The Principle of Hope Critical Context - Essay

Ernst Bloch

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Bloch’s wide-ranging interests and expertise in several disciplines were decisive in his personal and political development. He remained unconventional and provocative, willing to revise his thoughts in the light of new developments. He attempted to blend his cultural heritage, dominated by German Idealism, with his individual brand of revolutionary Utopianism, informed by his study of Karl Marx. In his first major work, Geist der Utopie (1918; spirit of utopia), he delineated the Utopian qualities of art and literature. Thomas Munzer als Theologe der Revolution (1922; Thomas Munzer as theologian of revolution) combined Communist thought with religious mysticism. In Erbschaft dieser Zeit (1935; heritage of this time), Bloch explored the fascination Fascism had for the lower classes by formulating the categories of synchronism and nonsynchronism. Contrary to most analysts of Fascist character, Bloch emphasized that the response of the lower classes was not merely reactionary. Modern technology had created a disorienting emptiness in people’s lives which produced a longing for the stable values only past traditions could provide. Fascism appealed precisely to these needs. The Principle of Hope combined and altered many of the ideas and categories formulated in these earlier works. It is the culmination of Bloch’s philosophy and cultural critique.