Vol. 7 No. 13 · 18 July 1985

From the Other Side

David Drew writes about Ernst Bloch’s Utopia

4956 words

Question: What is the basic idea in your philosophy?

Bloch: That I cannot see anything at very close quarters, anything that presents itself in front of my eyes. There has to be distance ... Proverbs express it very simply: ‘The weaver knows not what he weaves’; ‘At the foot of the lighthouse there is no light’; ‘The prophet is without honour in his own country.’


To venture a guess at what will for ever remain his secret, it is not entirely improbable that, in pondering his road and its destination, Erasmus arrived at conclusions which so filled him with fright that he preferred to lock them away in his heart. He may (or he may not) have surmised that in the last analysis he aimed at something beyond the pale of Christianity; that, thought to the end, his true design was once for all to wreck the wall of fixed causes with their dogmas and institutional arrangements for the sake of that ultimat unity which the causes mean and thwart.

‘Erasmus’ by Siegfried Kracauer,

in Ernst Bloch zu Ehren

Marx and Nietzsche are the last German philosophers to have captured the popular imagination outside the German-speaking world. If Nietzsche has lost – and lost perhaps to Freud – the dubious honour of being in that sense a household name, that is no reflection on his real achievement, but only on the fact that it was in his name among others that hitherto unthinkable crimes were, within living memory, committed against the entire household of Western culture and humanity.

With the notable exception of Heidegger, almost every German philosopher worthy of the calling joined the great emigration from Hitler’s Germany, whether literally or (like Jaspers until his removal) in spirit. For most, the traditional havens of Vienna and Prague, Basle and Paris, served their traditional purpose until, towards the end of the decade, circumstances called for a second and equally momentous emigration: westwards to America.

That it was the America of Roosevelt’s New Deal was generally influential. That it was also, for the Marxist Left, expressly or tacitly the chosen alternative to Stalin’s Russia became crucial: a crossroads, and even for some a kind of personal cross. Of the leading German Marxist thinkers, only George Lukacs had (immediately) chosen Moscow; and there he was to remain until the end of the Second World War, true to the party he had joined in 1918 and apparently at one with the Stalinist consequences of the Leninism to which he had fully committed himself by the early 1920s. His friend and antagonist, exact contemporary and truest counterpart, was Ernst Bloch, who took the more familiar path through Paris and Prague, and in 1938 sailed for New York. Bloch’s speech ‘Zerstörte Sprache – Zerstörte Kultur’ – delivered to the Association of German Writers in New York in 1939, and published in Moscow that same year – ended with four English words: ‘The Rights of Man’.

Unlike Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, and their colleagues from the Hegelian-Marxist Frankfurt School, Bloch arrived in the United States without clear prospects of a post, and predictably failed to find one. After two years of hardship in New York and New Hampshire, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he wrote most of his magnum opus, Das Prinzip Hoffnung. Apart from his address in 1939 to the Congress of American Writers, his appearances and his publications in the New World were confined to German exile circles. In 1948, his 64th year, he accepted the offer of a professorship of philosophy at the University of Leipzig, then in the Russian Zone and recently re-constituted as the Karl-Marx University. The following summer he and his family arrived in what had already been established as the German Democratic Republic. In his inaugural address at the university he spoke of the charts and the skills required in order to navigate ‘the ocean ... that lies before us’ – an ocean of ‘circumscribed possibilities’. Implicit in his ‘principle, Hope’ was the need to discriminate between short-term and long-term possibilities, and real rather than merely dogmatic limitations. For Bloch, in his public role as in his thinking, the problems of navigation were not simply a matter of enlightened confidence in the accuracy of existing charts – the Seekarte of his inaugural speech – but also of constant deep-water soundings.

