More about this series. Badiou is a tough thinker to engage with. Bosteels unites, complements, and distinguishes both in his page book working through the theories of a thinker who himself is grappling directly with politics: politics as an event, politics as being, and politics as one of four truth procedures defining the subject. Kuswa, Culture Machine. Not only does it serve as a useful introduction to a complex and many-faceted thinker, it also makes it possible for us to grasp some of the debates of the s in a far more comprehensive way than before.
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Return to Book Page. Preview — Badiou and Politics by Bruno Bosteels. Badiou and Politics by Bruno Bosteels. Badiou and Politics offers a much-anticipated interpretation of the work of the influential French philosopher Alain Badiou.
Bosteels draws on all of Ba Badiou and Politics offers a much-anticipated interpretation of the work of the influential French philosopher Alain Badiou. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Other Editions 5. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Badiou and Politics , please sign up.
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This book by Bruno Bosteels, the noted translator of Alain Badiou, impressed me a great deal. It is not just a book about Badiou but rather uses his career as both philosopher and militant as a focal point for an epic history of French radicalism since May of I have no reservations about Bosteels work, except to say that it did not fully convince me of the originality of Badiou's thought.
Having gotten through this challenging and rewarding tome, I still feel that while Badiou's thinking a This book by Bruno Bosteels, the noted translator of Alain Badiou, impressed me a great deal. Having gotten through this challenging and rewarding tome, I still feel that while Badiou's thinking appeals to me on many levels, I cannot shake the suspicion that he is simply repackaging old, Hegelian ideas in a new philosophical language.
Bosteels's commentary differs from most western treatments of Badiou's work. He does not wish to obscure his subject's politics- his role in the French Maoist movement of the s and '70s, nor does he understand Badiou's turn towards an ontology of mathematics as a rejection of his former radicalism.
Bosteels argues that Badiou's oeuvre introduced a new version of dialectical thinking that is based on the relationship between void and excess rather than the process of Hegelian and, to a degree, Marxian totalization. Indeed, for Badiou, philosophy is always subordinated to other practices- such as science or art.
Political philosophy is doomed to be reactionary, it can only think about politics as historically practiced. Metapolitics, on the other hand, attempts to learn new philosophical lessons from the practice of politics in the present.
Every living situation, for Badiou, has more that one possible outcome, just as every mathematical set creates the possibility of multiple sub-sets within it. The State is that which tries to represent the situation through the denial of the possibility of certain outcomes, of certain sub-sets within the set or situation. The recognition of the excess of possibilities, or sub-sets, within a certain situation or set, the realization that the representation of the situation is not totalizing, gives rise to the political subject.
This subject realizes that the truth of the situation, of being, is multiplicity. Yet the political subject must also come to understand that the outcome of the situation has universal implications. The outcome will ultimately effect the entire nature of the set, of being, and so the identity of the political subject must be generic. Instead of thinking of the Event, the breakdown of one State of representation and the rise of a new one, as a truth procedure that declares, anew, the boundaries of the Real, the political subject must instead understand that a new situation presents itself in a static field of being as a result of the articulation of the multiplicity of truth.
Bosteels traces Badiou's apprenticeship both as a philosopher and as militant. They both held that philosophy, political or otherwise, could never hope to discover anything meaningful on its own but felt that philosophy can illuminate newly discovered truths from science by applying them in intellectual practice.
But Badiou thought Althusser's understanding of the relationship between science and philosophy to be too static and simplistic. While Badiou agreed with Althusser that science produced new forms of rationality that revolutionize philosophy, he also held that not every scientific break registers efficiently with philosophy.
Badiou also held that Althusser's differentiation of Theory philosophy based on science vs. For Badiou, rather, science and ideology are intertwined. In attempting to think through a radical Maoist line, Althusser had instead, thought Badiou, retreated to a kind of Stalinist metaphysics, in which only inevitablist laws of history could change the subject from above.
I want to say here that I disagree with Badiou's take on mid-period Althusser. There was something worth preserving in the Althusserian project, thought Badiou, but it was going to need to be radically transformed. Badiou would use dialectics not to show the irreversible direction of Society, but rather show why a given society can only present itself in certain ways without being radically transformed from within.
