Erik's Reviews > The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
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's review
Feb 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: detailed-review, scififantasy

Once upon a time the greatest novels of the day were about ideas. These books were not meant to entertain, but illuminate.

Those days are no more. Now, we're all plot junkies. We want thrill and suspense and, above all, break-neck pacing. We've no time for a laborious or lengthy journey into our own minds, and for some of us, our own mind is a place of horrors anyway.

I don't lament the necessary shift in style because it would be fruitless to do so and because I personally believe that a truly skilled author should be able to do BOTH! But perhaps there I am only legitimizing my own preference for a good yarn.

I preface my review with this dichotomy of ideas and plots because that IS my review: The Dispossessed is a story about ideas. It's a story about socialism vs. capitalism. It's a story about love and relationships. It's a story about anarchy vs. government. It's a story about nonconformity. It's a story about freedom.

Some negative reviewers didn't seem to get that. Or did but wanted their cake and to eat it too. I myself started the same and kept waiting for the story to take off, so to speak. And then I realized my error. The Dispossessed comes from this earlier era, when novels were about ideas. And, understanding that, I was able to read it how it was meant to be read - as a conversation piece, as a catalyst for thoughts.

And my thoughts go a little like this:

Is socialism(communism) or capitalism preferable? The answer is neither. Though Ursula's socialistic Annaresti society and her capitalistic Urrasti society are very pure forms of each - they are not meant to be realistically considered. They are caricatures, magnified grotesquely in order to highlight the glories - and pitfalls - of each. Any society should have both. The real question is should a society lean toward socialism or capitalism?

In my opinion, the answer is socialism. A capitalistic society will never be a utopia. A socialistic society might. Let us ignore that, however, as overly idealistic (though I ponder: without idealism, without dreams, without hope, then what can we be except exactly as Ursula depicted us: wage-rats viciously struggling to the top). Let me then make what I know will be a highly controversial statement: too pure of a capitalistic society does not work in the long-run. An overly pure capitalistic society promotes deception, extreme wealth disparity, and a short-sightedness that prioritizes immediate profit over long-term growth. Capitalism proposes to harness the unavoidable greed and self-interest for good, but it goes too far, opening wide the flood-gates, lauding and even lionizing greed.

Is it any great surprise that China, a heavily socialistic country making controlled forays into capitalism, is experiencing extreme economic growth while Western countries are in steady turmoil? Today the top 6 GDPs are USA, Japan, China, UK, France, and Germany. By 2050 Goldman Sachs predicts the top 6 will be USA, China, Japan, India, Brazil, and Russia.

So goes my thoughts. Do you wish to argue with me? Do you wish to add your thoughts? Then you understand what The Dispossessed is all about.
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