The passion of despair

In the first chapter of The Highway of Despair: Critical Theory after Hegel (2015), Robyn Marasco opens up a whole new field of possibility, or ways of thinking it — through despair.

‘Against a familiar ghost story that warns of the spectre of despair haunting radial political vision and the knight of resignation that follows in its path, I will venture an argument that the “negative passions” can enrich the political imagination and enliven political praxis’ (p. 6).

It is such a lightening read. Marasco challenges both the customary critique of despair as a problem of political depression, melancholia, response to trauma or form of resignation, on the one hand, and the customary – and presently fervent – investment in hope as a promise of political emancipation, social transformation and peaceful co-existence. In place of these ‘comfortable’ theorizations, she argues that despair properly understood as a critical political category is

‘the refutation of the end of history: it is that dynamic and restless passion that keeps things moving as earthly projects and purposes fall into disrepair’ (p. 13), in times when ‘things come undone and there is no way out suggested by reason or faith’ (p. 3).

Highlights of the chapter include…

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