The fall of the Eastern Bloc seemed to spell the end for an alternative to neoliberalism. But the year of unrest that was 2011 gave lie to that notion. The Left is resurgent once again, with writers like Jodi Dean, Slavoj Žižek, and Alain Badiou assiduously attempting to explain the mechanisms behind the mass political movements that occupied streets and plazas in cities like Cairo, Madrid, Athens, and New York.
Alain Badiou’s Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings is one of the many attempts to explain the nature of the protests and riots that roiled the world last year. And it has sparked some debate. In their long and detailed critical engagement with the book in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jasper Bernes and Joshua Clover commend how “ [Badiou] measures the extension of the riot in terms of spread in physical space and across social categories.”
Throughout the review they analyze Badiou's notion of the communist Idea, a theoretical framework that, according to Badiou, lies behind "Los Indignados", Occupy Wall Street, and the occupation of Tahrir Square:
But for those familiar with Badiou’s philosophy and his reliance on logical proof, axiom, and argument from first principles, it will come as no surprise that, for him, communist practice follows behind communist idea. The primacy of the idea is unmistakable in Badiou, not least because it appears in majuscule: “Idea,” rather than “idea.” Glossing his own title early on, he insists that “The only possible reawakening is the popular initiative in which the power of an Idea will take root.”
They also go on to summarize Badiou’s solution for the current crisis of capitalism:
Standing on its head Marx’s statement that “Mankind only sets itself such tasks as it is able to solve,” Badiou writes that “History does not contain within itself a solution to the problems it places on the agenda.” The solution he imagines emerges from beyond history, from the rational process of the Idea and its faithful adherents, who translate the truth of present struggles into winning organizational structures and disciplines.
Visit the Los Angeles Review of Books to read the review in full.