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Platypus responds to Badiou's Communist Hypothesis

Clara Heyworth17 November 2010

In the November issue of Platypus, Chris Cutrone has written a "response" to Alain Badiou's The Communist Hypothesis. Cutrone begins by situating this new book in the context of the development of the idea of a "communist hypothesis" (an idea explored by various books in Verso's Communist Hypothesis series) and quotes from Badiou's 2007 article for New Left Review:

What is the communist hypothesis? In its generic sense, given in its canonic Manifesto, ‘communist' means, first, that the logic of class—the fundamental subordination of labour to a dominant class, the arrangement that has persisted since Antiquity—is not inevitable; it can be overcome. The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of massive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away ...

As a pure Idea of equality, the communist hypothesis has no doubt existed since the beginnings of the state. As soon as mass action opposes state coercion in the name of egalitarian justice, rudiments or fragments of the hypothesis start to appear. Popular revolts—the slaves led by Spartacus, the peasants led by Müntzer—might be identified as practical examples of this ‘communist invariant'. With the French Revolution, the communist hypothesis then inaugurates the epoch of political modernity.

Cutrone's response to Badiou's "communist hypothesis" is to go on to develop and explain a "Marxist hypothesis":

A very different set of historical periodizations, and hence a different history, focused on other developments, might be opposed to Badiou's. Counter to Badiou's "communist hypothesis," which reaches back to the origins of the state in the birth of civilization millennia ago, a "Marxist hypothesis" would seek to grasp the history of the specifically modern society of capital, the different historical phases of capital as characterized by Marx's and other Marxists' accounts, beginning in the mid-19th century.

Visit Platypus to read the article in full.

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