Study Guide

Dune Politics

By Frank Herbert


Have you ever seen the list of things the Tasmanian Devil on Looney Tunes eats? It's pretty extensive (source). And that's what the Tasmanian Devil and politics have in common: they consume everything. Well, that and garbled speech patterns. Anyway, in Dune, there is almost nothing politics doesn't shape in some way. The family structures of the Harkonnens and the Atreides are shaped by politics; the Spacing Guild assures that getting from point A to point B requires political red tape; and even the decision of who lives and who dies is harnessed by the political system. Is there anything politics doesn't shape? Hmm, how about we throw that question right back at you?

Questions About Politics

  1. Why do you think Herbert chose a feudal system of government for his futuristic society? What aspects of politics does this system of government allow the novel to explore? Does it enhance or distract from any other themes, characterizations, or philosophies of the novel?
  2. Does nature shape politics or does politics shape nature on Arrakis? Don't feel like you have to pick one side or the other. You can be as nuanced in your approach as you want. Just don't forget the textual evidence.
  3. What difference do you see between the politics of the Imperium and the Fremen? How do you see these differences changing the society they are a part of? How do these differences illuminate the theme of politics? (If you want, you can also answer these questions with the similarities between the two.)
  4. Now for something different. Choose another form of government: democracy, communism, meritocracy, plutocracy, whatever. How would the story of Dune be different under this form of government? How do you think these changes would alter the novel's themes? Don't forget to explain why.

Chew on This

The Baron Harkonnen is the exemplary politician in Dune. Hey, he's not a nice guy. He's just the best politician.

Duke Leto's ultimate downfall was his lack of political savvy.

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