The Other Dismal Science

“Good morning, ye earnest seekers of wisdom. I am Reader Olíäth Rian, and I am your primary instructor for this class. Welcome to EX0487, Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion. For our foreign students who are now looking confused, you may have seen this class listed under ‘political science’, and you may be in the right place. I shall return to that in a moment.

“It is, I believe, customary at this point to emphasize both that I, and my colleagues, will do everything we can to help you become your absolute best and master the material contained within this course, and yet that should you fail to do so, we will nonetheless crush your hopes mercilessly in the best interests of this institution’s reputation and that of its successful graduates. Since this is a second-level course, however, let us take that as read.

“Before we begin, there is often some confusion concerning precisely what this course is among those, shall we say, less familiar with the local organization of knowledge. Here’s what this class is not: if you want to learn how to run governances, administration is the purview of the Thousand Wisdoms Academy, civil engineering is held in the Cog, the law is on its own subcampus, and so on, and so on. If you’re here to talk, everything from negotiation to manipulation and sophont relations is taught in the applied memetics building; back out the front door, turn left, you can’t miss it — they make sure of that in a first-semester class project every year. And the Imperial War College isn’t on this planet. Meanwhile, if you want to serve your fellow soph, we have an entire business school devoted to that.”

“What it is is a detailed sophontological and sociomemetic study of the techniques used to induce in large populations – from the obvious primal fear, envy, self-righteousness, mistrust, and suchlike to the more philosophically advanced – a belief in self-appointed authorities and their ethical exemptionalism. Or, as one of last year’s outworld students put it rather pithily, ‘how to make people sell themselves into serfdom and pay for the privilege’.

“Now, let me address those few of our students who are – there are always a few – looking at turning our lessons here around into their very own dictator-in-a-box kit. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look to the docuspheres which are even now streaming this lecture to our off-campus students and everyone auditing the class over the extranet. Consider how hopelessly outnumbered you are by the people who are about to learn all the same tricks as you. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

“And finally, before we get started, there is an academic certamen component to this course, so would those students, foreign or otherwise, who have some political theory to defend already go ahead and light up… Now that’s not all of you. Don’t be shy now – you knew when you applied that we treat argument as a blood sport hereabouts.”

– Reader Olíäth Rian welcomes the class of 7240