Ernst Bloch

Ernst Bloch (German: [ˈɛʁnst ˈblɔx]; July 8, 1885 – August 4, 1977) was a German Marxist philosopher.

Ernst Bloch
Ernst Bloch (1954)
BornJuly 8, 1885
DiedAugust 4, 1977(1977-08-04) (aged 92)
Alma materUniversity of Munich
University of Würzburg
(PhD, 1908)[1]
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
SchoolWestern Marxism
Marxist hermeneutics[2][3]
InstitutionsLeipzig University
University of Tübingen
Main interests
Humanism, philosophy of history,[4] nature, subjectivity, ideology, utopia, religion, theology
Notable ideas
The principle of hope, non-simultaneity

Bloch was influenced by Hegel and Karl Marx, as well as by apocalyptic and religious thinkers such as Thomas Müntzer, Paracelsus, and Jacob Boehme.[5] He established friendships with György Lukács, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno. Bloch's work focuses on the thesis that in a humanistic world where oppression and exploitation have been eliminated there will always be a truly revolutionary force.


Bloch was born in Ludwigshafen, the son of a Jewish railway-employee. After studying philosophy, he married Else von Stritzky, daughter of a Baltic brewer in 1913, who died in 1921. His second marriage with Linda Oppenheimer lasted only a few years. His third wife was Karola Piotrowska, a Polish architect, whom he married in 1934 in Vienna. When the Nazis came to power, they had to flee, first into Switzerland, then to Austria, France, Czechoslovakia, and finally the United States.

In 1948, Bloch was offered the chair of philosophy at the University of Leipzig, and he returned to East Germany to take up the position. In 1955 he was awarded the National Prize of the GDR. In addition, he became a member of the German Academy of Sciences at Berlin (AdW). He had more or less become the political philosopher of the GDR. Among his many academic students from this period was his assistant Manfred Buhr, who earned his doctorate with him in 1957, and was later professor in Greifswald, then director of the Central Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences (ADC) in Berlin and who became a critic of Bloch.

However, the Hungarian uprising in 1956 led Bloch to revise his view of the SED (Socialist Unity Party) regime, whilst retaining his Marxist orientation. Because he advocated humanistic ideas of freedom, he was obliged to retire in 1957 for political reasons – not because of his age, 72 years. A number of scientists and students spoke publicly against this forced retirement, among them the renowned professor and colleague Emil Fuchs and his students as well as Fuchs's grandson Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski.

When the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, he did not return to the GDR, but went to Tübingen in West Germany, where he received an honorary chair in Philosophy. He died in Tübingen.


Bloch's The Principle of Hope was written during his emigration in the United States, where he lived briefly in New Hampshire before settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wrote the lengthy three-volume work in the reading room of Harvard's Widener Library. Bloch originally planned to publish it there under the title Dreams of a Better Life. The Principle of Hope tries to provide an encyclopedic account of mankind's and nature's orientation towards a socially and technologically improved future.


Bloch's work became very influential in the course of the student protest movements in 1968 and in liberation theology. It is cited as a key influence by Jürgen Moltmann in his Theology of Hope (1967, Harper and Row, New York), by Dorothee Sölle, and by Ernesto Balducci. Psychoanalyst Joel Kovel has praised Bloch as, "the greatest of modern utopian thinkers".[6] Robert S. Corrington has been influenced by Bloch, though he has tried to adapt Bloch's ideas to serve a liberal rather than a Marxist politics.[7] Bloch's concept of concrete utopias found in The Principle of Hope was used by José Esteban Muñoz to shift the field of performance studies. This shift allowed for the emergence of utopian performativity and a new wave of performance theorizing as Bloch's formulation of utopia shifted how scholars conceptualize the ontology and the staging of performances as imbued with an enduring indeterminacy,[8] as opposed to dominant performance theories found in the work of Peggy Phelan, who view performance as a life event without reproduction.



