Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

The multidimensional nature of The Principle of Hope, Ernst Bloch’s most important work, cannot be comprehended without a closer look at his personal development and background. Born into the drab community of Ludwigshafen, the son of assimilated Jews, he experienced a youth lacking the more varied cultural opportunities of the neighboring city of Mannheim. The difference between these two cities of his youth would sharpen his perception of class distinctions in German society and would help him understand the appeal Fascist ideology held for the lower classes.

In 1905, Bloch began his university studies. He first went to Munich to study philosophy and German literature; he then attended the University of Wurzburg, where he studied music, physics, and experimental psychology. He also became interested in the cabala and Jewish mysticism. In Berlin, he took up studies in sociology and later became interested in Christian mysticism. His intense interest in all areas of culture and his thirst for knowledge in many disciplines informed his philosophy and shaped the form and content of The Principle of Hope.

As a pacifist he went into exile to Switzerland at the outbreak of World War I. When the Nazi Party took power in 1933, Bloch, who was immediately blacklisted, left Germany to seek exile in Switzerland, France, and finally in the United States, where The Principle of Hope was written. His experiences in the United...

(The entire section is 482 words.)