Steve Corcoran, pp. ISBN: 13 1 This is, after all, a time in which we have give up on any hope of emancipatory politics, and where we cling to our miserable material comforts, resigned to the inevitability of the global neo-liberal capitalism. This is a time when democracy becomes more and more an empty, media-driven spectacle of mediocrity, and worse, the ideological rallying point — along with human rights — of Western militarism and US global hegemony.
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Steve Corcoran, pp. ISBN: 13 1 This is, after all, a time in which we have give up on any hope of emancipatory politics, and where we cling to our miserable material comforts, resigned to the inevitability of the global neo-liberal capitalism.
This is a time when democracy becomes more and more an empty, media-driven spectacle of mediocrity, and worse, the ideological rallying point — along with human rights — of Western militarism and US global hegemony. The role of philosophy, according to Badiou, is to think — and to allow us to think — these exceptional events that transcend our everyday existence.
In a series of short pieces in Part One — many of which have previously been published elsewhere — Badiou critically examines these appalling situations. Their nihilism, banality, farcicality and violence are exposed in a way that is intellectually rigorous, militantly engaged and, at the same time, sarcastically humorous.
Here philosophy is used in a practical and applied way to expose the inconsistencies, lies, hypocrisies and absurdities in an ideological discourse that has now become virtually totalitarian. Behind the misguided feminism and pompous Republicanism, Badiou detects a brutal capitalist logic that demands the exposure and free circulation of female bodies and faces — in which commodification masquerades as liberation; as well as a kind of fear of Islam as the religion of the poor and the immigrant.
In another piece there is a savaging of what Badiou sees as the fetishism of democracy — the way that parliamentary democracy has become the only acceptable form of politics today, thus eclipsing any real emancipatory alternative. Is not Le Pen simply a perverted expression of a political system that is already highly authoritarian and xenophobic? The more fundamental point that Badiou makes is that voting is a waste of time, that it was and still should be an anathema to any genuine radical, and, furthermore, that the phenomenon of a Le Pen should not lead us to taking succour from parliamentary democracy, but rather to inventing new forms of mass politics to confront such threats.
For me, this is where Badiou is at his best — not so much in the rather complicated and somewhat obscure mathematical formulations of some of his other, denser works, but in these short, sharp, caustic and rather funny polemical attacks on the world around us — attacks which, at the same time, offer a unique and brilliant diagnosis of the nihilism of the modern condition.
What Badiou sets out to confront here is the stigma of anti-Semitism that is often placed upon those who are critical of Israel — including many Jews who are courageous enough themselves to do so. This is a very complicated issue — how does one engage in a critique of the brutal colonialist policies of Israel without falling into this trap, and while acknowledging that there are indeed some on the left whose politics verge on anti-Semitism?
In a way that is both sensitive and courageous, Badiou seeks to unpack some of these problems through the series of essays, newspaper interviews, speeches, and even excerpts from one of his novels. We are reminded here of the great tradition of Jewish atheism — Spinoza, Freud and Marx, all of whom broke with their established religion. The emphasis here is on a politics of universality — a politics that, as Saint Paul said, recognizes neither Jew nor Greek p.
But what possibilities are there today for a universal politics, a genuine politics of emancipation? This is the question addressed in Part Three of Polemics, where Badiou examines two political interventions that he considers to be historically unique and pertinent to any consideration of radical politics today — the Paris Commune and the Cultural Revolution in China — The detailed exploration of the sequences of these two events constitutes the more theoretically substantive section of the book.
Badiou sees these as privileged sites of politics — events which must be given serious philosophical and political consideration, for they have certain lessons for us today in this time of a-political nihilism. In other words, they were both examples of a libertarian politics which did not seek to reinvent State power, which broke away from official political parties, and which experimented with different and more participatory forms of mass democracy. For me, the Paris Commune is a much more pertinent example of a genuine libertarian politics than the Cultural Revolution, which was more doctrinaire, violent, and imbued with the pernicious personality cult of Mao.
But for Badiou, the point is that both serve as examples of genuine political innovation. They also point to the importance of, and at the same time the dangers that lie in wait for, a radical politics that seeks to free itself from the traditional model of the political party and the apparatus of the State.
What we need today — something that is echoed by Badiou in this last section — is a new form of politics that is beyond the State, that does not seek to take over State power but rather invents new practices, new ways of being, new ways or relating to one another beyond the State. It is curious, then, that Badiou dismisses anarchism p. But we can leave this question for another time. Jacques, To see a philosopher who usually deals in the abstract formalism of set theory and Lacanian psychoanalysis, turn his attention to current events — and in a way that is approachable and at the same time highly sophisticated and militantly engaged — makes for fascinating reading.
References Jacques, R. Hallward ed.
The PSU was particularly active in the struggle for the decolonization of Algeria. He wrote his first novel, Almagestes, in To quote Badiou himself, the UCFml is "the Maoist organization established in late by Natacha Michel , Sylvain Lazarus , myself and a fair number of young people". This organization disbanded in , according to the French Wikipedia article linked to in the previous sentence. Unusually for a contemporary European philosopher his work is increasingly being taken up by militants in countries like India, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.
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