Ernst Bloch - The Utopian Function of Art and Literature

As he put it: "processus cum figures, figurae in processu" (The process is made by those who are made by the process), so that he restored honour to the idea of utopia by seeing it not as a pre-existing programmatic state which had to be reached under wise and all-knowing leadership either of the party or the church, but as an autopoietic process driven by the labouring, creating and producing human being driven on by their material hunger as well as their dreams of overcoming that hunger. 

Peter Thompson - The Frankfurt school, part 6: Ernst Bloch and the Principle of Hope

A giant post of links and ideas I will be chewing on and coming back to for a long while. If you have any recommended readings or talks, especially ones that use these ideas and connect them with today and use popular language, please let me know. For example I didn't find many (or recent) articles in English. I found recent German ones in the press, but they weren't too exciting. 

The Text in English of this discussion you can find here:
Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno on the Contradictions of Utopian Longing

Bloch, Ernst. _The Utopian Function of Art and Literature_. (1988). "Something's Missing" (1964)

"For Bloch, Thomas More’s conception of Utopia in space meant that the utopia was here now, but that I/we are not there.  However, in placing utopia into time meant that not only were we not in utopia, but also that utopia wasn’t here yet.  Placing the utopian into the future did not empty it of its meaning and critical purpose as though it did not and could not exist.  Utopia does not exist yet but depends on people living and working now to realize it in the future.  Bloch imaged this as the more we travel toward the future isle of utopia, the more it will arise from the sea of the possible – out of the present chaos, which the sea represents."

To say that something’s missing means that the seeds, the incipient foment of that something is already present, without which no one would know that it is missing.  The concept of God or utopia already contain the elements of the utopic reality that is missing, and it is from this knowledge and experience that utopia can be realized.  Without this eschatological dynamic, no notion of utopia or of thinking itself would be possible. 

"Hope can be thwarted, but for Bloch [1999:16-17], that does not mean it is defeated.  Even in the midst of its decline and disappointment, hope still nails a flag on the sinking ship’s mast, for the decline is not accepted. For the hunger of hope is “an irrepressible sense of the awakening of meaning,” and, as such, true hope is an expression of never-ending defiance against all odds for the Not-yet-being, whose ultimate realization will be the beginning of the true Utopia."



Adorno to Bloch on the Blockage of Utopia

(with much more links to further reading. I am speechless (just sounds: woooahh!). Go have a look around that site. It's amazing: - Ralph Dumain)

Compiled by Ralph Dumain:

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources:
A Selective Work in Progress

and his Reason & Society blog / #Utopia

"There was a real reluctance to speculate about the future, for two quite explicit reasons. The first is the argument that it is impossible to think oneself out of present circumstances and predict the needs and conditions for their satisfaction that will be created in the future; in this sense, the imaginative construction of utopia as a political goal is strictly speaking impossible. 
e. Secondly, and this was the essence of their attacks on the utopian socialists, the construction of such blueprints carries with it the danger of idealism. Where the utopian socialists -leaders and followers - chiefly erred was in thinking that the propagation of a plan for the good society would, through the operation of reason, result in its own realisation."

Bloch's cosmology requires utopia in order that we may be able to imagine, will, and effect the future. And since 'the hinge on human history is its producer' the future is effected through our action; the content and quality of utopian anticipation are therefore of fundamental importance.  

"Bloch's central thesis is that human dreaming has always reached towards utopia, with varying mixes of the abstract and the concrete; but only with Marxism has it become possible for utopia to be fully graspable in the imagination and hence in reality. Bloch claims Marxist credentials for this position by repeated reference to a letter from Marx to Ruge, dated 1843, in which Marx wrote: Our motto must therefore be: reform of consciousness not through dogmas, but through analysis of mystical consciousness which is still unclear to itself. It will then become apparent that the world has long possessed the dream of a matter, of which it must only possess the consciousness to possess it in reality. It will become apparent that it is not a question of a great thought-dash between past and future, but of the carrying-through of the thoughts of the past."

"Bloch also quotes the more well-known passage about purposive action as a distinguishing characteristic of the human species: We are assuming work in a form in which it belongs exclusively to man. A spider carries out operations which resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts many builder to shame with the building of its wax cells. But what distinguishes the worst builder from the best bee from the outset is that he has built the cell in his head before he builds it in wax, at the end of the work process there is a result which already existed in the imagination of the worker at the beginning of that process, i.e. already existed ideally. Not that he only effects a formal change in the real; he also realizes his purpose in the natural world."

Ruth Levitas:
Marxism, Romanticism and Utopia: Ernst Bloch and William Morris

Podcast:  German Philosophy Seminars
The Romantic-Revolutionary Gnosis of Geist der Utopie

Johan Siebers (IGRS, London)

"As global culture is once again pregnant with the urge to formulate alternatives to the neoliberal politics and cultural politics of the last three decades, there is a need to return to the rich tradition of utopian thought in philosophy. In this semester the German Philosophy Seminar will be devoted to a single book that has played a central role in utopian philosophy: Ernst Bloch's Geist der Utopie. Published in 1918 as Bloch's first book on recommendation by Otto Klemperer, it occupies a place as a secret source at the beginning of important currents in 20th century German thought.

Nevertheless, its reception has been limited in recent years. Barocque from the outset and written in a modernist-expressionist style which some have called dithyrambic and with which Bloch immediately placed himself outside the accepted forms of academic philosophical writing, he sets out in this book to reformulate and rescue the ideas of transcendence, totality, longing and purpose in a materialist, existentialist and revolutionary context.

In doing so, Bloch reconstitutes philosophy from the start -- it is this feature that makes this work an eminently philosophical one and that gives it a unique place in the history of German philosophy; philosophy appears here, in its form as much as in its content, as a meditation on the forms of utopia and our travels towards it. It defines its efficacy, also its existential, critical, cultural and political efficacy, in that context."

The Bloch Series @ Nyx A Noctournal :


Again this fits in philosophically with his general approach which sees history not simply as a series of events but as something which carries within it all sorts of lost opportunities, traces of unrealised potential and sparks and dreams of future possibilities. This is why he talks of the “ontology of not yet being” as the central philosophical expression of our time. In other words, the process of the fermentation of world history will throw up all sorts of strange constructs that have to prove themselves in the world and we have to try to come to terms with them within what he calls the “darkness of the lived moment”. As we experience today, it is not always easy to get it right.

Peter Thompson also The Frankfurt school, part 6: Ernst Bloch and the Principle of Hope
and The official Blog for the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies based at the University of Sheffield and maintained by Peter Thompson.





Ernst Bloch Gespräche mit einem Philosophen

"Franz Marc (February 8, 1880 – March 4, 1916) was a German painter and printmaker, one of the key figures of the German Expressionistmovement. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a journal whose name later became synonymous with the circle of artists collaborating in it."