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

From: Paul Cockshott (clyder@GN.APC.ORG)
Date: Mon Jun 25 2007 - 13:50:15 EDT

I was also influenced by the Disposesed when working on
the economics of socialism.

Mensaje citado por Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@TISCALI.NL>:

> Hi Jerry,
> I think that with her idea of the "ansible" (a gadget enabling superluminal
> communication, faster than the speed of light) Ursula le Guin was perhaps
> metaphorically anticipating the modern cellphone. Apparently the first
> handheld cellphone not tied to a vehicle was produced by Motorola in 1973
> (le Guin's novel appeared a year later). Superluminal communication isn't
> really possible according to physics - it would imply among other things
> sending messages from the future to the past - but of course with a
> cellphone you can call back somebody you met before, to make a date in the
> future.
> In the novel, the character Shevek's search for a "General Temporal Theory"
> (reconciling sequentiality with simultaneity) could obviously be compared to
> the modern controversies about the "transformation problem" in Marxian
> economics.
> You might like to consult:
> Tony Burns, "Marxism and science fiction: A celebration of the work of
> Ursula K. Le Guin", in: Capital & Class,  Winter 2004
> "Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed were two
> of the few American science fiction novels published in the German
> Democratic Republic (GDR). Le Guin shares this distinction with Isaac
> Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (2) Like all
> literature that appeared in East Germany, Le Guin's titles passed through an
> elaborate approval process before they appeared in the science fiction
> publishing house: Verlag Das Neue Berlin (DNB). The Left Hand of Darkness
> came out in 1978 under the title Winterplanet. The Dispossessed was
> published in 1987, just two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989
> as Planet der Habenichtse (literally, planet of those with nothing)."
> David Graeber for his part writes:
> It is hardly a coincidence that some of the greatest recruiters for
> anarchism in countries like the United States have been feminist science
> fiction writers like Starhawk or Ursula K. LeGuin. One way this is beginning
> to happen is as anarchists begin to recuperate the experience of other
> social movements with a more developed body of theory, ideas that come from
> circles close to, indeed inspired by anarchism.
> 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. From the same observation, many
> different conclusions can be drawn. That is how I thought about it anyway,
> when I read the novel in my youth. However, if you want to communicate
> effectively at a high level, inexorably you do need to accept at least some
> shared interpretations and non-arbitrary behaviours. To stick to your own
> interpretation, or accept someone else's, that may be the question.
> 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, while in Urras, where there is unjust distribution of
> power and wealth,  great beauty and achievement also exists. But why this
> particular polarity? Beyond the obvious allusion to the difference between
> the USA and USSR (or Cuba), it is not something the novel really gives a
> profound answer to, and in that sense it mystifies as much as it reveals.
> Happy sailing,
> Jurriaan

Paul Cockshott

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