Article: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Logistics Revolution – The Dispossessed and the Supply Chain

by Frankie Hines

31st March 2022

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) may be the best-known anarchist fiction of the twentieth century, serving as a go-to representation of the possible workings of an egalitarian stateless society. The novel is felt to be the common property of the anarchist movement, though clearly it resonates far more widely, and Le Guin’s death in 2018 was experienced as a loss by anarchists worldwide. The novel’s appeal may result not only from its vivid depiction of a society organised on anarchist principles, but also from its spirit of forthright anarchistic self-critique. If almost all twenty-first-century anarchists are to some extent disaffected anarchists, The Dispossessed appeals all the more for its willingness to countenance possible anarchist pitfalls and fumbles – failures to be as anarchistic as we want to be. The novel has spurred much critical commentary and debate, from both anarchist and non-anarchist perspectives: it’s been read as prefiguring an ‘Internet of the Universe’, as modelling a small-scale low-rise urbanism at odds with prevalent science fiction pictures of the city, and in terms suggested by Leo Strauss’s reading of Plato, to give only a very brief sampling of approaches from the last couple of years.[1] This essay tries to chart a new path around the novel by looking in depth at one particular set of questions: the novel’s politics of logistics; its representation of the labour and infrastructure necessary for the movement of goods across and between worlds; and its attentiveness, or inattentiveness, to the distribution of goods as a vector for anarchist, or less-than-anarchist, social relations. What emerges from considering these questions, I’ll argue, is an awareness of the central role of logistics as a space in which the contradictions of the novel’s anarchist society are especially pronounced. I’ll first give an overview of recent critical work around logistics and counterlogistics, then outline some of the shapes logistics takes on Anarres (the ‘anarchist world’ in the novel), and conclude by considering the relationship between the distribution of goods and the communication of ideas in the novel.[2]

The logistical turn

If there’s been an efflorescence of new work on Le Guin since her death, it’s possible to observe on an even grander scale a turn towards infrastructure, logistics and the supply chain in critical thought over the same period (and for a few years prior), including, if only thus far in embryo, in the humanities and literary studies. This body of work has shown the transportation and distribution of goods, and the construction of systems for those processes (which together I’ll refer to as logistics) to be a central site (or, rather, an inherently decentralised but no less authoritarian site) of contemporary power; they’ve described the emergence of logistics as a military science and its adoption in the commercial sphere; and they’ve shown logistics to be a consistently contested space, one that invariably meets with small- or large-scale forms of resistance.[3] The ‘logistics revolution’ of the 1960s, Deborah Cowen informs us, involved containerisation, deregulation of transportation, and the development of (purportedly) seamless ‘just-in-time’ delivery systems, thereby transforming understandings of production and the global economy, giving rise to today’s transnational systems of circulation, and facilitating massive growth in global trade.[4] Since then, logistics has more or less subsumed the previously existing fields of shipping, distribution and even management, and businesses in those fields have rebranded themselves as logistics companies (processes mirrored in academia, where supply chain management has become a focus of research and teaching in business schools).[5] As Charmaine Chua and colleagues remind us, though, the apparent newness of the logistics revolution and the world that it has brought about should not divert attention from the ways these new formations represent ‘​​the continuation of centuries-old processes of imperial circulation and colonization’, working along lines carved out by slave traders and colonial marauders for centuries prior; and contemporary developments (for example the role of infrastructure development in gentrification and anti-indigenous violence) echo this history.[6] As such, it’s vitally important to note that in societies structured by the demands of the market rather than the needs of people, logistics is not simply a matter of getting commodities to people efficiently; rather, denying people access to commodities, slowing down or circumventing some circulations while facilitating others, and erecting borders and controls, are all part and parcel of the workings of logistical systems.

Reflecting an awareness of logistics as a site of violence and exclusion, but also of opportunities for resistance, anarchist engagements have most often taken the form of counterlogistics, in which activists and theorists have sought ways to circumvent flows and impede circulations in the hope of generating or hastening socioeconomic crises.[7] Thus the mantra of the Invisible Committee cuts to the core of what’s at stake: ‘Power is logistic, block everything!’[8] This orientation – the sense that power resides today in circulations, and our power is to be exerted by blocking those same circulations – can be witnessed in the array of movements that Naomi Klein has grouped under the name ‘blockadia’: movements targeting fossil fuel infrastructure that have repeatedly made blockades and barricades a central part of their repertoires.[9] Undergirding all this is the realisation that actors in struggle can and must fight where they are: rather than trying to find a revolutionary subject with a privileged relation to the means of production, counterlogistics emerges as a form of struggle potentially open to all.[10] Thus, when Cowen observes that ‘old enemies of empire – “indians” and “pirates” – are among the groups that pose the biggest threats to the “security of supply” today’, we might add anarchists to their ranks.[11]

