April, 26th 2004

Prof. Dr. Ina Merkel
Cultural Studies

The Principal of Hope?
Reading Ernst Bloch from today's perspective.

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CV ° Ina Merkel studied cultural studies and theatre studies at Humboldt University, Berlin, wrote her PhD on gender relations, and was promoted to professor for her research on the history of consumerism in the German Democratic Republic. Since 2000 she is professor for European ethnology and cultural studies at Philipps university, Marburg. The major emphasis of her work lies on the history of culture and film and researching conditions of transformity.

Publications : Utopie und Bedürfnis. Die Geschichte der Konsumkultur in der DDR, Köln/Weimar/Wien 1999; Außerhalb von Mittendrin. Individuum und Kultur in der zweiten Moderne. In: Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 2002/II; Alternative Rationalitäten, fremdartige Träume, absurde Utopien. Werbung, Marktforschung und Konsum im Sozialismus. In: Zeitgeschichte 1(2004)31.

Abstract ° Since the decay of socialism at the latest, the issue of an age free of utopian ideas remains constantly in discourse. However, even if certain ideals are exhausted or have been unmasked as ideology our relation to future remains ambivalent and affective, and is at the same supported by fear and - since the world does not last unchanged - hope. Whereas fear paralyses and causes aggression hope is a productive process. Imaginations of the non-existent and of a completely different live are a means of human world enlargement. "The principle of Hope", according to Bloch, led men at all times and all conditions to "dream progressively" (Lenin). Hope and discontent form a couple, they both source in the dismissing of insufficiency. Hope becomes shaped in dreams and utopia. It aims at changing and improving the world or simply at an individualised pursuit of happiness. Regarding that, we may be free of utopia but definitly not free of hope.