Notes: David Miller, “A Marxist Poetics: Allegory and Reading in The Principle of Hope” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Miller, David. (2013). A Marxist poetics: Allegory and reading in The Principle of Hope. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 203-218.

Summary:

Miller takes on critiques of Bloch’s “idiosyncratic style” and argues that his use of allegory as almost a kind of anachronism show that the form of the book utilizes and critiques modernity.

Keywords: theory, utopianism

Quotations:

“What the form of the book offers, then, is a different system of reality that exists as the shadowy and veiled counterpart to the everyday world of habitual experience…. Under this pattern of thought, the ‘real,’ including all the intellectual and theological disciplines that purport to define and explain it, is the index and degraded pattern of the better world that exists beyond its surface textures. In other words, the form of the book encompasses both social critique and utopian projection” (p. 206).

Notes: Daly, Frances, “The Zero-Point: Encountering the Dark Emptiness of Nothingness” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Daly, Frances. (2013). The zero-point: Encountering the dark emptiness of nothingness. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 164-202.

Summary:

Daly analyzes many of the recurring images in Bloch’s work to find “zero-points” as both darkness and emptiness within lived experiences but also as the condition for the possibility of hope.

Keywords: philosophy, theory, utopia

Quotations:

“Humanity is conceived as a possibility, as a challenge to become, not as a given, and this means that no actual assumption concerning the content of being can be made” (p. 172).

“Bloch writes persuasively of a need to learn hope as much as we have learned fear” (p. 198).

Notes: Ní Dhúill, Catríona, “Engendering the Future: Bloch’s Utopian Philosophy in Dialogue with Gender Theory” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Ní Dhúill, Catríona. (2013). Engendering the future: Bloch’s utopian philosophy in dialogue with gender theory. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 144-163.

Summary:

Ní Dhúill argues that gender theory has a Blochian utopic core that uses unclaimed potentials in the past to critique present historical contexts and imagine actionable futures.

Keywords: feminism, gender, philosophy, theory, utopia

Quotations:

“The formulation of possibilities for change, then, is utopian, not in the sense of an unreal or unrealistic fantasy, but rather in the Blochian sense: imaginable alternative futures provide the horizon for the critique of the now” (p. 149).

“The utopian dimension of gender theory is dynamic rather than static. The aim is not to cancel history and instate a new perpetual order, but rather to identify both emancipatory and oppressive tendancies within the history of gender relations, and to offer critical perspectives on oppression and constraint with a view to expanding the scope and effectiveness of emancipation” (p. 160).

Notes: Peter Thompson, “Religion, Utopia, and the Metaphysics of Contingency” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Thompson, Peter. (2013). Religion, utopia, and the metaphysics of contingency. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 82-105.

Summary:

Thompson articulates Bloch’s philosophy, particularly around Bloch’s principle of hope’s connections to materiality, with its relationship to process and becoming, the contingency of existence.

Keywords: materiality, philosophy, speculative materialism, utopia

Quotations:

“Bloch was engaging in a form of speculative or transcendental materialism that attempted to create a materialist understanding of an as yet nonexistent future, an ‘ontology of the not yet,’ which could be used as a means of understanding and decoding the opaque nature of human existence and the way to move toward a self-created utopia” (p. 83).

“Thus what sets Bloch apart from Lacan and Žižek, but brings him closer to Badiou, is the sense that in the process of implementing utopia we will not simply find our way toward something but will actually construct that something in the process of attaining it” (p. 89).

“Bloch’s solution to this problem is, with Aristotle and Hegel of course, werden—process, becoming—in which the tendency and latency within matter changes matter itself and with it the contingency of existence. The event in Bloch then is merely a contingent stage in a process which cannot be appreciated at the moment of its eventuation, in the ‘darkness of the lived moment'” (p. 89).

Notes: Johan Siebers, “Ernst Bloch’s Dialectical Anthropology” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Siebers, Johan. (2013). Ernst Bloch’s dialectical anthropology. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 61-81.

Summary:

Siebers outlines the structures of thought operating in Bloch’s principle of hope, showing it as rooted in an anthropological thought that yet does not elevate the human.

Keywords: anthropology, materiality, philosophy, theory, utopianism

Quotations:

“History is the new as the mode of realization of the not-yet” (p. 63).

“The upright gait is, in Bloch’s philosophy, the principle of practical reason and functions as the criterion for action. The basic form of the proposition ‘S is not yet P’ expresses both the structure of the process of knowledge as well as the process of being and in a general way indicates what can be known. Identity, the unum necessarium in human and natural striving, builds the horizon of hop” (p. 64).

“Bloch’s philosophical anthropology and anthropological philosophy outlines the place of human existence in reality anew—in  a realist and materialist manner which sees idealism as a distortion of realism, materialism, not their truth. Philosophy is no longer contemplative. It is performative or, as it has been called here, dramatic. It is the praxis of hope, with yet uncharted possibilities” (p. 78).

Notes: Eric H. Newman, “Ephemeral Utopias: Queer Cruising, Literary Form, and Diasoporic Imagination in Claude McKay’s Home in Harlem and Banjo”

Newman, Eric H. (2015). Ephemeral utopias: Queer cruising, literary form, and diasporic imagination in Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem and Banjo. Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, 38(1), 167-185.

Summary:

Newman examine’s McKay’s work as being structured through queer associations with cruising and diaspora.

Keywords: diaspora, critical race theory, LGBTQ, queer, queer studies, utopianism

Quotations:

“Though queer sexual encounters in early-twentieth-century America were often clandestine affairs of fleeting duration, the sexual practices that organized such encounters were as powerful as they were ephemeral, making imaginable a community that could appear and disappear virtually anywhere and which composed itself out of a promiscuous assortment of classed and racialized bodies” (p. 167-168).

“[C]ruising is defined in two distinct but complementary ways: wandering or lingering in public places looking for anonymous, casual sex; and, as a peregrinating movement through dense urban space that finds transgressive pleasure and stimulation in random encounters with the persons, objects, and architecture that constellate the modern metropolis” (p. 169).

“The context in which cruising unfolds in the novel—across spaces populated by queers and largely organized by the circulation of same-sex desire—makes visible the relationship between queerness, as practice and habitation, and the novel’s diasporic vision. Queer encounters, or encounters with queers, offer a consciousness-raising education for McKay’s heterosexual characters” (p. 172).

“Cruising brings out a love of difference that transcends the limits of nation and language as it moves the body through ephemeral and powerful contact with a range of anonymous partners. As eroticized travel, cruising in McKay’s novels is oriented toward the utopian “beauty of other horizons,” the possibility of an encounter with others that does not adhere to national, racial, or class distinctions, but which promiscuously finds love everywhere” (p. 175).

“In its resistance to the normative organization of bodies and time, the ephemerality of cruising gives it the unique capacity to (re)envision the relationship between the self and the other in ways that constitute a new orientation to the world predicated on an anti-teleological looping of attachment to and detachment from an ever-expanding pool of bodies and spaces” (p. 176).

Notes: Vincent Geoghegan, “An Anti-humanist Utopia?” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Geoghegan, Vincent. (2013). An anti-humanist utopia?. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 37-60.

Summary:

Geoghegan explores the relationship between subject, nature, and natural subject in Bloch (by way of Bacon and Burke) to ask after an anti-humanist utopia.

Keywords: capitalism, neoliberalism, philosophy, posthumanism, theory, utopianism

Quotations:

“Bloch’s outline of a possible new relationship between humanity and nature draws upon a critique of the existing relationship in capitalism and a personal canon of historical conceptions—mythological, religious, philosophical, artistic—of a natural subject” (p. 45).

“The historical figure of a natural ‘subject’ is deemed to be both a semi-mythologized expression of this dynamic materialism and a prefiguring of an authentic natural subjectivity lying in the future” (p. 45).

“A distinction (admittedly polemical) can be made, whereby a self-critical can be distinguished from a self-loathing utopian anti-humanism” (p. 49).

Notes: Wayne Hudson, “Bloch and a Philosophy of the Proterior” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Hudson, Wayne. (2013). Bloch and a philosophy of the proterior. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 21-36.