Alongside this growth in interest in logistics in the relatively circumscribed sphere of critical social thought and anarchist praxis, logistics has emerged more broadly as a theme that seems to constantly erupt into headlines, usually following or forewarning crisis. We need think only of the shortages and bottlenecks that accompanied the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the tailbacks and intensified bureaucracy following Brexit, or, of course, the ongoing logistical fuck-ups of the Russian Army as it slouches toward Kyiv and the role played by the Nord Stream gas pipelines as an ill-fated bargaining chip.[12] This essay, then, takes these questions as a starting point for a discussion of a novel that’s been much-read and much-discussed, but seldom in terms of what it has to say about these pressing political issues. While Tom Moylan argues for The Dispossessed’s relevance to the concerns of the 1970s – finding in its preoccupation with revolutionary disappointment echoes of the malaise that followed the diminution of the utopian sentiments of the 1960s – reading the novel for a theory of logistics makes plain its relevance to the 2020s.[13] Le Guin famously insisted she wasn’t in the business of making predictions – ‘I write science fiction, and science fiction isn’t about the future. I don’t know any more about the future than you do, and very likely less’ – but this need not rule out reading for her a sort of unwilled prescience or continuing to identify new uses to which her work can be put.[14]

‘Scarcity as a positive condition’?

The readings of the novel that I wish to respond to here are those that have circled around the question of scarcity and its relation to utopia. Fredric Jameson laid the groundwork for this approach in a 1975 article which argued that The Dispossessed took to extremes a fixation on scarcity already apparent in Le Guin’s earlier The Left Hand of Darkness (1969).[15] Le Guin, Jameson argues, makes extensive use of a technique of ‘world-reduction’, turning it ‘into a sociopolitical hypothesis about the inseparability of utopia and scarcity’.[16] John Fekete would soon take up a similar line of argument, arguing that Anarres’ scarcity may reflect a broader cultural move towards asceticism, both in the counterculture and in the political mainstream.[17] In The Dispossessed and throughout her work (Fekete proposes), ‘scarcity or the powers of nature constitute the ineluctable barriers of adversity against which Le Guin constructs an essentially moral drama’.[18] Nadia Khouri would conclude in much the same vein that, in The Dispossessed, ‘abundance is … condemned even-handedly in all its forms’ and ‘material dispossession becomes the necessary condition for ethical wealth’.[19] Drawing on these earlier critics, Tom Moylan accuses Le Guin of embracing an ascetic position that ‘accepts scarcity as a positive condition and not as a condition to transcend’.[20] Raymond Williams stands almost alone in this period in offering a broadly positive reading of the novel from a Marxist perspective, but nonetheless returns to the same themes, finding the central fact of its setting to be ‘that Anarres, the utopia, is bleak and arid’.[21]

In levelling the charge that Le Guin fetishises scarcity or treats it as a precondition for moral virtue, each of these readings risks missing the ways that scarcity is mitigated in the society described in the novel through the provisioning of goods. When Khouri concludes that the novel’s ‘governing principle is such that only ideas, but never material goods, may circulate’, she is simply wrong: the novel is, in fact, very specifically attentive to the circulation of goods, and, as I’ll show, places the question of the circulation of goods in an absolutely central role in its picture of political contestation.[22] And while Moylan finds that ‘[m]oral categories … [replace] social-economic phenomena and political redistribution of wealth’ in Le Guin’s imaginary, he misses that The Dispossessed is precisely attentive to (re)distribution in a coldly practical form.[23]

Interplanetary and intraplanetary logistics

What forms do logistics take in The Dispossessed, then? We can, initially and schematically, subdivide Le Guin’s presentation of these processes into the interplanetary and the intraplanetary; that is, the movement of goods across Anarres and the movement of goods between Anarres and Urras. The latter is chronologically prior (to the extent that anything can be in the recursive and simultaneity-focused novel): Anarresti society is dependent on the exchange of goods with Urras, and always has been. Freighters bringing fuel and machine parts arrive eight times a year and depart with raw materials mined by the Anarresti.[24] The anarchist society’s status as a mining colony, surviving by trading commodities with its capitalist enemies, is perhaps the most structurally embedded of its many contradictions. Even at the end of the novel, as Shevek returns to Anarres convinced of the need for a new revolution, he seems unable to fully comprehend the significance of this exchange: ‘[w]e left with empty hands’, he declares, referring to the Odonians’ initial exodus, ‘and we were right’ (285), but this is not true; in fact, they kept channels open for distribution of goods, and would have starved had they not.

