Topic: Entertainment & MediaActors

Last updated: December 16, 2019

2018117510 November 28, 2018
1POL3 Professor Ronald M. Castillo M.A.

‘You Win or You Die’ Politics and Social Injustice in Game of Thrones

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This paper focuses on the political behavior of significant characters in a television series entitled Game of Thrones. Furthermore, it discusses the social injustice not only among people who do not belong in the noble houses but also the highborn. These people struggle to survive, forced to conform and often the victims of violence and injustice. This paper uses (Warner & Lunt, 2014) model of social class to classify the different types of political actors. Lastly, it briefly discusses the political institution that affects the political actors and the individuals. Moreover, it analyzes the personal political motives of the political actors and its effects on the constituents of the Seven Kingdoms.
Politics and Social Injustice in Game of Thrones
There is nothing greater than winning the Game of Thrones and sitting on the Iron Throne. This series is certainly political and full of social injustices. It is more than just a game of who gets the throne, it is the game of politics and played by political actors that thrive to obtain power to rule over the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.

By analyzing the politics and social injustice in Game of Thrones, it can be used to study the current and past political problems in the Philippines or in any country. For instance, Mocha Uson’s power is her ability to influence her Facebook followers. She can be compared to Littlefinger since they’re both good at manipulating words and spreading misinformation. Moreover, this paper somewhat parallels the struggle against poverty and socioeconomic inequalities in the society in which (Tadem, 2009) explained that it exacerbated during the Martial Law period in the Philippines.

Social Justice in the Seven Kingdoms

The basis of social justice during the pre-18th century is more on the concept of mercy than justice per se (Fleischacker, 2004, p.56). According to (Gendler, 2015), an educator and contributor at TED Ed who specializes in history and political theory, Game of Thrones is based on the Wars of Roses which happened in the 15th century. During this era, justice system is cruel and evil. Minor crimes today were considered as serious crimes during the medieval period. The concept of social justice would begin with the actuality that there is no written law in the Seven Kingdoms. Thus, the greater the possibility of social injustice among the lowborn.

The Seven Kingdoms attempt to obtain social justice through equal opportunity for every individuals in socioeconomic compass and uphold fair politics and liberty. However, to be able to attain social justice is to achieve the fundamental and formative requirements including democratic participation in decision-making processes (Benerjee, 2011).

With all the understandings of social justice, it is feasible to return to the key aspect of this paper: how does the political institution and political agendas of political actors affect the concept of social justice?

In this paper, Game of Thrones will be analyzed through different political theories and perspectives to prove that it has a spectrum of politics and social injustice. Particularly, political institution and political behavior. Furthermore, this paper will prove that social injustice exists because of the personal political motives of political actors and institution in the Seven Kingdoms.

Background of Game of Thrones

In 2011, David Benioff and D.B. Weise produced and created a television series that is now immensely popular. This series is based on the bestselling book series A Song of Ice and Fire written by George R.R. Martin. The story is set on the fictional continent of Westeros which is divided into Seven Kingdoms and was united by the House Targaryen with the help of dragons. However, the dragons died, and the Targaryen King also known as the Mad King was killed by Jaime Lannister in a coup d’état led by Robert Baratheon, Eddard Stark, Jon Arryn, and Hoster Tully. Robert Baratheon ruled the Seven Kingdoms and resided at King’s Landings, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.


Fig. 1


Societies are divided into social classes: upper, middle, and lower. Warner and Lunt (1941) developed a model of social class (p.99). This model will be used in classifying the political actors of the Seven Kingdoms. Compared to the social classes of 15th century, Warner’s model of social class is composed of six classes. Whereas the social class model of 15th century is composed of two classes, the upper class and the lower class. The upper class is composed of kings, lords, barons, and the clergymen. Lastly, the lower class is composed of peasants and serfs.

