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.
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.