Hope is a transformative power. It carries the potential to change our present, to heal our past and to foresee and craft a future we had previously not anticipated. Hope allows us to see through the present, the binding force of the status quo and the received wisdom that the current arrangement of society and self is the way things have to be.
Present circumstances and prevailing structures — in world politics, in the national economy or in our own families — can exercise a tyranny and lock us into socially prescribed behaviors. The passion of hope “loosens the hold that routines or character exercise over the imagination.
Hope can likewise alter the past. Each of us has learned that the past is over and finished; we cannot undo the “spilled milk” of our mistakes. Our culture encourages us, whatever our failings or regrets, to put it behind us and move on. If we are fortunate we may later learn that the past is not over because it is not finished with us. It survives in unhealed wounds, inherited fears and unquenched desires for revenge. Hope rallies us against this fatalism, giving us “the ability to downgrade the influence of the past and present structure and compulsions.”
The transformative power of hope is especially addressed to the future. Through the gift and grace of hope we can imagine that the future is not simply “more of the same.” We are now able to picture our own future in more generous ways. Just as hope challenges the finality of the past, so it questions the fatalism of the future. Hope says that it need not be so. This ennobling passion awakens in us extravagant dreams, visions of a society and self that do not yet exist.
Passion: An Essay on Personality
Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Roberto Mangabeira Unger is a philosopher and politician.
Unger was educated in Brazil and the United States. He studied law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and was awarded a research doctorate by Harvard after he had already been teaching there for several years.
His work offers a vision of humanity and a program for society aimed at empowering individuals and changing institutions. Unger has developed his views and positions across many fields, including social, political, and economic theory.
In legal theory, Unger is best known by his work in the 1970s/80s as part of the Critical Legal Studies movement, which helped disrupt the methodological consensus in American law schools. His political activity helped bring about democracy in Brazil, and culminated with his appointment as the Brazilian Minister of Strategic Affairs in 2007 and again in 2015.
Unger views humanity as greater than the contexts in which it is placed. He sees each individual possessed of the capability to rise to a greater life. At the root of his social thought is the conviction that the world is made and imagined. His work begins from the premise that no natural social, political, or economic arrangements underlie individual or social activity. Property rights, liberal democracy, wage labor — for Unger, these are all historical artifacts that have no necessary relation to the goals of free and prosperous human activity.
For Unger, the market, the state, and human social organization should not be set in predetermined institutional arrangements, but need to be left open to experimentation and revision according to what works for the project of the empowerment of humanity. Doing so, he holds, will enable the realization of the full extent of human potential and, as he puts it, “make us more god-like”.
Unger has long been active in Brazilian opposition politics. He was one of the founding members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and drafted its manifesto. He directed the presidential campaigns of Leonel Brizola and Ciro Gomes, ran for the Chamber of Deputies, and twice launched exploratory bids for the Brazilian presidency. He served as the Minister of Strategic Affairs in the second Luiz Inácio Lula da Silvaadministration and the beginning of the second Dilma administration.
Unger’s website, The Works of Roberto Mangabeira Unger, is exhaustive and loaded with detailed writings.
Books by Roberto Mangabeira Unger include:
- Democracy Realized: The Progressive Alternative
- False Necessity: Anti-Necessitarian Social Theory in the Service of Radical Democracy, Revised Edition (Politics, Volume 1)
- Passion: An Essay on Personality
- Politics: The Central Texts
- Social Theory: Its Situation and Its Task (Politics, Volume 2)
- The Critical Legal Studies Movement: Another Time, A Greater Task
- The Left Alternative
- The Religion of the Future
- The Self Awakened: Pragmatism Unbound
- The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy