The Antinomy of Hope: Hope and Alienation in Critical Theory
Ever since the myth of Pandora related how hope remained in Pandora’s box, begging the question whether she withheld the remedy for the evil she released or instead kept in check the ultimate evil, philosophy has taken an ambivalent stance concerning hope. This tendency culminated in critical theory. Bloch’s seminal, yet solitary, opus "The Principle of Hope" placed the hopeful and anticipating consciousness at the center of his thought concerning the progress of humanity's self-realization, while Adorno's work has been regarded as pessimistic due to its focus on dispersing false hopes and its refusal to provide any positive indication of how things might turn for the better. This points to a subsantial contradiction at the heart of any critical theory of alienation: the critic needs hope to guide her criticism, but she must also be wary that hope is always at risk of being reimmersed in and reified by the capitalist totality. The same is true for the hopes of those whom we research. Although their longings are an irreducible trait pointing beyond that in which they find themselves immersed, it would nevertheless be problematic to uncritically reproduce and affirm their reified desires in theory.
The session therefore welcomes contributions that discuss the antinomies of hope. Examples of questions to be addressed are What do we – and can we – hope for when we do critical social science? and (How) Can we reconstruct the hopeful kernel of reified wishes?