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Read science fiction for “the most interesting thought about human society”?

Historian Walter Russell Mead thinks so:

At a time when many academics have become willfully obscure, political science is increasingly dominated by arcane and uninspiring theories and in which a fog of political correctness makes some forms of (badly needed) debate and exploration off limits, science fiction has stepped forward to fill the gap. In the work of writers like David Brin and Neal Stephenson there is more interesting reflection on America's place in the world than you will find, I fear, in a whole year's worth of reading in foreign policy magazines. Robert Heinlein's work brilliantly lays out the ideology of populist libertarianism and predicted the revolt against the welfare state that has defined American politics since the 1980s. Read C. J. Cherryh's foreigner novels for insight into international relations and her Cyteen novels to sharpen your wits about both international politics and the impact of technological change on human society.

(Cited in the Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2010)

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