Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Movement and the Paradox of Resistance

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Movement and the Paradox of Resistance

Article excerpt

In his Progressive Dichotomy Paradox, Zeno argued that a runner will never reach a fixed goal along the racetrack. The reason is that the runner must first reach half the distance to the goal, but when there he must then cross half the remaining distance, then half of the new remainder, and so on. If the goal is one meter away, the runner must cover a distance of 1/2 meter, then 1/4 meter, then 1/8 meter, and so on ad infinitum. Because there is no final member of this sequence, the runner will never reach the goal.

Bradley Dowden

Resistance: Opposition of one material thing to another material thing, force, etc. Esp. in the physical sciences: the opposition offered by one body to the pressure or movement of another.

Oxford English Dictionary

While the concept of revolution implies a change from one status quo to another that takes place subsequently in time, resistance refers to a disjuncture that is not external to the time-space frame inhabited by the system under critique. In The Dispossessed, U.S. writer Ursula K. Le Guin explores a similar tension. She deploys the notions of sequentiality and simultaneity to address the ideologies associated with these different conceptions of time, as well as the possibility of bringing them together. In this article, I analyze her fictional narrative in order to explore the degree to which it may throw light on the question of the marked displacement that has taken place in the academy from the concept of revolution to that of resistance.

The Dispossessed was first published in 1974. As often occurs in the genre, the novel employs extrapolation and analogy to comment on its own historical context. The fiction unravels on two planets, Urras and Anarres. Urras resembles the Earth during the Cold War period. While in the anarchistic Anarres there are no internal frontiers, Urras is divided into two blocks: the Communist Thu and the Capitalist AI-o. There is also the equivalent of a Third World in Urras: a set of poor countries in which Thu and AI-o fight out their battles. Yet, throughout the narrative, we only get to visit one country in Urras, AI-o, as we follow the voyage there of the protagonist Shevek. In AI-o, Shevek, an Anarresti physicist, discovers an unjust society, governed by the laws of the free market and its corresponding Manichean conceptions of class, race and gender.

Anarres had been colonized two-hundred years before the start of the novel by dissidents from Urras. Founded according to the ideals of an anarchistic revolutionary woman, Odo, Anarrest. (1) society has neither private property nor any form of government. Despite its imperfections, Anarres functions to a large extent as a utopia, especially when compared to Urras. (1) Like all other Anarresti, Shevek has never been to another planet. Yet, his scientific curiosity has led him to establish radio contact with the Urrasti and, through that medium, he receives an invitation to the planet. In Anarres, the idea of his trip is met with severe resistance. But because of the anarchistic system of Anarres, nobody can actually forbid his departure. Shevek, who questions Anarresti reality due to its insufficient congruence with the ideals of its founding revolution, hopes to find new answers on Urras, which stands for the historical origins of his own people. Although he is conscious of the injustice that reigns in Urrasti society, he distrusts the intentions behind negative propaganda about Urras on his home planet.

As a newcomer to Urras, Shevek acts candidly, without noticing that he is being utilized as a political instrument. The AI-o government seeks to appropriate his theories because their technological application would guarantee AI-o's power over other nations and planets. Gradually, Shevek becomes aware of the interests to which he is subject and of the danger of his situation. He becomes involved in an organized resistance group in AI-o that is violently repressed by government forces. …

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