Public Books, “Le Guin’s Anarchist Aesthetics”

Le Guin’s struggle is a subtler one. She’s against the notion that a unitary plot exists, one that knits every life together. Why should I be expected to join forces with my fellow Americans down the block? Her avowedly anarchist politics shape the way that her stories resist mobilization, and turn away from allowing anyone to stand in symbolically for the body politic.

Le Guin’s most influential booster, Fredric Jameson, praises in her work an impulse toward “world reduction.” He means that her writing presents a viable real-world politics because in it our crazily complex world is stripped, by fantasy, to its bare essentials. To Jameson, both the gender-bending The Left Hand of Darkness and the battle between anarchist Annares and capitalist Urras in The Dispossessed are simplifying allegories: they make our own world’s power elites visible, and hence resistible.

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