Comment from Elliot Hurst on the novel “The Dispossessed” by Ursula Le Guin.
Introduction: It won all the prizes when it came out and is considered a classic. Ursula Le Guin grew up with an anthropologist father. As she puts it ‘Even though I didn’t pay much attention, I heard a lot of interesting, grown-up conversation’. This was one early influence that guided her to creating societies full of contradictions and tensions that feel very plausible. What makes this novel so compelling is its ability to explore different social and economic systems in a way that avoids the notion of a ‘utopia’ as a static pinnacle of perfection. As the tagline for some editions states, it is ‘an ambiguous utopia’.
What makes The Dispossessed such great degrowth fiction? The book is centred on the planet of Anarres and the social and political systems there. The guiding political philosophy on Anarres is Odonism – named after the founder Odo. While largely anarchist inspired, there are plenty of overlaps with degrowth ideals.