Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Dispossessed

Finally finished Ursula LeGuinn's The Dispossessed. Like most of LeGuinn's science fiction, it's an exploration of aspects of human society and relationships. In this case, she presents an entire planet which is a functional anarchy. While it's true that she carefully sets the stage to bring up various aspects of anarchy and avoid others, it's still a beautiful portrayal of what is, after all, the most civilized social structure going. As always, the society and characters LeGuinn creates are exceptionally real and believable, and the story slides easily into your head like a delicious chocolate truffle.

A quick summary. There's a planet in space much like present-day Earth, and an Anarchist revolution erupts. To quell it, the revolutionaries are given the planet's large moon to inhabit. So, many thousand colonists go live on the moon. Our story takes place about two hundred years later and is primarily a portrait of the issues and hardships encountered in building a functional anarchy.

They have no possessive words in their language (altho some get introduced in translation).
No property, of course.
There word for 'work' is the same as the word for 'play'.
She asserts that a person's desire to do good work is at least as much motivation as profit.
Drudge jobs are shared by everyone- once a week or so you peel spuds or recycle shit.

The weak spot in her allegory, in my opinion, is that the planet itself is not very hospitable. It's dry, barely fertile, essentially a desert. It's well known that communities in harsh environments tend to have a higher degree of cooperation and mutual trust. In the words of Lauren re living in a small Arctic town, "People have to watch out for each other here, or everyone would die."
So LeGuinn is really avoiding the problem of anarchy in a surplus.
Nonetheless, i think it's a useful, if limited, exploration.

Along the way there's some beautiful gems of interpersonal relationships, sex, and creativity. She even manages to introduce some future revolutionary science without going into too much detail, which always breaks it in other books.
Anyhow. A good book.

Read a bit more of A Room of One's Own. I have to revise my earlier opinion that it was all poppycock; i think just the first bits are poppycock. After setting the table for a while she finally takes the covers off the dishes and starts doing some man-bashing.

Started We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, by Philip Gourevitch. I'm only about four pages in tho, so nothing much to say. Rwanda is small! It's only about two hundred miles across.

I don't really want to write much about music in here.
So i'm not. But i got some new CDs and have some opinions on them. Just so you know.


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