Some Brief Reflections on Badiou and Emancipatory Politics

I recently wrote an essay that seeks to convey some of the key ideas of Badiou as it pertains to the recent insurrections across the world. You can read the piece, “Badiou’s Affirmation: Emancipatory Politics Today” which was written for the magazine Brev Spread.

My focus is on how Badiou reformulates negation and its relation to democracy. How Badiou’s thought enables us to move beyond identity politics, and how his notion of “democratic materialism” implies a different strategic vision of resistance than that of Negri and other “third generation Foucauldians.”

I also discuss the extent to which Badiou’s idea of subtraction is apolitical, and to what extent his thought enables us to think the problem of defining the demands of the protestors. In this context, I examine Badiou and Occupy Wall Street with reference to Adrian Johnston’s recent text on Badiou and Zizek, The Cadence of Change. I conclude with some problems of Occupy Wall Street and the role of Badiou’s concept of the unnameable and the Event.

2 responses to “Some Brief Reflections on Badiou and Emancipatory Politics”

  1. I’m don’t know Badiou as well as I perhaps should but I’m intrigued about where you say for Badiou there are bodies and the idea. Badiou is bringing in the idea against the Negrist insistence on their only being bodies and languages. Yet aren’t both of these positions subsumed in an older one? While Badiou wants to trace the problem back to the Aristotelian position and to counter it with a fidelity to a Platonism that trumps it- aren’t we seeing the re-playing of an old argument, this time with a third grouping/orientation remaining unarticulated, excluded through silence. I’m referring to the Stoic school, the ancient school that had two kind of Somethings (or Real). Bodies were there on the one hand, under the name Corporeals, while Ideas and Sayables/language were expressed as Incorporeals. So this third position cuts through the Two of Plato-Aristotle. So I guess I’m wondering why Badiou remains silent on that- especially given the Stoics relevance to Deleuze, who he also takes on elsewhere?

    This rejection is bound to play into Badiouian critiques of politics of nomination in Occupy.

  2. It’s a very good point. In Badiou’s critique of the event in Deleuze, he claims that it is still relegated to the status of language because it is based in sense. Truth is for Badiou an eternal exception which he grounds in the empty set. It is the empty set that Deleuze never accepted in Badiou, which as Badiou argues in his book on Deleuze represents a Platonism of a different kind–one that seeks the free play of simulacra. Regarding how Badiou reads the Stoics and corporeal events, I am not familiar with his mentioning this. I know that Deleuze talks about the stoics in Logic of Sense. But I think that Badiou would still discard them as relegated to the status of a truth lcoated at the body because for him a truth located in fidelity to an Idea–based on a decision and so on, must be thought int he context of a world.

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