Science fiction encourages people to think concretely about what their ideals involve. In the case of The Dispossessed Le Guin challenges the reader to consider the ramifications of separating from a greater society to create another. The solidity of Le Guin's vision and the complexity of her thinking is no surprise to a seasoned reader of science fiction. In this paper I aim to juxtapose Annares against Urras in order to highlight the necessity of permanent revolution the novel allows us to see in both societies. I believe Le Guin uses the two opposing societies to tell a larger story of permanent revolution through challenging the concepts of possession, class systems, and hierarchical organizations of culture.
Le Guin suggests the need for permanent revolution to counter such threats as an incipient bureaucracy and a tendency toward dominance games. Marx used the term “permanent revolution” to describe the strategy of a revolutionary class to continue to pursue its class interests independently and without compromise, despite overtures for political alliances and the political dominance of opposing sections of society. In Can the Subaltern Speak? Spivak explores contemporary relations of power and Western intellectual discourse through representation and the political economy of global capitalism. In place of Earth's global capitalism I will be exploring Urras and Annares' relationship with themselves and each other. Urras and Anarres each view themselves as establishers of the good society.
The Dispossessed develops two parallel and dependent stories alternating with one another. One on the anarchist moon of Anarres, the other on the capitalist world of Urras. The Anarres story works by flashbacks in the life of the physicist Shevek. We discover that his responses to the present events of the story are a function of his past development. In particular, his past reveals him to be someone who asserted his own freedom against the seemingly necessary coercions of an anarchist utopia. When he is denied the publication of his time theories, Shevek decides to take direct action on his own by founding a publishing collective. In the earlier moments of his development we see that the roots of domination are deep in human nature: Shevek and group of peers got a kick out of putting a friend in a makeshift prison: “The simple lure of perversity brought Tirin, Shevek, and three other boys together” (Le Guin 35). The perverse joy the boys got from their experiment reenforces the idea that dominance is a natural human trait and not just learned, the boys were raised in a cooperative society and had no social models beyond historical texts to base their actions and the subsequent joy on.
Shevek resists anarchist coercion to carry out a visit to the planet Urras, from which Anarres rebelled some two centuries earlier in the "Odonian" revolution. Shevek insists on making this trip for two reasons: he hopes to find an openminded intellectual atmosphere,...