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Bruno Bosteels “Badiou and Politics”

August 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Bosteels, Bruno 2011. Badiou and Politics. Durham; London: Duke University Press.

Elements of dialectical materialism

Between a given situation and the various figures of subjectivity that actually make a truth happen, the real issue is to account for where one can impact the other, for how long, and to what effect. Ultimately, this is nothing more and nothing less that the question of structural change, of how a given situation can be thoroughly transformed in the event of a new and unpredictable truth. (5)

[…] dialectics ultimately means a form of thinking that grasps the truth of a situation not by way of mediation but through an interruption, a scission, or a cut in representation. (16)

[…] a decision in politics does not depend on the positive study of the circumstances in which it takes place (even when these circumstances include the history of the class struggle), nor can politics depend on the moral elucubrations of our (good or bad) conscience […] (26)

Politics is not the art of the possible but the art of the impossible. To be more precise, a political process must make the impossible possible. This means in the first place to give visibility to the excess of power in the normal state of affairs. During the revolt of May ’68, no less than during the still obscure sequence of later events – from the protests of Solidarity in Poland to the uprising in Chiapas to the second Intifada – this process involves a certain gamble, or wager, through which the state is forced to lay bare its inherently repressive nature as a violent excrescence, typically shielded in a military and police apparatus used both inside and outside its own borders. (30)

Politics […] has nothing to do with respect for difference or for the other, not even the absolutely other, and everything with equality and sameness. (31)

[…] we should always come back to the principle that „ontology [does not equal] politics” since politics, like the events that punctuate the historicity of mathematics as a truth procedure, involves that which is not being qua being. In other words, there is no such thing as a political ontology […] (40)


The absent cause

[…] we can surmise what will be needed to think through the possibility of a situation’s becoming historicized by virtue of an event, namely, a theory of the subject that is no longer reduced to a strictly ideological function but accounts for the specificity of various subjective figures and different types of truth procedure. (65)


Lack and destruction

Badiou’s argument is rather that idealism consists in denying the divisibility of the existing law of things, regardless of whether these things are ideal or material: „The indivisibility of the law of the place excepts it from the real. To link up this exception in the domain of theory amounts to stipulating the radical anteriority of the rule,” he writes: „The position of this antecedence is elaborated in philosophy as idealism.” (85 – Theory of the Subject, 184)


One divides into two

Indeed, if politics is to be more than a short-lived mass uprising or manifestation, what the idea of the party is meant to add, even if its name disappears, is precisely the question of material consistency, embodiment, durability, that is, the question of organization. „Without organized application, there is no testing ground, no verification, no truth,” as we already read in Theory of Contradiction. (128)

  1. In the cas of „leftism” it is the structural element inherent in every tendency that is neglected in favor of a viewpoint of pure, unlimited, and affirmative becoming. The typical example of this viewpoint is the adventurist tendencies fostered by May 1968 itself: „If, indeed, one neglects the structural element, one takes the tendency for an accomplished state of affairs.” Everything then fuses into the being of pure becoming.
  2. In the case of „rightism” it is the possibility of radical change that is foreclosed in the name of a purely objective analysis of the structure. The typical example of this is still, not surprisingly, the economism of the Second International: „If one neglects the tendential element, one inevitably represses the new in the name of the old, one supports the established order. One becomes installed in an opportunistic attitude of waiting.” Everything then is made to depend on the pure state of existing conditions. (134 – Théorie de la Contradiction, 81-82)

For the Maoist in Badiou, though, […] everything must always be split – split between itself and something else, as determined by the system in which something finds its place. (139)


The ontological impasse

[…] the fundamental thesis of the whole metaontological enquiry in Being and Event affirms that there is an excess of parts over elements, of inclusion over belonging, of representation over presentation. There are always more ways to regroup the elements of a set into parts than there are elements that belong to this set to begin with […] The state of a situation, in other words, cannot coincide with this situation itself. (160)

[…] the most important argument in all of Being and Event effectively holds that an event, which brings out the void that is proper to being by revealing the undecidable excess of representation over simple presentation, can only be decided retroactively by way if a subjective intervention. (161-162)

[…] far from presupposiing some wild vitality of pure presentation, this impasse of being is nothing but the result of formal counting operations that are impossible to fix. (162)

[…] the break with nature as a gradual and well-ordered structure implies that, for such a break truly to happen, the initial situation will have had to become historical. (164)

A subjective figure […] becomes reactive whenever the logical outcome of a truth process in retrospect is considered to be indifferent as compared to the event that caused it. (171)

An event is a sudden commencement, but only a recommencement produces the truth of this event. (173)


Forcing the truth

Truth, in order to become effective in the situation, must be forced. That this is always the case should not be understood in the sense of a structural invariant. Forcing is, on the contrary, that which in principle breaks, through a symptomatic and reflective torsion, with all structural or transcendental points of view – even with those cases in which, as happens so often today, the structure is supposed to include what we might call its point of internal excess, its constitutive outside. (189-190)


