Why is Shevek surprised by the Urrasti economic system given its base and his Marxist views (See “Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,” pages 166-170)?
Shevek's Marxist views heavily influence his perspective of the Urrasti economic system when he first arrives on the twin planet. The lush environment and resources of Urras mean that its economic system is far more diverse than that of Annares. The base of the economy of Urras is competition fueled by demand from the elite consumers.
The economic system of Urras is shocking to Shevek because it is such a stark contrast to Annares' egalitarian system. Competition is frowned upon by Annares' society, with the focus being on shared labor and shared resources. Shevek is alarmed to learn that Urras' citizens do not share but rather compete for the planet's abundant resources, creating what he views as an unnecessary economic burden on themselves.
As Shevek's time on Urras progresses, he becomes even more startled to learn of the vast economic divide between the Urrasti elite and the poorest classes. In Marxism, all must contribute and all must benefit accordingly. On the planet Urras, those who work hardest are often the ones who share least in the planet's bounty, which is a difficult concept for Shevek to accept.
What facets of the Urrasti superstructure reinforce the hegemony of the Urrasti social system (See “Antonio Gramsci, pages 172-173).
The hegemony of the Urrasti social system is not immediately apparent to Shevek, since he is kept as an esteemed guest and sheltered from the harsher realities of the planet. When he sneaks out to observe the poorer factions of Urrasti society, Shevek becomes aware that the ruling class lords over the poor in an often merciless way. The Urrasti superstructure contributes to this inequality in a variety of ways. While Shevek recognizes the Urrasti acceptance of diversity and brilliance as one of the superstructure's greatest strengths, he eventually observes that it is also used to fuel the elitism that runs rampant within the society.
Another way in which the structure of Urrasti reinforces the hegemony of the social system is favoritism. The elite of Urras are all either related or interconnected through interpersonal relationships, meaning that there is very little room for someone from the unofficial lower classes to move up in society. Ironically, although the Urrastis praise Shevek for his ability to rise among the homogeneous ranks of his home planet, the Urrasti elite do not value such diversity among their own populace.