There has been some discussion lately on Ammobunker about the nature of "civilians" in the 40k universe, inspired by Exokan's WIP civilian figures. Some argued that there are no civilians in the traditional sense in the far off year of 40,000, and that all are subsumed into guilds and factories to the extent that all form a part of the military machine. Others point to the irrationality of having a workforce comprised of workers dedicated to mindless task repetition, and how this does not allow for population growth or change, even with the constraints of a universe at constant total war.
In short, is a hive populated by generational guilds of skull-faced-lion-maned-mono-task-drill-armed-stiletto-heeled maniacs, or is it populated by sober serfs who work very hard for little reward, but are otherwise fairly familiar members of humanity?
Here is a quote from Thistle, who has an official and public hand in the look and development of 40k: ...they cannot be considered civilians - the very term itself is something i would not weave into the 40k canon a bit like money or latin they just do not exist in the far flung future... [sic] Civilians as we conceive of it do not exist, just like money [!] seems a bit much for me.
Here is an opposing quote from MarcoSkoll: And, I feel that even as dsytopian as the setting might be, the fact it has sustained itself for the last ten thousand years must mean that huge swathes of its population remain capable of reproduction and parenting.
As delightfully morbid as a butcher with huge hydraulic cleaver for his arm might be, grafting the entire labour force to their tools does mean they're going to find themselves somewhat limited in their ability to raise children. Seems more on the money, where the strange and colorful aspects of the universe are in fact strange and colorful because the rest of the universe is more mundane, and rational.
Rationality in the blurb-official 40k has always been lacking, as when it is mentioned that the Adeptus Mechanicus and similar only can run and produce machines with the appropriate blessings for the machine spirit, sacred oils, and so on, while at the same time we have hive worlds with populations in the billions, toiling in factories uncountable, which would mean that either every factory has thousands of Tech Priests, and production is staggeringly inefficient, or that in fact machine worship is just a surface gloss, and that workers toiling at machine tools uncounted produce weapons and goods without necessitating any intervention by holy water sprinklers. Priests of Mars has characters impressed into service on the Techno-Ark as plasma engine serfs, slaving away at cleaning plasma chambers, even unto death, but even those were impressed into service from a world where they worked for wages at normal (if difficult) jobs.
Irrational repetition of tasks also produces non-rational actors, which means that you can not create an effective population of officers, engineers, supervisors, and (importantly) Inquisitors from it. As these are demonstrably a part of the 40k universe, they must therefore be produced by rational means from rational people, so there must exist at least a portion of the population which is not given over to unthinking total military production.
Another way to look at this question is total number of military effectives of a population. We could look at the historical example of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, which had a population of approximately 140 million, and 34 million under arms during that period. (~24%). If one reduces that number slightly to account for the fact that such a high number under arms and so many killed during the war caused a post war population crash, and that the Western Allies produced some of the material used by the Soviet war machine, you could say that 20% of a population under arms is close to a sustainable maximum. So indeed, there must be civilians in the other 80%, as they could not all be children.
Recent works by Dan Abnett in particular, and the Black Library novelists in general, paint a universe where war is constant, but not ever present, as there are sectors where life is, for want of a better word, normal, and there are battle lines, well away from the day to day life of most of the population. Indeed, Ravnor, Eisenhorn, and Gaunt confront the difficulties of the imperial bureaucracy, guilds, and, but still see civilians and humanity as separate from the war machine, and civilians as separate from their jobs.
So just how rational is that far off year where there is only war? I suggest to you that the rationality of that distant time is alive and well, despite and perhaps because of the irrational times in which humanity lives. While irrational elements persist, they are a coloration on the drab grey workaday world of the rest of humanity. Our aforementioned augmented guild worker is part of the reality of the world, but there are masses of rational (but constrained) civilians to support them in their work, by undertaking the less specialized and standard tasks of existence.
Anyway, provided you made it through this, what do you think?