Yesterday, on my sister’s recommendation, I acquired The Dispossessed, a famous novel by Ursula K. LeGuin that tells the story of two worlds, one an egalitarian anarchist collective, the other patriarchal and “propertarian” (i.e. like us), and a physicist who travels from the first to the latter. The book is rooted deeply in social theory, and echoes of Durkheim (or Parsons) and Marx abound – all this language about functions and dysfunctions, critiques of property and fundamental assumptions about human nature (profit-seeking vs. intrinsic desire to be productive and creative), etc. Reading the book, I was struck by the core of a syllabus for a social theory and science fiction course. Here’s a rough sketch of some ideas:
First Chapter: Society and Stuff!
Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society and Rules of the Sociological Method
Marx, Capital (selections obviously, same for the above) and the Manifesto (probably). Oh, and some bits about alienation from the 1844 Manuscripts.
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed
Second Chapter: The Disenchantment of the World/Industrialization
Weber, The Protestant Ethic, stuff on Bureaucracy maybe, not sure what else.
Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano
Third Chapter: Sex & Gender
Not sure which bits of theory to put here. I’m tempted to say some of Judith Butler, and maybe Iris Marion Young, and definitely Anne Fausto Sterling (probably Sexing the Body)
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness (a book set in the same vague universe as the Dispossessed, which follows an anthropologist visiting a world where humans don’t have a sex, but rather become one sex or the other when they go into a mating period).
Ok, I thought I had more than three stellar examples, but I’m having trouble remembering them. I thought I had something to pair with science studies itself (perhaps Stephenson’s Diamond Age or Snowcrash and Latour’s Reassembling the Social? There’s got to be something better about the interaction and co-construction of the natural and the social, the human and the non-human. I mean, it’s what science fiction is all about!). Do you all have any ideas? Think excellent science-fiction and commonly taught or excellent Social Theory.