The issues of duality, competition, war, and progress bring to mind the Jane Elliott "blue eyes" classroom study. That link is knowledgeable, but not the most approachable, so let me summarize. In order to teach a lesson on discrimination to a homogenous Iowa elementary school classroom, she began an experiment where she declared children with blue eyes 'better' than the others. After a short speech about the weaknesses of brown eyed children, she continued with the day's lesson, taking every chance to confirm the blue eyes assumed superiority and call out brown eyes' negative behavior as representative of their kind.
The implications are wide (and the study has its critics, of course), but I wanted to focus on the measurable changes in performance that accompanied the experiment. By the end of that first school day, measurements of math, vocabulary, and reading proficiency all showed major change from where the students were one week before: the brown eyed students' scores fell drastically (e.g. regressing from a 3rd to a 1st grade reading level) and the blue eyed scores rose dramatically (e.g. improving the a 5th grade reading level).
One interpretation I buy into states that this only happened because our children learn at an early age that there are better and worse groups of people in our world. Classification, competition, and discrimination are functions used by our society, because they have positive effects for the 'better' group! So how do we break out of this system?
I turn to what Le Guin says in The Left Hand of Darkness: "To oppose something is to maintain it. [One] must offer an alternative" (153). A critique of the current system is pointless without proposing other options. From the very introduction of the book she describes the importance of "the imagination" (i). An alternative biology, interactions with other species, the general concept of a science fiction tale about the futureâ€¦ all of these are metaphors geared toward imagining different futures in order to change the present.
I think we've already begun a good discussion on exactly what alternative Le Guin offers. In her world, "There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive (94). The total breakdown of the classify/compete/discriminate system does slow the society down in some ways â€“ Genly often describes the Gethenians as slightly slower, weaker, and less advanced (50, 103) â€“ but best achieves Le Guin's ultimate value of civilization (something like 'the open trade of ideas, techniques, material goods/technology, and culture' based on pages 34-35, 103, and 137-138). Maybe 'achieves' is the wrong word. I think Le Guin is offering this future with hope, painting it in a good light. However, the 'good'/'bad' judgment here is definitely process-oriented, not result-oriented, as based on 50, 102, and 259.
P. S. Final reason I love this book? Le Guin gets special relativity right. Amazing.