Home > Alain Badiou, filosoofia, poliitika, vabadus/emantsipatsioon, vastupanu > Alain Badiou “”We Need a Popular Discipline”: Politics and the Crisis of the Negative”

Alain Badiou “”We Need a Popular Discipline”: Politics and the Crisis of the Negative”

Badiou, Alain 2008. “We Need a Popular Discipline”: Contemporary Politics and the Crisis of the Negative. Critical Inquiry, 34(4): 645-659.

Philosophy has as its condition and horizon the concrete situation of different political practices, and it will try, within these conditions, to find instruments of clarification, legitimation, and so on. This current takes seriously the idea that politics is itself an autonomy of thought, that it is a collective practice with an intelligence all its own. (646)
I think it is necessary to distinguish Marxism from communism. I don’t think it is absolutely necessary to keep the wordcommunism.But I like this word a lot. I like it because it designates the general idea of a society and of a world in which the principle of equality is dominant, a world no longer structured by classical social relations—those of wealth, the division of labor, segregation, persecution by the state, sexual difference, and so on. That is, for me, what communism is. Communism in the generic sense simply means that everyone is equal to everyone else within the multiplicity and diversity of social functions. (648)
Both the insurrectional form of the party and today’s electoral form are articulations by state power. In both cases, the party is subordinated to the question of power and the state. I think we have to break with this subordination and, ultimately, engage political organization (whatever form it may take) in political processes that are independent of—“subtracted” from—the power of the state. Unlike the insurrectional form of the party, this politics of subtraction is no longer immediately destructive, antagonistic, or militarized. (650)
The problem for emancipatory politics today, however, is to invent a nonmilitary model of discipline. We need a popular discipline. I would even say, as I have many times, that “those who have nothing have only their discipline.” The poor, those with no financial or military means, those with no power—all they have is their discipline, their capacity to act together. This discipline is already a form of organization. The question is whether all discipline can be reduced to a military model, the model that dominated the first part of the twentieth century. How can we find, invent, exercise, or experiment with—today, after all, is an age of experimentation—a nonmilitary discipline? (650)
“At a distance from the state” signifies that a politics is not structured or polarized along the agenda and timelines fixed by the state. Those dates, for example, when the state decides to call an election, or to intervene in some conflict, declare war on another state. Or when the state claims that an economic crisis makes this or that course of action impossible. (650)
Distance from the state therefore means that the political process and its decisions should be undertaken in full independence from the state and what it deems important, what it decides to impose as the framework of the political. I understandstate here in the large sense, including the government, the media, and even those who make economic decisions. When you allow the political process to be dominated by the state, you’ve already lost the game because you’ve abdicated in advance your own political independence. (651)
On the political side, every revolutionary or emancipatory politics will have to be a certain adjustment or calibration between the properly negative part of negation and the part I call subtractive. A subtraction that is no longer dependent on the dominant laws of the political reality of a situation. It is irreducible, however, to the destruction of these laws as well. A subtraction might well leave the laws of the situation intact. What subtraction does is bring about a point of autonomy. It’s a negation, but it cannot be identified with the properly destructive part of negation. (652-653)
Our problem today is that the destructive part of negation is no longer, in and of itself, capable of producing the new. We need an originary subtraction capable of creating a new space of independence and autonomy from the dominant laws of the situation. A subtraction, therefore, is neither derived from nor a consequence of destruction as such. If we are to propose a new articulation between destruction and subtraction, we have to develop a new type of negation or critique, one that differs from the dialectical model of class struggle in its historical signification. (653)
It is necessary, then, to have a new articulation of the destructive and subtractive parts of negation so that destruction or violence appears in the form of a protective force, capable of defending something created through a movement of subtraction. (654)
The United States, for example, this nation of immigrants, is today constructing a wall and reinforcing its border security system against immigration, an action largely agreed upon by the Democrats—not necessarily concerning the wall but the need for a substantial increase in the border patrol. In France, this rhetoric has poisoned political life for some time now. It feeds the extreme Right, but, ultimately, the Left always aligns itself with this rhetoric. It’s a very interesting phenomenon because it shows that these destructured masses, poor and deprived of everything, situated in a nonproletarianized urban environment, constitute one of the principal horizons of the politics to come. These masses, therefore, are an important factor in the phenomenon of globalization. The true globalization, today, would be found in the organization of these masses—on a worldwide scale, if possible—whose conditions of existence are essentially the same. Whoever lives in the banlieues of Bamako or Shanghai is not essentially different from someone who lives in thebanlieuesof Paris or the ghettos of Chicago. They might be poorer and in worse conditions, but they are not essentially different. Their political existence is characterized by a distance from the state—from the state and its clients, the dominant classes but also the middle classes, all of whom strive to maintain this distance. On this political problem, I have only fragmentary ideas. It’s a question that is as difficult as the problem of organizing workers in the nineteenth century. I am convinced it is the fundamental problem today. (657)
To return to Spinoza, the situation is no doubt one in which the masses have sunken into what he calls sadness, in which the negative aspect prevails. The political, instead, is always a trajectory toward someone different. And it is an essential condition. In both directions at once. After May ’68, I myself set out to engage workers in an exchange that required both of us to assume this type of trajectory toward someone else. This is missing with the youths of the banlieues, shut up in a collective isolation. (658-659)

 

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