Logics of change

„Finitude, the constant harping on of our mortal being, in brief, the fear of death as the only passion – these are the bitter ingredients of democratic materialism.” (210 – Logics of Worlds, 514)

If we have a prior concept of what constitutes an event, if we know what the conditions are without which it is impossible to speak of an event in the „true” or „proper” sense of the term: if indeed we have such a philosophical concept or transcendental understanding of the conditions of possibility of an event, then by necessity any case that serves as an example of such an event no longer would be an event, since it would be predictable, foreseeable, exemplifiable in advance. If there is an horizon expectation, in other words, there can be no event. Or, to put it the other way around, there is an event only when there is no horizon of expectation, or only when there is an horizon of nonknowledge – of a faltering knowledge, or a powerlessness to know, to comprehend, to foresee, to expect. (217)


From potentiality to inexistence

Political conflict […] cannot be derived from prior data that would be given at the level of society or the economy. (232)

Precisely because of this, politics is an art and not a science, namely, because there is no objctive guarantee, in the sense of existing class contradictions, for the emergence of political antagonisms; instead, all such antagonisms are themselves the product of an artful intervention, with which a subject responds to the unpredictability of an event. (233)

For Derrida, in contrast, because there is never or there must never be any actualization into the living present of ontology, much less a certain or necessary one, a spectral possibility or potentiality is also always a form of inactuality or impotentiality. (234-235)

As I repeatedly mentioned above, an event is always an event for a specific situation, as defined by the evental site that is symptomatic of this situation as a whole. It is not an absolute ex nihilo creation but a production that starts out from the edges of the concrete void that is proper to this situation and to this situation alone: „There are events uniquely in situations which present at least one site. The event is attached, in its very definition, to the place, to the point, in which the historicity of the situation is concentrated. Every event has a site which can be singularized in a historical situation.” (242 – Being and Event, 178-179)


For lack of politics

Modern would be that period in which nothing „is” if it does not fall under the domain of consciousness, that is, under the control of the representational system that always seeks to oppose the world to the mirror of human reason. Finally, if the idea of forcefully dominating reality, according to this way of thinking, is what defines the essence of the metaphysical project, then the modern age of technique and science will also have been the nihilist age of the fulfillment of metaphysics, which at one and the same time is its exhaustion and its end. (254)

„I say archi-aesthetic, because it is not a question of substituting art for philosophy. It is rather a question of posing within the scientific or propositional activity the principle of a clarity the (mystical) element of which is beyond this activity, and the real paradigm of which is art. It is a question therefore of firmly establishing the laws of the sayable (the thinkable), in such a way that the unsayable (the unthinkable, which in the final instance is given only in the form of art) be situated as ‚upper limit’ of the sayable itself.” (267 – L’Antiphilosophie de Wittgenstein)


Appendix 1: Can Change Be Thought? An Interview with Alain Badiou Conducted by Bruno Bosteels (Paris, June 10, 1999) (289-317)

[…] I have always been concerned in a privileged way by the question of how something could still be called „subject” within the most rigorous conditions possible of the investigation of structures. (295)

Can we think that there is something new in the situation, not the new outside the situation nor the new somewhere else, but can we really think of novelty and treat it in the situation? The system of philosophical answers that I elaborate, whatever its complexity may be, is subordinated to that question and to no other. (307)

The event is self-referential and, in addition, it is nothing else than the set of elements of its site. Here, the same principle applies: if you isolate self-referentiality and the set of elements of the site, you cannot adequately think through what I propose as the event’s figure. Because as multiple, the event’s figure mobilizes the elements of the site, delivered from the axiom of foundation. Subtracted from this axiom, and thus unfounded, the multiple of the elements of the site is going to act in a peculiar manner, namely, by immanentizing its own multiplicity. But you cannot isolate this point of the event’s material singularity as such, since the event is tied to the situation by way of its site, and the theory of the site is fairly complex. It was Deleuze who, very early on, even before our correspondence, at the time when Being and Event had just appeared, told me that the heart of my philosophy was the theory of the site of the event. It was this theory, he told me, that explained why one is not in immanence, which he regretted a lot, but neither is one in transcendence. That’s what he told me. The site is that which would diagonally cross the opposition of immanence and transcendence. (308-309)


Robert Castel, Francoise Castel, Anne Lovell “The Psychiatric Society”

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Castel, Robert; Francoise Castel; Anne Lovell 1982. The Psychiatric Society. New York: Columbia University Press.


