Hope and Pessimism in Classical 20th Century Civilizational Theory

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* Article: Rosner, David J. (2022) "Hope and Pessimism in ‘Classical’ 20th Century Civilizational Theory," Comparative Civilizations Review: Vol. 87: No. 87, Article 5.

Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/ccr/vol87/iss87/5


"This paper will involve an analysis of the relation between optimism, pessimism, and realism in 20th century classical civilizational theory, through the perspective offered specifically in Ernst Bloch’s magnum opus The Principle of Hope. Bloch, a German Jew and unorthodox Marxist, wrote The Principle of Hope during 1938–1947 in exile fleeing the Nazi holocaust. Today, humanity in its entirety now faces another set of crises — pandemic, overpopulation, climate change, political impasse, economic inequality, social unrest, growing lawlessness and nuclear threat. One can easily be tempted to give up on the future of our increasingly fragile and endangered world.

It is therefore during catastrophic times that some sort of hope is most needed. How have ‘classical’ civilizational theories conceptualized hope, and what role does it play in the analyses these theories offer? The paper will attempt to briefly situate the writings of Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Pitirim Sorokin and Andrew Targowski in this discussion and will specifically analyze the role of hope in these theories. By addressing their views from this particular perspective, I will try to offer a unique and timely focus on the theme for this 51st annual ISCSC conference: “The Future of Civilization.” "