We are told capitalism is in crisis, and that this crisis forces a choice: "the West or else barbarism". In the light of escalating fascism and ongoing war, the choice is made to appear all the more urgent. Yet, as Alain Badiou shows in his article below, this is a false contradiction that serves both sides and "blocks the advent of the only global conviction that could save humanity from disaster".
Translated by David Broder. The original French text is here.
By Alain Badiou
Modernity is first of all a negative reality. Effectively it is a break with tradition. It is the end of the old world of castes, nobilities, religious obligation, youth initiation rites, local mythology, the submission of women, the father’s absolute power over his children, and the official division between a small group of rulers and a condemned mass of toilers. Nothing can push this movement back—a movement that evidently began in the West with the Renaissance, was consolidated by the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and then materialised in the unprecedented breakthroughs in production techniques and the constant refinement of means of measurement, circulation and communication.
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.
Back in the autumn of last year, Platoon Kunsthalle Seoul built on the success of previous conferences in London, Berlin and New York on The Idea of Communism to present the 4th Idea of Communism Conference. The meeting gathered some of the most prominent theorists and philosophers of the contemporary left, including Verso authors Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou.
You can now view a recording of the entirety of Zizek’s fascinating talk on Youtube, as featured below. In the talk he delves into ideas expressed in both volumes of The Idea of Communism.
With contributions from Jodi Dean, Antonio Negri and Terry Eagleton, the Idea of Communism volumes offer a lively and thought-provoking overview of the ideas and debates provoking communist theory today.
To read more about the conference, including a mission statement from the organizers and the full list of speakers, click here.