Part Three: Psychamerica

With the advent of mental medicine, the lunatic came to be seen as a patient suffereing from a malady. For the first time, a distinction was made between the mentally ill individual and others belonging to such miscellanous categories as social deviants, delinquents, vagabonds, vagrants, debauchees, wastrels, idiots, criminals, and others guilty of violating social and sexual norms. (171)

The nosographic classifications of mental illness have always been dubious, however. They are based on the assumption that there is a clear divdiding line between people who are „ill“ and therefore within the purview of psychiatry, on the one hand, and people who are „normal“ – though they may come under the jurisdiction of some other repressive agency, such as the courts – on the other hand. (171)

The people who seek these new services exhibit symptoms that are signs not so much of a specific pathology as of a malaise in daily life: exaggerating somewhat, one might say that what must be cured is normality. Now that we have reached the point of „therapy for the normal“, virtually all of social space has been opened up to the new techniques of psychological manipulation. (172)


Chapter 6: The Psychiatrization of Difference

In many police departments social workers are on call around the clock. There are „roving medical teams“ which include a psychologist and an intern who work for the police. This gives mental health personnel access through the police to people who would never have thought of seeking psychiatric help on their own, particularly in the ghettos and other poor areas. (177)

American courts confront a basic contradiction. Unable to mete out the prison sentences provided for by law, they discharge their responsibilities by sending lawbreakers to community treatment programs, most of which the judges know to be shams. What makes this deceit credible is that the concept of „treatment“ is invoked – in other words, the contention is that techniques based on medicine will be used to rehabilitate delinquents. Were it not for this safety valve, perhaps the fiction that justice is being done by the courts would have been exploded long ago, and people might then have been willing to look more closely at the foundations of a legal system (and a society) so conceived that nearly a third of the nation’s young people violate its laws. Rather than raise basic questions about the system, people have cast about for dubious alternative to what are ostensibly the most brutal forms of punishment. What is paradoxical about all but a few of these „alternatives“ is that they have done nothing to empty the prisons while augmenting the number of people mixed up with the courts. (183)

[…] the legal criterion for accepting or rejecting experimentation of this sort turned on the degree to which the technique in question was genuinely „medical“. (188)

According to some estimates, however, the number of addicts was most likely higher in the early twenties than it is today, perhaps nearly as high as one million. But addiction was not yet recognized as a social scourge. What has happened lately is not so much a drug „epidemic“ – a term suggestuve of the medicalization of the problem – as a stepping up of coordinated efforts to control certain social groups. (190)

In retrospect, the nineteenth and realy twentiet centuiries have been called a „drug addicts’ paradise“: morphine and heroin were widely used both for medical purposes (in the treatment of alcoholicm, as sedatives, and for „women’s troubles“) and simply for pleasure. The definition of a substance as a drug is a social act and goes hand in hand with efforts to restrict its use. (191)

[…] methadone has two decisive advantages in connection with drug control policy: there is no withdrawal, so users are less likely to be drive to violent crime in search of drugs or money to satisfy their craving, and users become dependent on methadone and are thereby forced to submit to daily scrutiny by the medical personnel who dispence the drug. Official documents recognize the fact that methadone users are in a dependent state and hold that this is one key to its effectiveness. One stated that many addicts have difficulty forming close relationships, and if they were not dependent on metadone, they would find it difficult if not impossible to go to the dispensary every day and establish a long-term relationship with the staff. Thus the dependence created by methadone is crucial to establishing a potentially therapeutic and rehabilitatice relationship with the addict. (197)

The new techniques have made it possible to tighten surveillance and control and extend their range. If prisons are beginning to look like hospitals, this means that their claim to provide therapy is not incompatible with their repressive function. (202)

For children even more than adults, psychiatric labels are often thin disguises for difficulties in adjusting to specific social, family, or scholastic situations rather than descriptions of clear-cut pathologies. (202)

The present goal is not merely to segregate abnormal individuals but also to detect potentially troublesome cases early on. One element of the new stategy is to examine everyone belonging to certain specific social groups or age categories. (204)

Schools are increasingly being used to separate the wheat from the chaff, the normal from the pathological, and growing numbers of specialists are being trained to assist, cousel, and treat what might be calles „abnormal pupils.“ (206)

Thus it seems clear that the real target of the treatment is the child’s disruptive behavior per se. The therapeutic excuse for the use of these drugs has been abandoned, and they are now openly accepted as instruments of control. As one pediatrician has put it, the object of medication is to improve the functioning of the brain so that the child becomes more normal in his thinking and responses. (209)

[…] childhood in general has become the prime target of an indiscriminate hunt for anomalous behavior. (210)

William Ryan has used the phrase blaming the victim to describe the ideologies and practices that have been used in the United States against deprived groups and individuals suspected of menacing law and order. This is how it works: „First, identify a social proble,. Secon, study those affected by the problem and discover in what ways they are different from the rest of us as a consequence of deprivation and injustice. Third, define the differences as the cause of the problem itself. Finally, of course, assign a government bureaucrat to invent a humanitarian action program to correct the difference.“ (210-211)

If we are right in thinking that we are now witnessing a transition to a new and more effective level of technological manipulation of marginal social groups, hten criticism of social control policies must also shift its ground to focus on the manipulative uses of the „scientific“ approach. (213)


Chapter 8: Psy Services and Their New Consumers

One comes away with an impression that everyday life is utterly suffused with interpretations stemming from medical psychology; the methods are now so flexible that nothing further stands in the way of their unlimited proliferation. The political implications of this colonization of social life by psychology are enormous. (257)

