This extract is from a seminar given by Alain Badiou on 25 May 2011, according to notes taken by Daniel Fischer. In it, he comments on the construction of events surrounding the initial accusations towards the then head of the IMF.
What interests me in this affair is precisely its theatrical essence. The great writer of this would have been Jean Genet. We have here, as in “The Balcony” and “The Blacks,” allegory. We are in the representation, even in the representation of representation, the representation of the mechanisms of representation (what is a president, what is a police chief?).
Alain Badiou analyses the events of the Charlie Hebdo attack in their global and national contexts, making the case for the incompatibility of the red flag of communism with the Tricolore of French national identity.
1. Background: the world situation
Today the figure of global capitalism has taken over the entire world. The world is subject to the ruling international oligarchy and enslaved to the abstraction of money – the only recognised universal. Our own time is the painful interval between the end of the second historic stage of the communist Idea (the unsustainable, terroristic construction of a ‘state communism’) and its third stage (the communism that realises the politics of ‘emancipating humanity as a whole’ in a manner adequate to the real). A mediocre intellectual conformism has established itself in this context – a both plaintive and complacent form of resignation that goes hand in hand with the lack of any future. Any future, that is, other than rolling out what already exists in repetitive fashion.
Alain Badiou, whose most recent book The Age of the Poets has just been published, has written the below response to Laurent Joffrin, Editorial Director of Libération, who has written an article in Libération criticising Badiou for his use of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in a recent debate:
In the context of a debate with Marcel Gauchet on the theme ‘communism and democracy’ I invoked certain characteristics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in service of a complex argument. This proved sufficient for Laurent Joffrin to abandon instantly the toil that doubtless occupies all of his time – the soft laying-off of almost a hundred employees from the Libération newspaper – to give his verdict: Badiou is just a frozen dinosaur.
During your talk in Avignon’s ‘Theatre of Ideas’ series you evoked the tensions at work within the 2,500 year-old couple of philosophy and theatre. In your view are these fruitful tensions, or, on the contrary, destructive ones? Nietzsche’s ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ offers evidence enough of this difficult relationship, while Socrates (helped by Euripides) wanted to sound the death knell of tragedy and herald the triumph of reason…
Alain Badiou: There have been two fundamental currents in philosophy ever since its origins, and not just one. What Nietzsche called philosophy is a Platonism that he had largely fabricated. So you could make a lot of objections to Nietzsche even based on Plato himself. Nietzsche counterposes a certain construct of philosophy to the original fundamental power of Tragedy, the Appollonian and Dionysian, but this is still only one definition of philosophy among many others, which he uses as a sort of war machine. It ought not be forgotten that Nietzsche went so far as to say that ‘the philosopher is the criminal of criminals’ – he did not qualify his assertions.
I think that in reality the relationship between philosophy and theatre is an ambiguous one, from its very origins.