World War Z as a Sociopolitical Assessment of Globalization

World War Z as a Sociopolitical Assessment of Globalization World War Z showed readers that what may have worked in peace time was unsuited for war. By doing so Brooks was able to make a good assessment of our current global systems with the overarching evaluation of globalization’s literal and metamorphical infectiousness. He uses the novel to comment on the social issues such as government ineptitude, while also playing on innate human fear and our ability to adapt to new situations for the sake of survivability.

By adding an overarching apocalyptic theme with a touch of old-fashioned zombie gore, Brooks is able to provide a thoughtful, entertaining assessment of how different parts of the world would react to a widespread crisis. World War Z is one of the most creative social commentary of our times. It is chilling, to say the least, not only because of the ghouls themselves, but also how the rest of the world reacts to them. Max Brooks was able to depict a huge range of motivations and human intentions in this novel that could be comparable to a sociological study of humans in a time of crisis.

He also does an excellent job of describing the sort of cold, logical planning that was necessary in order to survive a zombie apocalypse and that even after the war is over, the world still has a long way to go before it can move on. Survivalism and disaster preparedness are two other dominant themes in the novel. Many of the interviews in World War Z that come from United States citizens focus on policy changes with the intent of training themselves to thwart off zombie attacks and, in a post-apocalyptic world, rebuilding the country to its former glory.

This was an interesting policy for the United States to take up, as it completely changed the social hierarchy by putting the working class mechanic above the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation (Brooks, 2006: 140). Throughout the novel, Brooks repeatedly presents characters with the sort of mental and physical toughness required to survive a disaster. Although one’s physical fitness is a factor that attributes to one’s survivability, many of these interviews are of ordinary people with extraordinary resiliency who were able to rise to the occasion when they were needed.

In this sense, readers can see a distinction in the United States from the rest of the world in that its citizens are a nation full of individualists who believe that they have the ability to survive any dire situation as long as one has the right “tools and talent” (Brooks, 2004: 140). It was also inspirational to read that in times of extreme adversity man can be beaten and brought to his knees but also rise up to show his resilience, When zombies were first written about, they seemed to be created by magic. In recent decades, however, their origins have become more and more complex.

Today, one would be hard pressed to find a zombie novel or movie where the origin of the zombie species is not from radioactivity and viruses being used as a sort of biological warfare. One thing that many books in the zombie genre do not address is how the rest of the world develops weapons to specifically deal with the zombie threat. Brooks not only creates new weapons in his zombiverse, he also finds new uses for previously existing ones. It is true that new wars create new technology and there is no better motivator than a worldwide crisis such as a potential zombie apocalypse.

World War Z is no exception to this fact, as various peoples around the world were able to adapt and overcome technical limitations when it came to facing a new enemy. The United States Marines, for example, are credited for creating the “Lobotomizer,” a fusion of shovel and double-bladed battle-axe improvised from the recycled steel of cars (Brooks, 2006: 146). People were also able to repurpose the resources that they had in new ways, such as using K-9 units to sniff out zombie populations (Brooks, 2006: 283).

This adaptation and repurposing of resources was crucial in the Zombie War effort and is a reflection on how important a military’s ability to adapt to new situations is in establishing victory in a war. In “Why do some people think they know what is good for others? ” Naeem Inayatulla talks about many westernized country’s desire to give aid to these third world countries and how this can prove to be ineffective if done with the view that these impoverished countries need to be given what the western world thinks they need (Inayatulla, 2009: 345).

This point is further emphasized in Brook’s novel when he describes how these “third world” countries seemed to fare the same, if not a bit better than their first world counterparts. This is especially true when one reads the section of the book with the interview of Xolelwa Azania, or Paul Redeker in the United States of Southern Africa. This interview talks about the origins of the Redeker Plan, which was a systematic way of intentionally sacrificing a large portion of a population in order to save another population in a more easily defensible or important location (Brooks, 2006: 106).

During the zombie outbreak in South Africa, Redeker adapted his Plan Orange 84 into a zombie survival plan should the outbreak become a serious threat. Plan Orange 84 was a “doomsday scenario” survival plan for the Apartheid government if the Black African population rose up against the White Afrikaners. Being a logical and dispassionate person who thought emotions such as love and hate to be inefficient, Plan Orange made Redeker a hated man in South Africa.

