1. The Dialectic of Victories and Defeats
Alexei Penzin (AP): Hope, which we have decided to discuss with reference to the present political moment, would appear to be an important and attractive theme, but it simultaneously contains a number of traps. Hope has long been part of mass culture’s standard set of sentimental banalities. It forms the basis for psychotherapeutic normalization techniques that aim to adapt individuals to the fragmented society of what has been called “late capitalism,” a society replete with anxiety-inducing uncertainties, by persuading them of the need for “positive thinking” as a guarantee of personal and career success. Old and new populist politicians employ the rhetoric of promise and hope as a means of mobilizing the masses, exploiting their longing to belong to one or another (as a rule, national) identity. But what is hope if not an abstract form that everyone can fill with their own content? Hope contains a transcendent, religious element primarily associated with the Judeo-Christian tradition. But it arises from our everyday secular experience: we hope for an important encounter, for an answer, for an inspiring collaboration, for the realization of our plans and expectations. We share our hopes with others, thus infecting them with our own enthusiasm. The question is how to make this general sense of hope something capable of transfiguring reality, rather than just a realm of passive, unconscious collective fantasies and utopias—or daydreams, as philosopher Ernst Bloch would have put it.