A collision between Bloch and the Ulbricht regime was nevertheless at some point inevitable. That should already have been clear from any but the most cursory or selective reading of his post-1918 work – including, in their proper context, his notorious apologia for Stalin’s Moscow show trials. The event that indirectly precipitated the collision occurred in February 1956, when Khrushchev delivered to the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party his comprehensive indictment of Stalin’s errors, crimes and general misrule – and above all, because it was intended to explain all, of the ‘cult of personality’. Unwittingly Khrushchev had dismantled part of the fortress upon which Russia’s control of the Eastern bloc depended, and demolished ideological safeguards that have since proved irreplaceable.

Criticism of Bloch’s ‘revisionism’ had been voiced in party journals, intermittently, since the start of the 1950s. Yet his 70th birthday in 1955 – just six months before the epoch-making Congress – was marked by the kind of official celebrations that people’s democracies reserve for the blameless great. Despite his age there was no talk of retirement, and seemingly no thought of it: the official as well as the real sense of the celebrations was that he was still at the height of his prodigious powers. So it was very much as a public figure that Bloch addressed a distinguished audience at the Humboldt University in East Berlin in November 1956, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the death of Hegel. In tones that would have rejoiced the heart of Brecht – who had died three months before – he attacked party functionaries who sought to reduce the discussion of Marx and Hegel to the level of a ‘hatter’s competition’, and who seemed to believe ‘one could play the Ninth Symphony on a comb’. The fervour with which Bloch now reiterated his attacks on rigid dogma and his pleas for a wise tolerance was unmistakably heightened by events in Hungary, where Russian troops were at that moment crushing the uprising in support of the anti-Stalinist government formed by Imre Nagy. Among the members of that government – all of whom were exiled to Rumania – was Lukacs.

Lukacs and his colleagues in the ‘Petöfi circle’ had been the intellectual forerunners of the Hungarian uprising. Their connections with Wolfgang Harich, who together with Bloch had founded the highly respected journal Die Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie (and who was also Bloch’s editor in the state-controlled Aufbau Verlag), were well known in the GDR. Soon after Bloch had delivered his widely reported Hegel address and returned to Leipzig, Harich was arrested, together with other members of a ‘revisionist circle’ that included three ex-pupils of Bloch. The end-of-the-year issue of Neues Deutschland contained an article by Ulbricht criticising research and teaching at the Karl-Marx University in Leipzig, but not mentioning Bloch by name.

A month later, Ulbricht addressed the central committee of the SED on the subject of the Harich ‘conspiracy’, its connections with West German interests and the Petöfi circle, and its open endorsement of the Yugoslavian ‘experiment’. The awkward task of censuring Bloch himself was assigned to a second speaker, Kurt Hager. With a fine flourish of platitudes, Hager declared that as a teacher and thinker Bloch laid too much stress on the subjective, despised facts, ignored the disciplines of dialectical materialism, and concentrated on ‘remote objectives rather than the current realities of the class struggle’. While granting that his philosophy ‘obviously contains strongly humanistic and progressive tendencies’, he concluded that ‘it is basically a form of idealism, divorced from real life and the struggle of the working classes’.

In due course Harich was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for organising and leading a ‘counter-revolutionary’ group and Bloch’s three pupils received lesser sentences. The offices of Die Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie were raided by the police, Bloch was removed from the editorial board, and a special issue containing Ulbricht’s speech to the Central Committee was substituted for the issue planned by Harich and Bloch. At the Central Committee’s bidding, Leipzig University held in April 1957 a two-day conference on Bloch’s philosophy. Predictably its conclusions coincided with Kurt Hager’s.

Compulsorily retired at the end of the 1955-6 year, Bloch was now isolated from student life, though by no means disgraced. He retained a second academic post, and in 1959 Aufbau published the first volume of Das Prinzip Hoffnung. By then he had already secured an alternative publishing outlet in the West, thanks to the links with the Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt which Brecht had so wisely cultivated in earlier years. 1959 saw the publication by Suhrkamp of the first complete edition of Das Prinzip Hoffnung, and the first volume in what was to become a 17-part Complete Edition.

