Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. I wrote this book in 2003 and early 2004 to make the case for hope.
The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction.
The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act.
It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative.
You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.
The text that follows is in some ways of its moment—it was written against the tremendous despair at the height of the Bush administration’s powers and the outset of the war in Iraq.
That moment passed long ago, but despair, defeatism, cynicism, and the amnesia and assumptions from which they often arise have not dispersed, even as the most wildly, unimaginably magnificent things came to pass. Coming back to the text more than a dozen tumultuous years later, I believe its premises hold up.The tremendous human rights achievements—not only in gaining rights but in redefining race, gender, sexuality, embodiment, spirituality, and the idea of the good life—of the past half century have flowered during a time of unprecedented ecological destruction and the rise of innovative new means of exploitation.And the rise of new forms of resistance, including resistance enabled by an elegant understanding of that ecology and new ways for people to communicate and organize, and new and exhilarating alliances across distance and difference.The twenty-first century has seen the rise of hideous economic inequality, perhaps due to amnesia both of the working people who countenance declines in wages, working conditions, and social services, and the elites who forgot that they conceded to some of these things in the hope of avoiding revolution.The rise of Silicon Valley as a global power center has eliminated and automated count- less jobs, enhancing economic inequality; it has produced new elites and monstrous corporations from Amazon, with its attack on publishing, authors, and working conditions, to Google, which is attempting to build a global information monopoly in myriad arenas and in the process amassing terrifying powers, including the power that comes with sophisticated profiles of most computer users.In this book Solnit gives us a timeless vision of cause and effect that will light our way through the dark, and lead us to profound and effective political engagement.Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win.Updating the book would have meant writing an entirely new book, so we chose to reissue the 2005 second edition with this additional material instead.After the book was published, I spent years on the road talking about hope and activism, the historical record and the possibilities, and my arguments grew, perhaps, more polished or more precise or at least more case-hardened. It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine.Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to infuence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.