The Seven Kingdoms’ Social Stratification

Beginning with the highest class, the upper-upper class is composed of families who have been wealthy for many generations and live lavishly. The House Lannister falls into this class as they possess all the said qualifications. And, by the very fact that they are one of the Great Houses or most powerful noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms, and their infamous motto. Undoubtedly, they are wealthy and more importantly, powerful and manipulative. Another Great House that falls into this class is the House Stark. They are considered as one of the noble Houses for the reason that they ruled over the region as the Kings of in the North. Lastly, the House Targaryen also belong to this class. They were the ruling royal House of the Seven Kingdoms before the rebellion of Robert Baratheon. All Great Houses belong to this class.

In contrary to the latter class, the lower-upper is composed of families who have only recently acquired their wealth but also can be considered elite. The Vassal Houses or lesser houses belong to this class. They are fealty to the Great Houses they are sworn to.

Upper-middle class is composed of professionals and others who are wealthy and at the same time, has achieved high level education. Family lineage is not significant in this class but education and skills are important. Maesters are scholars and healers who belong to this class. The next class is lower-middle class which includes lower-paid white-collar employees. Septons and Septas or clergies and the knights of the Seven Kingdoms belong to this class.

The next class is called the Upper-lower class. It is composed of the working class. People who are not from noble houses are referred as the common folk or the Smallfolk. Some of these people work as farmers outside the city, and some are builders and servants.

The last class is called the Lower-lower class. This class includes the poor and homeless people, those who are permanently unemployed, and the working poor. The Free Folk or Wildlings belong to this class. These people refuse to swear fealty to the King or to any one and do not acknowledge the inheritance of nobility in their community. They refer to themselves as freemen and do not recognize any laws. Therefore, making their society and its people, libertarian. In contrast with King’s Landings absolutist government, the Free Folk follow their own leader whom they chose. Their society can be explained through Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature that the life of man in the society is brutish, unsafe, and dangerous. Due to the fact that they do not have established law and there is no central authority.

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Political Institution

The Seven Kingdoms have a feudal system of government and is ruled by a king – an absolute monarchy. Through institutionalism, it can be analyzed that it is ruled by an unconstitutional regime. The king has seven lords that represent as wardens of their kingdoms. Each Lords have the power to enforce laws and punishments on their own lands. The Hand of the King is the second most powerful official who acts as the advisor of the king. If the rightful king is still a minor and incapacitated, the Regent will rule in the name of the king. The Small Council is an assembly of Lords that counsel the ruler and/or the Hand regarding the law and economy of the Seven Kingdoms.

Government System of the Seven Kingdoms. Through neoinstitutionalism, the political institution of the Seven Kingdoms can be analyzed that it affects its people through social injustice and inequality. The ruler is above the law. This opposes Rousseau’s argument that no individual is above the law. Although, the show did not indicate whether they have written law. Furthermore, they have a trial by combat which can only be invoked by members of the noble houses (Sakharov, The Laws of Gods and Men episode , 2014). Their system is mainly based on John Locke’s social contract. It seeks to create or maintain order and values justice.

Political Behavior and Social Injustice

In analyzing the system of House Stark, it is mainly based on Thomas Hobbes’ social contract. The lesser houses swear fealty to Winterfell in exchange for protection. The system of Game of Thrones can be analyzed through Hans Kelsen’s Theory of Law. He stated that, in a society, there is a grundnorm or basic norm that everyone follows without question. This is the power of the Iron Throne. Any person who sits on the Iron Throne will be obeyed. Cersei Lannister said, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” This is the reason why the Lannisters are so eager to win the Game of Thrones – to be powerful. Although, they are already powerful, with their vast amount of wealth. Cersei Lannister showed how powerful she is when she blew up the Sept of Baelor that killed her enemies (Sapochnik, 2016). Another person that is also powerful is Daenerys Targaryen. She has an army of Dothraki, Unsullied, Mereen and two dragons (formerly three). And the Starks are also powerful with an army of Wildlings. The point of this leads to what Varys said, “power resides where we believe it resides.” Power is subjective. Anyone can possess power even without dragons or armies. Littlefinger is the quintessence of this; his words and misinformation are so powerful that it could kill a man. He even deceived Sansa Stark by convincing her that she would be safe if she’s going to marry Ramsay Bolton. However, he physically and mentally abused her.

