Badiou's apparently "unrepentant" Maoism has been one of the most controversial, if misinterpreted, elements of his thought. In the conversation below, Badiou is pressed on the question by an anonymous Chinese philosopher, and maintains that Mao continues to provide a model for dialectical thought, if not for a historical project. Visit LEAP to read the original piece in full.
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ILLUSTRATION / Wang Buke
A Dialogue Between a Chinese Philosopher and a French Philosopher
December 13, 2014, Manny Cantor Center, New York
Some time ago, French philosopher (and venerable Maoist) Alain Badiou traveled to China to speak to a Chinese philosopher. Though his or her name appears to have been lost in the ashes of time, the transcript of this alleged meeting remains, and bears a noted resemblance to a series of conversations Badiou had with Lu Xinghua, a contentious proponent of the theorization of Chinese contemporary art. A restaging of this dialogue this past December in New York, with an actress as the skeptical interlocutor, provided a window into Continental philosophy’s most ardent Orientalist fantasies—and an hour or two of solid dialectical entertainment.
Happiness is central to the police operation of contemporary capitalism: enforced at work by "chief happiness officers" and at home by mindfulness, self-help manuals and "neurosignalling" headbands. Happiness must be meticulously maintained, and a burgeoning industry has grown around it, because collective unhappiness runs the risk of financial collapse. But as Alain Badiou argues below, it is happiness—as the affect on which political action is founded—that is the true risk.
- Visit Regards to read the original interview in French. Translated by David Broder.
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We are told capitalism is in crisis, and that this crisis forces a choice: "the West or else barbarism". In the light of escalating fascism and ongoing war, the choice is made to appear all the more urgent. Yet, as Alain Badiou shows in his article below, this is a false contradiction that serves both sides and "blocks the advent of the only global conviction that could save humanity from disaster".
Translated by David Broder. The original French text is here.
By Alain Badiou
Modernity is first of all a negative reality. Effectively it is a break with tradition. It is the end of the old world of castes, nobilities, religious obligation, youth initiation rites, local mythology, the submission of women, the father’s absolute power over his children, and the official division between a small group of rulers and a condemned mass of toilers. Nothing can push this movement back—a movement that evidently began in the West with the Renaissance, was consolidated by the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and then materialised in the unprecedented breakthroughs in production techniques and the constant refinement of means of measurement, circulation and communication.
Alain Badiou reflects on some of the debates that defined his relationship with Daniel Bensaïd, his "distant companion". Read the original French interview, conducted by Ballast magazine for their Bensaïd week, here.
Photo by Maya Mihindou for Ballast.
It’s an April morning, and France’s most-discussed Red Guard leads us into his home: tall, and not without a little mischief in his eye, he takes his place on his sofa. We’d read Badiou, certainly—and he was no fan of the anarchists who held our affections—but this wasn’t about his work. Or not directly, anyway. Bensaïd was well-known to Badiou, and he immediately agreed to an interview precisely because of the "friendship" between the two. And anyway, it wasn’t really a matter of posing him questions: rather, we sprung a few expressions on him that we’d pulled from Bensaïd’s texts, asking for his view. The two of them didn’t always see eye-to-eye; and their "very major disagreements" (as Badiou describes it) fed into some of the debates that Marxists hold most dear.