In 1960 Bloch was vociferously welcomed by large student audiences at the West German universities of Tübingen, Heidelberg and Stuttgart. On his return to the Federal Republic for a summer holiday in 1961, he visited Bayreuth and became friends with Wieland Wagner. He and his wife were still there on 13 August, when Germany awoke to find that the Eastern sector of Berlin had been blocked off by a wall. Concluding that the risk of never recovering the manuscripts upon which the Complete Edition relied was less than the sum of the risks that returning to them would entail, Bloch and his wife resolved to stay in the West, where their son had already settled. With his appointment as Guest Professor in Philosophy at Tübingen later that year, he could at last resume the teaching responsibilities he had been deprived of in Leipzig five years before. In no respect did he modify his views to suit the new circumstances; nor did he avail himself of the tempting rewards and privileges which the West reserves for eminent fugitives from the East.

The special understanding Bloch established with the West German protest movement when it erupted in 1966 was manifestly related to the integrity of his bearing before and after 1961. Although most of the ideological fuel for the protest movement had come from the Frankfurt School – notably from Marcuse and Adorno – Bloch’s unique experience and personal authority helped him exert a moderating influence that was specifically his own. The primitive Leninist position ‘beyond’ good and evil was one that Bloch refused to countenance, and although he was careful to cite the young Marx and even Lenin himself in support of his own moral and ethical scruples, the Judeo-Christian background was never disguised. A lifetime’s preoccupation with the New Testament in particular had begun with the first (1918) edition of Geist der Utopie – for all its invocations of ‘the profound designating power of heroic-mystical atheism’. It continued by way of the 16th-century revolutionary priest Thomas Münzer, was enhanced in the United States through friendship with the socialist theologian Paul Tillich (who had been Adorno’s sponsor for a professorship at Frankfurt University in 1931), and culminated, exactly 50 years after the first publication of Geist der Utopie, in the passionately heretical Atheismus im Christentum, which belongs to the same year and the same climate as Bloch’s friendly and much-publicised debate with Rudi Dutschke.

For many of Bloch’s admirers and all his fiercest critics no heresy of his has been so shocking as his (subjective!) recognition of man’s inherently religious nature. Whereas Lukacs soon abandoned the metaphysics with which he set out in his pre-Marxist days, Bloch, whose friendship with him had been formed in those days and was to be commemorated in the dedication of his posthumous Tendenz-Latenz-Utopie, revised much but rejected nothing. Having finished the 15th volume of the Complete Edition in his 90th year and dedicated it to the memory of Rosa Luxemburg, he decreed that the 16th and last should be an un-retouched facsimile of the first (and later completely revised) edition of Geist der Utopie.

Theological initiatives were largely responsible for the short-lived discovery of Bloch in the USA in the late 1960s (as they were for his rather earlier and more durable recognition in France and South America). They were, however, questioned on strictly tactical grounds at the very start of the weightiest essay published in the USA in the aftermath of the events at Berkeley, Fredric Jameson’s ‘Ernst Bloch and the Future’. Jameson begins by remarking that in his Thomas Münzer (1921) Bloch characterises the ‘theologian of revolution’ in a manner suggestive of his own aims, and that this is dangerous insofar as the idea of Marxism as a religion is ‘one of the main arguments in the arsenal of anti-Communism’. Bloch was by no means oblivious of that danger, and repeatedly sought to avert it. But within a year of Bloch’s death the full force of Jameson’s observation was demonstrated from an unexpected and influential quarter. The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski had made his name as one of the young Warsaw revisionists in the early 1960s, and as such had been commended and approvingly quoted by Bloch. But the three-volume study of Marxism which Kolakowski published in England and America in 1978, after his emigration to the West, concludes with a volume entitled ‘The Breakdown’ and it is in the chapter devoted to Bloch and the alleged irresponsibility of his quasi-religious utopianism that Kolakowski finally dismisses Marxism as a malignant will o’ the wisp that has deluded mankind for generations.

