Against Pessimism, or, the Education of Hope


We live in a time of crisis. Economic crisis, ecological crisis, refugee crisis. Scholars talk about the end of history, the end of politics, the end of nature, the end of the world as we know it. Racism and neo-fascism are on the march pretty much all over the Western world; Mexican children are torn away from their parents at the US border; temperatures are rising everywhere (the summer of 2018 in Denmark, of all places, was nearly tropical for months on end); islands of microplastic accumulate in the Pacific, and the latest news: Europe’s taxpayers have been swindled of €55 billion, as revealed by the so-called #CumExFiles.

So the old question bears repeating: What is to be done? Or, perhaps more accurately, what kinds of affective attitudes are appropriate and adequate in a situation like this? That is certainly not a question to be posed to the politicians that we are stuck with, but a question to be directed to academics, activists and artists, in particular those of the left. I even want to boil the problem down to this – simplified and radicalized – problem: Pessimism or optimism?

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