Blog post

With or Without Hope: Hannah Proctor & Ajay Singh Chaudhary

Hannah Proctor & Ajay Singh Chaudhary discuss hope, exhaustion, and the emotional dimensions of radical politics.

4 April 2024

With or Without Hope: Hannah Proctor & Ajay Singh Chaudhary

VersoBooks · With or Without Hope | Hannah Proctor & Ajay Singh Chaudhary


This week’s episode of The Verso Podcast centres on the gruelling work of making change happen in an often pitiless world - and the mental toll this can take on people. Along with our host, Eleanor Penny, Hannah Proctor and Ajay Singh Chaudhary discuss how revolutionary movements have balanced the grief of political defeat and lost hope, with the imminent needs of organising and continued resistance.

The world’s dominant political and economic system is very adept at blockading inroads towards liberation. Capitalist interests do not generally look kindly on the possibility of real change. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the experience of leftwing organising pretty dependably involves either defeat, or small and extremely hard-won victories. In other words, the dreary backroom graft and frontline struggle that makes both change and hope possible can come at a heavy personal price.

Whilst some left-wing theorists have dismissed the significance of such individual psychological experiences - on the grounds that they are an individualist, bourgeois distraction from the real work of revolution, others have stressed the importance of both self-care and collective care in building robust movements. Either way, as we await revolution we are faced with the question of what survival looks like in the meantime - how we persist in order to resist. What can we learn from exiled Communards, exhausted bolsheviks, and Chinese peasant struggles? How should we think about trauma, exhaustion and depression in a political context? And how are these questions sharpened by the urgent reality of climate breakdown? 

Hannah Proctor is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, interested in histories and theories of radical psychiatry. She is a member of the editorial collective behind Radical Philosophy, and has been published in Jacobin, Tribune, The New Inquiry and elsewhere. Her book Burnout: The Emotional Experience of Political Defeat will be published this April by Verso Books.

Ajay Singh Chaudhary is the executive director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, and a core faculty member specialising in social and political theory. He has written for The Guardian, The Nation, The Baffler, n+1, Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. His book, The Exhausted of the Earth: Politics in a Burning World, was published in February by Repeater Books.

Be sure to tune in for our next episode where Eleanor will be hosting a conversation between Hamza Hamouchene and Ann Pettifor about climate justice and green colonialism.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast - you won’t want to miss out on any of our forthcoming episodes over the next few months - featuring even more of the world’s leading activists, scholars, and thinkers. 

If you enjoyed this show please consider leaving a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts - it really helps us out!

See all Verso Podcast episodes here. Listen via your preferred podcast platform.

[book-strip index="1" style="buy"]

In the struggle for a better world, setbacks are inevitable. Defeat can feel overwhelming at times, but it has to be endured. How then do the people on the front line keep going? To answer that que...

Filed under: author-proctor-hannah, Verso-Podcast