Badiou Subject Of Change

Latest New Left Project Interview Published on Alain Badiou

Badiou Subject Of Change

The New Left Project has released its latest in a series of interviews about critical theory. Samuel Grove sat down with Colin Wright to discuss the philosophy of Alain Badiou.

Wright is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham who recently published Badiou in Jamaica: The Politics of Conflicts.

Badiou, according to Wright, does not offer a blueprint for the revolution contrary to his critics. That’s good, because a revolutionary blueprint, according to philosophers like Jacques Ranciere, is tantamount to being a fascist. Wright says:

Well, this is exactly where Badiou both offers a useful, powerful intervention.  A ‘subject’ for Badiou does not attempt to impose a blueprint for an improved world: it is a force for change, in its actions, not an advocate for this or that kind of ideal society.  In his book The Century, Badiou is in fact very critical of how dangerous this can be (he calls it a ‘passion for real’).  Because the subject is faithful to a truth which is not in any way meaningful in its world, it can’t really know quite what it is doing or why, and certainly doesn’t have a blueprint for how it will all end up.

Wright also elaborates on Badiou’s notion of “a subject”. Chances are, you are not one.

A ‘subject’ for Badiou is really anything that can force active change onto a world…However, it’s important that I clarify your claim that not all of us are ‘subjects’.  Everything rests for Badiou on the opposite idea, namely, that anybody, absolutely anybody, can become a subject.  The truth to which a subject has to be faithful, in order no longer to be only an individual, must be universal and open to all.  This means there are no prior qualifications that would exclude people from getting involved in politics, such as age or levels of property ownership or citizenship.  This is why Badiou is very far from advocating identity politics or single-issue politics.

Also, your teachers are still worthless (sort of).

There is a well-known problem with the model of an intellectual vanguard whose job it is to educate the ignorant masses, to the extent that it presupposes a pre-existing body of expert knowledge, for example Marxist social theory, and those who know it and those who don’t.  Early Badiou takes from Mao the lesson that the relationship is more the other way around: revolutionary action is already a kind of immanent knowledge that intellectuals have to learn from.  In Badiou’s own later post-Maoist work, this will take the form of the idea that philosophy must be what he calls ‘conditioned’ by events, not the other way around.  Philosophy can’t make events happen then.

Read the full article here.