- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Alternative Futures: Disarray
Appendix E to Alternative Futures describes a world in which we see a recognizable world absent of apparent transformations, yet the systems and supports necessary for civilization are failing. Humanity faces endemic crime, social unrest and disorder, widespread poverty, ignorance, infertility, violent confrontation and war, famines, or pandemics. The emphasis is on individuals who are heroically striving to restore justice, order, and protect citizens.
In this archetype, although in the absence of apparent transformational changes in the economy or atmospheric environment, mankind faces structural endogenous problems. The globe is plagued by any of the following: endemic crime, social unrest and disorder, widespread poverty, ignorance, infertility, violent confrontation and war, famines, or pandemics; or by a combination of these. Although the private sector is still present, military and policing organizations, either official or non-official, have a more central role in this future. Individual endeavors zero in on restoring or maintaining justice, order, or protection of citizens. (Fergnani & Song, 2020, p. 11)
Absence of apparent transformational changes in the economy or atmospheric environment: 3 examples out of 3 novels examined = 100%
Descriptions Summarized: The whole point of the Disarray archetype is to explore a recognizable world where the systems and supports that modern people rely on are failing. It acknowledges our existence as fragile and admits that our current existence is dependent on countless variables over which we have no control. While there is no apparent transformational change in society, this archetype gives voice to the fear that a collapse will soon come if we cannot find a way to restore order. In each book examined, technology featured prominently and negatively.
Mankind faces endemic crime, social unrest and disorder, widespread poverty, ignorance, infertility, violent confrontation and war, famines, or pandemics: 10 examples out of 3 novels examined = 333%
Descriptions Summarized: No theme of any archetype examined has been so heavily expressed as a percentage of the books reviewed (333%). The archetype Disarray absolutely revels in long expositions about how broken things are. It may be considered the "bleak" or "hopeless" archetype. Everything is falling apart, and the problems seem insurmountable. There is a sense of doom as one stares into the face of oncoming calamity.
Although the private sector is still present, military and policing organizations, either official or non-official, have a more central role in this future: 2 examples out of 3 novels examined = 67%
Descriptions Summarized: Who will people turn to disaster when threatens? The most likely response is to call "911" and hope law enforcement will arrive in time. Or perhaps the nature of the threat is so grave that the military must be called out. However, clear solutions are not evident, and the low response rate for this category (67%) indicates that there is very little hope that effective help will come from traditional sources.
Individual endeavors zero in on restoring or maintaining justice, order, or protection of citizens: 2 examples out of 3 novels examined = 66%
Descriptions Summarized: If there is a specific problem to address, people feel that action can be taken to restore order. For instance, one can race to restore the electrical grid before the nuclear reactors overheat. However, if the endemic nature of the crisis is severe, the characters' struggles become more intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual.
Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, c2013.
Fergnani, A. & Song, Z. (2020). The six scenario archetypes framework: A systematic investigation of science fiction films set in the future. Futures, (124, 102645) ISSN 0016-3287, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2020.102645
Merritt, T. (2022). Imagining the future: The rapid classification of fiction archetypes. ResearchGate, (PDF) Imagining the Future: The rapid classification of fiction archetypes (researchgate.net)
Rovai, A., Baker, J. & Ponton, M. (2014) Social science research design and statistics: A practitioner’s guide to research methods and IBM SPSS analysis (2nd ed.). Chesapeake: Watertree Press, LLC.