The bio-cultural imperialism of Sid Meier’s Civilization

Oh yes, you heard me right: The bio-cultural imperialism of Sid Meier’s Civilization.

Say it louder: “The bio-cultural imperialism of Sid Meier”: It had to be written. Somewhere out there in the collective conscience there was an anthropological analysis of Civ and now I have found it. And I rejoice in this knowledge.

Better yet, Kacpar Poblocki’s piece is a lovely cultural-studiesy rant about the Deleuze ‘body without organs’ piece of wet-ware that our bodies become when we exist in the state of “becoming-state” — that is to say, when we play too much Civ. Simply critiquing Civ’s obviously crude teleology would be too simple. No, as Poblocki insists, what we have here is “no blunt propoganda but instead Althusserian unconsciou manifestations of cultura lclaims, of which Meier may well not be aware”. The result is a game in which

Civilization offers an opportunity, literally and in the absolutist sense, to become the state… the state that we become at the same time comes to itself by means of a not always precisely formulated yet salient Hegelian dialectic waltz of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, very much _a la_ Fred Astaire, i.e. up a stairway: e.g. mysticism and the code of laws lead to a more advanced monarchy

There have been other pieces on Civ (including one by David Myers, who has made his “work available for all”: but none manage to combine withering post-modern critique with hours and hours of game play like this wonderful little out-of-the-way piece.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

One thought on “The bio-cultural imperialism of Sid Meier’s Civilization

  1. I was dismayed to read that the tech tree from Civ 1 was basically just pulled out of Sid Meier’s butt. Like Poblocki, at the time I thought that was one of the niftier things about Civ. I’m glad I don’t have Civ 4 because otherwise I’d never get any work done. Still, Rome: Total War and Galactic Civilizations 4 are doing a good enough job of scratching my imperialist itch.

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