Hope: A Politics of Hope – Chapters Five and Six

41XCGFX846L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_For the third edition of BOOK CLUB we will review Mary Zournazi’s Hope: New Philosophies for Change. A new post will be published every two weeks focused on each section of the book. For each section, Temporary contributors will initiate a discussion through the comments in the post and anyone may continue the discussion by contributing their own comments and observations on the text.

BOOK CLUB Schedule
October 27: The Elements of Hope – Chapters One and Two
November 10: The Elements of Hope – Chapters Three and Four
November 24: A Politics of Hope – Chapters Five and Six
December 8: A Politics of Hope – Chapters Seven and Eight
December 29: Revolutionary Hope – Chapters Nine and Ten
January 12: Revolutionary Hope – Chapter Eleven

“Writer and philosopher Mary Zournazi brought her questions to some of the most thoughtful intellectuals at work today. She discusses “joyful revolt” with Julia Kristeva, the idea of “the rest of the world” with Gayatri Spivak, the “art of living” with Michel Serres, the “carnival of the senses” with Michael Taussig, the relation of hope to passion and to politics with Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau. A dozen stimulating minds weigh in with their visions of a better social and political order. ”

Hope: New Philosophies for Change may be purchased as a hard copy or is available as a .pdf download courtesy of University of Wollongong’s digital archive.

Excerpt from Prologue: This is a book about hope. To me, ‘hope’ is about a certain generosity and gratefulness that we all need in life. If life is a series of encounters and chance meetings, events and social relations, then hope lies across all of these. It is a basic human condition that involves belief and trust in the world. It is the stuff of our dreams and desires, our ideas of freedom and justice and how we might conceive life. In this book, hope is also about a spirit of dialogue, where generosity and laughter break open a space to keep spontaneity and freedom alive – the joyful engagements possible with others. For in any conversation – individual or political, written, spoken or read – there needs to be the ability to hear, listen and give. If we shut down a discussion through resentment, fear or unwillingness – through adversity or polarised individual or political positions – generosity ceases, and the openness of real discussion and debate is diminished. When a dialogue is not permitted there can be no space for exchange – words and ideas become self-enclosed and the exchange becomes a kind of monologue, a type of depression and narcissism where territories are defended and the stakes raised are already known. Reflections, conversations and dialogues build new social and individual imaginaries – visions of the world that create possibilities for change. They lift us out of despair and let us take new risks in our encounters with each other. What I pose here is the ethical and political responsibility we can share in writing and thinking about hope. This is about collaboration – in writing, in thinking, in politics – how working ideas together, across different styles and traditions, can let new ideas, views and expressions emerge. This involves a sense of trust and a ‘faith without certitudes’ about where hope may lie in thinking about the future. In secular times, when hope has moved out of the religious sphere, the turn towards the future may be found in struggles for individual justice, and in political activity across the globe.


We look forward to the discussions!


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  1. Julia Cole

    Sorry this is rather long, but a lot to think about in these chapters…

    On Believing – Christos Tsiolkas
    Hope, Passion, Politics – Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau

    The readings for this week tackle the value and challenges of hope as a motivating force in political action. There is a fair amount of crossover in ideas between the two different chapters, and so I am going to address some of the major directions here in a general discussion. When I think there is a unique point or problem that one or the other raised I will use the convention of the author’s initials to clarify (CT, CM, EL).

    Both sources clearly separated ‘politics’ – as a closed system weighed down by rational intellectualism – from the ‘political’ – which is instead described as a passionate engagement with specific hegemonic issues. Both clearly define the problem of fragile hope as a phenomenon associated with the increasing pressures of consumerism, the spectacle, neo-liberal capitalist forces that increase exploitation and alienation and creating a gulf between the rich and the poor, the rise of individualism, and the associated decline in communal relationship.

    The authors all lament the decline of the Left as a force that is capable of generating passion and hope in a world filled with pain and ugliness. They address expanded ideologies and affects that they believe will revitalize a more compelling social imaginary – one that will bridge the paradox we inhabit of needing to find a common horizon of liberation in an infinitely pluralist world. But they also recognize the limitations of the Left’s historical ideologies; it is too simplistic to still use class struggle as a primary focus for emancipation in a world in which the unemployed have effectively become excluded from the class system, and in which any member of an underclass who gains the tools to articulate their position immediately exits it into a kind of privilege. They argue that the Left needs to embrace other forms of subordination and to find more accessible ways to engage people in sharing the complex ideas that make up compassionate ideologies.

    I wish the authors had gone further in defining an alternative vision for what it means to be ‘satisfied’ – in a way that would counter a system that affirms social mobility (economic and material well-being) as a measure of justice and a better life. While this standard is easy to define in a negative circumstance, it is a slippery slope once basic needs have been met – since the eternally shifting perception of ‘what is enough’ is a driving factor in all consumer economies. While hope may well be considered a response to something that is lacking and a desire to create something new to fill this void, it would be more inspiring to me to think about more expansive measures of success. Maybe satisfaction could be tied to a more egalitarian ‘making do with less’?

    CM and EL describe hope as something that is ineradicably human – and persuasively argue that if the Left cannot propose compelling ways to mobilize this need for something better, then the dissatisfaction of the disenfranchised will be easily captured by the comfort offered by populism and fundamentalism. Both writings refer to possible futures that are grounded in more intimate relationships and an access to the tools that promote clear and creative self-expression. Couldn’t this kind of open-ended self-improvement and actualization be as much of a motivating factor as an accumulation of wealth?

    Among the most important ideas that these writings address, from my point of view, are the way that a progressive culture must learn to embrace the full consequences of pluralism. CM and EL in particular discuss the notion of radical democracy as an eternally unfinished project, as it struggles to express a continuous spectrum of difference. The fact that post-structuralism calls for those who are currently marginalized to flow in towards the cultural center leads to the acknowledgement that this process of exchange will eventually, serially marginalize all members of any group. This notion of dynamic change inside a fixed geometry necessarily leads to repetition of a limited set of power structures, similar to the way that revolution has manifested as a cyclical reversal of fortune between polarized opposites. The notion of striving to create a set of conditions in which a multitude discovers mutual acceptance, and understands that life is and will always be a process of unending negotiation between all factions, maps out a completely new social imaginary. The process of building such a collective, contested space is an inspiring goal, despite the fact that it would be impossible to actualize such a system completely.

    The fundamental call here is for a population that is made to feel passionate about engaging in political struggle, understanding that the differences of opinion, values and identity are what define a healthy democracy. The twin forces of enrichment and disruption are the vital cost/benefit oscillation at the root of authentic yet responsive identities, and CM proposes an ‘agonistic public sphere’ as the life-blood of a dissenting community concerned with liberty and equality.

    This fundamental recognition that utopian dreams of ‘final solutions’ are the antithesis of progressive democracy is balanced out by the theme that runs through these writings of discovering and reasserting human constants. This may mean redefining nostalgic notions of family or community, as CT discusses, while preserving the sense of belonging and inter-generational responsibility that a structure of this type provides. Or, it may mean understanding the value of praying as a version of hoping for a different future, albeit in a secular world.

    The powerful vision these writings lay out is the possibility of a counter-culture that magnetically attracts rather than drives, and that begins from here and now. This social imaginary is one in which individual differences contest inside a larger unity of relationship, where we can contemplate simultaneously the radical and the inclusive, and where we can passionately advocate for a cause in a given historical context while understanding that contingencies will shift. While short on specifics of implementation, this is a version of hope that calls for us to give everything we have to the difficult process of reimagining the political together.

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