Ursula Le Guin: Short Stories

Ursula Le Guin: Short Stories Anarchism in Le Guin's Short Stories

Anarchist themes permeate the short stories of Ursula Le Guin. Her frequent critiques of government power, rejection of capitalism, and exploration of alternative systems of political economy place her well within the anarchist tradition. Anarchism drives the main theme in “The Day Before the Revolution”, and arises in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and “The New Atlantis” as well.

In the epilogue to “The Day Before the Revolution”, Le Guin even states that anarchism has always been the most fascinating sort of political arrangement. Anarchism functions in “The Day Before the Revolution” and in The Dispossessed as the foundation for the rest of society. This foundation is based on mutual respect and cooperation without submission to a higher power. In both stories, she rejects the idea that people should have to accept the status quo and remain content with the social contract made between governments and their people.

Social Contract Theory holds that some freedoms must be relinquished in service of a greater good. The existence of government authority is deemed necessary to combat the brutality that people would inflict upon one another if left in their natural state. In the words of John Locke, “The state of nature was completely intolerable, and so rational men would be willing to submit themselves even to an absolute authority in order to escape it”.

Le Guin rejects this view and instead focuses on the ideal version of the State of Nature, also mentioned in Locke’s Secord Treatise on Civil Government. which holds that there can be a state of perfect and complete liberty in which people can conduct their lives as they best see fit, free from the interference of others. In this state, even though people are free there is still a general sense of morality, which ensures that harm does not come to people. This is the sort of society that exists in “The Day Before the Revolution”, in which every Odonian has the liberty to do what he or she pleases, but they all act in ways that benefit the group as a whole.