Guide The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guins The Dispossessed

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Le Guin. Striking similarities can be seen between the two works. The Dispossessed is a rich and complex novel; it has much to say about rivalry in the academic and scientific worlds, relations between the sexes, and the problems a dissident might face in any society. We see this world as we follow the life of Shevek, one of its great physicists. The principles that Le Guin presents are expressed in little, telling touches that form an integral part of the plot, and in ordinary conversations that are not merely a pretext for spouting political theory. Urras represents our own twentieth century Earth, with some socialist countries, some military dictatorships, and in A-Io, the country Shevek sees, what could almost be any capitalist Western country.

Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed: A Requiem for Freedom – ImaginAtlas

In some ways, Urras even strikes the reader as a utopia: its natural environment is better managed than our own, for example. As the novel progresses, however, and we and Shevek learn more about Urras, its ugly features become apparent. Odonianism is anarchism Anarres has no government, laws, class divisions, or system of money or property.

Perfect equality exists between its people, men and women alike. First and foremost, the Anarresti are free. He expounded the subject, with the reluctance of a decent adult forced to explain an obscenity to children. Yes, he said, a prison was a place where a State put people who disobeyed its Laws. But what did they do inside one room all the time? There was nothing to do. Some alien concepts the Anarresti have no words to describe.

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As in anything else, the Anarresti are free to work however they choose, including not at all a few do just that. Most people work on Anarres because they want to. By removing the personal need to work that exists in our society we need to earn money through our work in order to subsist, although modern welfare systems do qualify this somewhat , the Anarresti have created a system whereby individuals are encouraged to think in terms of the survival of society.

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Throughout The Dispossessed Le Guin provokes us to consider our real attitudes to work, and to ask ourselves how we would spend a life of freedom. Her reversals of our accepted premises can be provoking indeed:. All the people he saw [in Urras, were,] contrary to his expectations, industrious. Just like Anarresti, they were simply busy getting things done.

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It puzzled him. Anarresti are able to think of the survival of society above themselves because the corollary of their work-system is that their individual physical needs are largely satisfied. The fruits of their labour are available to all. The Anarresti are obviously only able to take that which is available. There is usually enough to go around, however, because Anarresti are frugal.

Those people are still free: free to grow their own food perhaps that is, work! Neither are people who work in esoteric fields likely to meet with universal approval: at one stage, Shevek is physically attacked by a man who considers all academics to be free-loaders. Anarres being a harsh place, its settlers found it impossible to set up a society of many self-sufficient communities, especially as they aimed to maintain high standards of technology.

They are a coordinating system for all syndicates, federatives, and individuals who do productive work.

They do not govern persons; they administrate production. PDC computers in Abbenay match jobs that need filling with people who are looking for work. A person can ask if there is work in his or her field of expertise; or he can go into the general labour pool. Most Anarresti work five to seven hours a day, with two to four days off out of every ten.

And other reasons. And then there is the challenge.

People take the dangerous, hard jobs because they take pride in doing them. The unadmitted, inadmissable government that rules the Odonian society by stifling the individual mind. But that stability gives scope to the authoritarian impulse Shevek fiercely denies the truth of this judgement at first; he only reluctantly comes to accept it. Shevek is a physicist, and not just any physicist, but a genius, with ideas far too advanced for his Anarresti colleagues to accept.

Thus Shevek faces an uphill battle in getting his work published, and ultimately even in gaining access to the resources of the Central Institute of Sciences.

Postmodern Anarchism in the Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin

This is a serious problem, one which potentially prevents Anarres from being all that it could be. And The Dispossessed, despite these ambiguities, remains an optimistic novel. We see Shevek face the problems of his society head-on for example, he sets up a syndicate to publish his own work ; we see his society begin to shake itself out of its safe habits and to try to live up to its old ideals. Utopian romances take place in a world remarkably free of the ravages of In The Dispossessed, we are aware of a set of unchanging ideals, but Anarresti society does fall short of those ideals, and its hopeful but fallible people must continually strive towards them.

Anarres, we know, must change. But its two books of dialogue and description are filled with enough challenging ideas to intrigue readers nearly five hundred years after it was written.

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  • Book One records a conversation between the author, More, his friend Peter Gilles, and a European traveller newly returned from Utopia, Raphael Nonsenso. Thus we see what kind of society Utopia is to be measured against just as Anarres is to be measured against Urras in The Dispossessed , and we are introduced to one of the key problems which has vexed the author—how to eliminate crime and its unhappy results:. Book Two is a monologue by Nonsenso describing the land and society of Utopia, an island in the New World with a population of between three and five million.

    Like an Anarresti, when a Utopian needs anything, he simply goes into a shop and asks for it, and takes it with no need for payment. And a Utopian works so that his society may provide for his individual needs. All Utopians, men and women, do some farming, and all have a special trade of their own. A Utopian works, however, because he is made to by the authorities. Utopia is very clearly a State. There are various levels of officials, all of them elected; in our terms, Utopia is a representative democracy.

    Because all able-bodied men and women work, however, everyone has only to work six hours a day there is no mention, though, of regular days off. In order to continue the work he wants to be doing, Shevek must enter into a mutually exploitative relationship with Sabul, which violates the most basic Odonian beliefs about morality Benfield 5. To secure economic efficiency, solidarity was exaggerated and the demands for community and fairness became demands for compliance and conformity Sabia 5.