Science Fiction is, more often than not, discredited as “light” literature. However, Ursula K. Le Guin’s body of work has been consistently praised for its exploration of themes of equality, gender politics, or xenophobia. In Le Guin’s novels, the science fiction setting is always a vehicle to navigate the ideas.
In 1974, Le Guin publishes the acclaimed utopian science fiction novel, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. The book would go on to win the Nebula Award for Best Novel later that year, and continue to receive wide literary acclaim, a rare feat for a science fiction novel. The themes of capitalism, collectivism and anarchism were especially relevant to the period, considering it was publishes at the height of the Cold War.
The novel is set on the fictional twin planets of Anarres and Urras. Urras is a world of many states, they are governed by the two largest opposing states, A-Io and Thu. A-Io is a capitalist society modeled after the United-Sates and Thu resembles the USSR, as it is an authoritarian system masking as a proletariat. On the other hand, Anarres is an anarchist society with no organized government.
The Dispossessed is essentially a study of human behavior, whether they are left to their own devices or when they are part of a controlling system. The readers are urged to take a step back and ask themselves how their behavior would change depending on the planet they had been born to. The protagonist Shevek is confronted with with his own morality, when he realizes that even something as seemingly unbiased as knowledge, can have some devastating results when used for political gain.
The book may not offer any answers to the problems it poses, but the varied ideological roads serve to get the audience thinking about the real world implications.