Where No Man Has Gone Before: Star Trek and the Death of Cultural Relativism in America

Kenneth Anderson


This 1997 Times Literary Supplement (London) essay reviews the 1996 Star Trek (Next Generation) film First Contact, along with a book of essays in cultural studies about Star Trek (Taylor Harrison, et al., Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek). Of greatest long term interest in the moral and political philosophy of Star Trek is the so-called Prime Directive - non interference in local culture on local planets. This Vietnam era ethic of cultural relativism was prominent in the original 1960s Star Trek series as much for its assertion as for being regularly violated by Captain Kirk and his crew. The review essay argues that among liberal elites, cultural relativism has transmogrified from a doctrine of do-your-own-thing of the sixties and seventies into a doctrine of liberal authoritarianism justified, peculiarly, on a claim of cultural relativism - transformed into the ideology of multiculturalism.