New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed

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The Dispossessed has been described by political thinker Andre Gorz as 'The most striking description I know of the seductions—and snares—of self-managed communist or, in other words, anarchist society.' To date, however, the radical social, cultural, and political ramifications of Le Guin's multiple award-winning novel remain woefully under explored. Editors Laurence Davis and Peter Stillman right this state of affairs in the first ever collection of original essays devoted to Le Guin's novel. Among the topics covered in this wide-ranging, international and interdisciplinary collection are the anarchist, ecological, post-consumerist, temporal, revolutionary, and open-ended utopian politics of The Dispossessed. The book concludes with an essay by Le Guin written specially for this volume, in which she reassesses the novel in light of the development of her own thinking over the past 30 years.

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Editorial Reviews

I was delighted to find that these essays deepened and expanded my appreciation of both work and author. If you've read The Dispossessed . . . by all means read this as well.
Political Studies Review
Those interested in the history of both utopian and anarchist thought will gain a great deal from the sophisticated analyses on offer. This is particularly so given the diversity of the perspectives brought to bear on the novel....What the volume offers is an exceptional range of essays exploring the radical political theory of the The Dispossessed.
Utopian Studies
This collection will be an essential part of the collection of every Le Guin scholar and every research library. It also has a great deal to teach anyone interested in utopias or in the broader issues of the political workings of fiction. Editors Davis and Stillman are to be applauded for initiating this much-needed reconsideration of a major work of utopian fiction and for bringing together such a varies and astute group of contributors.
Tom Moylan
Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed is one of the most significant utopian novels in this long tradition of imaginative socio-political thought experiments. In this collection, Davis and Stillman have given us a “sustained and comprehensive” re-examination of this “ambiguous utopia” by way of sixteen astute and original essays. This is a welcome, timely, and important collection.
James Bittner
Like Le Guin's open-ended ambiguous utopia, these sixteen essays will reveal their resonance only as we reread them. Together they comprise a rich, and a valuable, and a persistently stimulating fresh contribution to the ongoing and open-ended appreciation of The Dispossessed.
Kenneth M. Roemer
For three decades Le Guin's The Dispossessed has inspired debates about competing ideologies, about notions of gender, about space-time continuums, about forms of utopian expression-indeed about topics as broad as human communication and as intensely personal as the emotional epiphanies of the novel's hero Shevek. So, to say that this lively first collection of essays about the book is welcome and long overdue is to make a grand understatement. Like Le Guin's novel the collection is wide-ranging, open-ended, and provocative. It offers analyses of expected topics and images—anarchism, ecology, and walls, for instance— from multiple viewpoints, as well as discussions of important less-expected issues, notably consumerism. Contributors examine rich networks of connections and parallels between Le Guin's thought and art and the works of Lao Tzu, Kropotkin, Paul Goodman, Marcuse, Hegel, Hannah Arendt, and French and Italian architects and designers. Le Guin's essay, which concludes the collection, is a frank and feisty response to critics who reduce her novel to treatise status, and a complex advocacy of art that teaches. This fine collection will invigorate discussion of The Dispossessed and of Le Guin's other works, especially Always Coming Home, and engage any serious reader of utopian and science fiction and political and social theory.
Paradoxa, November 2008 - Mike Cadden
One would think that 324 pages on this one aspect of this one novel by this one Le Guin might get a little thin; but I was happily surprised.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Perhaps I can express my gratitude best by saying that reading [these essays] left me knowing far better than I knew before how I wrote the book and why I wrote it as I did…. They have restored the book to me as I conceived it, not as an exposition of ideas but as an embodiment of idea - a revolutionary artifact, a work containing a potential permanent source of renewal of thought and perception, like a William Morris design, or the Bernard Maybeck house I grew up in…. This is criticism as I first knew it, serious, responsive, and jargon-free. I honor it as an invaluable aid to reading, my own text as well as others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739108628
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 9/15/2005
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurence Davis holds a doctoral degree in politics from Oxford University, and has taught political theory at Oxford University and University College Dublin. Peter Stillman is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Vassar College.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Part 2 Open-ended Utopian Politics Chapter 3 The Dynamic and Revolutionary Utopia of Ursula K. Le Guin Chapter 4 Worlds Apart: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Possibility of Method Part 5 Post-Consumerist Politics Chapter 6 The Dispossessed as Ecological Political Theory Chapter 7 Ursula K. Le Guin, Herbert Marcuse, and the Fate of Utopia in the Postmodern Chapter 8 The Alien Comes Home: Getting Past the Twin Planets of Possession and Austerity in Le Guin's The Dispossessed Part 9 Anarchist Politics Chapter 10 Individual and Community in Le Guin's The Dispossessed Chapter 11 The Need for Walls: Privacy, Community, and Freedom in The Dispossessed Chapter 12 Breaching Invisible Walls: Individual Anarchy in The Dispossessed Part 13 Temporal Politics Chapter 14 Time and the Measure of the Political Animal Chapter 15 Fulfillment as a Function of Time, or the Ambiguous Process of Utopia Chapter 16 Science and Politics in The Dispossessed: Le Guin and the "Science Wars" Part 17 Revolutionary Politics Chapter 18 The Gap in the Wall: Partnership, Physics, and Politics in The Dispossessed Chapter 19 From Ambiguity to Self-Reflexivity: Revolutionizing Fantasy Space Chapter 20 Future Conditional or Future Perfect? The Dispossessed and Permanent Revolution Part 21 Open-ended Utopian Politics Chapter 22 Ambiguous Choices: Skepticism as a Grounding for Utopia Chapter 23 Empty Hands: Communication, Pluralism and Community in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed Part 24 A Response, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti Part 25 Further Reading

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