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.
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