In the movie Elyium, there is no talks about the inhabitants of Elysium working or having a job. Further more, the Earth is devastated and over-populated.

Without any economy, how do they sustain the Elysium?

3 Answers 3


They have technology of the Clarke's 3rd law variety (i.e. indistinguishable from magic) that can be used to automate most tasks - for example the Med-Bay is apparently able to heal conditions in seconds that would today require dozens of doctors, nurses and other supporting workers for weeks or months.

And for producing all those machines and whatever else they need (such as food), they can exploit cheap, expendable labor on Earth - as we see Max working on police bots in the beginning.

That seems to be the key - exploit Earth workers but keep them and Elysium's population totally isolated from each other so that Elysium's citizens don't get a bad conscience and Earth people don't see the scope of the inequality and are thus less likely to stage a rebellion (and can't easily infiltrate or even reach Elysium if they do).

  • 6
    It's essentially just an exaggeration of what is already going on today. Most developed countries have outsourced manufacturing/production to less developed countries that have an absolute advantage in those markets because of low cost of living, a large unskilled workforce, few labor/environmental regulations, etc. And it is often the case that American parents are buying their children toys made for them halfway around the world by other children whose parents could never afford that Disney toy or those Nike shoes. Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 9:21
  • @Lèse majesté: true, but the fundamental difference seems to be that everyone on Elysium is more or less equally rich and nobody has to do any dirty or unpleasant work because it's all automated. Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 9:33
  • 3
    @MichaelBorgwardt where exactly do you see the difference? Even with today's possibilities of automation Elysium doesn't seem too far fetched - it's just that "Juanita" is cheaper than a robot.
    – flq
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 9:41
  • 1
    They're probably not equally rich, as there are still obvious power dynamics and the need to generate profit on Elysium. It's just that with everyone on Elysium basically being investors/executives of Earth-based enterprises, their form of "work" seems leisurely compared to their employees on Earth. Likewise, once you get above a certain level of wealth, differences in wealth become less perceptible, especially contrasted against the abject poverty on Earth. Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 9:53
  • @flq: The difference is that if you meet and talk with Juanita, she's a human being to you and you'll feel some empathy towards her that makes you less inclined to support inhumane actions against her than against people you've never met. At the same time, if Junita sees exactly how pampered and luxurious and wasteful your lifestyle is while her family starves, she's more likely to feel resentful and join a rebellion - and when she does you're f*cked because the guards will let her into your house and she knows where the guns are stored... Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 10:12

I would point out that there's no talk about the inhabitants of Elysium not working either. Also, not all economies need to be based on capital.

Regardless, the residents of Elysium do have a capitalist economy that's connected with Earth's. Most of Elysium's residents are likely shareholders or executives in Earth-based enterprises. That appears to be the only reason that Elysium residents travel to Earth.

When Carlyle is contacted by his board members, they're very concerned that stock prices have dropped. So clearly their financial well-being is tied to Carlyle's factories on Earth. Likewise, Carlyle is concerned with decreasing sales and the need to renew his government contract with Elysium. If there were no capitalist economy on Elysium, then he wouldn't have cared about these things.

The film is basically social commentary on class warfare. It shows how bad things could potentially get when economic inequality is allowed to spiral out of control. Elysium residents own all means of production, which are on Earth, but they live in their gated community on Elysium, where their interests can be completely extricated from that of the labor force generating their wealth.

This allows Elysians to exploit Earth laborers and resources with complete abandon. They don't see the humanitarian crises. They don't have to deal with the crime and other social problems caused by extreme poverty. And so they don't need to invest in human development in Earth communities. This is rather similar to the out of sight, out of mind attitude that we've already unconsciously adopted in real life.

Elysian politics and economy is also modeled after the neocolonialism (particularly the aspects described in Marxist Dependence theory) that exists in our modern global economy. E.g. the Walton family have become the richest family on Earth largely because of the exploitation of cheap sweatshop labor and lack of environmental regulations in places like China; companies like Shell, Exxon-Mobil, BP, etc. have in the past exploited the oil supply of impoverished nations like Venezuela for decades while the people there starved and saw no benefit from their own natural resources. This is the same type of parasitic economic relationship depicted in Elysium, where wealth and benefits flow one way, from Earth to Elysium. And by virtue of Elysium's economic power, they're able to dominate, influence, and forever control the people on Earth.

So it's definitely not the case that Elysium has no economy or that Elysians don't have jobs. Their jobs are just those of the Waltons or the Koch brothers, in addition to governmental and political office. And presumably there are also engineers, scientists, and doctors working on Elysium. But due to living on a space station with few natural resources (besides sunlight) and land and labor being at a premium (both due to scarcity), they would have to have an information economy rather than a production-based one. You see developed countries today with the same constraints employing the same strategy (e.g. Finland).


Elysium is a metaphor of how modern economies function. For instance the US economy is driven by cheap workforce that comes from exploited societies in less developed countries. In this case the less developed "country" is the entire Earth. So all workforce is used to produce cheap products that then are sold to the same population that produces them and there is where the money comes from. This inequality in the wealth distribution is what causes illegal immigration to happen (another social comment found in this movie).

  • 1
    You make some rather broad statements but provide no references to back them up. Ex - US economy is driven cheap workforce .. in less developed countries. What actual % of the US economy is driven by such production as opposed to what's produced here ? That would be a good reference to support your statement.
    – Stan
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 1:55
  • One word: NAFTA: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAFTA I also found not value about discussing this, the movie is a cristisism to a percived situation, whether this perception is based on factual data or not is a non-sequitur in this context.
    – Chepech
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 19:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.