Bloch, Ernst


Bloch, Ernst
(1885–1977)
   Bloch was a German Marxist academic whose chief contribution to Marxism lies in his work in the field of philosophy. He utilized ancient Greek thought in his unorthodox and original portrayal of Marxism as an “act of hope” and, in a certain positive sense, a utopian philosophy. Born in Ludwigshafen Bloch lived and worked in Germany for most of his life. He studied a range of subjects including philosophy, music, and physics in Munich, Wurzburg and Berlin, and by 1919 had established himself as an important political and cultural writer. In 1933 he fled Nazi Germany to the United States via Switzerland. He returned to Germany after the war, first seeking to settle in the German Democratic Republic. He was appointed to teach at Leipzig University in 1949, where, as well as developing his own interpretation of Marxism, he defended Stalinism. However, his unorthodox Marxism got him into trouble with the government authorities and he moved to Tubingen in West Germany in 1961, where he espoused an anti-Stalinist outlook and broke with his previous support for the Soviet system.
   Bloch’s major works are Geist der Utopie (Spirit of Utopia, 1918), Thomas Munzer als Theologe der Revolution (Thomas Munzer as Theologian of the Revolution, 1921), Das Prinzip Hoffnung (The Principle of Hope, 1959), and On Karl Marx (1971). In these he elaborated his view that the material universe evolves through an internal dynamic toward perfection, and that redemption is possible for humanity in the here and now. He took religious and Platonic themes, but transformed them to produce secular, materialist ideas that offered an attainable vision of a utopian free and equal society characterized by an absence of class and alienation. He advocated revolutionary struggle in pursuit of “the persistently indicated” future. His distinctive interpretation of Marxism understood it as a “concrete utopia.” By this he meant that Marxism represented a theory of utopia, a future paradise, but one grounded in the historical process. Marxism, as a concrete utopia, is not an abstraction or a speculative dream, but, rather, a future anticipated in the present which Marxist theory shows us how to attain via revolutionary action. This utopianism, according to Bloch, is based on scientific analysis of history and society, albeit a scientific analysis some way removed from positivist or other standard conceptions of science. Marxism, for Bloch, is a wholly future-oriented philosophy that incorporates utopia as a central category within itself.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.