Summary:

Hudson outlines the several of Bloch’s insights within his utopian work.

Keywords: philosophy, theory, utopianism

Quotations:

“Against such domestication, it is necessary to insist on the unavailability of Bloch’s work, and the fact that there is a continuing delay in the course of its reception as only some aspects of Bloch’s work are really taken up. An abnormal time structure is fundamental to Bloch: a time structure linking anticipatory insights to later developments and this time structure applies to his own work” (p. 23).

“Taking up Bloch’s legacy here requires a willingness to admit both a constructive function for philosophy at the level of method and the irreducible role of normative postulates in philosophical rationalism” (p. 25).

“In Bloch’s process philosophy, the exact nature of the process, including its ‘where to,’ is not known and must be experimented for in natural and social history. Here Bloch’s contribution is to insist that philosophical speculations can be metaphysically constitutive of how reality becomes, and that objective imagination [objektive Phantasie] can and should play a crucial role” (p. 29).

“Bloch challenges us to envisage a wider conception of rationality, able to take account of various sorts of cultural symbolism, and also the complexly distributed, impure materials of the real world” (p. 30).

Notes: Marlana Portolano, “The Rhetorical Function of Utopia: An Exploration of the Concept of Utopia in Rhetorical Theory”

Portolano, Marlana. (2012). The rhetorical function of utopia: An exploration of the concept of utopia in rhetorical theory. Utopian Studies, 23(1), 113-141.

Summary:

Portolano makes connections between utopian studies and rhetorical theory, arguing for consideration of a utopian rhetoric, that realizes utopia as conveyed through symbolic communication and thus rhetorical.

Keywords: invention, philosophy, rhetoric, rhetorical theory, utopianism

 

Quotations:

“Without naming it ‘utopia,’ rhetorical theorists have consistently referred to an imagined, often idealized aspect of place as a part of ethos, the artistic rhetorical proof that is drawn from an audience’s collective character” (114).

“[W]hat is often left out in utopian studies is how this concept is communicated or mediated via symbols and communicative
conventions” (p. 115).

“[W]e might define a utopian rhetoric as the use of symbolic communication in an attempt to move the actual state of human affairs into alignment with an imagined, better state of affairs—that is, a utopia, either one shared by the community or one invented by the speaker or both. All sorts of utopia, then, are forms of rhetoric, but the reverse is not always true” (p. 116).

“This concept of utopia is essentially the same thing as constitutive rhetoric: It is a way of interpreting textual and symbolic events as they contribute to the realization of cultural norms” (p. 130).

“What is meant by “rhetorical invention” that might enhance utopian studies’ array of interpretive tools? Traditionally, it is the artistic creation of all the emotional, ethical, rational, and imaginative means of persuasion possible for a particular social group—the discovery of how to move an audience to psychological cohesion and, eventually, to action. Because rhetoric is usually understood as a civic art, like politics, this kind of invention is essential to any civic utopia” (p. 131).

Notes: Peter Thompson, “Introduction: The Privatization of Hope and the Crisis of Negation” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Thompson, Peter. (2013). Introduction: The privatization of hope and the crisis of negation. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 1-20.

Summary:

Thompson defines the exigency for this book as recovering Bloch from anonymity, defining his principle of hope and spirit of utopia within the context of contemporary events.

Keywords: materiality, philosophy, speculative materiality, theory, utopianism

Quotations:

“Hope, for Bloch, was they way in which our desire to fill in the gaps and to find something that is missing took shape” (p. 3).

“The process that would take us from a static concept of being to one of becoming and of coming to possess ourselves was at base a material one, but it was also one in which our desires, ideas, hopes, and dreams fulfilled a fundamentally important material function in overcoming the ‘ontology of the not yet'” (p. 4).

“Hope therefore learns, but it also teaches as well as constitutes its own conditions” (p. 7).

“The vast majority of utopian thinking could be said to rest in abstract utopias, in abstractions from the process in which the utopia becomes something really existing, whereas the concrete utopia is one which exists and does not exist at the same time because it is in the process of its own creation” (p. 13).