Other than the Iron Throne, the dragons also epitomize the absolute sovereign or the leviathan. For instance, these full-grown dragons provide protection to the society or the people of Daenerys Targaryen. This is related to Thomas Hobbes’ social contract.

Daenerys Targaryen’s agenda is to not only retake the Iron Throne but to also rebuild Westeros (Sapochnik, 2016). This is what she said about rebuilding Westeros, “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.” However, Daenerys is more of a normativist, and still has no objective and clear plan on how she will govern the realm. Her philosophy is similar to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract which states that ownership of private property is the origin of evil. Throughout the series, Daenerys has shown that she values fairness more than anything. Cersei Lannister’s father, Tywin Lannister clearly depicts Machiavellian philosophy. He’s deceitful and brutal. This is shown when he plotted the Red Wedding of Robb Stark (Nutter, The Rains of Castamere episode , 2013). This may be immoral, but he did it to achieve a good outcome.
One central challenge to developing a definition of social justice may be the variety of ways in which social injustice is understood. For instance, in Game of Thrones, each kingdom’s warden represents a house. The oldest son will inherit the title of warden and the entire land after his father. The other sons can either choose to work for their house or work outside the house. The daughters of the warden do not get positions through inheritance. However, they may obtain powerful positions only through marriage. Nevertheless, her husband holds the authorization whether he will allow his wife to exercise her power. When a female member of the family marries a man of another family, it is presumed of her to adapt to the rules of her new house and must show support to the members and of the house per se. Usually, a woman is forced to marry a member of the noble house. Through the arranged marriage, the woman’s house will pledge their loyalty to the house of her husband. This is contrary to the argument of Locke (1988) that an individual should be fully at liberty to exercise free will and develop reason. Women do not have the power to refuse to this atrocity. Clearly, men possess more power than women. This policy reeks of inequality among women. And, even in their own House, there is a hierarchy which trivializes and undermines the political capabilities of women. For instance, Cersei Lannister was forced to marry Robert Baratheon for the sake of alliance. It is also the reason for Margaery Tyrell and Joffrey Baratheon’s marriage. Additionally, Viserys forced Daenerys to marry Khal Drogo so that they will get the support of the Dothraki people in reclaiming the throne (Van Patten, 2011).

The small folk are usually the victims in this series. A known member of the small folk is a blacksmith named Gendry. He is also the bastard son of Robert Baratheon; he is the rightful heir to the throne. This is the reason why his uncle Stannis Baratheon wanted to kill him (Nutter, Mhysa episode , 2013). It is really unfair to Gendry because he has no motive and interest in claiming the throne. He is a victim of the deadly Game of Thrones. These political actors share one common motive – to win the Iron Throne. In doing so, they not only affect the lowborn, but also the highborn and themselves.


Game of Thrones has a spectrum of politics and social injustice that was analyzed through different political theories and perspectives. This paper focused on The Political behavior of the characters. The political institution of Game of Thrones, and how it affects the people of the Seven Kingdoms through gender inequality, violence, and injustice were also discussed and analyzed. Furthermore, social injustice is caused by the personal political motives of political actors in the Seven Kingdoms. This paper showed that the lowborn are not just the victims of social injustice but also people born from noble houses. The political actors that were mentioned were also the victims of their schemes in winning the Game of Thrones.

In this series, the interest articulation is barely seen because it is more focused on who will win the Iron Throne. So, the realm does not just need the right person to seat on the Iron Throne, but also an effective change of political systems. Nevertheless, winter is coming.

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