Archive | February 7, 2010

Anarchists in Space

Ursula K. Le Guin

Paul Raven reviews Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic novel The Dispossessed, a tale of the confrontation between an anarcho-syndicalist culture and a state-capitalist culture. (CHT François.) Though Le Guin’s personal sympathies were with the anarchists, she doesn’t stack the deck (unlike most political science fiction): the anarcho-syndicalist culture is actually pretty sucky. But the state-capitalist culture is even suckier. (I didn’t say it was a cheerful book. But it’s a very good book.)

Related whereunto, some random items:

  • There’s a book of essays titled The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. I haven’t read it; but apparently Le Guin liked it and contributed an essay herself.
  • L. Neil Smith semi-dedicated his anarcho-capitalist novel The Probability Broach to Le Guin and The Dispossessed. (At least that’s true of the first edition; I don’t have the revised edition handy.) He also commends Hayek’s Capitalism and the Historians to Le Guin’s attention in order to nudge her toward a more favourable attitude to property. (I gotta say, that’s not the book I would have picked for that purpose.)
  • I’ve long suspected that Ken MacLeod’s The Cassini Division, with its confrontation between a flawed but functional anarcho-capitalist society and a flawed but functional anarcho-communist society, was partly inspired by Le Guin’s book.
  • One of Le Guin’s last works, The Telling, deals with Taoist-inspired communities struggling under an oppressive system variously described by reviewers as a “tightly controlled capitalist government” and a “soulless form of corporate communism.” I haven’t read it yet either.

Addendum: I remembered something else I’d intended to mention: in addition to Ken MacLeod’s The Cassini Division being partly inspired by The Dispossessed in its theme, I’ve wondered whether MacLeod’s earlier novel The Stone Canal might be partly inspired by The Dispossessed in its narrative structure, with one storyline being told through the odd-numbered chapters while a “flashback” background story, featuring the same viewpoint character – in both cases an anarchist scholar – runs through the even-numbered chapters (though of course other writers have done such things as well).

Notes From All Over

Prague's Charles Bridge

Observations of a various, sundry, and miscellaneous character:

Addendum: I notice that the deadline for submitting a paper to the PCPE has been extended, so if you want to hang out with libertarians in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities next month, why not consider it?

Like a Tea Tray in the Sky

Two puzzles about the Bat-signal:


a) What happens if Commissioner Gordon needs to contact Batman in the daytime? Or on a night that doesn’t have low-lying clouds? I can see why the tv version installed a Batphone.

b) If I were a Gotham City villain, I’d hole up with a rocket launcher in a building near the one with the Bat-signal. Then when the signal comes on I know Batman will soon be on the neighbouring roof. I watch, I aim, boom.

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