Principle of Hope

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* Book: The Principle of Hope. Ernst Bloch.



From the Wikipedia:

"The Principle of Hope (German: Das Prinzip Hoffnung) is a book by the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, published in three volumes in 1954, 1955, and 1959, in which the author explores utopianism, studying the utopian impulses present in art, literature, religion and other forms of cultural expression, and envisages a future state of absolute perfection. The Principle of Hope has become fundamental to dialogue between Christians and Marxists.

Originally written between 1938 and 1947 in the United States, an enlarged and revised version of The Principle of Hope was published successively in three volumes in 1954, 1955, and 1959. Bloch, who had emigrated to the United States in 1938, returned to Europe in 1949 and became a Professor of Philosophy in East Germany. Despite having initially supported the regime, Bloch came under attack for his philosophical unorthodoxy and support for greater cultural freedom in East Germany, and publication of The Principle of Hope was delayed for political reasons.

The philosopher Leszek Kołakowski calls The Principle of Hope Bloch's magnum opus, writing that it contains all his important ideas. The work has been described as "monumental" by the philosopher Robert S. Corrington and the psychoanalyst Joel Kovel."



< "The “humanization of nature and naturalization of humanity” is more than ever before at the center of politics ." >

Loren Goldner, on placing Bloch in the 'cosmobiological' and 'warm Marxism' tradition:

"In a work that touches substantively on themes as diverse as Paracelsian alchemy, late medieval millenarianism, Kabbalah and Jewish messianism, modern physics, Indian and Chinese philosophy, opera, landscape painting, and architecture (to name only a few), it is necessary to extract certain main lines of a polemic and to situate it with respect to its principal adversaries. One might say that the three volumes of The Principle of Hope are a long footnote to Marx’s remark that “humanity has long possessed a dream which it must only possess in consciousness to possess in reality.” Bloch’s project, situated (in his language) in the “warm” as against the “cold” stream of Marxism, is to appropriate for the concrete, practical utopia of the future the broadest spectrum of historical creations of the human imagination, to show their this-sidedness and their truth. In doing this he is merely generalizing the Marxian critique of religion to a much broader array of such creations than most Marxists would care to take on. Indeed, most Marxists, and a fortiori most commentators of Marx, rather badly misconstrue Marx’s critique of religion, “the presupposition of all possible critique” as he put it, and its role in Marx’s work. Marx and Bloch do not criticize religion as “wrong” from the vantage point of some reductionist “science” that possesses the truth; the project of Marx and Bloch is to show the human truth of religion (as one of several products of the human imagination in society) and to prepare for the realization of that truth in social conditions that would no longer require the illusion of religion. Bloch looks to some of the late medieval millenarians, whose heresy went to the point of negating God as an obstacle to full realization of the earthly kingdom, as antecedents of this kind of atheism, as opposed to the conventional 18th-century Enlightenment atheism usually attributed to Marx. In The Principle of Hope Bloch extends this method of “appropriation” to a veritable alchemist’s vat of arcane creations. What is at stake in Bloch’s work is the meaning of the relationship of humanity and nature, a project aimed at the “humanization of nature and the naturalization of humanity,” to use his words. Virtually every mainstream current of “Marxism” and Marx interpretation is called into question by this view. Bloch shows that the active human constitution of the world through historical activity separates Marx from any previous “Democritean” materialism. Bloch does not merely follow Marx’s lead in taking over “the active side developed by idealism” (Theses on Feuerbach which takes most students of Marx no farther than Hegel and Schelling; he shows figures such as Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus, and Jacob Boehme to have actually elaborated, in the Renaissance and Reformation periods, a view of humanity-in-nature as the reconciliation of natura naturans and natura naturata as discussed in theology and philosophy from Erigena to Spinoza, a conception of an active, living matter infused with imagination that was buried by Galilean Newtonian physics. We can see at what antipodes Bloch actually stands to the Frankfurt School and its Weberian notion of “domination” as the principle characteristic of the human relationship to nature. In some ways at the cutting edge of the 20th-century Hegel Renaissance, the Frankfurt School generally took the road “from Marx to Hegel,” as George Lichtheim put it; in recoil against the vulgar materialism of the official workers’ movement of the Second and Third Internationals, they embraced “the active side developed by idealism” by relegating the whole domain of nature and science to “domination” and “instrumental thought,” in keeping with their essentially Mandarin world outlook. Bloch’s approach was quite the opposite; instead of demarcating a world of “Geist” from the “instrumental” world of nature and natural science, Bloch follows Bruno and Paracelsus into a view of nature itself as part of the “active” side, cutting the ground from beneath vulgar, mechanical materialism in its very stronghold. Indeed, in his final posthumously’-published work, Experimentum mundi, Bloch comes close to attributing a kind of subjectivity to nature itself. Bloch’s book, however ahead of its time, also necessarily shows the markings of his time.


The challenge posed by Bloch to the contemporary left intelligentsia, as articulated in The Principle of Hope and elsewhere, is his affirmation of a single unitary science which sees nature, matter, and the cosmos itself as a sensuous, living, and historical process which human history continues The appearance of this translation, combined with the multiple economic, social, and environmental crises of the present and future, shows a way forward for Western Marxists, currently in disarray after having, consciously or unconsciously, reproduced the errors of the Young Hegelians and, taken the step back to “critical criticism” to which they were invited by Adorno at the beginning of Negative Dialectics Against the current gentrification of Marxism, to say nothing of post-Marxism and post-modernism, Bloch’s work opens up a path to the domain where “thought must not only seek its reality, but reality must also seek its thought.”