"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

We can only dream of a greater future after we dig up the imperfect past.

American philosopher and literary critic, Frederick Jameson, once claimed that “the end of the world is easier to imagine than the end of capitalism”. As quotes go, it captures a crucial aspect of our times, which is that we seem unable to assume a world different from the current.

Political scientists describe the era we live in as “Post politicalThis controversial concept refers back to the significant lack of political alternatives at the worldwide level.

Most point to the start of the political era following the collapse of the Soviet Union within the Nineties and a brand new world order identified by the American anthropologist David Harvey. “The New Empire”.

Belgian political theorist Chantal Moffey attributes the postpolitical to a “A crisis of representationand lack of competitiveness. She says that politics requires antagonism: left and right, us and them. There isn't any politics without competition.

The query then is, is it possible to seek out ways to be a visionary within the twenty first century? My research It turns out Considering the twentieth century German philosopher, Ernst Blochwhose life's work showed that the longer term lies in what continues to be pending from the past.

on this Literary Essays Bloch writes of the “shocking awakening to all such past obstacles, to all the finished beginnings of our lives”. He said that the longer term lies in resuming what was left unfinished from the past.

The philosophy of hope

Born in Germany in 1885, Bloch wrote a book titled The Spirit of Utopia at an early age. was the reply. Expressionism in art and influenced a generation of thinkers, including Bloch's friend and rival, George Lucas.

A Marxist and a Jew, Bloch fled Nazi Germany in 1934. He settled in America in 1939, where he worked on what would turn into his most vital research: a three-volume work entitled The principle of hope.

The Bolsheviks by Boris Kustodiev (1920).
Wikimedia Commons

After World War II, Bloch returned to Europe and in 1948 became a professor of philosophy on the University of Leipzig in East Germany. He was an unconventional, independent mind and was soon ostracized by the authorities.

In 1961, he moved to the University of Tübingen, where he taught philosophy. His late lectures were collected. 13th volume of his works and partially translated into English in 1970, under the title, The philosophy of the future.

Bloch's Principle of Hope rewrites the history of humanity in an unexpected way. He goes through centuries of scientific, medical and geographical discoveries, religious beliefs, social movements, innovations and philosophies. He doesn't just tell his readers how things were. Instead, he highlights a straightforward fact: throughout the ages, humans have been guided by the concept of ​​the longer term. They have struggled and researched and innovated because they were striving for something towards a greater world.

In many cases, this envisioned future was cloudy or unimaginable. Often this was not the case. But, Baloch identified, that didn't mean it couldn't occur.

In his Tübingen lectures, his work Renaissance philosophyin addition to The Second Volume of The Principle of Hope, he notes how Sir Francis Bacon's 1626 utopian novel, New Atlantis, “contains an inventory of discoveries not yet made”. These things were unimaginable in Bacon's time. Centuries later, though, a few of these discoveries became reality.

A historical woodcut depicting peasants surrounding a knight.
The German Peasants' Wars of the Sixteenth Century
Wikimedia Commons

In addition to improbable discoveries, Bloch also noted failed revolutions. gave German Peasant Wars. 1524-25 inspired him to write down a passionate book on his leader, the Preacher of the Millennium. Thomas Muenzer.

Munzar's fight for the rights of the poor was crushed. However, he anticipated the approaching revolutions. Munzer's legacy thus lives on as an unfinished project that belongs to the longer term because its demands remain relevant. In other words, it still calls for completion.

Dreaming is very important.

The many years before the arrival of the post-political era were marked by struggles, whether partisan or ideological, predicated on the concept that things might be different. Pakistani-British creator Tariq Ali has aptly described the Sixties as “Years of street fighting“People protested. But in addition they believed that a greater world was possible.

Decolonization was similarly guided by Indian historian Vijay Prashad as:A critical claim of an alternative future“Even so, Civil Rights Movement in America, The October Revolution In Russia, or worldwide Campaign against racism in South Africa.

These movements rely upon big words and large, possibly utopian, dreams: communism, socialism, freedom, peace. As an anti-colonial mental Frantz Fanon In other words, they tried to create a brand new man.

After a political period, in contrast, people may try to resolve specific immediate problems. Rights of workers And Patriarchy To racismSpecies Extinction, war and genocide. But because these struggles are usually not embedded inside a broader, collective vision of the longer term, the struggles they initiate are short-lived.

Shadows of protestors on Black Lives Matter banners.
Contemporary struggles are usually not covered by the broader consensus of what we wish for the longer term.
Nathan Dimlau/Insplash

Baloch's great lesson is to revive a way of a future that is just not distant but ready and anticipated for the project of human freedom and equality. Baloch was a Marxist. So he found that future throughout the utopia of communism, a society where nobody could be exploited, where there could be no social classes and other people could live with dignity.

But even for many who don't consider that communism is the reply, Bloch's work provides a key in its emphasis on the importance of the dream. of imagination. As Marx himself famously put it. 1843 letter to Arnold Rouget: “Then it will be clear that the world has long dreamed of a thing of which it needs only to become conscious in order to attain it.”

The possibility of the longer term subsequently lies in rediscovering and refreshing the concept of ​​a concrete utopia in on a regular basis life. As Bloch put it. The first volume According to the principle of hope, we'd like a “carpe diem, but a real one in the present.”