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‘Hopeful’ and ‘optimistic’ are often used more or less synonymously in contemporary culture. But by his own admission Terry Eagleton is not so much a ‘glass half full’ kind of person as someone for whom the glass is not only half empty but probably contains some dark, vile and foul-smelling liquid too.
The opening chapter, entitled ‘The Banality of Optimism’, takes apart this hackneyed ‘glass’ metaphor as implying that the disposition with which we greet the world is just an arbitrary individual choice, with no necessary grounding in ‘how things are’ with the world. The relentless injunction to be optimistic seems quasi-pathological, as though the suffering and vulnerability that makes up so much of human experience could be banished from mind amidst a ‘have a nice day’ affirmative attitude.
Having carefully de-coupled hope from such synthetic optimism, Eagleton then addresses the question ‘What is Hope?’ via a phenomenological account of how hoping relates to related experiences such as expectation, desire and wishfulness. This provides an important basis for discussing the theological and political work to which the concept has been put. This includes – inevitably – consideration of the eclectic German Marxist Ernst Bloch’s sprawling three-volume study The Principle of Hope.
For Eagleton, the politics of hope is bought on the cheap if it regards the oppression and immiseration of the majority of the population throughout history as a stepping stone on the road to progress. Socialists could learn a good deal from the Christian view, which sees the hope of salvation as necessarily embracing and redeeming the agonising suffering of crucifixion.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Governments are manufacturing a new 'enemy within', write Yasser Louati and Malia Bouattia
The online currency started as an alternative to the failed financial system – but as a huge bubble inflates and bankers board the bandwagon, Tom Walker argues bitcoin has drowned in greed
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism