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Considering the support behind Brexit and Donald Trump's 'America first' policies, this book challenges the idea that they are motivated solely by fear and instead looks at the hope and promises that drive these renewed forms of nationalism. Addressing these neglected motivations within contemporary populism, Michael Mack explores how our current sense of disappointment with our ecological, economic and political state of affairs partakes of a history of failed promises that goes back to the inception of modernity; namely, to Spinoza's radical enlightenment of diversity and equality.
Through this innovative approach, Spinoza emerges less as a single isolated figure and more as a sign for an intellectual constellation of thinkers and writers who – from the romantics to contemporary theory and literature – have introduced various shifts in the way we see humanity as being limited and prone to disappointment.
Combining intellectual history with literary and scientific theory, the book traces the collapse of traditional values and orders from Spinoza to Nietzsche and then to the literary modernism of Joseph Conrad and postmodernism of Philip Roth and Thomas Pynchon.
“A masterful weave of intellectual history and literary criticism, Disappointment is magisterial in scope and in the depth and originality of its analysis of the ambiguous fortunes of the modern project.” – Paul Mendes-Flohr, Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor Emeritus of Modern Jewish History and Thought, University of Chicago, USA
“In an age of constant disappointments, in health care, political leadership, interpersonal relationships (at least virtual ones), Michael Mack strikes an engaging and readable note in examining what philosophers, writers, and thinkers have imagined disappointment to be over millennia. His view is that our modern sense of being disappointed with the world is a reflex of the Enlightenment notion of the self and its options. That may well mean that our 21st century worldview rests in the very notion of the failure of those claims. Disappointment is reality of the clash between our need for improvement and our ever compromised and compromising life experience. Read it, you won't be disappointed.” – Sander L. Gilman, author of Stand Up Straight! A History of Posture
“Mack's focus on the current sense of disappointment with our ecological, economic, and political state of affairs is most timely. This provocative, rigorous study blends disciplinary boundaries to open space for an exciting investigation of Spinoza's modernity and how it shaped romantic, modernist, and post-modern writing and thought.” – Elizabeth Millán Brusslan, Department of Philosophy, DePaul University, USA