Dispossession and Disalienation: The Fulfillment of Life in Ursula LeGuin’s "The Dispossessed"

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For Caleb In The Dispossessed, Ursula LeGuin imagines a non-authoritarian society that privileges freedom and centers the individual's realization of her creative potentials in social context as the means to achieve the highest functioning, least repressive society. The concept central to this imagination of freedom and the 'good life' as expressed in her anarchic vision is that of disalienation, in the Marxist sense. In theorizing an anarchic society, whether or not a particular aspect of social organization is disalienating becomes for LeGuin the key criterion for assessing and determining the human efficacy of, in particular: the organization of work; the relationship between self, society, and nature; and the distribution of both social responsibilities and resources. This paper explores how LeGuin measures the alienating effects of a range of socio-economic institutions, practices, and bodies of knowledge--from how we organize work, to how we establish the state and its governing power, to how we think about time--highlighting her critique of the alienating structures of our culture and the way they curtail human creativity and disarm individuals from developing freely and fully, that is, in a way that would benefit society as a whole and promote individual happiness.


The work available here is the publisher version.

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Contemporary Justice Review

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