Anarresti society possesses a foundationally different economic base than Urrasti society. Analyze the economic base of Anarresti society and examine how this base contributes to the...

Anarresti society possesses a foundationally different economic base than Urrasti society. Analyze the economic base of Anarresti society and examine how this base contributes to the superstructure. What unique superstructure elements does this society possess due to this base?

 

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In Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed, Urras is like Earth and is made up of different socio-political regions. For example, A Io is a nation which relies on the capitalist, free-market socio-political model. However, it is an extremely stratified society, and individual freedom is lacking. Citizens are positioned in the social hierarchy based on the scope of their material wealth.

On the other hand, Anarres is Urras' moon, and the planet itself is inhabited by anarchists. Although the anarchist form of government allows for a collaborative and basically tolerant society, it is nevertheless imperfect. Some forms of elitist privilege occur at higher levels of society. For example, the scientists at the National Institute of Sciences at Abbenay enjoy certain privileges that others on Anarres cannot. Yet, Anarres exists as mainly a socialist system, where citizens trade for what they need at central depots.

Due to this type of economic system, the Anarresti people live an existence of mutual benevolence; to the Anarresti, the purpose of life isn't to accumulate wealth but to live simply and in peace with one another. In Anarres, the economic base, of course, is not sustained by a form of government-approved currency. Citizens have much more individual freedom than those on Urras. Citizens can freely choose what work they will perform. Essentially, Anarres is an idealized utopia which thrives on a decentralized, egalitarian form of government. Such a society relies on each individual suppressing selfish inclinations for the good of the community.

What Anarres contributes to the superstructure is to highlight the benefits of an anarchist-socialist society; conversely, it also highlights what can happen when an anarchist society is allowed to stagnate (technologically) and unofficial power structures or bureaucratic encroachment are allowed to develop without challenge within that social fabric. Left to itself, an anarchist society can well mutate into a competitive and bureaucratic nightmare. So, Anarres exists as an ideal society, but Le Guin does not deify it. The unique elements of individual freedom, gender equality, and communal economics imbue this type of anarchist-socialist system with specific advantages. Yet, Anarres is only a mirror which Le Guin has used to shine a light on the real problem that plagues any civilization: human nature.

For example, in Anarres, each citizen is supposed to share with his neighbor or with anyone who has a need. However, not everyone enjoys sharing just because he/she is socially expected to. The sense of ownership is a very strong one, and an anarchist society can, just as easily as a capitalistic society, descend into competitive and conflict-ridden chaos if ameliorative measures are not taken. Le Guin's book highlights the necessity for the free exchange of ideas between the anarchist and capitalist societies. It is clear, however, what the Anarresti economic base contributes to the superstructure: egalitarianism, tolerance, and gender equality.

Read the study guide:
The Dispossessed

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