Marxism and Utopia: an Introduction to Ernst Bloch (In-Person)
68 Jay Street, #425
Brooklyn, NY 11201
The idiosyncratic Marxist philosopher and cultural critic Ernst Bloch is perhaps best known for his attempt to rehabilitate the concept of utopia within Marxist thought. But utopia, he wrote, “is not something like nonsense or absolute fancy; rather it is not yet in the sense of possibility.” Across a wide-ranging and poetic body of work, Bloch elaborated a vision of concrete utopia, grounded not only in hope for and anticipation of a non-alienated future, but also the channeling of that hope into the collective transformation of material conditions. How, he asked, is the “cold stream” of materialist analysis sustained by the “warm stream” of hope and anticipatory consciousness? Which historical experiences and aesthetic objects afford us a glimpse into possible futures latent in the present?
Focused principally on selections from The Spirit of Utopia and The Principle of Hope, as well as Bloch’s shorter writings on art and literature, this course will grapple with the questions that animate Bloch’s work, and its enduring relevance in an age seemingly marked by a retreat from utopian thinking and the proliferation of dystopian imaginaries. What place do utopia and its attendant affective dispositions—hope, imagination, desire, anticipation—have within Marxist praxis? How should the utopian dimensions of art and literature bear on questions of political transformation? On which theories of human nature and temporality does Bloch’s vision of a non-alienated life depend? Beyond Bloch’s writings, readings will draw from the work of Karl Marx, Charles Fourier, Theodor Adorno, György Lukács, Walter Benjamin, and Bertolt Brecht, among others.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
March 06 — March 27, 2024