based on hereditary rule, which doesn't really describe the empire.
    Nonsensical.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dunkoveru View Post
    Nonsensical.
    Not really, not when Roman Imperators were often adopted by their predecessors or seized power with the support of the legions/praetorians.
    'Poverty is not an injustice. There is no such thing as causes for poverty, only causes for wealth. Poverty is not a wrong, but taking money from those who have it to equalize incomes is basically theft, which is wrong.' - Typical Randroid

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    dunce, nonsensical why? If you aren't going to join in discussions other than to leave, well nonsense, go away you're just being a brat. Act like an adult and you'll be treated as one.

    BO, realize it's just a spelling typo, but it's such a hilarious visual image I laughed out loud, yolk, when you meant yoke. North Korea is the world's first Communist monarchy. Is that a total oxymoron or what? I thought of North Korea too, but then ruled it out because they're simply a bunch of nuclear armed incompetents.

    I've always considered the Azadian Empire to be a Banksian satire. A vast empire built on amorality, arrogance, hatred, and senseless destruction. Sort of a worst case synthesis of the Romans, Nazis, and North Koreans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by charismatic megafauna View Post
    BO, realize it's just a spelling typo, but it's such a hilarious visual image I laughed out loud, yolk, when you meant yoke.
    It's getting late on my end...

    North Korea is the world's first Communist monarchy. Is that a total oxymoron or what? I thought of North Korea too, but then ruled it out because they're simply a bunch of nuclear armed incompetents.
    Well by the scale of the Milky Way they're akin to an annoying, pretentious rogue state like NK (and the Azadians were brutal incompetents armed with interstellar battleships instead). And North Korea has actually more in common with Imperial Japan than Soviet Russia, with North Koreans having a firmer belief in the purity and dominance of Korean culture against racially inferior Westerners rather than a Marxist command economy (look up B.R Myers' The Cleanest Race).

    I've always considered the Azadian Empire to be a Banksian satire. A vast empire built on amorality, arrogance, hatred, and senseless destruction. Sort of a worst case synthesis of the Romans, Nazis, and North Koreans.
    Word.
    'Poverty is not an injustice. There is no such thing as causes for poverty, only causes for wealth. Poverty is not a wrong, but taking money from those who have it to equalize incomes is basically theft, which is wrong.' - Typical Randroid

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    BO, just watched the NK propaganda vid. Pretty hilarious stuff, if you find dour armed parades funny. And they say everybody loves a parade. Other than the portrait of the glorious leader and the middle young girl of the trio, everybody takes solemn to elevated levels, I didn't notice a single smile or happy countenance anywhere. Extremely serious business this being the sole bulwark against capitalist running dogs and paper tigers everywhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by charismatic megafauna View Post
    Extremely serious business this being the sole bulwark against capitalist running dogs and paper tigers everywhere.
    No, they see themselves as the first and last defence of the Hermit Kingdom against the unclean American hordes, misguided South Koreans, and other shifty East Asians (the Japanese in particular).
    'Poverty is not an injustice. There is no such thing as causes for poverty, only causes for wealth. Poverty is not a wrong, but taking money from those who have it to equalize incomes is basically theft, which is wrong.' - Typical Randroid

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    Whatever their motivations, they're hardly the first, and certainly not the last, to see themselves as cultural/genetic/moralistic paragons. They're not a group of happy campers. I imagine Lenin would be appalled to be associated with the loonies of a Communist monarchy.

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