Just as Maoist thought had influenced Badiou's early philosophical development, so too did it shape Badiou's early career as a political radical. Indeed, Badiou's political and philosophical careers cannot be fully distinguished. The radicality of both is dependent on the transfer from the politicization of history to the historicization of politics.
The task of the revolutionary was to articulate a mass line of what revolution meant in an exact time and place. If for Althusser, the super-structure was unalterable and would change only according to its own inner logic, Badiou held that structure, he would later re-name it the representation-of-a-given-world, is only the movement of its own loss.
Dialectics, held Badiou, was itself dialectical. As Mao held, contradictions were always acting upon one another, and what was revolutionary in one position may become reactionary in another. Force and place are in a constant dialectic of struggle. Rightists communists, such as Badiou held Althusser to be, held place, structure, to be unalterable. They ignored the role of force in social change. Those Badiou identified as ultra-leftists, such as Guiles Deleuze, were guilty of the opposite sin of omission.
They wanted to ignore the role of place completely and rely on pure force, pure desire, to change the world, reducing action to an end in itself. Badiou held that both force and place had to be articulated without equating one with the other. Maoist thought seemed to Badiou the best mode of inquiry for such a task. His ability to elucidate the key concepts from these three huge and difficult works in thirty to fifty pages is quite impressive.
Badiou points out the utterly idealistic nature of Lacan's structuralism- the notion that the nature of the self cannot be altered, that it must always be the subject of an invisible Big Other, the only being that can validate the self with its unifying, but also impossible, perspective.
Structuralism, for Badiou, is just another idealism- it elevates language to a Divine that cannot be questioned or altered. Structuralism, then, must be challenged by a new materialism.
Badiou spends much of the book dividing Lacan into his materialist and idealist tendencies, much as Althusser had done to Marx. For Badiou, the useful, materialist concepts in Lacan include his notions of anxiety and the real.
For Lacan, anxiety denoted the sub-conscious suspicion on the part of the subject that the real- the totality of reality- contained an excess beyond the limits of presentation in the symbolic world. In other words, the self knows on some unspoken level that the gaze that unifies the subject is imaginary- the world, and the self along with it, is incoherent. The super-ego, thought Lacan, fills the uncertainty left by anxiety with the sheer force by the self against the self of non-law presented as law.
Anxiety, thought Badiou, could guide the self to the revelation of a new truth beyond its subjected status to the Big Other. Some of Lacan's models were useful, but they did not adequately describe the full potentialities of the self.
Badiou proposed new concepts to describe these unappreciated capacities of subjectivity. Badiou's proposed revisions transform Lacanian thought profoundly. Anxiety is now no longer merely the terrifying notion that all is incoherent and that the true nature of self is lack, but rather the understanding of the lack of lack, a revelation itself terrifying albeit in an empowering way.
For now the formerly passive subject is transformed into an active force, one that understands that nothing really separates it from its determining place, the imaginary, yet powerfully radical perspective of the Big Other that shapes the world from its imaginary perspective. Force can, in rare instances, inhabit its own determining place and disrupt the order of things. First, the subject, rather than being structural, arises from a rare and contingent event. Second, there may indeed be an other other than the Big Other, and that other may start off as the subject itself, later transformed by courage and justice into Force.
As Badiou's humanist critics all pointed out at the time, this is indeed a very Maoist work. The dialectic of force is seen very much as one of destruction of the old by the new.
Bosteels, however, argues that the book should instead be understood as a radical refashioning of the Maoist intellectual project. In an intellectual environment that condemned dialectics for leading to the totalitarian disasters of the twentieth century, and that sometimes declared philosophy, itself, to be dead, Badiou declares that ontology survives modernity. In truly Platonic fashion, Badiou asserts that ontology is and has always been rooted in mathematics and set theory.
To socially exist is to be counted as an element of a set, and any set that contains any one element necessarily contains a multiplicity, as one can always be divided. To socially exist, then, is to exist as a multiple of multiples.
Badiou and Politics
And, despite using different terminology at times, the dialectical relationship between such things is pretty much what Badiou has always been trying to explicate. One is its sustained engagement with one particular theme, and the one that is probably of interest to most currently—politics, precisely. I return to this point in my conclusion. The other main contribution of this work is its corrective reading of Badiou, which targets a mistake made by those who are everything from sympathetic, hostile, or indifferent to it.