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Dystopian Social Contract Essay

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Updated: Apr 25th, 2019

In order to have more benefits and attain a desired level of personal security, individuals enter into social contracts. However, in a bid to increase safety, personal freedom is diminished. When the diminution is equitable, fairness prevails unlike when one party is exposed to greater diminution of personal freedom, like in Panem.

In such a case, then one side is enslaved to another. The Hunger Games series 1 is a science-fiction drama that delineates the situation of enslavement among the citizens of Panem to the governing class that reside in a city called Capitol.

In every country, social contracts exist to delineate each party’s, government and citizens, obligation to the other. There are some social contracts in Panem that either encourage or suppress the citizens. There is a contract between the small ruling class and those in the 12 districts, where dominance of this governing ruling class prevails.

This social contract is characterized by suppression, oppression, starvation and torture. The citizens of Panem work as ordered by the governing class, for the benefit of this class, and in return they only get supplies for their survival.

Since the rebellion that happened some years earlier, in addition to working, they should sacrifice their own children. The citizens have a social contract amongst themselves: citizenry, which is to work collectively for the sake of their well being (Durden).

Each district’s produce is based on prevailing resources. For example, in district 12, they are largely miners. Rebelling against the Capitols could lead to a disastrous end as was the case with the annihilation of district 13. Out of this event, the hunger games were born (Collins).

The young adults engage in a “kill, or be killed, war,” which is the reason for the title “Hunger Games” (Durden). These games are an act of submission by the populace to the cruelty of the Capitols, and a source of the Capitols’ amusement.

It is a social contract that guides the people to sacrificing their children for the hunger games by attending these games. The media apparently forms a social contract with the Capitols to televise the hunger games and spread propaganda developed by this governing class.

In return, their socioeconomic status quo is maintained (Arrow). Unfortunately, the devotion of the citizens is abused for the selfish gain of the elite ruling class. Later on, the citizenry social contract enables the citizens of Panem to actually understand that they don’t need to fight each other.

The people agree to rebel against the harsh ruling class. Individuals in the 12 Districts and the elites have a social contract dictating that people living in Panem should not hunt beyond the electric fences that border each district, but Katniss and Gale have their own social contract, which is to defy this rule.

The governing elites are able to control the populace and enforce the social contract by controlling hope. When there is a faint hope within, people are less likely to be rebellious unlike when all hope is gone since they feel they have nothing to lose (“May the odds”).

There is hope for a better future; hence, the people hope to get enough food and stay alive. The Capitols have control over electricity supplies and food, and in order to get these supplies, parents have got to send their children into the pit of hunger games. Also, the governing elite divide and conquer.

They pit districts against each other; thus, creating division among the districts. They also use force and oppression as is the case with the hunger games. The lives of citizens at Panem are totally controlled by the Capitols, and a slight deviance is met with cruel punishment as a means of reinforcing the Capitols’ social contract (Collins).

The Hunger Games series 1 is reflective of the current society where governments tax people’s income for objectives not in line with the people’s. In addition, the governments do not protect the people as should be the case.

Instead, corruption is the norm and the original values of the social contract are gradually becoming shattered (Durden). When an effective and fair social contract is in place, no man is above the law, but when those in power forget the initial purpose of such a contract, this statement starts to fade away.

When this happens, governments are above the law and whatever they do is not in the best interests of their citizens. The United States is in a similar state as the Panem, and if things go on, it would mean the end of the U.S. (Durden).

The U.S. is continually changing from bad to worse. In the times of modern social contract, things were relatively good with higher wages and dependable benefits due to the New Deal era. Later, a system of low wages and cheap consumer prices set in. Things have not improved as they have progressed to the detriment of workers.

There are sentiments that lower prices on goods, lower taxes and tax credits enable consumers to have a higher purchasing power. However, the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that 10% of the total working population in America, including 5 million full-time workers, live in lavishing poverty (Freedman and Michael).

It is evident that the U.S. is gradually becoming another Panem due to dwindling living conditions that are frustrating the citizens. This is the culture that Suzanne Collins is critiquing.

The citizens have entrusted their wellbeing to their governments, who have turned against them. Instead, the governments are working for their own selfish gain at the expense of the citizens (“May the odds”).

Whereas the districts in Panem are divided by the Capitols using fights, in the current society, such wars are evident in classism, gender inequality, racism and civil wars (“May the odds”). There are numerous instances of parallelism between the Hunger Games and the current American culture, being critiqued by Suzanne.

The Hunger Games series 1 was produced in 2008 when the crisis in the United States began. It was during this time that the capitalists, in the wake of global competition, developed social contracts in their favor. The aim was to enrich the kleptocratic governing class at the expense of the working middle class and impoverished citizens.

It is an effective critique that would have been made better if it were specifically targeting adults. Hunger Games target the young adults, and this content is a little too harsh for them to decipher. In the current society, social contract also subsists between the government and its people.

The citizens of a country willingly work for the sake of their government, which in turn is expected to protect them from physical and economic harm. Hunger Games are a reflection of post-modern North America (Tammy). Panem came about as a result of disasters and famine that left the country at the mercy of the Capitols.

In America, there are frequent disasters and even though mitigation efforts seem to be well placed, frequent disasters coupled with the encroachment of the sea can convert North America into a real Panem (Arrow).

Works Cited

Arrow, V. The Panem Companion. Dallas: Benbella Books, 2012. Web.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Web.

Durden Tyler. “Is America’s social contract broken?” ABC Media, 18 July 2013. Web.

Freedman, Josh and Michael Lind. “The Past and Future of America’s Social Contract.” The Atlantic, 19 December 2013. Web.

May the odds ever be in your favour-hope and defiance. 9 December 2013. Web.

Tammy, John. “Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” Illustrates the Horrors of Big Government.” Forbes, 20 March 2012. Web.

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