Without visibly straining to be fair even in matters of detail, Kolakowski contrives to suggest that Bloch’s philosophy is beneath serious consideration as such. Readers puzzled about why the author nevertheless lavishes some thirty pages on it will find the answer in the ‘epilogue’: although Bloch is no longer mentioned by name, most of the ideological debris Kolakowski assembles as conclusive proof of Marxism’s ‘breakdown’ derives from his demolition of Bloch, and the remainder is clearly related to it. By referring to chiliastic sects in this ostensibly impersonal context rather than in the Bloch chapter, where the reference properly belongs, Kolakowski effects a suitably dramatic transition from the evidence (which is abundant) of Marxism’s false prophecies to his crowning charge that Marxism panders to a ‘psychological need for certainty’ and that in this sense it ‘performs the function of a religion, and its efficacy is of a religious character.’

Dr Wayne Hudson, author of The Marxist Philosophy of Ernst Bloch, the first and so far the only full-length study of Bloch’s philosophy in any language, avoids mentioning Kolakowski’s critique until he has reached his own epilogue. ‘Obviously,’ he writes, ‘Bloch is neither a philosopher nor a Marxist if he advances an intellectually irresponsible gnostic futurism, or a wholly out-of-date identity metaphysics. Indeed granted this interpretation, the problem is not to show that Bloch is not a Marxist, but to explain how he could ever have imagined that he was a Marxist at all.’ Since the latter ‘problem’ already answers itself in terms of its own premise it is no answer to Kolakowski but seems merely a baffle-screen for its equally questionable but strikingly resonant predecessor. To have shown that Bloch ‘is not a Marxist’ would no doubt have been child’s play for Kolakowski, but would hardly have furthered his case that Bloch’s philosophy is representative of the ‘breakdown’ of Marxism as a whole. In substance, though not of course in tendency, Kolakowski’s objections to Bloch’s outlook and methodology are intimately related to those that had been voiced in the GDR since the early 1950s. Bloch emerges as an incorrigible romantic.

Asked by a West German student journal in 1970 whether he was a Marxist, Bloch replied:

Properly speaking, a Marxist must also be a philosopher; and he who is a philosopher must, in order to be one, be either a Marxist or, involuntarily, an ideologist of the ruling classes. If Marxism is not philosophy it is Vulgar Marxism, and will soon become counter-revolutionary. There is a fine phrase of Isaak Babel, the great Russian writer who was done to death by Stalin: Banality is counter-revolution. Marxism would become banal if it became schematic.

To which the orthodox and the unbeliever alike would both perhaps reply that a philosophical Marxism, however admirable or deplorable its objectives, but especially if it develops an oracular tendency from its residue of idealism and mysticism, is so far removed from the science that Marx believed he had created as to be scarcely discussable in the same context.

Marx’s famous and much-misused quip that he was not a Marxist belongs within the field of Bloch’s lifelong resistance to static concepts and closed systems. At an early stage he had steeped himself in the tradition of process philosophy, from its classical origins through Böhme and Leibnitz, through Schelling and Hegel, and finally to Bergson. Everything he subsequently acquired and developed from Marx was calculated to strengthen and define the processual in terms of tensions, tendencies and latencies: above all, the ‘tension of impeded precipitations’ and the latency of ‘not yet realised possibilities’ towards whose objective reality mankind’s utopian dreams and experiments have everywhere and at all times called attention, whatever absurdities are immediately apparent in them, and however sure their ultimate failure. The itinerary, he insisted, is not decisive:

The main thing ... is that the utopian conscience-and-knowledge grows wise from the damage it suffers from facts, yet does not grow to full wisdom. It is rectified by the mere power of that which, at any particular time, is, but is never refuted by it. On the contrary, it confronts and judges the existent if it is failing and failing inhumanly; indeed, first and foremost it provides the standard to measure such facticity precisely as departure from the right; and, above all, to measure it immanently: that is, by the ideas which have resounded and been inculcated from time immemorial before such a departure and which are still displayed and proposed in the face of it.

