Re: [OPE-L] The Socialist World Map and Ursula Le Guin

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Jun 26 2007 - 12:51:21 EDT

Hi Paul C and Jurriaan:

[PC wrote]
> I was also influenced by the Disposesed when working on
>  the economics of socialism.

What ideas specifically did you find useful in her book?

The divlab (division of labor) computer sounds like a workable idea, but
even Lu Guin recognizes that it wouldn't necessarily be the most efficient
means for allocating labor.  Furthermore,  there were conflicts in the
book over that issue with some of the central characters.

Marx referred to a "free association of workers" but not too many
Marxists contemplate the meaning of that, I believe.

[JB wrote}
> One of the contributions of anarchist thinking is its emphasis on
> interpretive freedom, i.e. the idea that you do not have to interpret
> everything as other people do or believe, which opens up a realm of
> personal imagination and independent thought.

That may be the source of the somewhat meatphysical theory of
physics suggested in the book.

> What impressed me most about the novel when I read it in 1976 was the
> possibility that the processes, interactions and relationships involved
> in giving and receiving, obtaining and taking, sharing and
> relinquishing -
> central to economics, but also the means through which human love is
> expressed - could be successfully organised in a completely different
> way.
> Intriguingly, in pursuing his idea, the character Shevek meets with
> forces
> which are internally corrupting the "utopia" of Anarres - forces of
> conservatism, bureaucratism and centralism - yet it remains
> dissatisfyingly unclear, what ultimately gives rise to those forces. In
> Anarres, there is no  government oppression or inequality, but
> individuality is stifled and creativity devalued, <snip>

That's one reason why I think it's not exactly in either the utopian or
disupopian traditions.

What gives rise to the forces?  Even after 150 years and the creation of a
new society and language, "egoism" still might exist.  Pride, vanity,
jealosy, fear of mediocrity, etc. wouldn't necessarily "wither away"
completely, would they?

Le Guin suggests that much of this is caused by the conditions of extreme
hardship and the simple need for social survival.  In some ways, the
conditions were not unlike the civil war period in the USSR (although the
settlers were _allowed_ to relocate to Annares and there were no invasions
from great powers that they had to deal with).

One tension which I don't think Le Guin really addressed satisfactorily is
that the anarchist society was based upon the teachings of an *authority
figure* (Odo) and many of the arguments in "Odonian" society seem to be
addressed by an appeal to this long dead authority figure.  I think there
was even a statue of her on Annarres, if I recall correctly. Yet, if
anarchism is anything it is anti-authoritarian.

In solidarity, Jerry
Gloucester, headed N

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