Peter Thompson publishes book with Slavoj Žižek

Peter Thompson publishes book with Slavoj Žižek

Dr Peter Thompson from the Department of Germanic Studies has co-edited a book with Slavoj Žižek on the concept of hope in the work of 20th century German philosopher of religion Ernst Bloch.

Published by Duke University Press in December 2013, this important new book explores the renewed value of Bloch’s theories by bringing them into conversation with twenty-first-century concerns.

Peter Thompson, Reader in German and Director of the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies at the University of Sheffield, specialises in the philosophy of religion and in post-war history of the GDR and German unification.

The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia is a volume of 13 essays by leading experts from around the world on Ernst Bloch. The book seeks to revive and revitalise interest in a thinker who, while starting from an atheist and Marxist standpoint, was concerned with reinjecting what he called the warm stream of humanist thought back into the cold stream of rationalistic thinking. As Slavoj Žižek says in his preface to this book: “Maybe Ernst Bloch belongs even more to our time than to his own”.

Bloch’s own life was affected by German post-war politics, and as Peter Thompson explains: “He said of religion that the best thing about it is that it creates heretics and it is certainly the case that he only had time for those within the Marxist movement who also functioned as heretics, challenging orthodoxy and dogmatism wherever it appeared.”

In Bloch’s 3-volume magnum opus from 1959, The Principle of Hope, the philosopher detailed the ways in which hope and desire functioned as fundamental human transformative emotions. Without this ‘invariant of direction’ towards human liberation, all politics was doomed to failure. Having returned to East Germany in 1949 and taken up a Chair of Philosophy at Leipzig University, he soon fell into bad favour with the ruling party and was banned from teaching. In 1961 he moved to West Germany and became an important figure as an inspiration for the student movement. His emphasis on liberation also meant that he became very important for theologians such as Juergen Moltmann, who tried to apply his principles of hope to a theology of hope.

The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia explores the renewed value of Bloch’s theories in this age of hopelessness, mired in the excesses and disaffections of contemporary capitalist society.

For further information see the publishers’ website and the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies webpagePeter Thompson is also a regular Guardian contributor; his column series can be found here.