I will say once again that I think that the fundamental figure of contemporary oppression is finitude. The strategic axis of this seminar is to provide the means for a critique of the contemporary world by identifying something within its propaganda, activity etc. at whose centre is the imposition of finitude, that is to say, the exclusion of the infinite from humanity’s possible set of horizons. At each session, from now up until the end of the year, I want to give you an example of the way in which something taking place today, or some commonplace or constantly used category, can be represented as a figure or operation of reduction to finitude. As such, each of these things can be encapsulated in terms of the general oppressive vision of finitude.
Today I would like to take the example of Ukraine, the way in which the historic events in Ukraine serve the propagandist consensus that both constitutes and envelops it (at our next sessions I will address two connected notions, which are similarly hegemonic and bask in consensus: the notions of the republic and of secularism – and what I call false invariants: what is assumed to be an invariant, a commonplace of thought, and even a proof of what it is that unites us).
In late January the philosopher Alain Badiou was in Athens, where he gave three talks. The theme of the first of these was Plato, the second was on Lacan, while the third – the text of which appears below – was the most ‘political’. Each of the three talks had a packed-out audience. For this third talk, indeed, even the amphitheatre of the Law School did not suffice to contain the great number of attendees, with many of the large crowd of young people present filling out the stairs and floor. It took place on 25 January, and was jointly organised by the psychoanalysis review Alithia, the municipal elections movement Open City, and the SYRIZA youth organisation ‘Left Union’. It was supported by the Nikos Poulantzas Institute.
The principle that there is a single world does not contradict the infinite play of identities and differences
I would like to thank, and to salute, all our Greek friends, and beyond that all those who are today struggling against the terrible situation inflicted on the Greek people by the financial oligarchy that today holds power in Europe, in service of globalised capitalism.
Alain Badiou: From ‘Spring’ to Revolutions
Invited to speak by the Institut du monde arabe, the philosopher Alain Badiou developed a lively and accessible exposition of his reasoning on the ‘promise’ of the ‘uprisings’ in the Arab world, which have (still?) not turned into revolutions.
How ought we interpret the events that have played out in many Arab countries over the last couple of years? Popular uprisings, the overthrow of autocratic régimes, unsteady electoral processes, the return of Islamism to the political arena, and unexpected coups d’état, have posed the whole world questions as to the meaning of these movements and their likely outcome. Can we term them ‘revolutions’? Do they open the way to a new politics, or, on the contrary, are they a vehicle for old schemas?
What is that this is the issue of utmost urgency? What is this subject matter which requires not the suggestion nor participation of an impetuous alternative, but the brake pedal to the metal by the foot of a most sincere contemplation? As Zizek stressed, it is projecting the tomorrow of global capitalism that governs our today. The cause of systemic substitution lies in hostile relations which are unsolvable by old criteria.
While Zizek's fatal four threats – ecological catastrophe, the inappropriateness of the concept of private property in the discourse of intellectual property, the socio-ethical implications of contemporary scientific development, and newly generated apartheids and slums – to the sustainability of global capitalism, "the commons" meets the eyes of insight: the ecosystem as a common human habitat, knowledge as a common, scientific aspects as a common, and humanity as a common. A global resistance to prevent the privatization of these commons is in action, with the proliferation of a trans-strata collective comprehension that disregard means dispossession in the plot of this dramatic demonstration.
As tumultuous events in Egypt unfold at speed, with former President Morsi currently in custody, we present Verso's updated reading list of key titles and articles addressing the challenges facing Egypt and the Middle East.
Seamus Milne considers the current situation in Egypt in the context of the Arab Spring and its historical precedents in the "Spring of Nations" of 1848 in his latest article for the Guardian. His latest book, The Revenge of History, follows the events of the Arab Spring as they unfold, as well as providing a rich geopolitical context for the uprisings.
The Journey to Tahrir: Revolution, Protest, and Social Change in Egypt
Edited by Jeannie Sowers and Chris Toensing
The account of how it all began, this collection of reports from the region details the causes that underpinned the revolution before it amassed in scale. Starting with the eighteen days of protest in the lead up to Mubarak’s resignation, it is a first hand account of the collective dissent of workers, anti-war activists and campaigners for social change.
Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt
by Hazem Kandil
When the military turned against Mubarak, so too did the revolt, from outbursts of protest to full on revolution. Hazem Kandil challenges the siding of the military with the people, instead documenting the power struggle between the three components of Egypt’s authoritarian regime: the military, the security services, and the political apparatus. Analysing what it means for Egypt to transition from military to police state, Kandil looks toward future revolution.
In an article in the Guardian on the recent events in Egypt, Kandil explains why liberal western critics can't simply say: "I told you so."
You can also read an interview with Kandil in New Left Review on the Egyptian revoution.