The same society that welcomed Freud as the messiah continues to celebrate his lesser epigones. Why? Because the role that psychoanalysis played in the United States was not limited to dominating, as it once did, the narrow field of mental medicine. Psychonanalysis was the main instrument for the reduction of social issues in general to questions of psychology. (261-262)

With the arrival of the post-psychoanalytic era it has become possible to speak of „therapy for the normal“ on a much wider scale. This is an important change, for it implies that anyone and everyone now falls within the purview of one of the new types of therapy. (264)

[…] behavior modification has been used as a way of imposing scientifically designed controls on the daily routine of many people; it therefore lends itself to a virtually unlimited range of applications. With some exaggeration, perhaps, it might be said that behavior modification turns all of life into an educational and disciplinary institution. (266)

„Therapy for the normal“, then, uses an array of mental and, particularly, physical tehcniques to maximize the „human yield“ of each individual; it is not aimed at healing, as standard therapies presumably are. The goal is not to get well, but to become healthier (that is to experience more pleasure, to „get in touch with one’s feelings“, to become aware of one’s body, etc.). Medical healing gives way to personality growth: Encounter groups are designed for people who are functioning normally but who wish to impove their relationships with others. (282)

To earn the right to treatent (as psychoanalysis had suspected), the normal individual must exhibit neurotic symptoms. But what is a symptom? „A psychic symptom today is no longer a symptom but a sign that life lacks joy.“ Normal life – social life – is sick, it requires therapy, therapy for nomrality, and techniques to develop human potential and foster autonomy and enhance pleasure in a sad and alienated world. Adjustment, then, has been supplanted by a normative notion of normality – normality seen, in this new light, as the product of „working on“ one’s own personality. (282-283)

If a man’s social status is merely a product of the way he lives his life, then it is possible to use technical means to manipulate the factors that enter into his choices. With regard to relations between social groups, this outlook has led unions, for wxample, to take a particular line, namely, to make demands aimed at enabling the category of worker they represent to „play the game“ successfully within the system, i.e., to compete successfully in the struggle for advancement. With regard to the lowest strata in the society, it has led to a welfare policy that seeks to minister to individual shortcomings without touching the structural conditions that may be responsible for them (293)

What is being worked out, in short, is a completely rational concept of man, a concept perfectly attuned to the dominant notion of what is rational. The problem then ceases to be one of healing the sick, reeducating the guilty, ot controlling deviant behavior (these goals remain, of course, but as objectives allied with new techniques). Instead, „normal“ man has come to the fore as the center of attention in a society whose only passion is to produce earnestly and efficiently. To heal is good, to precent is better, but to maximize output by adjusting each individual to his social role and by calibrating change to the social dynamic as required by the necessity to reproduce the social order is surely the ideal of policy without politics. (295)



Underlying the boldest attempts to standardize behavior is a conception of a sort of „scientific“ utopia: to achieve happiness for both the individual and the community by means of rational planning carried out by technical experts. (316)

If the study of recent changes in psychiatry proves anything, it is how much the present expansion of psychiatry’s sphere of influence owes to those who have come one after another to work on the fringes of the profession, pushing back its boundaries by „moving beyond“the old models, which they descrube as archaic, coercive, prescriptive, and so forth. (319-320)

Psychiactric sociaty: No longer a society in which psychiatry takes care of a few patients, whether really ill or merely purported to be, in any case defined bu a starky contrast between the normal and the pathological; but rather an organization of everyday life in which manipulative techniques, more often than not developed and popularized mental medicine, become coextensive with all aspects of social life. No longer the manifestation of naked power exerted directly to repress social and political differences; but rather diffuse pressures of many kinds, which invalidate such differences by interpreting them as so many symptoms to be treated. Not the country of gray dawns in which state commissars drag dissidents out of bed at the crow of the cock; but rather a padded world watched over night and day by squads of skilled specialists, many of them well-meaning. Skilled at what? At manipulating people to accept the constraints of society. (320)

Alain Badiou “The Communist Hypothesis”

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Badiou, Alain 2008. The Communist Hypothesis. New Left Review 49: 29-42.

If we posit a definition of politics as ‘collective action, organized by certain principles, that aims to unfold the consequences of a new possibility which  is  currently  repressed  by  the  dominant  order’,  then  we  would have to conclude that the electoral mechanism is an essentially apolitical procedure. (31)

What is the communist hypothesis? In its generic sense, given in its canonic Manifesto,  ‘communist’  means,  first,  that  the  logic  of  class—the  fundamental  subordination  of  labour  to  a  dominant  class,  the arrangement  that  has  persisted  since  Antiquity—is  not  inevitable;  it can be overcome. The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of mas-sive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away. (34-35)

‘Communism’ as such denotes only this very general set of intellectual representations. It is what Kant called an Idea, with a regulatory function,  rather  than  a  programme.  It  is foolish  to  call  such  communist principles utopian; in the sense that I have defined them here they are intellectual patterns, always actualized in a different fashion. As a pure Idea of equality, the communist hypothesis has no doubt existed since the beginnings of the state. (35)

The political problem, then, has to be reversed. We cannot start from an  analytic  agreement  on  the  existence  of  the  world  and  proceed  to normative action with regard to its characteristics. The disagreement is not over qualities but over existence. Confronted with the artificial and murderous division of the world into two—a disjunction named by the very term, ‘the West’—we must affirm the existence of the single world right from the start, as axiom and principle. The simple phrase, ‘there  is  only  one  world’,  is  not  an  objective conclusion.  It  is  perfor-mative:  we  are  deciding  that  this  is  how  it  is  for  us. (38)

A first consequence is the recognition that all belong to the same world as myself: the African worker I see in the restaurant kitchen, the Moroccan I see digging a hole in the road, the veiled woman looking after children in a park. That is where we reverse the dominant idea of the world united by objects and signs, to make a unity in terms of living, acting beings, here and now. (39)

The single world of living women and men may well have laws; what it cannot have is subjective or ‘cultural’ preconditions for existence within it—to demand that you have to be like everyone else. The single world is precisely the place where an unlimited set of differences exist. Philosophically, far from casting doubt on the unity of the world, these differences are its principle of existence. (39)

The  simplest  definition  of  ‘identity’  is the series of characteristics and properties by which an individual or a group recognizes itself as its ‘self’. But what is this ‘self’? It is that which, across all the characteristic properties of identity, remains more or less invariant. It is possible, then, to say that an identity is the ensemble of properties that support an invariance. (39-40)

Defined  in  this  way,  by  invariants,  identity  is  doubly  related  to  difference: on the one hand, identity is that which is different from the rest;  on  the  other,  it  is  that  which  does  not  become  different,  which is invariant. The affirmation of identity has two further aspects. The first form is negative. It consists of desperately maintaining that I am not  the  other. […] The second involves the immanent development of identity within a new situation—rather like Nietzsche’s famous maxim, ‘become what you are’. The Moroccan worker does not abandon that which constitutes his individual identity, whether socially or in the family; but he will gradually adapt all this, in a creative fashion, to the place in which he finds himself. He will thus invent what he is—a Moroccan worker in Paris—not through any internal rupture, but by an expansion of identity. (40)

The political consequences of the axiom, ‘there is only one world’, will work  to  consolidate  what  is  universal  in  identities.  An  example—a local experiment—would be a meeting held recently in Paris, where undocumented  workers  and  French  nationals  came  together  to demand the abolition of persecutory laws, police raids and expulsions; to demand that foreign workers be recognized simply in terms of their presence: that no one is illegal; all demands that are very natural for people who are basically in the same existential situation—people of the same world. (40)

The virtue of courage constructs itself through endurance within the impossible; time is its raw material. What takes courage is to operate in terms of a different durée to that imposed by the law of the world. The point we are seeking must be one that can connect to another order of time. (41)

Alain Badiou “Deleuze: The Clamour of Being”

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Badiou, Alain 2000. Deleuze: The Clamour of Being. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press.

The Outside and the Fold

It is certain that,  “as  long as we continue  to  contrast history directly with structure, we can believe  that the  subject conserves  a  sense  as  a  constitutive,  receptive  and  unifying  activity”  (ibid.;  translation  modified).  Foucault’s  great  merit  (but  Deleuze,  in  using the free indirect style, makes  it his  own)  is to have constructed  thinlcing configurations  that have  nothing to  do with  the  couple  formed  by structural objectivity  and constitutive  subjectivity. (82)

Thinking a situation always  involves going toward  that,  in  it,  which  is  the  least  covered  by  the  shelter  that  the  general regime  of things  offers  it,  just  as in order  to think the  situation  of France today one must  start from  the  “dis-sheltering”  by  the  state  of those  who  are  without  papers. This is what, in my own language, I  name  (without needing for this  either the virtual or the Whole)  an event site. I determine this ontologically (with all the required mathematical  formulations)  as  that which  is  “on  the  edge  of the  void” -that is to say,  that which is  almost withdrawn  from  the  situation’s  regulation  by  an  immanent norm, or its state.5 In a situation  (in a set), it is like a point of exile where it is possible that something, finally,  might happen. And  I must say  that I was very  pleased when, in  detailing in depth  at the start of 1994 the  “political” similarities between his  thesis  of dis-sheltering  and my  thesis  of the  event site,  Deleuze  compared  the expression “on the edge  of the void” to  the  intersection between the  territory (the  space of actualization)  and  the  process  of deterritorialization  (the  overflowing  of the  territory by the event that is the real-virtual  of all  actualization), which is to say that it is the point at which what occurs  can no longer be  assigned  to  either the  territory (the site)  or the  nonterritory,  to  either  the inside  or the  outside.  And  it is  true  that the void has neither an interior nor an exterior. (85)

The  outside cannot be confused with anything so commonplace as  a  sort of external world. The automaton (thinking in  its  ascesis)  is  a  simulacrum that  is  without  any  relation  to  other  simulacra.  It  is,  itself, the  pure  assumption  of the  outside. (86)

But what is the underlying principle of all animation?  What populates  the  impersonal  outside;  what  is  it  that  composes  forms  therein?  Let us  call this  “element”  of the  outside  “force.” The  name  is  appropriate  for,  inasmuch  as  it is  translated  only by  a  constrained  animation  or  by  a  setting  into motion  of the automaton-thought,  the outside is only manifest as the imposition of a force.  One of Deleuze’s most constant themes is, moreover,  that we only think when forced to think. Let  this  be  a warning to those who would see in Deleuze an  apologia for spontaneity: whatever is spontaneous is inferior to thought, which only begins when it is constrained to become animated by the forces of the outside. (86)

[…] the element that comes from the outside is force. (86)

The  diagram  of forces -pure inscription  of the  outside – does not entail any interiority;  it does  not as yet communicate with the  One  as  such.  It nevertheless causes the disjointed objects  (or the regimes  of objects, such as the visible  and the  articulable)  to  enter into  a formal composition, which rests  characterized by exteriority,  but  as now activated by its  “forceful”  seizure.  We  pass  from a  simple disjunctive  logic  of exteriority to  a  topology of the outside as  the  locus  of the  inscription  of forces  that,  in  their  reciprocal  action  and  without  communicating  between themselves in any way,  produce singular exteriorities as a local figure of the outside. (87)

What  does  matter is how the intuition  goes beyond  the  setting up  of the  topology of forces toward the act of its identity with the  One. This movement of the intuition involves  topological concepts ­ concepts  that profoundly think the  outside  as a  space  of forces. […] It  is  at  this  moment  that  thought,  in  first  following  this  enveloping  (from the  outside  to  the  inside)  and then  developing it (from  the  inside  to the outside), is an ontological coparticipant in the  power  of the One. It is the fold of Being. (87)

For my part, I am Mallarmean:  being qua being is only the multiple­composition  of the void, except that it follows  from  the  event alone  that there can be truths of this void or empty ground. (89)

For what the fold presents  as  a limit on the sheet as pure outside is, in its being, a movement of the sheet itself. The  most profound moment of  the  intuition is, therefore, when the limit is thought as  fold, and when,  as  a  result,  exteriority becomes reversed into interiority.  The limit is no longer what affects the  outside,  it is a fold of the outside. It is auto-affection of the outside (or of force: it amounts to the same). […] That there  is  a  fold  of the outside (that the outside folds itself) ontologically signifies that it creates an inside. (89)

We can therefore  state that the intuition in which  Being coincides with thinking is the creation, as the fold of the outside, of a figure of the inside. And it is then possible  to  name this folding  a  “self” -this  is  Foucault’s  concept -and even,  if one insists,  a  subject.  Except  that we  must immediately  add:  first,  that  this  subject results from  a  topological  operation that can  be  situated  in  the  outside,  and  that it  is  thus in no way constitutive,  or autonomous,  or spontaneous; second, that this subject,  as the  “inside-space,” is  not  separate  from  the  outside  (whose  fold it is),  or yet  again, that it is “completely co-present with the outside-space on the line of the fold” (ibid., p.  11 8;  see the selection of texts [Appendix:  “The  Thought  of  the  Outside”]);  and, third, that it only exists  as  thought,  and  thus  as the process of the double ascesis (in which  one  must  endure  the  disjunction  and  hold on to  the  imperceptible  thread  of the One), which alone renders it capable of becoming the limit as fold. On these  conditions, we can say that  the subject (the inside) is the identity of thinking and being. Or again,  that  “To  think is  to  fold, to  double the  outside with a coextensive inside”  (ibid.). (90)

The fold makes every thought an immanent trait of the already-there, from which it follows that everything new is an enfolded selection of the past. (91)

As  for  myself,  however,  I  cannot  bring  myself to think  that  the new is  a  fold  of the  past,  or that  thinking  can  be reduced  to  philosophy or a  single configuration  of its  act.  This is why I  conceptualize  absolute  beginnings  (which requires  a  theory  of the  void)  and  singularities  of thought  that  are  incomparable  in their  constitutive  gestures  (which requires  a  theory -Cantorian,  to  be precise -of the plurality of the types  of infinity). Deleuze always maintained that, in doing this, I  fall  back into  transcendence  and  into  the  equivocity of analogy.  But,  all  in  all,  if the  only way to  think a  political  revolution,  an  amorous encounter, an  invention  of the sciences,  or a creation of art as  distinct infinities – having  as  their  condition incommensurable separative events -is by sacrificing immanence (which I do not actually believe is the case, but that is not what matters here) and the univocity of Being, then  I  would  sacrifice  them. (91-92)