To be unmoved by such a passage, and to resist it, is in effect to resist all Bloch. But even those who feel compelled to do so on principle, or for some other reason, may yet recognise the injustice of Kolakowski’s charge that facts for Bloch ‘have no ontological meaning and may be ignored without hesitation’. Nevertheless, Bloch’s often-repeated contention that socialism has made ‘too great a leap from Utopia to Science’ remains strikingly heretical in the context of his self-imposed isolation from an entire range of (economic) facts relevant to the theory and practice of Marxism, and hence to the discrimination of its functions, malfunctions and alleged breakdown. In expressing his disquiet about the too-great leap, Bloch knowingly distanced himself from the mainstream of Marxist studies, but also from any fair-weather friends he might have found among those who were already proclaiming at the end of World War Two that ‘scientific’ Marxism was dead, but not its ‘moral radicalism ... its feeling of social responsibility and its love for freedom’.

The words are Karl Popper’s in The Open Society and its Enemies – a key work in postwar Hegel-and-Marx criticism and an evident precursor of Kolakowski. ‘It is this moral radicalism of Marx,’ wrote Popper (in the era of Beveridge and Bevan), ‘which explains his influence; and it is a hopeful fact in itself. This moral radicalism is still alive, and it is our task to keep it alive, to prevent it from going the way that his political radicalism will have to go.’ Between The Open Society and Bloch’s so-called Open System, as between the ‘might-have-been’ evoked by Popper in his assessment (via Marx’s prophecies) of actual events from 1864 to 1930, and the ‘not yet’ evoked by Bloch in surveying the entire history of mankind up to and including the 1970s, there are some paradoxical affinities, and a chasm that can perhaps be bridged.

Kolakowski argues that because Bloch is aware that his notion of the Ultimum has no support from ‘the existing rules of scientific thought’ he instead ‘invokes the aid of imagination, artistic inspiration and enthusiasm’. This, we are given to understand, would be a forgivable peccadillo if Bloch considered himself a poet. In that case, Kolakowski continues, the results of his ‘anticipating fancy’ could be shelved beside the frankly hallucinated poetry-philosophy of the ‘surrealists’ (meaning, presumably, Breton and his successors). Yet their philosophy, he concludes, is ‘only’ an offshoot of their art, whereas Bloch ‘purports to be using the language of discursive philosophy, in which the ambiguity of basic concepts is suicidal’.

Thrust into the dock where Freud (whom he revered) has repeatedly been arraigned for ‘unscientific’ procedures and where Marx has been condemned on every ground, Bloch can survive the denunciations more easily than the embarrassments of a defence that calls to the witness-box friends and colleagues who will testify that he was a ‘good’ man, a brave and indeed a noble one. But suddenly there arrives in England – of all countries surely the least aware of Bloch’s existence, let alone his greatness – an unexpected emissary who brings neither an ecumenical appeal for clemency nor even a pretext for one, but simply a collection of the essays he has translated from a volume published more than a decade ago – a volume whose significance had been quite overlooked in the English-speaking world.

Perhaps as a present for Bloch’s 90th birthday, certainly as a little gallery from which to observe from an unexpected angle the now-finished edifice of the Complete Edition, his wife Karola assembled, in 1974, an anthology of his musical writings, for publication in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp series under the title Zur Philosophie der Musik. The first half of the anthology is devoted to the complete ‘Philosophy of Music’ from the 1923 version of Geist der Utopie; the second half ends with a comparable excerpt from Das Prinzip Hoffnung; and between comes a sequence of articles and reviews from the inter-war period. The delight this 330-page volume must have given its now all-but-blind author was surely heightened by the companion volume his publishers, with extraordinary sensitivity, provided for it: a new edition of Busoni’s Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst, incorporating Schoenberg’s marginal notes transcribed from his own copy of the first edition. In his postscript, H.H. Stuckenschmidt described the Entwurf as ‘a piece of the true Utopia’.

