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HOPE AND DESPAIR / Vol. 66, No. 2 (Summer 1999)

Arien Mack, Editor

Hope and its polar opposite, despair, are the subject of this issue of Social Research.

This article traces the evolution of hope and despair. Emotions can be useful only if they influence the future, so it is not surprising that they are aroused mainly by events that change our appraisals of whether we will be able to reach our goals. Events that indicate that our efforts will succeed arouse hope. Events that suggest that our efforts are futile foster despair. We experience hope and despair, not at the beginning or end, but in the midst of our long-term efforts. These efforts arise from the deep values of cultures and their individuals, so social attitudes toward hope for their success and despair at their likely failure are not taken lightly.

This article explores the reasons for hope in the twenty-first century. Is there reason to hope today? Sadly, virtually all of humanity might be posing the question today, after a century that can best be depicted by setting one melancholy inventory atop another: of mass murders, of disastrous betrayals of revolutionary hopes, of the torments and disillusionments of progress. The question, so fitting at the end of the millennium, would certainly have sounded strange, as would today's spontaneously skeptical answers, in the mouths of those living at the century's beginning.

The article presents the application of calculative practices of accounting in the sociological literature and how these alter the capacities of agents, organizations and connections among them. It focuses on how accounting such as cost accounting shapes social and economic relations. Likewise, it deals with management accounting as a practice used in various services and as a set of tools with which to manage an organization like an enterprise and to act on individuals for producing specified rates of return. ABSTRACT: This article examines Friedrich Nietzsche's characterizations of the European modern age. The apocalyptic metaphors about the death of God are often linked with similar claims by Nietzsche: that the highest values have de-valued themselves; that modern times are plagued by the problem of nihilism, a kind of collective failure of desire so profound that it is possible to believe, Nothing is true; everything is allowed. The extremity of Nietzsche's rhetoric about death, murder, and the guilt and anxiety it provokes, places him within and at the far end of a spectrum of possible claims about the significance and implications of post-Enlightenment modernity.

This article explores the symbolism of hope and despair in Christian belief. For Christian orthodoxy the idea of hope belongs to a larger theological order; it is not a mere matter of psychology. Its ordinance belongs to God. The same is true of despair. Catastrophically, the Hebrew and Christian God is a creator. He has placed despair and hope somewhere. For Christians, there is a convenient prison--hell, the inferno--and for us its doom is given sublime expression by that most orthodox of Christian masters, Dante.

This article analyzes the historical consciousness of hope with limits embodied in the writings of U.S. philosopher Christopher Lasch. Lasch insisted that much of what makes up the texture of daily life is an experience of loss and defeat. The optimistic, progressivist teleology in its specific U.S incarnation that Lasch challenged holds that the more we change, and the more we have, the better things are bound to become. Lasch's insistence on limits, by contrast, speaks a recognition of human vulnerability and finiteness as well as does his insistence that an ever-expanding culture of productivity must eventually spiral downward into a terrible cultural entropy.

This article discusses the representation of hope and despair in the writings of William Cowper. The writings of 18th century poet and prose writer William Cowper offer an especially useful laboratory for the study of the interpretation of hope and despair in literary texts. Cowper was afflicted with severe affective disorder. It subjected him to periodic depressions that ended in madness and elevated him with recoveries that seemed miraculous. He interpreted these conditions as punishments for sin and redemption through God's grace. But this story of sin, punishment and divine rescue gave him comfort only so long as his inner conviction of redemption remained strong.

This article examines the personification and representation of hope and despair in medieval arts in Europe. The pairing of allegorical figures standing for moral and religious values and qualities of human character is a reflection of the longing for a firmly established, stable and final system of values. The personifications of the passions, of mental states and types of character emerged in a complex and extended process lasting for many centuries. One personification, such as that of Despair, may have been articulated many centuries later than another, such as Piety (pietas).

This article examines the interpretation of hope by philosopher Richard Rorty and the influence of John Dewey and Vaclav Havel on his critique of historicism. Rorty's understanding of hope is curious here, because his embrace of hope appears in an essay in which he rejects the Marxist conception of history that typically has represented the immanent version of hope available outside the Christian eschatology. Hope for Rorty appears to be entirely shorn of is metaphysical, transcendent or historicist moorings, and instead appears to represent a positive outlook toward the world that resembles more what might be described as optimism.

This article asserts that contemporary hope reflects evolutionary time and tribulations, especially through the association of the expanding brain, sexual selection and that natural selection Darwin identified as the summary process of animal life. The simple and obvious point of the paper is that nothing ventured nothing gained and hence that hope is a central functional component of human action. It is possibly necessary for a seemingly paradoxical reason, which is that reality itself can be so depressing or intimidating or fraught with plausible problems that action can be paralyzed.

This article presents some observations on hope. Hope is often a gesture toward and a link to an outside. Hope requests a surprise, the unexpected. It is not a fantasy. One may fantasize living in a mansion, but he does not hope for it. One cannot imagine a real path from here to there. Hope must be realistic. But it needs no path. It can be the anticipation of a pure gift. All of the hopes mentioned seek a direct return to the one who hopes. People can also hope for collective goods or a return to someone else. There is hope in what is new--the start of the school year, the first date, a new job, the lights turning down at the theater or movie house. Hope does not just happen.

This article focuses on situations in which there is a hope that an ongoing hardship or distress will be alleviated in the future. Common sense views hope as the belief, or expectation, that the future will be better than the present. In this context, hoping implies some cognitive analysis that out of all possible futures emphasizes the more positive ones. Thus, when pondering the future, some form of a pleasure principle operates as a selection criterion. It is this aspect of hoping that makes it an emotional as well as a cognitive process. Hoping is an extremely subjective phenomenon, and a person's thoughts and wishes are well hidden within the walls of intimacy.

This article explores the role of hope as an emotion and as a vital coping resource against despair. Emotions are not the equivalent of goals, but they arise from the presumed fate of goals. Negatively toned emotions, such as anger, anxiety, shame, guilt, envy, jealousy, and sadness stem from delay or thwarting of our goals. Positively-toned emotions, such as happiness, pride, and love, flow from conditions that facilitate goals. Either way, hope is a response to goal outcomes, and, as such, it should be treated as an emotion. The role of hope in coping is just as important as its role as an emotion. Hope can galvanize efforts to seek improvement of an unsatisfactory situation.

This article examines the hope of liberal politics in the US. The hope of liberal politics is that it can establish a tradition of fair dealing among people of different interests and views. At a minimum, when liberalism moves us to recognize that we usually have overlapping values, and overlapping stakes, even with those with whom we are at the moment in conflict, it makes it worth our while to deal with each other fairly.


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