In his review for Prospect of The Adventure of French Philosophy by Alain Badiou, Jonathan Rée poses the question as to whether French philosophy is the country’s greatest export. Rée briefly details the rich history of what Badiou calls the “French moment” in contemporary thought. Focusing on Jean-Paul Sartre, Rée suggests that his and the work of other French theorists has always been received by the English speaking world with “a certain streak of madness.” Whilst the article locates Badiou as ‘the latest in the line of French philosophy professors who have had global greatness thrust upon them,’ Rée also states:
… in one respect at least, he defies the stereotype: he is a Mr Valiant-for-Truth, a believer in invariant external verities, and a born-again Platonist, committed to philosophy as “the discipline of the concept,” and mathematics as the revelation of reality.
If I am repelled by John Gray’s review of my two last books ('The Violent Visions of Slavoj Žižek', New York Review of Books, July 12 2012), it is not because the review is highly critical of my work, but because its arguments are based on such a crude misreading of my position that, if I were to answer it in detail, I would have to spend way too much time just answering insinuations and setting straight the misunderstandings of my position, not to mention direct false statements – which is, for an author, one of the most boring exercises imaginable. So I will limit myself to one paradigmatic example which mixes theoretical dismissal with moral indignation; it concerns anti-Semitism and is worth quoting in detail:
Žižek says little regarding the nature of the form of life that might have come into being had Germany been governed by a regime less reactive and powerless than he judges Hitler’s to have been. He does make plain that there would be no room in this new life for one particular form of human identity:
"The fantasmatic status of anti-Semitism is clearly revealed by a statement attributed to Hitler: “We have to kill the Jew within us.” … Hitler’s statement says more than it wants to say: against his intentions, it confirms that the Gentiles need the anti-Semitic figure of the “Jew” in order to maintain their identity. It is thus not only that "the Jew is within us"—what Hitler fatefully forgot to add is that he, the anti-Semite, is also in the Jew. What does this paradoxical entwinement mean for the destiny of anti-Semitism?"
Žižek is explicit in censuring "certain elements of the radical Left" for "their uneasiness when it comes to unambiguously condemning anti-Semitism." But it is difficult to understand the claim that the identities of anti-Semites and Jewish people are in some way mutually reinforcing—which is repeated, word for word, in Less Than Nothing—except as suggesting that the only world in which anti-Semitism can cease to exist is one in which there are no longer any Jews.
In his rigorous review of The Idea of Communism for Libcom, Alasdair Thompson walks us through the main themes of this collection of essays by some of today's most important political thinkers. Edited by Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek, The Idea of Communism was developed in the wake of a 2009 conference of the same name at Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities. Thompson's review looks at a number of these texts in relation to each other, including work by Michael Hardt, Alain Badiou and Alberto Toscano.
Following on from our announcement of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek's New York conference, Communism, A New Beginning?, we have brought together the numerous reports, responses, commentary and resources relating to the first Idea of Communism conference in London.
If there's anything missing, please add in the comments below.
New Yorker music critic Alex Ross writes about Alain Badiou's Five Lessons on Wagner (mistakenly presented as co-authored with Slavoj Žižek, who wrote the lengthy afterword). In his substantial essay on Wagner's Ring in the New Yorker Ross agrees with both Badiou and Žižek that in Wagner's music can be found the possibilities of a different world and a new politics.
Wagner's music is marked by a constant tension between a will to power and a willingness to surrender. The contradiction is not one that we should seek to resolve; rather it is integral to the survival of the composer's work. Because we can no longer idealize Wagner, he is more involving than ever. This idea animates Five Lessons on Wagner, a recent book of essays by the philosophers Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek. The latest in a long line of thinkers who have tussled with Wagner, Badiou and Žižek try to revise the prevalent picture of the composer as a proto-Fascist - the phrase was "virtually invented to describe Wagner", Badiou says - by heightening his paradoxes. In Wotan's monologue, Badiou sees a pivotal moment in which "power and impotence are in equipoise"; that paralysis creates the possibility of a different world. He goes on to paint the "Ring" as a mythological tale that annuls, one by one, the consolations of mythology. Žižek sees in Brunnhilde's sacrifice the hope for a new kind of politics - a space of selfless action beyond the failed ideologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Wisely, Žižek does not spell out what these politics might be. The music offers hope, nothing more.
Visit the New Yorker to read the article in full (subscribers only).
Also check out Alex Ross' excellent blog, The Rest is Noise.