  • Geist der Utopie (1918) (The Spirit of Utopia, Stanford, 2000)
  • Thomas Müntzer als Theologe der Revolution (1921) (Thomas Müntzer as Theologian of Revolution)
  • Spuren (1930) (Traces, Stanford University Press, 2006)
  • Erbschaft dieser Zeit (1935) (Heritage of Our Times, Polity, 1991)
  • Freiheit und Ordnung (1947) (Freedom and Order)
  • Subjekt-Objekt (1949)
  • Christian Thomasius (1949)
  • Avicenna und die aristotelische Linke (1949) (Avicenna and the aristotelian Left)
  • Das Prinzip Hoffnung (3 vols.: 1938–1947) (The Principle of Hope, MIT Press, 1986)
  • Naturrecht und menschliche Würde (1961) (Natural Law and Human Dignity, MIT Press 1986)
  • Tübinger Einleitung in die Philosophie (1963) (The Tübingen Introduction in Philosophy)
  • Religion im Erbe (1959–66) (trans.: Man on His Own, Herder and Herder, 1970)
  • On Karl Marx (1968) Herder and Herder, 1971.
  • Atheismus im Christentum (1968) (trans.: Atheism in Christianity, 1972)
  • Politische Messungen, Pestzeit, Vormärz (1970) (Political Measurements, the Plague, Pre-March)
  • Das Materialismusproblem, seine Geschichte und Substanz (1972) (The Problem of Materialism, Its History and Substance)
  • Experimentum Mundi. Frage, Kategorien des Herausbringens, Praxis (1975) (Experimentum Mundi. Question, Categories of Realization, Praxis)


  • “Causality and Finality as Active, Objectifying Categories:Categories of Transmission”. TELOS 21 (Fall 1974). New York: Telos Press

See also


  1. His thesis title was Kritische Erörterungen über Rickert und das Problem der modernen Erkenntnistheorie (Critical discussions on Rickert and the problem of modern epistemology).
  2. Richard E. Amacher, Victor Lange, Νew Perspectives in German Literary Criticism: A Collection of Essays, Princeton University Press, 2015, p. 11.
  3. Erasmus: Speculum Scientarium, 25, p. 162: "the different versions of Marxist hermeneutics by the examples of Walter Benjamin's Origins of the German Tragedy [sic], ... and also by Ernst Bloch's Hope the Principle [sic]."
  4. David Kaufmann, "Thanks for the Memory: Bloch, Benjamin and the Philosophy of History," in Not Yet: Reconsidering Ernst Bloch, ed. Jamie Owen Daniel and Tom Moylan (London and New York: Verson, 1997), p. 33.
  5. Kołakowski, Leszek (1985). Main Currents of Marxism Volume 3: The Breakdown. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 421–449. ISBN 0-19-285109-8.
  6. Kovel, Joel (1991). History and Spirit: An Inquiry into the Philosophy of Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 261. ISBN 0-8070-2916-5.
  7. Corrington, Robert S. (1992). Nature and Spirit: An Essay in Ecstatic Naturalism. New York: Fordham University Press. p. 113. ISBN 0-8232-1363-3.
  8. Muñoz, José Esteban (2009). Cruising Utopia The Then and There of Queer Futurity. NYU Press. p. 99.

Further reading

  • Werner Raupp: Ernst Bloch, in: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL), Vol. 14, Herzberg: Bautz 1998 (ISBN 3-88309-073-5), Col. 783–810 (with detailed bibliography).
  • Adorno, Theodor W. (1991). "Ernst Bloch's Spuren," Notes to Literature, Volume One, New York, Columbia University Press
  • Dietschy, Beat; Zeilinger, Doris; Zimmermann, Rainer, eds. (2012). Bloch-Wörterbuch: Leitbegriffe der Philosophie Ernst Blochs [Bloch Dictionary: principle concepts of the philosophy of Ernst Bloch] (in German). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110256710. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  • Thompson, Peter and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) (2013) "The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia". Durham, NC: Duke University Press
  • Boldyrev, Ivan (2014), Ernst Bloch and His Contemporaries: Locating Utopian Messianism. London and New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Geoghegan, Vincent (1996). Ernst Bloch, London, Routledge
  • Hudson, Wayne (1982). The Marxist philosophy of Ernst Bloch, New York, St. Martin's Press
  • Schmidt, Burghard. (1985) Ernst Bloch, Stuttgart, Metzler
  • Münster, Arno (1989). Ernst Bloch: messianisme et utopie, PUF, Paris
  • Jones, John Miller (1995). Assembling (Post)modernism: The Utopian Philosophy of Ernst Bloch, New York, P Lang. (Studies in European thought, volume 11)
  • Korstvedt, Benjamin M. (2010). Listening for utopia in Ernst Bloch’s musical philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
  • West, Thomas H. (1991). Ultimate hope without God : the atheistic eschatology of Ernst Bloch, New York, P. Lang (American university studies series 7 theology religion; volume 97)
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