On Hope

Hope is promise and practice. Hope is about agency and community, it is both private and political and has the potential to transform us and, in the process, the world. Hope is directed toward the future and opens up new horizons. Hope is a contradiction, a quiet revolution, a rallying cry.

When we published the first Paper Edition in early 2021, THE NEW INSTITUTE had yet to welcome its first group of fellows. This fall, our initial cohort of fellows came to Hamburg, hosted in temporary quarters while the renovation of our physical home of THE NEW INSTITUTE, a set of nine classicist town houses, proceeded. It is set to open in 2022.

This second Paper Edition is a way to expand our cosmos. We are very much aware that there are many people out there doing incredible work. And for us, as both an Institute of Advanced Study and a platform for change, partnership with others is central. The purpose of this Paper Edition is to feature a multiplicity of voices - and to create a kaleidoscope of hope.

Because signs of hope come in many shapes and colours. Inspired by the global protests of Generation Z and Fridays for Future, the rise of those discriminated against for their race or gender, and discussions about alternative ways of living, working and doing business, we want to propose hope as a starting point for discussions about the future we seek to build. What are the sources of hope? What are the politics of hope? But also: is hope enough?

There is a long philosophical tradition of thinking about hope, starting with the myth of Pandora, which reflects on hope as something both dangerous and uplifting. Ernst Bloch elevated hope into a principle, giving it a poignant political perspective. Immanuel Kant posited a duty to hope – an idea picked up by NEW INSTITUTE fellow Lea Ypi as she connects hope to the concept of progress. Without hope, Ypi argues, there is no forward trajectory for humanity.

In this time of radical uncertainty, hope should be as radical as the challenges we face. The U.S. American philosopher Jonathan Lear made this point in his 2008 book Radical Hope, in which he describes how the Indigenous Crow Nation of North America leveraged hope to rebuild a culture and civilization from the ruins of destruction. As a sense of existential threat has worked its way from the past to the present, from the margins to the centers, this concept of radical hope has only gained meaning and momentum.

Rebellion has become a powerful option, and a possible response. Artist and activist Ina-Maria Shikongo talks about the fight for justice and for survival in her native Namibia, representing a fundamental challenge to hegemonic discourse. Curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung has selected artists that explore the concept of hope: Akinbode Akinbiyi’s images document the social reality of megacities, Raisa Galofre’s photographs explore questions of humanity, gender and transgression, and Sim Chi Yin investigates issues of migration, climate change and colonial history, to name just a few examples.

Hope here is the mirror of imagination. Hope is bound to agency. Hope creates humanity in the moment, in the making. It is not prescriptive - it is practical. Hope can be a point of renewal for an entire political philosophy and is connected to a sense of the future, as political theorist Jonathan White explains. Hope can be a tool for transformation, in the words of writer Juliet Jacques, and of care, as reflected in the practice of artist and activist Cassie Thornton. Writer Ece Temelkuran, on the other hand, argues that faith is a more powerful political option than hope, which she calls an “emotional crutch”.

Hope, as the philosopher Markus Gabriel puts it, still “is a much better action-guiding model for humans than fear. We need places, even institutions, of hope. Maybe even a ministry of hope”. Academics Catriona McKinnon and Christof Mauch detail their concepts of climate justice and of what Mauch calls “slow hope”. And for pianist Igor Levit, hope is humanity itself. One thing becomes clear: hope isn’t something you have or you don’t have, hope is something you can practice, train, and work on - like a muscle. Just as John Dewey’s vision of democracy is something that you do, hope is something that requires action to become real.

As scholar Jamila Raqib puts it in her interview for this Paper Edition: “Hope is about people acting together and recognizing their own power. It is important to shake this feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness and instill in people the idea that through their action – what they do and what they refuse to do – they can change their societies or defend them.“

What do you think? What makes you hopeful? Please join us on this journey, because, truly, we are in this together.

Georg Diez
Former Editor-in-Chief

Christoph Gottschalk
Former CEO

| stay informed | stay connected


What is happening at THE NEW INSTITUTE? Step inside by following our institutional newsletter, which ties together the work of our fellows and programs, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.


We use cookies to measure how often our site is visited and how it is used. You can withdraw your consent at any time with effect for the future. For further information, please refer to our privacy policy.