Intraplanetary logistics, on the other hand, involves the distribution of resources between far-flung settlements on the arid moon. Logistics on Anarres is informed, to an extent, by plans set forth by Odo, the novel’s original anarchist, part theorist and part prophet: committed to a bioregionalist vision of self-sustaining communities, we learn that Odo also ‘intended that all communities be connected … so that goods and ideas could get where they were wanted … and no community should be cut off from change and interchange’ (81). Yet Odo’s plans were for fecund Urras, not barren Anarres, so some modification has been necessary: rather than a supplementary measure to ensure connectivity, the distribution of goods is a matter of life and death. Nonetheless, in keeping with Le Guin’s rejection of utopia-as-blueprint, the workings of this system are only hinted at and gestured towards. Goods (and people) are transported on trucks, trains, truck-trains and ‘dirigibles’ (airships) under the direction of Production and Distribution Coordination (PDC) (208). There are no private vehicles, and marine travel is possible but costly: as Shevek tells an Urrasti engineer soon after his arrival, ‘[t]o build just a ship to carry grain across the sea, a barge, it takes a year’s planning, a big effort of our economy’ (73). We get a picture of a more local form of logistics in the form of Abbenay’s public transport system, which consists of ramshackle trams typically crammed with passengers (85). Later, on Urras, Shevek observes that the passenger trains resemble those he’s familiar with, though only externally; on the inside, the Urrasti trains are divided into compartments and classes (167).

The workings of Anarres’ intraplanetary logistical system is especially apparent, though, when pressure is applied to it by drought and famine:

The network maintained by the transport federative was effective in normal times and in limited emergencies; it was flexible, adaptable to circumstance, and the Syndics of Transport had great team and professional pride. They called their engines and dirigibles names like Indomitable, Endurance, Eat-the-Wind; they had mottoes – We Always Get There – Nothing Is Too Much! – But now, when whole regions of the planet were threatened with immediate famine if food was not brought in from other regions, and when large emergency drafts of workers must be shifted, the demands laid on transport were too much. There were not enough vehicles; there were not enough people to run them. Everything the federative had on wings or wheels was pressed into service, and apprentices, retired workers, volunteers, and emergency draftees were helping man the trucks, the trains, the ships, the ports, the yards. (211)

In the drought, the large-scale redistribution of labour necessitates the transportation of people on a train ‘made up of passenger cars, or at least of cars being used at the moment for passengers’ (211). The vital distinction between the administration of things and the governance of people – in which commitment to the former and avoidance of the latter is what allows PDC to avoid becoming a state (see 140) – breaks down as people are treated like objects and moved on vehicles made for goods.

The limits of PDC are made plainer still when the train on which Shevek is travelling is forced, by a crash further along the line, to stop in a town dependent on the food the train carries, and the townsfolk, faced with the choice of allowing the travellers to go hungry or risking starvation themselves, accept the food. Worse still, Shevek recounts how ‘they hid behind “their” walls with “their” property, and ignored the train, never looked at it’ (212). Here the prefigurative language practices of the Anarresti collapse: the possessive pronoun, rarely used in Pravic because it connotes the taboo concept of private property, rears its head. The slow violence necessitated by logistical systems, then, has the capacity to undo practices of solidarity and to impose contrary habits of selfishness. It may be for this reason that of all the job postings an Anarresti may receive, the labour of logistics – repairing roads, to which Shevek’s friend Tirin is sent despite wanting to teach maths; or digging canals, where a composer acquaintance ends up because the Music Syndicate dislikes his experimental work (142, 145) – is seen as the most unpleasant.

