'Before the Election', from The Meaning of Sarkozy by Alain Badiou: originally written in the context of the 2007 French election, it remains vital reading ahead of the first round of the 2012 election this Sunday, 22 April.
We are now in the midst of an election campaign to appoint the president. How can I avoid speaking of it? A tricky one that . . . Philosophy may resist the content of opinions, but that does not mean it can ignore their existence, especially when this becomes literally frenetic, as it has done in recent weeks.
I discussed voting in Circonstances 1, with regard to the presidential election of 2002. I emphasized on that occasion that little credence should be placed in such an irrational procedure, and analysed in terms of this concrete example the disastrous consequences of that parliamentary fetishism which in our society fills the place of 'democracy'. The role of collective affects could not, I said, be underestimated in this kind of circumstance, organized from one end to the other by the state, and relayed by its series of apparatuses - precisely those that Louis Althusser aptly named 'ideological state apparatuses': parties, of course, but also the civil service, trade unions, media of all kinds. These latter institutions, notably of course television, but more subtly the written press, are quite spectacular powers of unreason and ignorance. Their particular function is to spread the dominant affects. They played a good part in the 'Le Pen psychosis' of 2002, which, after the old Pétainist - a knackered old horse from a ruined stable - had passed the first round, threw masses of terrified young lycéens and right-minded intellectuals into the arms of Chirac, who, no longer himself in his heyday as far as political vigour was concerned, did not expect so much. With the cavalcade headed by Sarkozy, and the Socialist Party choosing as candidate a hazy bourgeoise whose thinking, if it exists, is somewhat concealed, we reap the fatal consequence of this madness five years down the road.
The Faith of the Faithless, Simon Critchley's new book on political theology, continues to stir up debate across academia and the media with its critical and insightful take on the nexus of religion, anarchism and violence.
Creston Davis, writing for PoliticalTheology.com, sees Critchley's reading of Wilde's De Profundis as Critchley's "extraordinary insight": a profound understanding of the point in Wilde's imprisonment where "traditional, passive faith becomes activated on the ground-zero level of the subject-void who enacts faith aesthetically, creatively, and inventively". It was this moment, when Wilde had lost the most, that he could develop a "a political-subjective socialistic consciousness." As Davis writes,
The political and religious subject in Simon's book is the individual who discovers himself or herself paradoxically when they are socially lost, abandoned, and alienated from social norms and general consciousness.
I still believe in the old values of the 18th Century Enlightenment; in Reason, in education, in the improvement, if not the perfectability, of human beings, and in the attempts, at any rate, to establish "liberty, equality, fraternity", or "life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness" or any other these other marvellous slogans which we owe to the late 18th Century.
BBC's Archive on 4 special feature on historian Eric Hobsbawm opens with his own words, spoken to Desert Island Discs in 1995. The programme, an hour-long profile of the outspoken Marxist historian, was presented by Simon Schama and laid out the story of Hobsbawm's colourful life: a life which has traced a line alongside the great fissures and faults of 20th Century. The esteemed author, who celebrates his 95th birthday this year, also talks about the life-changing effect that reading The Communist Manifesto had upon him at an early age. That influence continues to this day: eighty years after first picking up Marx's text in his school library, Hobsbawm has written the introduction to a new, modern edition of the Manifesto.
Berfois have published an excerpt from the latest in the Counterblasts series, The Imposter: BHL in Wonderland by Jade Lindgaard and Xavier de la Porte, a stinging takedown of Bernard-Henri Lévy, France's "rock-star philosopher."
Watch BHL debate Slavoj Žižek in 2008. They go head to head on the subject of 'Violence and the Left in Dark Times' at the New York Public Library.
Thomas Friedman — recently immortalized in The Imperial Messenger — is hitting London this June to present his "manifesto for rescuing America". Intelligence² are billing him as "one of the most brilliant orators to have graced the Intelligence² stage". However he's been described elsewhere as "the silliest man on the planet" and a "dangerous fraud."
Want to decide for yourself? You can catch him in action at the Royal Institution on 13 June. Expect him to roll out those famous Friedmanisms — such as this gem on international relations and fast food:
For all I know, I have eaten McDonald's burgers and fries in more countries that anyone, and I can testify that they all really do taste the same. But as I Quarter-Pounded my way around the world in recent years, I began to notice something intriguing. I don't know when the insight struck me. It was a bolt out of the blue that must have hit somewhere between the McDonald's in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the McDonald's in Tahrir Square in Cairo and McDonalds off Zion Square in Jerusalem. And it was this: No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonalds.