In this article, I briefly review Mary Zournazi’s book, Hope: New Philosophies for Change. The book is an anthology of interviews that Zournazi conducted. I particularly focus on two interviews. One is Hope, Passion, Politics by Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau. The other is Joyful Revolt, a conversation with Julia Kristeva.
Several years ago I became interested in the theories of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. I started searching them and found an interview online conducted by Mary Zournazi. I read it because I thought it must have been easier than their serious writings. It actually was and to my surprise it also was in a way summarising their key ideas. I translated that interview and published it in an online magazine (which was politically forced to stop its work some years ago). During past years, I forgot most parts of that interview, but I always remembered the interviewer and the book that contained that interview: Hope – New Philosophies for Embracing Change by Mary Zournazi.
“A book needed these times more than daily bread.”
Hope is a collection of interviews conducted by Mary Zournazi senior lecturer of sociology at the University of New South Wales, Australia. The main topic of conversations is hope, however each interviewee has a different interpretation of the term and therefore the book covers a wide range of different concepts: from socialism to democracy, from immigration to homeliness, from self to the other. Although each viewpoint is just discussed in a few pages, they provide a very brief introduction to the interviewee’s class of thought, a good inspiration to think and see the contemporary condition of the humankind from a different viewpoint.
The people whose interviews with Zournazi appeared in this book are:
- Alphonso Lingis
- Michael Taussig
- Julia Kristeva
- Nikos Papastergiadis
- Christos Tsiolkas
- Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau
- Ghassan Hage
- Gayatri Spivak
- Michel Serres
- Brian Massumi
- Isabelle Stengers
All of the interviews are interesting and worth reading. Each offers a unique perspective on the relevance of hope to the contemporary human condition. However, I personally found some of them amazingly full of useful ideas. The most notable ones are Hope, Pasison, Politics and Joyful Revolt.
Hope, Passion, Politics
In Hope, Passion, Politics, Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclaue talk about Hegemony, Populism and democracy. The explore the main themes of their research for many years. In the interview they discuss the relationship between hope and the rise of populism and they provide some good examples to better illustrate the way this relationship works and how it can be misused to manipulate a nation. This is one of the issues that the Left has to consider when it pursues the project of democracy. However, it is interesting to know that for Mouffe and Laclau, democracy is a goal, an unreachable one. As Chantal Mouffe argues about the impossibility of the realisation of democracy (p. 130):
For us the impossibility is not empirical but conceptual. Indeed the idea of perfect realisation of a pluralist democracy is a self-refuting ideal. Imagine a pluralist democracy that would be perfectly realised and everyone would agree. That would no longer be pluralist democracy because there wouldn’t be any differences – it would be a completely static situation and, in fact, that is the dream of a totalitarian society. What we are arguing is that to conceive of a pluralist democracy as something that can be absolutely fulfilled indicates the end of pluralism.
The simple logic of arguments like this one is what compels me toward Mouffe and Laclau’s works. Although they use concepts from different disciplines like philosophy, sociology and psychoanalysis (in particular, Lacan), but their arguments are usually crystal clear and without word-plays, unlike some contemporary political theorists and commentators.
I also enjoyed the interview with Julia Kristeva, in which she talks about love, hope, creativity, being alone and revolt. She argues that we don’t know any more how to be alone [not lonely]. She claims this inability to be alone is what constitutes the core of many of best-seller love stories. By refering to the psychoanalyst, D. W. Winnicott, she relates this ability of being alone and of finding an autonomous space to creativity (p. 69):
Ideally we reach the point where we can tolerate solitude, and it may be that this capacity to tolerate solitude is where creativity comes from.
By making an example of Austria, Haider and the people who produced a CD on Freud while protesting against Haider, she argues that in many situations, there is no longer necessary or even sufficient to protest on the streets:
Real revolt is an effort of memory and analysis, which may appear insignificant but which in the long term alters our way of thinking. And where does it
lead us? Neither to simple opposition (going to demonstrations), nor to sitting at home doing nothing, but to the development of critical thought.
Concluding Remarks and Useful Links
The parts are just few examples of so many fascinating ideas embedded in the interviews. The sum of these ideas make the book a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read. Each interview may trigger a brilliant idea in the reader’s mind or at least make her think about some aspects of the human condition differently. That’s why I strongly recommend reading this book. You can freely access this book on the University of Wollongong’s website:
Here you can download the PowerPoint file of a presentation I gave on Mouffe and Laclau’s interview: