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The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed

Ursula K. Le Guin


A science fiction utopian classic: how would one go about setting up an anarchist society, and what might then happen? Le Guin answers the first question by requiring a new language, new forms of relationships, new ways of naming children, and an organising principle based around the collective opinion of one's fellow-citizens in the absence of any form of compulsion. As to the second, she sees the potential for human pride and ambition even in the face of a social order explicitly predicated against them. Any desire of which someone disapproves can always be characterised as self-interest ("egoising"), which will be met with disapproval.

There are plenty of echoes in this story of the Soviet Union, especially prior to the Second World War, in which noble ambitions to re-make society showed that they could be used and weaponised by someone who was prepared to act ruthlessly in their own interest. It's the way in which someone acts that often conditions how people interpret their actions, giving power to anyone able to connive with a pious expression.

4/5. Finished 27 January 2017.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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