Later in the novel, the same questions of distribution provide the most wrenching example of Anarres’ descent from anarchism into utilitarian bureaucracy. Shevek travels with a train driver who discusses the prospect of coming under attack from the starving:

I wondered what I’d do if my train ever got mobbed … See, I don’t carry foodstuffs; one truckload, at most, for Upper Sedep. This is an ores run. But if I got on a provisions run, and they stopped me. What would I do? Run ‘em down and get the food to where it ought to go? But hell, you’re going to run down kids, old men? They’re doing wrong but you going to kill them for it? … A syndic, fellow I’ve known for years, he did just that, north of here, in ‘66. They tried to take a grain truck off his train. He backed the train, killed a couple of them before they cleared the track, they were like worms in rotten fish, thick, he said. He said there’s eight hundred people waiting for that grain truck, and how many of them might die if they don’t get it? (256-7)[25]

The influence of Taoism on Le Guin’s novels has been frequently noted, but these passages are significant for their engagement with familiar questions of moral philosophy: most obviously in its literalisation of the ‘trolley problem’ thought experiment, introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967, in which one is asked to decide whether it is permissible to wilfully kill a small number of people in order to save the lives of a greater number.[26] The driver’s account of the necessity of making utilitarian calculations causes Shevek to reflect on his time spent issuing reduced rations to those incapable of working: ‘making lists of who should starve’ (257). Shevek tells the driver that he quit that post, but knows that having done so will have had no effect, as ‘[t]here’s always somebody willing to make lists’ (257). Later, having returned home to his partner Takver and their daughter, Shevek finally has the epiphany that’s been brewing for most of his life: ‘We keep our initiative tucked away safe in our mind, like a room where we can come and say, “I don’t have to do anything, I make my own choices, I’m free”. And then we leave the little room in our mind, and go where PDC posts us, and stay till we’re reposted’ (271). Soon after, Shevek and Takver form the Syndicate of Initiative, which opens up channels of communication with Urras against PDC’s wishes, setting in motion both the drama of the Urrasti portion of the novel and the possibility of the revivification of Anarres’ revolution.

Shipping, transportation and distribution, then, play a central role in the construction of ambiguous utopia in The Dispossessed because they are the spheres in which anarchist ideals most clearly give way to bureaucracy, utilitarianism and managerialism. This is not to say that the novel is ultimately ‘about logistics’ in any straightforward way. It is however to insist that, far from fetishising scarcity or dismissing the importance of the transportation of goods, Le Guin prioritises logistics as a central space of political contestation and realisation. Logistics on Anarres is unlike logistics on Earth in the twenty-first century in vital respects: logistics on our world is a technology of capitalism, inseparable from exploitation, very likely unrecoverable for communist ends; on Anarres it is formally egalitarian and functional, existing to satisfy human needs rather than to generate profit.[27] Yet it is also incipiently bureaucratic, the space in which the demand to perform utilitarian calculations that one cannot reconcile with one’s politics or one’s morality is most keenly felt.

Logistics and communication

Is there something to be said, though, in concluding, for the argument that Le Guin prefers to think in terms of the transmission of ideas than the distribution of goods – that the occasional pointers to a politics of logistics in The Dispossessed are outweighed by a fixation on the utopian possibilities of communication? On this reading what’s at stake would be the novel’s failure to put the distribution of goods on the same plane as the communication of ideas. In this regard Khouri’s claim that ‘only ideas, but never material goods, may circulate’ on Anarres would remain a reductive account, but, reframed in less categorical terms and with a greater degree of nuance, could convince us.[28] Indeed, it’s possible to read Shevek as a sort of Habermasian, motivated by the (possibly eventually successful) search for a pure form of unmediated communication in the form of the ansible.[29] Rather than constructing a binary of logistics/communication or goods/ideas in which one must take precedence, though, it may be preferable to identify a constitutive, productive tension between these two modes. For example, while Shevek’s development of a system for interstellar communication is indeed his central achievement as a scientist, it’s telling that his work is constantly mistaken for a device that would transport matter rather than just data: Dr Kimoe suggests that Shevek’s work might make interstellar travel faster and cheaper (15), a hope also expressed by the engineer Oegeo (73–4); while later, Oiie, rifling through a passed-out Shevek’s papers, grumbles, ‘[w]here’s our instantaneous space flight? … Nine, ten months we’ve been feeding the bastard, for nothing!’ (193). Shevek, on the other hand, knows that the Ioti may yet arrive at instantaneous travel, but won’t do so from his equations: ‘Men cannot leap the great gaps, but ideas can’ (283).[30] Reading these moments in light of the central role played by logistics in the passages discussed above offers a new perspective on the communication question: Shevek’s grandiose hopes for communication, Le Guin may seem to suggest, do not necessarily ground a viable response to human needs. On this reading, communicative aspirations are not a liberal delusion to which Le Guin is party, but rather one pole in a competing balance of political priorities that play out in the novel.

