Science Fiction Anarchy And Changing Our Streets

May 19, 2009

I just finished reading Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. The plot centers around a genius physicist and his life on two planets with two polar opposite social-economic systems: one statist-capitalist, and another anarchical-socialist. Like many of LeGuin’s novels, the brilliance is less is the plot and more in her observations of how society works. Here she uses the two societies to examine the human desire for power and possession, romantic revolutionaries, and human need for stability.

At first glance this may seem pie-in-the-sky kind of talk, but please indulge me for a minute.

The anarchist-socialist planet has no laws, no government. People do what they please, take what they need. The conceit is that when laws exist, people want to break them. And laws only exist to preserve power and property. With no government or personal ownership, laws are unnecessary, since people use what they need.
OK, wacky stuff. But let’s scale the idea down a bit to something real, like with Woonerfs, as Streetwiki describes them:

The five primary criteria for a woonerf…include gateways that announce that one has entered the woonerf; curves to slow vehicle traffic; amenities such as trees and play equipment that serve the dual purpose of forcing vehicles to slow down; no curbs; and intermittent parking so that cars do not form a wall of steel between the roadway and houses.

Sounds like anarchical street societies to me. Take away the extra rules, put everyone on the same plane and everything self-regulates.