A Singularity

Whereas  philosophy’s  task  is  to  determine  in  the  concept  that which is opposed to  opinions,  it is  nevertheless  true  that  opinion  returns,  such that there exist philosophical opinions. These can be recognized by the fact that they form sorts  of referential  and  labeled blocs,  capable of being harnessed by almost any ideological operation whatsoever, and that all the fuss  around their respective positions (which is where the  small fry come to  the  fore) only serves, in  fact,  to  shape,  under the heading of ” debate,”  a sort of shoddy consensus. (95)

[…] for  those like myself who rule out that Being can be thought as All, to say that all is grace means precisely that we are never ever accorded any grace.  But  this  is  not  correct.  It  does  occur, by interruption  or  by  supplement, and however rare  or transitory it may be, we are forced to be lastingly faithful  to it. (97)

But perhaps the imperative is completely different:  that it is not Platonism that has to be overturned, but the anti-Platonism taken as evident throughout the  entire  century.  Plato has to  be  restored, and  first  of all by the  deconstruction of “Platonism” – that common figure, montage of opinion,  or configuration that circulates from Heidegger to Deleuze, from Nietzsche to Bergson, but also from Marxists  to positivists,  and which is still used by  the  counterrevolutionary New Philosophers (Plato as the first of the totalitarian “master thinkers”), as well as by neo-Kantian moralists.  “Platonism”  is  the  great  fallacious  construction  of modernity  and  postmodernity alike.  It serves  as  a  type  of general negative  prop:  it only exists  to  legitimate the  “new” under the heading of an anti-Platonism. (101-102)

Alain Badiou “Logics of Worlds” (V-VII raamat ja kokkuvõte)

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Badiou, Alain 2009 [2006]. Logics of Worlds. Being and Event, 2. London, New York: Continuum.

Book V. The Four Forms of Change

Truth be told, we cannot find the means to identify change either in the order of mathematics, the thinking of being qua being, or in that of logic, the thinking of being-there or appearing. To put it bluntly: the thinking of change or of singularity is neither ontological nor transcendental. (357)

We will call  ‘modification’ the rule-governed appearing of intensive variations which a transcendental authorizes in the world of which it is the transcendental.Modification is not change. Or better, it is only the transcendental absorption of change, that part of becoming which is constitutive of every being-there. (359)

So what is the source of the real change that certain worlds undergo? An exception is required. An exception both to the axioms of the multiple and to the transcendental constitution of objects and relations. An exception to the laws of ontology as well as to the regulation of logical consequences. (360)

It is necessary to think dis-continuity as such, a discontinuity that cannot be reduced to any creative univocity, as indistinct or chaotic as the concept of such a univocity may be. (362)

Take any world whatever. A multiple which is an object of this world—whose elements are indexed on the transcendental of the world—is a ‘site’ if it happens to count itself in the referential  field of its own indexing. Or: a site is a multiple which happens to behave in the world in the same way with regard to itself as it does with regard to its elements, so that it is the ontological support of its own appearance. Even if the idea is still obscure, its content is plain: a site supports the possibility of a singularity, because it summons its being in the appearing of its own multiple composition. It makes itself, in the world, the being-there of its own being. Among other consequences, the site endows itself with an intensity of existence. A site is a being to which it happens that it exists by itself. (363)

The ontology of the site is entirely that of what cannot be maintained, since it is, by a reflexive violence, an exception to the laws of being, in particular of the law that forbids a multiple from being an element of itself (this is formally expressed in the axiom of foundation). (368)

The ontology of a site can thus be described in terms of three properties:

1. A site is a reflexive multiplicity, which belongs to itself and thereby transgresses the laws of being.

2. Because it carries out a transitory cancellation of the gap between being and being-there, a site is the instantaneous revelation of the void that haunts multiplicities.

3. A site is an ontological  figure of the instant: it appears only to disappear. (369)

Only a com-plete power of existing differentiates a site from the simple network of modifications in which the law of the world persists. A site that does not exist maximally is a mere fact. Though ontologically identifiable, it is not, within appearing, logically singular. (372)

We have called modification the simple becoming a world, seen from the standpoint of an object of that world. Since it is internal to the established transcendental correlations, modification does not call for a site. We will call fact a site whose intensity of existence is not maximal. We will call singularity a site whose intensity of existence is maximal. We now have at our disposal three distinct degrees of change: modifica-tion, which is ontologically neutral and transcendentally regular; the fact, which is ontologically supernumerary but existentially (and thus logically) weak; singularity, which is ontologically supernumerary and whose value of appearance (or of existence) is maximal. (372)

We reserve the name ’event’ for a strong singularity [singularité forte]. (374)

The strong singularity can thus be recognized by the fact that its con-sequence in the world is to make exist within it the proper inexistent of the object-site. (377)

In a more abstract fashion, we will propose the following definition: Take a site (an object marked by self-belonging) which is a singularity (its intensity of existence, as instantaneous and evanescent as it may be, is nonetheless maximal). We will say that this site is a ‘strong singularity’ or an ‘event’ if the value of the entailment of the (nil) value of its proper inexistent by the (maximal) value of the site is itself maximal. (377)