Although this plan came at the cost of Redeker’s sanity, it proved to help out the rest of the world by allowing them to adopt and modify the plan for themselves, in addition to indirectly saving thousands, if not millions of people from being turned into zombies and thus wiping out the human race. This leads into the argument that authoritarian regimes tend to be most effective during times of war. It seems that democracies tend to be most effective during peacetime, while authoritarian regimes function best under times of war or crisis.

The reason why this is so effective is because of fear. Authoritarian regimes are most effective when its citizens are afraid of what might happen to them if they break the law or participate in suspicious activities. This is especially true during World War II, when Adolf Hitler was able to amass support from almost an entire country using fear and intimidation. There are many parallels that can be drawn between World War II and World War Z, such as the early responses to the impending crisis. That is to say, arly warnings went unheeded, profiteers made millions selling a placebo to the masses and the military prepared itself with the tools that would have been perfect for the last war that it fought. This is all combined to highlight the fact that almost no one really paid much attention to the crisis until it was staring them in the face, or, more appropriately, shambling towards them. Another prevalent theme that Brooks considers in World War Z is not only that of fear, but the uncertainty that breeds that fear. Zombies are the perfect harbinger of the apocalypse because they do not play by the traditional rules of the “game. Any other enemy, be it another nation or a group of terrorists, initiates or receives an attack and then this sort of back-and-forth warfare begins where you go and fight them and then they retaliate. Zombies have no wartime strategy or vendetta against any particular group. They are thoughtless, infectious humanoids who are driven by one of the most basic instincts of seeking out their next object of consumption. It is the mindlessness of the zombie theme that plays so perfectly into the apocalyptic genre and furthermore the fear of an enemy that acts more like a virus than a predator.

A predator is naturally intelligent and knows not to over-hunt its territory, lest it starve to death. Zombies are undead, and will just continue to infect and consume despite everything. Although the zombie war was rightfully portrayed as a disastrous event, there were some good things that seemed to come out of the war. For example, cooperation between Israel and the neighboring Muslim countries greatly increased during the Great Panic. Israel opened its borders to everyone regardless of their race or religious affiliation.

Although this was only for a short time, this act spoke volumes throughout the world. While this may be a somewhat too idealistic portrayal of what could happen in a situation such as the one presented in World War Z, it is inspirational to imagine countries that were once enemies band together to face a common enemy in order to survive. Perhaps one of the more surprising stories in World War Z is how Brooks imagines Cuba dealing with the zombie crisis and even coming out as one of the world’s postwar superpowers. Cuba became an ideal refuge for a number of reasons.

Besides being surrounded by Caribbean waters, which gave Cubans time to prepare for the invasion, their lack of diplomatic ties to the United States, their militaristic dictatorship and their generally well-educated populace helped to resist the first waves of zombies. Early outbreaks were handled in brutal fashion and the Cuban military fortified their shorelines early on and only let in the most desirable workers and talent. Although Cuba was by no means spared from the heavy fighting during the war, their early successes made them one of, if not the most desirable nation to flee to (Brooks, 2006: 228-233).

World War Z is a novel that redefined and repopularized a genre while also giving a thought-provoking look on how the world might react to a disaster on a worldwide scale. Max Brooks writes his novel with such a finesse and realistic perspective that one might be misled into thinking that a zombie apocalypse is something that could actually happen in the future. The personal accounts of people help to give a frighteningly accurate commentary on modern society by playing into innate human fear and desire to survive.

All in all, World War Z takes a serious, geopolitical and sociopolitical look at a fantastical premise and disastrous event with a keen eye for detail. He also shows just how resilient man can be when faced with extreme adversity. Brooks, Max. 2006. World War Z: an oral history of the zombie war. 1st ed. New York: Crown. Inayatulla, Naeem. 2009. “Why do some people think they know what is good for others? ” in Global Politics: a new introduction, edited by Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss, (New York: Routledge), Ch. 15, pp. 344-369.

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