Busoni had published his Entwurf in Trieste in 1907, and dedicated it to ‘Rilke, the musician in words’; Bloch had written Geist der Utopie in wartime Switzerland (where Busoni too sought refuge) between April 1915 and May 1917, and dedicated it to his first wife Else von Stritzky, a devout Christian who died in 1921 but remained a lasting influence on his work. One of the links between the Entwurf and Geist der Utopie is the notoriously ‘unscientific’ Schoenberg: but it is also Schoenberg who helps account for the immense distance between these works – not so much the Schoenberg of the Harmonielehre, which Bloch alludes to, as the Schoenberg who tried to persuade Richard Dehmel in 1912 to collaborate on a mystico-revolutionary oratorio.

Geist der Utopie is one of the classics of German Expressionism. Just as its poetic leanings prefigure the poetry of Bloch’s slightly younger contemporaries such as Rudolf Leonhardt and Johannes Becher, so do its tonal blends of revolutionary red and biblical blue produce heliotropic effects that seem to envisage the post-1918 paintings of Ludwig Meidner. Contemporary Anglo-American literature has nothing comparable; one has to go back through Shelley to Blake in the one direction, through Melville to the New England Transcendentalists in the other, to find distant equivalents.

In the music of Bloch’s words there are certainly echoes from the Rilke Busoni admired. Far more important, however, is the place of honour Geist der Utopie reserves for music itself. In the 1918 edition, the seventy-odd pages preceding ‘Philosophy of Music’ end with an essay on ‘The Comic Hero’ – Don Quixote, briefly but illuminatingly compared with Don Juan. One of the main reasons for the essay’s disappearance from the later edition seems to be structural: although the important Blochian motif of the idealistic daydream makes its first appearance here, there is no natural progression from the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance to that realm of heretical freedom which, in Bloch’s world, is music’s own, but which music has nevertheless had to reconquer again and again throughout history. (In that sense Mozart’s Don would have served Bloch better, but his time is yet to come.) The removal of ‘The Comic Hero’ (whose laughter is ‘the laughter of persecution’) leaves the previous chapter’s consideration of Van Gogh and his explosion of ‘still’ life into ‘nameless mythology’ and its references to Kokoschka and Marc, Kandinsky and Pechstein, even Picasso, to prepare for the Modernist and revolutionary perspectives of ‘Philosophy of Music’.

Not that wartime Switzerland can have afforded Bloch much opportunity of hearing the music of Kokoschka’s and Kandinsky’s peers. But he had already breathed the planetary air of Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet, and known what it portended for music and the world. The wordplay that enables him to conceive of a new age in which Hellhören (second hearing, in a visionary sense) will replace the defunct art of Hellsehen (second sight, or clairvoyance) reminds us that Geist der Utopie is almost exactly contemporary with Charles Ives’s Essays before a Sonata, where the Hawthorne movement is described as music ‘about something that never will happen, or something else that is not’, and the oracular Beethoven is rediscovered through Emerson and Thoreau. Early in ‘Philosophy of Music’ Bloch takes Nietzsche to task for seeing music solely as an art of socio-historical retrospection; near the end, he discovers in Jean-Paul a passage that corresponds precisely to his own view of music as the incarnation of the utopian spirit. Why, asks Jean-Paul, does music’s capacity to effect transitions more swiftly and potently than any other art ‘make us forget a higher attribute of music, its power of nostalgia, not for an old country we have left behind but for a virgin one, not for a past but for a future?’

That quotation did not appear until the 1923 revision of Geist der Utopie. But the seeds from which were to grow the forest of Das Prinzip Hoffnung had already been planted and were sprouting in the 1918 version. At a point equidistant between the signpost Das Bachsche und das Beethovensche Kontrapunktieren and an excursion to Kepler, Bloch returns by Shakespearean moonlight to Bayreuth, as if to the locus delicti of Romanticism. But the unhappy portents of his earlier visits are not fulfilled: for Wagner is now to be acknowledged as Beethoven’s truest heir. Meanwhile, and still by moonlight, Bloch takes over from Wagner his own rightful portion of Schopenhauer’s vision theory, and uses it to distinguish between the dream that ‘sinks down’ in contemplation of the daylight experience and the one that ‘moves beyond’ what has already existed into a ‘not-yet-conscious-knowledge’ – a knowledge which, by 1923, he can already describe as ‘dawning’. By then, the dream that ‘moves beyond’ is clearly identified with that ‘dream of a thing’ which Marx apostrophised in one of Bloch’s favourite passages, the letter to Ruge of September 1843.

