The Dispossessed – Ursula K LeGuin

The incredible story of a man travels from a anarchist planet to a capitalist planet. Provides a really helpful look into what a fully anarchist society could look like and the challenges they could face.

  • Property and language
    • Nothing is yours. it is to use. it is to share. If you will not share it, you can not use it.
    • The singular forms of the possessive pronoun in Pravic were used mostly for emphasis; idiom avoided them. Little children might say “my mother,” but very soon they learned to say “the mother.” Instead of “my hand hurts,” it was “the hand hurts me,” and so on; to say “this one is mine and that’s yours” in Pravic, one said, “I use this one and you use that.”
  • Urras (capitalist, statist planet)
    • You admit no religion outside churches, just as you admit no morality outside the laws.
    • He had assumed that if you removed a human being’s natural incentive to work – his initiative, his spontaneous creative energy – and we replace it with external motivation and coercion, he would become a lazy and careless worker.
    • He tried to read an elementary economics text; it bored him past endurance, it was like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long a stupid dream. He could not force himself to understand how banks functioned and so forth, because all the operations of capitalism were as meaningless to him as the rites of a primitive religion, as barbaric, as elaborate, and as unnecessary. In a huan sacrifice to a deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal.
    • I’m thinking like a damned propertaritan. as if deserving meant anything. as if one could earn beauty or life!
    • He came at last to the long array of doors through which crowds of people cam and went constanty, all purposeful, all seperate. they all looked, to him, anxious. he had often seen that anxiety before in the faces of Urrasti, and wondered about it. was it because, no matter how much money they had, they always had to worry about making more, lest they die poor? was it guilt, because no matter how little money they had, there was always somebody who had less? whatever the cause, it gave all the faces a certain sameness, and he felt very much alone among them. in escaping his guides and guards he had not considered what it might be like to be on one’s own in a society where men did not trust one another, where the basic moral assumption was not mutual aid, but mutual aggression. he was a little frightened.
    • You Urrasti have enough. enough air, enough rain, grass, oceans, food, music, buildings, factors, machines, books, clothes, history. you are rich, you own. we are poor, we lack. you have, we do not have. everything is beautiful here. only not the faces. on aneries nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. the other faces, the men and women. we have nothing but that, nothing but each other. here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes, and in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit. because our men and women are free – possessing nothing, they are free. and you the possessors are possessed. you are all in jail. each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. you live in prision, die in prision. it is all i can see in your eyes
    • The individual cannot bargain with the State. The State recognized no coinage but power: and it issues the coins itself. 
    • (upon learning about military hierarchy) “you call that organization? you even call it discipline? but it is neither. it is a coercive mechanism of extraordinary inefficiency – a kind of seventh-millennium steam engine! with such a rigid and fragile structure what could be done that is worth doing?” This had given Atro a chance to argue the worth of warfare as the breeder of courage and manliness and the weeder-out of the unfit, but the very line of his argument had forced him to concede the effectiveness of guerrillas, organized from below, self-disciplined. “but that only works when the people think they’re fighting for something of their own – you know, their homes or some notion or another”
      Shevek now understood why the army was organized as it was. it was indeed quite necessary. no rational form or organization would serve the propose. he simply had not understand that the purpose was to enable met with machine guns to kill unarmed men and women easily and in great quantities when told to do so. only he still could not see where courage, or manliness, or fitness entered in. 
    • The government here is not despotic. the rich are very rich indeed, but the poor are not so very poor. they are neither enslaved or starving. why are they not satisfied with bread and speeches?
    • There is nothing, nothing on Uras that we Anarresti need! we left with empty hands, a hundred and seventy years ago, and we were right. we took nothing. because there is nothing here by States and their weapons, the rich and their lies, and the poor and their misery. There is no way to act rightly, with a  clear heart, on Urras. There is nothing you can do that profit does not inter into, and the fear of loss, and the wish for power. you cannot say good morning without knowing which of you is ‘superior’ to the other, or trying to prove it. you cannot act like a brother to other people, you must manipulate them, or command them, or obey them, or trick them. you cannot touch another person, yet they will not leave you alone. There is no freedom. it is a box – Urras is a box, a package, with all the beautify wrapping of blue sky and meadows and forest and great cities. And you open the box, and what is inside it? a black cellar full of dust, and a dead man. a man who’s hand was shot off because he held it out for others. i have been in hell at last. hell is Urras.
    • [speech to the workers] It is our suffering that brings us together. it is not love. love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. the bond that binds us is beyond choice. we are brothers. we are brothers in what we share. in pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. we know it, because we have had to learn it. we know that there is no help for us but from on another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. and the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. you have nothing. you possess nothing. you own nothing. you are free. all you have is what you are, and what you give.
      I am here because you see in me the promise, the promise that we made two hundred years ago in this city – the promise kept. we have kept it, on Anarres. we have nothing but our freedom. we have nothing to give you but your own freedom. we have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals. we have no government but the single principle of free association. we have no states, no nations, no presidents, no primers, no chiefs, no generals, no bosses, no bakers, no landlords, no wages, no charity, no police, no soldiers, no wars. nor do we have much else. we are sharers, no owners. we are not prosperous. none of us is rich. none of us is powerful. if it is Anarres you want, if it is the future you seek, then i tell you that you must come to it with empty hands. you must come to it alone, and naked, as the cild comes into the world, into his future, without any past, without any property, wholly dependent on other people for his life. you cannont take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. you cannot buy the Revolution. you cannont make the Revolution. you can only be the Revolution. it is in your spirit, or it is nowhere. 
  • Anarres (anarchist planet)
    • Nothing is yours. it is to use. it is to share. if you will not share it, you cannot use it
    • [We are] Odonians, responsible to one another. And that responsibility is our freedom. To avoid it, would be to lose our freedom. Would you really like to live in a society where you had no responsibility and no freedom, no choice, only the false option of obedience to the law, or disobedience followed by punishment? Would you really want to go live in a prison.
    • There was to be no controlling center, no capital, no establishment for the self-perpetuating machinery of bureaucracy and the dominance drive of individuals seeking to become captains, bosses, chiefs of state
    • An Odonian undertook monogamy just as he might undertake a join enterprise in production, a ballet or a soap works. partnership was a voluntarily constituted federation like any other. so long as it worked, it worked, and if it didn’t work it stopped being. it was not an institution but a function. it had no sanction but that of private conscience.
      this was fully in accord with Odonian social theory. the validity of the promise, even promise of indefinite term, was deep in the grain of Odo’s thinking; though it might seem that her insistence on freedom to change would invalidate the idea of promise or for, in fact the freedom made the promise meaningful. a promise is a direction taken, a self-limintation of choice. as Odo pointed out, if no direction is taken, if one goes nowhere, no change will occur. one’s freedom to choose and to change will be unused, exactly as if one were in jail, a jail of one’s own building, a maze in which on one way is better than any other. so Odo came to see the promise, the pledge, the idea of fidelity, as essential in the complexity of freedom.
    • No law, no limit, no penalty, no punishment, no disapproval applied to any sexual practice of any kind, except the rape of a child or woman, for which the rapist’s neighbors were likely to provided summary revenge if he did not get promptly into the gentler hands of a therapy center. but molestation was extremely rare in a society where complete fulfillment was the norm from puberty on, and the only social limit imposed on sexual activity was the mild one of pressure in favor of privacy, a kind of modesty imposed by the community of life.
    • maintaing genuine spontaneous fidelity in a society that had no legal or moral sanctions against infidelity
    • there waas an undercurrent of joy in Abbenay that summer. there was a lightheartedness at work however hard the work, a readiness to drop all care as soon as what could be done had been done. the old tag of “solidarity” had come alive again. there is exhilaration in finding that the bond is stronger, after all, than all that tries the bond.
    • when the wells in the northern suburbs failed, temporary mains from the other districts were laid by volunteers working in their free time, skilled and unskilled, adults and adolescents, and the job was done in thirty hours.
    • It is hard to swear when sex is not dirty and blasphemy does not exist
    • [Anarresti explaining prison] with the reluctance of a decent adult forced to explain an obscenity to children. 
    • nobody goes hungry while another eats
    • he recognized that need, in Odoian terms, as his “cellular function,” the anagogic term for the individuals’ individuality, the work he can do best, therefore his best contribution to his society. a healthy society would let him excerise that optimum function freely, in the coordination of all such functions finding its adaptability and strength. that was a central idea of Odo’s Analogy. That the Odoian society on Anarres had fallen short of the ideal did not, in his eyes, lessen his responsibility to it; just the contrary. with the myth of the State out of the way, the real mutuality and reciprocity of soceit and the individual became clear. Sacrifice might be demanded of the individual, but never compromise: for though only the society could give security and stability, only the individual, the person, had the power of moral choice – the power of change, the essential function of life. the Odoian society was conceived as a permeant revolution, and revolution begins in the thinking mind.
    • She too was a good Odoian, and the separation of means and ends was, to her too, false. for her as for him, there was no end. there was process: process was all. you could go in a promising direction or you could go wrong, but you did not set our with the expectation of ever stopping anywhere. all responsibilities, all commitments thus understood took on substance and duration
    • we are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolutin is our obligation: our hope of evolution. ‘the Revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. it is for all, or it is nothing. if it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin.’ We can’t stop here. we must go on. we must take risks
  • Odo’s philosophy (main anarchist theorist)
    • To be whole is to be part. – Odo
    • True voyage is return. – Odo
    • To make a thief, make an owner; to create crime, create laws. – odo
    • Odo wrote: “A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. it is useless work that darkens the heart. the delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skillful making, of anything doing needed work and doing it well – this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection, and of sociality as a whole”
    • we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. have we not eaten while another starved? will you punish us for that? will you reward us for the viture of starving while others ate? no man earns punishment, no man earns reward. free you mind of the idea of deserving,  the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think – odo
  • Earth
    • My world, my Earth, is a ruin. a planet spooled by the human species. we multiplied and gobbled and fought unit there was nothing left, and then we died. we controlled neither appetite nor violence; we did not adapt. we destroyed ourselves. but we destroyed the world first. there are no forests left on my Earth. the air is very, the sky is grey, it is always hot. The bones and the bricks go to dust, but the little pieces of plastic never do. we failed as a species, as a social species.
      We forfeited our chance for Anarres centuries ago, before it ever came into being.
    • We cannot come to you. you will not let us. you do not believe in change, in chance, in evolution. you would destroy us rather than admit our reality, rather than admint that there is hope! you cannot come to you. we can only wait for you to come to us.
  • General
    • You can go home again… so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.
    • There are souls… whose umbilicus has never been cut. They never got weaned from the universe. they do not understand death as an enemy; they look forward to rotting and turning into humus. It was strange to see Takver take a leaf into her hand, or even a rock. She became an extension of it, it of her.
    • there’s a point, around age twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities
    • if you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy. pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled. you will not know what it means to come home