Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

by Rebecca Solnit

Paperback, 2016

Status

Available

Publication

Haymarket Books (2016), Edition: Second, 184 pages

Description

With Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable. Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural, and political history, Solnit argued that radicals have a long, neglected history of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately seen, directly knowable, or even measurable, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted confidence about what is going to happen next.

Media reviews

With great care, Solnit — whose mind remains the sharpest instrument of nuance I’ve encountered — maps the uneven terrain of our grounds for hope. Hope in the Dark is a robust anchor of intelligent idealism amid our tumultuous era of disorienting defeatism — a vitalizing exploration of how we can withstand the marketable temptations of false hope and easy despair.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jen.e.moore
This is an incredible little book, about the stories we tell ourselves about change, and a guide for changing the stories we tell ourselves. I got this from Haymarket Books in the days after the 2016 election, when they were giving it away for free, and I'm convinced now that that was the best thing anyone could have done. I'm susceptible to pessimistic politics myself, but Solnit doesn't shame you for that tendency, only admits that it's easy and offers another way forward.… (more)
LibraryThing member rivkat
Another short book of essays centering on the theme of being hopeful, not because victory is guaranteed but because the future is dark and thus much is possible.
LibraryThing member greeniezona
This was a lovely and wonderful and needed book. A meditation on hope -- why it's important, how to nurture it, and what it has accomplished. A large portion of this book is dedicated to victories of the past progressive movements -- as reminders that we can create change, even when victories aren't always complete, perfect, or permanent. Even when they sometimes don't feel like victories at all.

My favorite bit: "We inhabit, in ordinary daylight, a future that was unimaginably dark a few decades ago, when people found the end of the world easier to envision than the impending changes in everyday roles, thoughts, practices that not even the wildest science fiction anticipated. Perhaps we should not have adjusted to it so easily. It would be better if we were astonished every day."

This quote sums up so much about both my frustrations with and my love of science fiction. It's perfect.
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LibraryThing member snash
The book focused on hope in the face of many wrongs as a necessary ingredient to propel social activism. That being the case, it pointed out the many successful changes brought about and noted that there are no final victories since perfection is not possible. The success of activism is, in part, in the effort.
LibraryThing member Carlie
Before Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I did not think too deeply about protests and activism. I realized that these things happened, but I was not sure about how they moved the ball forward. While I have my own beliefs and philosophies that I would be willing to protest for, it was not until this year that I could see more of where I fit in and how that protest might look.

As Rebecca Solnit lays out in this book, activism and protest are not about a specific change as much as they are about a gradual shift. You can’t see the change right away. The movement is slow and happens with one small seemingly minor act after another.

The main gist of the book is about hope. Because you can’t see the progress until you look backwards through history, protesting and activism can feel futile and unproductive. She lays out the ways in which historical figures have brought forward the concept of hope and its integral place when attempting to change society. She goes on to outline movements that sparked change and how those small movements built momentum.
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LibraryThing member jaimelesmaths
Very enlightening and inspiring for such a short book. I like how it talked about activism as a process with no true victory or defeat. However, I felt that, for my job, this was also a downside of the book. Sometimes there are deadlines that require a more pragmatic activism approach. For example, if there's an election coming up, you can't be content just to educate everyone about the issues and say you won because you changed a few peoples' minds. You need to identify whose minds can be changed or who are undecided because they aren't informed about the issue and do heavy persuasion on them. Then, when you "win," you can take as much time as you need to educate opponents. (Yes, I do political work, so I find this relevant.)

Mandatory hippie joke: The publishers should run a promotion: free Birkenstocks with purchase.
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LibraryThing member eldang
Meh.

Actually that's not quite fair. I wish I'd read this when it first came out, because it would have saved me several years in getting a sense of what the nebulous-sounding global social justice movements that spawned things like the Seattle WTO protests were about. But reading it in 2018 I found myself too often reacting with either "how did you not see that [e.g.] Chavez was a problem?", or "yes, that's nice in itself, but we're so manifestly losing this battle". There are some useful rays of light in it, and Solnit's a great writer, but on balance I think this book left me feeling more hopeless and depressed.… (more)
LibraryThing member Iira
I listened to this as an audiobook and for some reason was unable to fully concentrate. At times I felt the book was too much fixed on the Bush asdministration politics, but at times it really showed how history sometimes just keeps on repeating itself.
Mostly US oriented and talks about hope and activism but now looking backwards with the knowledge of the current situation just makes this book seem somewhat naive. There is no hope.… (more)
LibraryThing member KWharton
Despairing about the world? Read this! Change does happen. We need to look at the changes that have happened and remember that things we might take for granted now had to change once. We need to celebrate the good things, and recognise that even though they're not perfect, they are good and we can celebrate them. We also need to get involved with climate activism… (more)
LibraryThing member PDCRead
For centuries people have revolted over the control that the state or other powerful individuals have tried to exert over the people. People can only be told what to do so much. I Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit concentrates on the past five decades of activism against the state about all manner of issues. Sonit acknowledges the huge political thinkers who have shaped some of the politics that happen today.

It is an interesting polemic against the vested interests and the present economic system and is written with a clarity that I have come to expect from Solnit. It is a bit dated now, but sadly almost all of the salient points that Solnit makes are still valid. The message though is still clear; never, never give up hope. The smallest actions being carried out by you can be multiplied up into the tens of hundreds of people doing the same thing does have an effect. The rise of website and action groups like 38 Degrees and Avaaz are the testimony to this; exerting pressure on corporations and governments does get through, it is an irritant that they ignore at their peril. I particularly liked the way that think global, act local, can be turned on its head; by thinking local acting global is the replication of the same protest all around our planet. I would love to see a re-write of this to know exactly what she thinks about Trump, can't imagine it will be complimentary…
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LibraryThing member eldang
Meh.

Actually that's not quite fair. I wish I'd read this when it first came out, because it would have saved me several years in getting a sense of what the nebulous-sounding global social justice movements that spawned things like the Seattle WTO protests were about. But reading it in 2018 I found myself too often reacting with either "how did you not see that [e.g.] Chavez was a problem?", or "yes, that's nice in itself, but we're so manifestly losing this battle". There are some useful rays of light in it, and Solnit's a great writer, but on balance I think this book left me feeling more hopeless and depressed.… (more)

Original language

English

Original publication date

2016 (Third edition)
2006 (Second edition)
2004 (First edition)

Physical description

184 p.; 5.5 inches

ISBN

1608465764 / 9781608465767

Local notes

essays
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