The Meaning of Sarkozy

The reactionary tradition behind Sarkozy, and the communist hypothesis for the twenty-first century.
In this incisive, acerbic work, Alain Badiou looks beyond the petty vulgarity of the French president to decipher the true significance of what he represents—a reactionary tradition that goes back more than a hundred years. To escape the malaise that has enveloped the Left since Sarkozy’s election, Badiou casts aside the slavish worship of electoral democracy and maps out a communist hypothesis that lays the basis for an emancipatory politics of the twenty-first century.


  • “Magnificently stirring ... a characteristically lucid polemic from a philosopher who is far from willing to abandon humanity to the vicissitudes of so-called global capitalism.”
  • “In the tradition of revolutionary pamphleteering.”
  • “Compelling ... He deconstructs, with languid, sarcastic ferocity, the notion that ‘France chose Sarkozy’ ... a very French piece of political venom.”
  • “Heir to Jean-Paul Sartre and Louis Althusser ... a thundering, rallying tirade. ”
  • “Incisive, incredibly readable and funny critique.”


  • Alain Badiou: ‘People cling onto identities… it is a world opposed to the encounter’

    It would be a mistake to see the philosopher Alain Badiou as only being a political activist – having long been a Maoist – or a polemicist – his short book The Meaning of Sarkozy having made his name among the general public. A philosopher but also a mathematician, novelist and playwright, he is clearly above all a man of encounters. The wealth of his output bears witness to it. It has led to him theorising In Praise of Love and very recently debating Alain Finkielkraut in his L’Explication. With Alain Badiou, the encounter does not come just by itself – it is rich with promise…

    What is an encounter?

    It is a contingent, chance element of existence. Something happens to you that nothing among your existing world’s points of reference made likely or necessary. You encounter someone who you do not know and yet who strikes you, attracts you, enters into your life.

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  • Communism, A New Beginning? conference now online

    We're pleased to finally post video from our Communism, A New Beginning? conference from back in October in the debut of our incredibly novel YouTube page. It's an interesting look back to a weekend of what was the first month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street; around when Étienne Balibar spoke on "Communism as Commitment, Imagination, and Politics," peaceful protesters just uptown at Times Square were arrested and en route to Central Booking.

    Here is a guide to the talks given at this conference:

    DAY 1

    Alain Badiou: Politics and State, Mass Movement and Terror (presented by Bruno Bosteels)

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  • Alain Badiou: 'Before the Election'

    '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.

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Other books by Alain Badiou Translated by David Fernbach

  • 1859844359-ethics


    One of the most powerful voices in contemporary French philosophy explodes the facile assumptions behind the recent ethical turn.