Fifty years ago, on 16 May 1966 Communist leader Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution. Badiou's apparently "unrepentant" Maoism has been one of the most controversial, if misinterpreted, elements of his thought. Badiou is interviewed on the question by an anonymous Chinese philosopher, maintaining 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.
ILLUSTRATION / Wang Buke
A Dialogue Between a Chinese Philosopher and a French Philosopher
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.
Is it selfish to want to be happy? On the contrary, thinks Alain Badiou: happiness is fundamentally egalitarian and to demand it, against its apparent impossibility, is a militant act. The interview below was translated by David Broder; see the original French text here.
(Photo: Badiou at Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids, 2014)
What encounters proved most decisive in giving your life its direction?
Alain Badiou: Before theatre and philosophy, it was something that my father said. Indeed, during the Second World War I had this screen memory take form, which was of decisive importance for my subsequent existence. I was six years old at the time. My father, who was in the Resistance – for which reason he was appointed Mayor of Toulouse upon Liberation – put up a big map of the military operations, in particular covering the developments on the Russian front. The frontline was marked out by a thin piece of string, pinned to the wall with tacks. I saw that the string and the tacks kept moving, though I did not ask too many questions; as a man operating in clandestinity, in front of the children my father was evasive about anything regarding the political situation and the war. This was spring 1944. One day, at the moment of the Soviet offensive in Crimea, I saw my father moving the string further left, clearly showing that the Germans were retreating toward the West. Not only had their conquering advance been held back, but now it was they who were losing vast swathes of territory. With a flash of understanding I said to him, ‘But then, maybe we’ll win the war?’ and for once he gave a very clear answer: ‘But of course, Alain! We just need to want it’.
A resurgence of interest in social reproduction theory has presented new ways of understanding gendered labour under capitalism. The political economy of Christine Delphy offered an important starting point for such questions, but remains little known in the Anglophone world.
A translation of the Preface to Delphy's Pour un théorie générale de l’exploitation [For a general theory of exploitation] (2006), by Isabelle Courcy and Melissa Blais, is below. Translated by David Broder; original French text here.
The different forms of exploiting labour today
In Quebec, Christine Delphy is often presented as one of the first feminists in France to have denaturalised ‘sex’, and consequently as a pioneer in conceptualising gender. Less common are the presentations that emphasise her contribution to political economy.
By Stathis Kouvelakis, Athens, August 21 2015
Early this morning, 25 Syriza MPs left the parliamentary group of the party to create a new group under the name of “Popular Unity”. Most of these MPs are affiliated to the Left Platform, but some others also joined, like Vangelis Diamantopoulos and Rachel Makri, a close collaborator of Zoe Kostantopoulou.
This is a major development in Greek politics but also for the radical Left, in Greece and at an international level.
In light of recent developments in Europe that have brought questions of hegemony, populism and organisation to the foreground, Toni Negri asks: where does the thought of Ernesto Laclau leave us on this score? The following talk was given at Maison de l’Amerique Latine in Paris, 27 May 2015. Translated by David Broder; see the original French text here.
By Toni Negri
I would like to talk very schematically about what Ernesto Laclau’s work has meant to me, and the dialogue that the two of us had, particularly in recent years. This was a simultaneously close and critical dialogue, marked by evident differences, but it was also characterised by very great respect; and again today I would like to emphasise my esteem for Laclau.