"incentives" and The Dispossessed

Bryan A. Alexander bnalexan at umich.edu
Fri Sep 29 18:48:37 MDT 1995

Um, another note for those who haven't read it: the lunar society in THE
DISPOSSESSED is explicitly an *anarchist* experiment, one that has
succeeded for centuries.

Bryan Alexander
Department of English
University of Michigan

On Fri, 29 Sep 1995, Lisa Rogers wrote:

> Ursula K. Le Guin's _The Dispossessed_ was recommended by someone on
> this list, as an exploration of socialism in a [science] fiction
> novel.  I'm about half-way through it, and enjoying it very much.
> (Even my "light" reading is serious stuff lately.  Steve, I checked
> out that calculus book, but Ursula is a bit more engaging at the
> moment.)
> In another solar system, communists formed a large movement within a
> fammiliar-looking capitalist society, but they were all sent to the
> habitable moon/co-planet, rather than being exterminated.
> Seven generations later, one scientist goes back to Urras [Earth] and
> is shown about by his colleagues and guides, sight-seeing in one of
> the dominant/wealthy countries of Urras.
> "He had been taught as a child that Urras was a festering mass of
> inequity, iniquity, and waste.  But all the people he met, and all
> the people he saw, in the smallest country village, were well
> dressed, well fed, and, contrary to his expectations, industrious.
> They did not stand about sullenly waiting to be ordered to do things.
> Just like the Anarresti [moon-dwellers], they were simply busy
> getting things done.  It puzzled him.  He had assumed that if you
> removed a human being's natural incentive to work - his [sic]
> initiative, his [sic] spontaneous creative energy - and replaced it
> with external motivation and coercion, he [sic] would become a lazy
> and careless worker.  But no careless workers kept those lovely
> farmlands, or made the superb cars and comfortable trains.  The lure
> and compulsion of *profit* was evidently a much more effective
> replacement of the natural initiative than he had been led to
> believe."  (Emphasis in original)
> Of course, he doesn't know the whole truth yet, but there is a point
> to this partial truth, which came up on list recently in talk about
> TV and artistry/lack thereof.  Sometimes, even under capitalism, one
> can get money for work and still use initiative and creativity at the
> same time.  And under socialism, there is still work to be done that
> few will find rewarding in itself.  Of course, if one gets decent pay
> and human respect, and even job sharing/rotation, it is probably
> easier to put one's mind and body into any job that would be
> otherwise unattractive.
> Lisa Rogers
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