The science fiction universe is often a mirror to our own. Gene Roddenberry’s universe certainly contains worldly plays which allow us to see prejudices in our own universe.
One of my favourite examples of this is the Borg, a cyborg race showcasing the disadvantages and some advantages of an alternative state of being, that is, one which has augmented itself with technology so completely, even the brain is radically changed.
Individuals in this culture do not exactly exist; rather they form part of the collective. Collectivism was a frightening concept to the American culture in Roddenberry’s time, largely because it seemed to have got connected to communism somehow. For this reason, it made a great super antagonist for the series.
Today, in this post Cold War universe, the connection between collectivism has faded, so we can more safely explore the possibility of experimenting with collectivism without incurring the wrath of McCarthyism etc.
So what is collectivism? It has a few meanings but the more relevant meaning which relates to what I do from day to day is a means of deciding how a business runs.
In this capitalistic world we find it easier to live if we can exchange currency for what we like to do. This in turn allows us to us to use the currency to facilitate doing more things that we like to do. This all seems agreeable until we find ourselves having to trade individual liberty in exchange for currency. Collectivism preserves people's individual liberty by making sure everyone involved in a business is making the decisions that affect them, not handing that freedom over to a manager or team leader. I still find those words distasteful…
Collectives then are something different to the everyday. They leave room for their members or owners (in this case members are owners), to define them as they choose. The one ingredient I think most important is that the collective exists for a different reason than most businesses: rather than existing to make profit, they exist to provide a livelihood for their members. Just this one difference makes for a fundamental shift.