A Question of Infrademocracy: A Conceptual Approach to the 'Radicality' of Democracy (2021)
In Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story A Woman’s Liberation from 1995 the woman Rakam tells about her life beginning with being born a slave on a planet called Werel. At age sixteen Rakam’s life drastically changes when the new owner of the farm, Erod, decides to free them all at once and fight politically for abolitionism. However, what she soon discovers as a supposedly free woman traveling to the capital and thereby also life in a big city is that inequality and different kinds of ‘unfreedoms’ for particularly women still persist. Because of the dangerous situation and lack of rights for former slaves on Werel, Rakam decides to leave for Yeowe, a neighboring planet in which a rebellion against the slave owners from Werel had actually succeeded and led to a wholly new government and power elite. But once again, Rakam realizes that women and different minorities are also being oppressed on Yeowe and that the fight for equal rights which she becomes actively involved with is striking similar to her previous experiences. In this sense, the core thematic of Le Guin’s short story is the tension between the struggle against slavery in its most official form and, then, the resistance against a more informal ‘slavery’ that women have to endure in these societies whether they are slaves or not - two types of oppression that are both similar and yet radically different from each other. What I will argue in this essay is that such a tension is one of many examples to be found in both fiction and elsewhere of the internal dynamic of democratic practices.
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