When all the philosophical sources of Geist der Utopie have been uncovered, when the contributions of Kant and Hegel have been measured against those of Nietzsche and Bergson, when Lukacs has been credited with the traces of Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard, and Böhme detached from latter-day theosophists, when Dilthey and Simmel, the Kabbalah, the New Testament, and the Book of Revelations, have all been taken into account, a single absence and a single presence seem to dominate the utopian whole. The absence, clearly located just beyond the line of vision, and announced by the trumpets and trombones of the final chapter-heading, is that of Marx; the presence is that of a philosopher without whom, as Bloch remarked many years later, there would have been neither Nietzsche nor Freud, nor, for that matter, Marcuse or Adorno – the one philospher whose pessimism was so constructed that it could serve at all times as a crucible for the base and precious metals of Bloch’s optimism; Schopenhauer.

It was Schopenhauer who held that if it were possible to explain everything that music expresses, the result would be ‘the true philosophy’. In effect, Bloch carries Schopen hauer’s speculation to its extreme. For him, music at its best, and sometimes at its second best, is philosophy, requiring only the broadest of glosses and here and there an exemplary defintion. Critics and commentators, including even the gifted Paul Bekker, who prattle about ‘expressively pleading demisemiquavers’ and see in music a need or excuse for ‘the play of supplementary imagery’ are anathema to Bloch. And no wonder: for it is essential to his philosophical purpose that music is imageless and without narrative form; that it is wholly intelligible as formal process yet enigmatic as to its teleology; that it derives its energy from the anticipatory presence, from intimations of the ‘not-yet’; and therefore (in a crucial phrase which appears only in the 1923 version but applies equally to the original) ‘that music as an inwardly utopian art is completely beyond the scope of everything empirically verifiable.’ Or, as Charles Ives suggests in the Epilogue to his Essays, ‘maybe music was not intended to satisfy the curious definiteness of man; maybe it is better to hope that music may always be a transcendental language in the most extravagant sense.’

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Vol. 7 No. 20 · 21 November 1985

On 12 September, Cambridge University Press published Essays on the Philosophy of Music by Ernst Bloch (250 pp., £27.50 and £10.95, 0 521 24873 6). The collection, which has been translated by Peter Palmer, is based on the German anthology Zur Philosophie der Musik, published to coincide with Bloch’s 90th birthday in 1974. The present volume has a long introductory essay by David Drew. A shortened version of this essay was published in two (LRB, 18 July) parts (LRB, 1 August) in this paper.

Editors, ‘London Review’

Vol. 7 No. 15 · 5 September 1985

SIR: Readers of David Drew’s recent articles on ‘Ernest Bloch’s Utopia’ may be interested to know that Basil Blackwell will be publishing the first English translation of Bloch’s magnum opus, Das Prinzip Hoffnung – The Principle of Hope – in January 1986. The translation is by Paul Knight, Neville Plaice and Stephen Plaice and will be published in three volumes.

René Olivieri
Basil Blackwell, Oxford

Vol. 8 No. 7 · 17 April 1986

The first English translation of Das Prinzip Hoffnung by Ernst Bloch was published on 27 March by Basil Blackwell (The Principle of Hope, 1420 pp., £95 until 30 April, thereafter £120, 0 631 13387 9). This three-volume edition, in a translation by Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice and Paul Knight, introduces English readers to an important work of German philosophy which was written between 1938 and 1947. An extended essay by David Drew on the life and work of Ernst Bloch appeared in two parts in the London Review of Books last summer (LRB, 18 July 1985 and LRB, 1 August 1985).

Editors, ‘London Review’

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