In the uprisings of the Arab world, Alain Badiou discerns echoes of the European revolutions of 1848. In both cases, the object was to overthrow despotic regimes maintained by the great powers—regimes designed to impose the will of financial oligarchies. Both events occurred after what was commonly thought to be the end of a revolutionary epoch: in 1815, the final defeat of Napoleon; and in 1989, the fall of the Soviet Union. But the revolutions of 1848 proclaimed for a century and a half the return of revolutionary thought and action. Likewise, the uprisings underway today herald a worldwide resurgence in the liberating force of the masses—despite the attempts of the ‘international community’ to neutralize its power.
Badiou’s book salutes this reawakening of history, weaving examples from the Arab Spring and elsewhere into a global analysis of the return of emancipatory universalism.
By Alain Badiou, Athens, 7 July. Originally published in Liberation. Translated from the French by David Broder.
Copyright: Giovanni Tusa 2014.
It is urgently necessary to internationalise the Greek people’s cause. Only the total elimination of the debt would bring an "ideological blow" to the current European system.
1. The Greek people’s massive "No" does not mean a rejection of Europe. It means a rejection of the bankers’ Europe, of infinite debt and of globalised capitalism.
2. Isn’t it true that part of nationalist opinion, or even of the far Right, also voted "No" to the financial institutions’ demands – to the diktat from Europe’s reactionary governments? Well, yes, we know that any purely negative vote will be partly confused. It has always been the case that the far Right can reject certain things that the far Left also rejects. The only clear thing is the affirmation of what we want. But everyone knows that what Syriza wants is opposed to what the nationalists and the fascists want. So the vote is not just a generic vote against the anti-popular demands of globalised capitalism and its European servants. It is also, for the moment, a vote of confidence in the Tsipras government.
Badiou's apparently "unrepentant" Maoism has been one of the most controversial, if misinterpreted, elements of his thought. In the conversation below, Badiou is pressed on the question by an anonymous Chinese philosopher, and maintains 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.
A full recording of the performance, held on December 13, 2014, Manny Cantor Center, New York, can now be accessed here.
Stock-up, bulk-out, or fill-in the gaps in your Badiou Bookshelf with 50% off until tomorrow!
ILLUSTRATION / Wang Buke
A Dialogue Between a Chinese Philosopher and a French Philosopher
December 13, 2014, Manny Cantor Center, New York
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.
Happiness is central to the police operation of contemporary capitalism: enforced at work by "chief happiness officers" and at home by mindfulness, self-help manuals and "neurosignalling" headbands. Happiness must be meticulously maintained, and a burgeoning industry has grown around it, because collective unhappiness runs the risk of financial collapse. But as Alain Badiou argues below, it is happiness—as the affect on which political action is founded—that is the true risk.
- Visit Regards to read the original interview in French. Translated by David Broder.
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