‘Ascent to the heights’: Ernst Bloch’s A Philosophy of the Future

The Internet Archive has made available A Philosophy of the Future by Ernst Bloch. This volume was an early part of the Bloch series published by Herder and Herder in the 1970s. John Cumming is the translator. These lectures represent a glimpse of Bloch’s Tübingen period (after persevering through years of political persecution in the GDR).

The Archive’s browser reader has been upgraded recently. As with other titles in the IA, the full content is available for download in a variety of file formats.

Below I have reproduced the Theses on progress which close the book.


1. Progress is one of our most important and cherished concepts.

2. Any consideration and analysis of the concept of progress must bear on its social function—its why and its wherefore; for progress is a notion that can be misused and abused for the ends of a colonialist ideology.

3. The concept of progress can be applied validly to the forces of production and the economic basis; it can be relatively invalid in the case of the superstructure — or at least only faintly valid in comparison; and vice versa. The same is true of superstructures which succeed one another chronologically (cultures, civilizations) : especially in the case of the category of progress in art.

4. The concept of progress will not tolerate any “cultural spheres” which require a reactionary nailing down of time to space. It requires not unilinearity but a broad, flexible and thoroughly dynamic “multiverse” : the voices of history joined in perpetual and often intricate counterpoint. A unilinear model must be found obsolete if justice is to be done to the considerable amount of non-European material. It is no longer possible to work without curves in the series; without a new and complex time-manifold (the problem of “Riemannian time”).

5. The objective that is the concern and requirement of true progress must be seen as so rich and deep in content that the diverse nations, societies and civilizations of the Earth (in all the stages of their economic and social development, and the dialectical laws governing these stages) have their place in it, and in striving towards it. Therefore the existing non-European cultures must be interpreted in the light of the philosophy of history, without the distortion of a predominantly European perspective, and without any reduction of their specific witness to the richness of human nature.

6. This objective has a human content that is not yet clearly defined, not yet manifest: a concrete-Utopian human content. The diverse processes of history find their proper order in bearing on the deep relationship of the movement forward: a profundity so profound that all events of the entire world that are in the process of becoming find place and space in it. All earthly cultures and their inherited infrastructures are experiments, ventures and variously significant testimonies to the ultimate humanum: the content that must be processed out, the final and most important reference point of progress. Therefore these cultures do not converge in any one culture already existing in any one place — in one that might be thought to be “predominant,” supremely “classical,” or already “canonical” in its particular mode (itself only experimental). The unique point of convergence of past, present and future cultures is a human content that is nowhere as yet adequately manifest, but can certainly be appropriately anticipated.

7. Similarly with regard to the well-established existential question of a “meaning” of history, in relation to a “meaning” of the world. Here the unifying human content — the eschaton in the goal of progress — is least identical with the result already manifest in terms of men’s actual lives and their cosmic environment. It is on the line of elongation of even the most distant projection to date of any goal of men or Nature. It lies in the remotest immanence of the actual possibility of men and Nature; an immanence that, despite its distance, is not closed to anticipation by the intelligence and science of mankind.


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