In her new introduction to the Library of America reprint in 2017, reflecting back some 40 years from late in her life, the author wrote:
The Dispossessed started as a very bad short story, which I didn’t try to finish but couldn’t quite let go. There was a book in it, and I knew it, but the book had to wait for me to learn what I was writing about and how to write about it.
I needed to understand my own passionate opposition to the war that we were, endlessly it seemed, waging in Vietnam, and endlessly protesting at home. If I had known then that my country would continue making aggressive wars for the rest of my life, I might have had less energy for protesting that one.
But, knowing only that I “didn’t want to study war no more”, I studied peace. I started by reading a whole mess of utopias and learning something about pacifism and Gandhi and non-violent resistance. This led me to the non-violent anarchist writers such as Peter Kropotkin and Paul Goodman. With them, I felt a great, immediate affinity.
They made sense to me in the way Lao Tzu did. They enabled me to think about war, peace, politics, how we govern one another and ourselves, the value of failure, and the strength of what is weak. So, when I realised that nobody had yet written an anarchist utopia, I finally began to see what my book might be.
And I found that its principal character, whom I’d first glimpsed in the original misbegotten story, was alive and well—my guide to Anarres.