This is a book about our need for redemptive narratives to ward off despair and the dangers these same narratives create by raising expectations that are seldom fulfilled. The story of the rise of secular redemptive hope narratives from the age of Enlightenment to the early part of the twenty-first century has been a story of the struggle between heightened expectations and post-utopian despair. The quasi-messianic expectations produced by the election of President Obama in 2008—followed by the diminution of these expectations—point to the stark reality that redemptive hope is seldom satisfactorily fulfilled. The redemptive narratives surrounding Obama’s elections are a reminder that we are still wrestling with what the neo-pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty considered to be one of the central intellectual challenges of our post-modern age, namely: Can solidarity with other people serve as a sufficient foundation for our social hopes, or do we need a transcendental force—like God—in order to maintain a grander vision of redemptive hope? This book engages this dilemma by bringing together Rorty’s neo-pragmatic version of social hope with the work of modern Jewish intellectuals, particularly that of Martin Buber and Ernst Bloch.
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