I read The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin recently. It’s quite a few weeks since I finished it, so my recollections are now a little hazy, but I wanted to take the time to write something about it, as it was very good.

It was indeed a great book. Beautifully written. The story revolves around the life of Shevek, an inhabitant of the world of Anarres. The central premise is that Anarres is a world where anarchism is the predominant political system, founded by individuals who splintered away from the neighbouring world of Urras many years ago to start a different society. The life and travels of Shevek serve as the vessel for contrasting full-blown anarchism with full-blown capitalism, as he visits and explores the country of A-Io on Urras. A-Io is patriarchy and individualism dialled up to 11. The book provides many moments of point and counterpoint on the merits and dismerits of individualism and communalism when both go to their extremes.

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Inventing the Future is a political book that provides a great breakdown of why neoliberalism succeeded, and why the left has failed so far to reclaim any ground back.  It offers insights into how we might reclaim modernity and invent the future.

Despite its political density I found ItF to be thoroughly readable.  It’s also an exciting and motivating read.  On the left, you might feel a bit downtrodden of late, and lamenting why the world the way it is.  The ItF analysis of this is that the hegemony of neoliberalism was very cleverly instituted over several decades, weedling its premises into the background consciousness through thinktanks, placements in political institutions, etc, such that when the Keynesian economic era began to flounder in the 1970s, it simply seemed like there was only one answer to the question of what to do next – neoliberalism.

Where the left has failed in recent history is to do the same.  Despite chronic recessions since the turn of the century, highlighting the paucity of neoliberalism as a valid system, the left simply hasn’t been in a position to offer an alternative.  We should have been building up a body of evidence and opinion and mindshare over the last decades, such that our most progressive ideas were already pitched as the only alternative.

Srnicek and Williams make some bold demands in the book (and have elsewhere indicated that these are deliberately provocative, and perhaps not ever entirely attainable.)  These are: full automation; reduction of the working week; and a universal basic income.  Concomitant to that is a general diminishment of work ethic.