Dilemmas of Political Agency and Sovereignty: The Omelian Allegory

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This essay is a political reading of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’, which examines agency and resistance in situations of political wrong. Le Guin’s short story allows us to reformulate the questions of the boundaries of popular sovereignty and the opposition to general consent. These concerns will be here regarded as elements of a critique of neoliberal capitalism, in which freedom and self-realization are founded on injustices that persist because of a prevalent conception of the good life. The case of ‘Omelas’, moreover, challenges our understanding of resistance in revealing the blurred boundary between political action and mere noncompliance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-88
Number of pages18
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Le Guin
  • Omelas
  • ethics
  • neoliberalism
  • political fiction
  • resistance
  • sacrifice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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