Star Wars mostly shows how cool lightsaber fights can be. However, it also shows how difficult it is for anyone, Jedi or Sith, to create a workable government on a large scale. Turns out that running a nation with hundreds of planets and billions of people, aliens, and robots, all with their own languages, values, and agendas, is pretty hard. This is especially true if you don’t have the two main ingredients of government: power and authority.
Power is the answer to the question: “What can a government do?” In the Old Republic, the answer to this question was “Almost nothing.” In the Empire, the answer was “Almost everything, including blowing up a planet.”
Authority is the answer to the question: “Why does a government exist?” In the Old Republic, there were tons of answers to this question, including tradition, the legitimization of royalty, religion, and defense against the Dark Side. In the Empire, the only answer was the wrath of their evil agenda and the imposing force of Darth Vader.
The Old Republic had authority but no power. The Empire had power but no authority. Both fell apart predictably in the movies. With no power to actually do anything, the Old Republic fell apart as soon as they faced a serious government problem. With no reason to rule, the Empire was destroyed as soon as they lost military power, much like other fallen empires in our own history.
Will the Rebel Alliance do any better in the upcoming episodes or will the First Order rise to become even more powerful than the Empire? What authority do General Leia and Han Solo have to rebuild a government and deal with all the problems of an entire galaxy? I think the real question here is whether a galactic government is even possible, or even necessary.
Watch the video below for a breakdown of power and authority in the Star Wars galaxy and how it compares to governments in our world’s history.
Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: This lesson will teach students how to identify the role of power and authority in politics. Students will understand the difference between power and authority in political science.