In The Dispossessed by Le Guin, to what extent are the social structures of Urras and Anarres influenced by their different material reality? Could the social structure of Anarres survive on...

In The Dispossessed by Le Guin, to what extent are the social structures of Urras and Anarres influenced by their different material reality? Could the social structure of Anarres survive on Urras? Why or why not?

 

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kjtracy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Dispossessed" serves as a testing chamber for many of Marx's and Engels' ideas. In fact, the society of Anarres is an example of many of Marx's ideals, such as communal living and dispossession, being lived out. In rebellion against the decadence of Urras, the colonists of Anarres strove to create a society in which ownership was all but an obsolete concept.

Examine the material reality of these worlds. To what extent is the social structure of these worlds influenced by their different material reality?

The stark contrast between the material realities of Anarres and Urras significantly affects their social structure. Anarres is a harsh desert moon with sparse resources, which makes the values of shared labor and communal living essential. Anarres rewards the mundane and those who fall into the status quo, praising their efforts while meeting their basic needs. The flaws Shevek notices in the society of Anarres play heavily into many of the criticisms that have been leveled against Marx's ideal of material reality's importance over consciousness.

While the unrelenting equality of life on Anarres makes sense in context of limited physical resources, it allows brilliant individuals like Shevek and Bedap to fall through the cracks. Thus, by conforming only to the demands of materiality, Anarres abandons any chance it has of making significant progress. The society is stable, but it punishes the extraordinary.

In contrast, the lush landscape of Urras provides ample fuel for the society's decadence. Despite plentiful resources, Shevek soon learns that Urras' bounty does not make its way to many of the workers and poor who inhabit the planet. The material reality of Anarres necessitates a Spartan government, but the corruption on Urras thrives despite its material reality.

Could the social structure of Anarres survive on Urras? Why or why not?

The social structure of Anarres could never survive on Urras, because the structure of Anarres, much like communism, thrives on limited resources. The communal work ethic and values of abnegation found on Anarres could only survive on a planet where cooperation is the key to survival. An often-slighted flaw of Engels' idealism is that dialectical materialism would crumble if resources were unlimited and human greed could take over, as it has on Urras.

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The Dispossessed

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