Just like anything else, the academic community has its fads and fashions. Also like anything else, those fashions are largely dictated by the preoccupations of whichever government happens to be in power.
In the early days of the Empire, scholars amused themselves by rationalizing the existence of “the Force”–a mythical power and/or deity then worshipped widely across the galaxy, and later invoked as a form of protest. It took these same scholars a number of years to dismiss it entirely; while that period produced few works of real academic merit, those that survive do provide a valuable glimpse at the ties binding academia up with galactic politics.
The times have shifted, and today the most popular past-time among my colleagues seems to be inventing new and creative ways to blame the fall of the Empire on any one person who was present for any part of it. Alliance leaders such as Chancellor Mothma and General Leia Organa are common choices, as is the Emperor himself and several of the Imperial Navy’s more incompetent admirals.
The most convincing of these recent arguments is undoubtedly the daring Jedi Knight: Darth Vader and the conspiracy that crushed an empire, in which Lalia Maltiras persuasively asserts that Lord Vader should not be identified with orthodox warriors such as Obi-Wan Kenobi or Mace Windu, but rather the much younger Anakin Skywalker.
The evidence for her central argument (that Skywalker, as Vader, was a rogue Jedi who joined the Empire with every intention of overthrowing the Emperor) is compelling. However, aside from the admittedly groundbreaking conclusion that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are one and the same, Maltiras provides little further insight into his character or motives.
Her insistence on the so-called “Jedi Conspiracy” not only bears a disconcerting similarity to Imperial propaganda, but is argued in a vague, incoherent manner which does little credit to her plainly exhaustive research. It is not even clear whether she is implying that Vader’s actions should be understood in the context of a long-standing conspiracy. At some points it certainly seems so, but at others Maltiras herself suggests that he was a lone agent who only took part in the wider conspiracy towards the end, when he was in league with fellow Jedi Luke Skywalker1.
Moreover, Maltiras’ argument suffers the same flaws as similar ones offered throughout the community. By pinning all blame or credit (it is not entirely clear which approach she takes) on Vader, she fails to take account of the complex and dynamic system in which such events inevitably take place. She, like our colleagues, seems unable to see beyond her subject. Regrettably, this myopia prevents her from putting Vader’s actions in appropriate perspective, and from perceiving the reality laid bare by her evidence: if anyone is responsible for the fall of the Empire, it is Grand Moff Tarkin.
1 The shared surnames are not a coincidence. If Maltiras’ argument is correct, Luke Skywalker is in fact Darth Vader’s son. To say that this element was inadequately explored would be a vast understatement.