This intersection points toward a final terrain on which logistics becomes a political problem in The Dispossessed: the materiality of the publication and distribution of texts, or what we might call the logistics of literature. The Dispossessed takes an abiding interest in how books get ‘out there’, by what material form, and via what social relations. Publication on Anarres falls under the remit of PDC, and paper is a constantly scarce commodity, so the difficulties Shevek encounters in having his research published (and especially having it sent to Urras) form a significant part of the impetus for his political transformation. Having first succumbed to the demand to make his work more amenable to the mainstream of Anarresti physics and to name his authoritarian colleague Sabul as a co-author (96, 200), Shevek later realises his mistake and resolves to print his work unbowdlerised (273-4), but publishing is the sphere of Anarresti society in which Shevek first gets his fingers dirty, ‘bargain[ing] like profiteers’ with Sabul to guarantee his work a readership (99). Musing on this compromise, Shevek likens his own position to that of Anarres’ economy which, by virtue of the interplanetary logistics discussed above, ‘depend[s] on the continuance of a fundamental, unadmitted profit-contract’ (99).

Le Guin isn’t just meditating on logistics in The Dispossessed, then, but also frequently dwelling on the ways literature is caught up in logistics. But this demands another reframing: the novel’s vision of communication is not abstract or idealist, but rather, as evidenced in Shevek’s struggles to communicate his ideas unimpeded, intensely aware of communication’s own logistical materialities. Communication is not separate from or opposed to logistics, but rather always bound up in it. To the extent that The Dispossessed – or Shevek’s physics – centres on communication, the nature of its approach to communication is precisely not idealist or disconnected from questions of distribution (nor even, necessarily, utopian), but rather concerned above all with practicalities, circumscriptions and impediments. To take Le Guin as a thinker of logistics, a thinker commensurate to a logistical mode of power, must involve this reframing of The Dispossessed’s communicative aspirations in terms of their logistical substrate.

Ursula K. Le Guin


[1] Christian Fuchs, “The Utopian Internet, Computing, Communication, and Concrete Utopias: Reading William Morris, Peter Kropotkin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and P. M. in the Light of Digital Socialism”, Triple C 18.1 (2020): 146–186; Amy Butt, “As Plain as Spilt Salt: The City as Social Structure in The Dispossessed”, Textual Practice 35.12 (2021): 2005–2020; and Dennis Wilson Wise, “Utopias Unrealizable and Ambiguous: Plato, Leo Strauss, and The Dispossessed”, in The Legacies of Ursula K. Le Guin: Science, Fiction, Ethics, edited by Christopher L. Robinson et al., Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, pp. 47–63, respectively.

[2] For reasons of space, this essay assumes a prior knowledge of the novel and its plot. If you haven’t read it, do so! (Freely available here:

[3] See Charmaine Chua et al., “Introduction: Turbulent Circulation: Building a Critical Engagement with Logistics”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36.4 (2018): 617–629; Deborah Cowen, The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade, University of Minnesota Press, 2014; Stefano Harney, “Logistics Genealogies: A Dialogue with Stefano Harney” (interview by Niccolò Cuppini and Mattia Frapporti) Social Text 36.3 (2018): 95–110; Laleh Khalili, “The Roads to Power: The Infrastructure of Counterinsurgency”, World Policy Journal 34.1 (2017): 93–99; Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, “Operations of Capital“, South Atlantic Quarterly 114.1 (2015): 1–9.

[4] Cowen, Deadly Life of Logistics, p. 40–5.

[5] Cowen, Deadly Life of Logistics, p. 32.

[6] Chua et al., “Introduction”, pp. 619–20; see also Harney, “Logistics Genealogies”, pp. 95–99.

[7] See Jasper Bernes, “Logistics, Counterlogistics and the Communist Project”, Endnotes 3 (2013): 172–201; Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection, Semiotext(e), 2009 (especially 110–2, 119–21, 124–6, 130–2); and To Our Friends, Semiotext(e), 2015 (especially 81–98); and the anonymous edited volume Short Circuit: A Counter-Logistics Reader, No New Ideas, 2015.

[8] Invisible Committee, To Our Friends, p. 81.

[9] Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (ebook ed.), Simon & Schuster, 2014, ch. 9.

[10] As the Invisible Committee put it, “[i]f the subject of the strike was the working class, the subject of the blockade is whoever”. Invisible Committee, To Our Friends, p. 93. My own formulation here is informed by that of Joshua Clover, who has more recently insisted “that people fight where they are” (emphasis as original), and that in post-Fordist contexts where people are is in “circulation-side jobs” or “out of the formal wage altogether”. Clover, “‘To Preserve the Possibility of Communal Life and Emancipation’: An Interview with Joshua Clover”, (interview by Dennis Büscher-Ulbrich and Marlon Lieber), Coils of the Serpent 8 (2021), p. 170.

[11] Cowen, Deadly Life of Logistics, p. 9.

[12] While some accounts of the history of logistics describe it as a military science later adopted for commercial purposes, the very close imbrication of civil and military forms of logistics and counter-logistics today shows something of the perspicacity of Cowen’s argument, which resists identifying a process of “civilianisation” in favour of an account in which the logistics revolution in fact represents a new stage in the entanglement of the military and civilian spheres that causes us to reconsider the traditional conceptual divide between the two.

[13] Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination [1986], Peter Lang, 2014, p. 87.

[14] Ursula K. Le Guin, Introduction, The Left Hand of Darkness [1969], Gollancz, 2017, p. xvi. Le Guin would repeat this insistence in an interview published a few months before her death: “all good SF writers know … prediction is not our game”. Ursula K. ​​Le Guin, “Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin” (interview by David Streitfeld), Los Angeles Review of Books, 17 Nov. 2017.

[15] Fredric Jameson, “World-Reduction in Le Guin: The Emergence of Utopian Narrative”, Science Fiction Studies 2.3 (1975), p. 224.

[16] Jameson, “World-Reduction in Le Guin”, p. 228.

[17] John Fekete, “The Dispossessed and Triton: Act and System in Utopian Science Fiction”, Science Fiction Studies 6.2 (1979), p. 134. Fekete writes at the very start of the neoliberal period, which would prove to be one that largely rejected (overt or avowed forms of) asceticism, but he may nonetheless be right to identify a convergence between radical currents and the austeritarian logic of late Fordism. Yet his insistence that The Dispossessed has little or no extrapolative relevance to the contemporary era because, in the late 1970s, a post-scarcity condition was on the horizon (pp. 134–5) today appears to us as hopelessly optimistic. He would, perhaps, have been better off following Le Guin’s own advice against the issuing of predictions.

[18] Fekete, “The Dispossessed”, p. 135.

[19] Nadia Khouri, “The Dialectics of Power: Utopia in the Science Fiction of Le Guin, Jeury, and Piercy”, Science Fiction Studies 7.1 (1980), p. 51.

[20] Moylan, Demand the Impossible, p. 99. In his introduction to the new edition of Demand the Impossible, though, Moylan would recant his earlier treatment of the novel, describing it as “overly harsh” and offering an apology to Le Guin. Moylan, Demand the Impossible, p. xxi.

[21] Raymond Williams, “Utopia and Science Fiction”, Science Fiction Studies 5.3 (1978), pp. 213–4.

[22] Khouri, “Dialectics of Power”, p. 52.

[23] Moylan, Demand the Impossible, p. 98.

[24] Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed [1974], Gollancz, 2002, pp. 78–9. Subsequent references in text.

[25] Much earlier in the novel, the train driver’s grisly anecdote is prefigured when a friend of Shevek laments that his preferred mode of argumentation involves dumping “a truckload of damned heavy brick arguments” on his opponent, without considering “the bleeding body mangled beneath the heap” (40). When we look at The Dispossessed through the lens of logistics we start to see its traces everywhere.

[26] Philippa Foot, “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect” [1967], in Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 19–32.

[27] On the question of the impossibility of reconfiguration of logistical systems, Bernes, “Logistics, Counterlogistics and the Communist Prospect”; for an alternative perspective, see Alberto Toscano, “Lineaments of the Logistical State”, Viewpoint Magazine, 28 Sep. 2014.

[28] Khouri, “Dialectics of Power”, p. 52.

[29] See e.g. Fuchs, “Utopian Internet”, p. 165; Wise, “Utopias Unrealizable and Ambiguous”, pp. 60–1.

[30] That the ansible cannot speed up interplanetary travel is apparent in Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, published before The Dispossessed in 1969 but set later, in a world where the ansible is widely used by the Ekumen, an interplanetary confederation. In Left Hand, the protagonist Genly Ai is able to send messages between planets instantaneously, but physical travel between worlds still takes decades. Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness, p. 37.