Axiom 1. An event is never the concentration of vital continuity or the immanent intensification of a becoming. It is never coextensive with becoming. On the contrary, it is a pure cut in becoming made by an object of the world, through that object’s auto-appearance; but it is also the sup-plementing of appearing through the upsurge of a trace: the old inexistent which has become an intense existence. With regard to the continuum in the becomings of the world, there is both a lack (impossibility of auto-appearance without interrupting the authority of the mathematical laws of being and the logical laws of appearing) and an excess (impossibility of the upsurge of a maximal intensity of existence). ‘Event’ names the conjunction of this lack and this excess. (384)

Axiom 2. The event cannot be the undivided encroachment of the past on the future or the eternally past being of the future. On the contrary, it is a separating evanescence, an atemporal instant which disjoins the previous state of an object (the site) from its subsequent state. We could also say that the event extracts from one time the possibility of another time. This other time, whose materiality envelops the consequences of the event, deserves the name of new present. The event is neither past nor future. It presents us with the present. (384)

Axiom 3. The event cannot result from the actions and passion of a body, nor can it differ in kind from these actions and passions. On the contrary, an active body adequate to the new present is an effect of the event, as we shall see in detail in Book VII. We must here reverse Deleuze—in the sense that he himself, following Nietzsche, wants to reverse Plato. It is not the actions and passions of multiples which are synthesized in the event as an immanent result. It is the blow of the evental One which magnetizes multiplicities and constitutes them into subjectivizable bodies. And the trace of the event, itself incorporated into the new present, is obviously of the same nature as the actions of this body. […] For Deleuze, the event is the immanent consequence of becomings or of Life. For me, the event is the immanent principle of exceptions to becoming, or Truths. (385)

Axiom 4. There can be no composition of that which is by a single event. On the contrary, there is a de-composition of worlds by multiple event-sites. Just as it is the separation of time, so the event is a separation from other events. Truths are multiple and multiform. They are also in exception of worlds, not the One that makes worlds chime with one another. (385)

As a localized dysfunction of the transcendental of a world, the event does not possess the least sense, nor is it sense. The fact that it only abides as a trace does not entail that it must be tipped over onto the side of language. It simply opens up a space of consequences in which the body of a truth is composed. As Lacan saw, this real point is strictly speaking senseless, and its only relationship to language is to make a hole in it. This hole cannot be filled by that which, according to the transcendental laws of saying, is sayable. (386)

To break with empiricism is to think the event as the advent of what subtracts itself from all experience: the ontologically un-founded and the transcendentally discontinuous. To break with dogmatism is to remove the event from the ascendancy of the One. It is to subtract it from Life in order to deliver it to the stars. (387)

Why do we need to say  ‘it happens’? Because this is not something that could  be. In what concerns its exposition to the thinkable, the pure multiple obeys the axioms of set-theory. Now, the axiom of foundation forbids self-belonging. It is thus a law of being that no multiple may enter into its own composition. The notation  A  ∈  A is that of an ontological (mathematical) impossibility. A site is therefore the sudden lifting of an axiomatic prohibition, through which the possibility of the impossible comes to be. This effectuation of the impossible can be put in the following way: a being appears under the rule of the object whose being it is. In effect, the ‘it happens’ makes A appear in the referential field of the object (A, Id). Needless to say, it is impossible to conceive any stabilization of this sudden occurrence of A in its own transcendental field or under the retro-active jurisdiction of its own objectivation. The laws of being immediately close up again on what tries to except itself from them. Self-belonging annuls itself as soon as it is forced, as soon as it happens. A site is a vanishing term: it appears only in order to disappear. The problem is to register its consequences in appearing. (391)

That which inappeared now shines like the sun. ‘We have been nought, we shall be all’—that is the generic form of the evental trace, named ε in Book I, the trace whose position with regard to the body tells us on which subjective type that which comes to be under the name of truth relies. (394)


Book VI. Theory of Points

The point is ultimately a topological operator—a corporeal localization with regard to the transcendental—which simultaneously spaces out and conjoins the subjective (a truth-procedure) and the objective (the multiplicities that appear in a world). (399)

Even more simply, there is a ‘point’ when, through an operation that involves a subject and a body, the totality of the world is at stake in a game of heads or tails. Each multiple of the world is then correlated either to a ‘yes’ or to a ‘no’. (400)

‘Decision’ is here a metaphor for a characteristic of the transcendental: the existence (or relative weakness thereof) of these kinds of appearances of the degrees of intensity of appearing before the tribunal of the alternative. We could also say, just as metaphorically, that a point in a world is that which allows an exposition to be distilled into a choice. (400)

But, in a more subtle way, we could say that it is the point that localizes the body-of-truth with regard to the transcendental. […] A point, which dualizes the infinite, concentrates the appearing of a truth in a place of the world. Points deploy the topology of the appearing of the True. (409)

The points of a world constitute a veritable power of localization (technically speaking, a topological space). […] When we say  ‘form of being-there’, we privilege instead the localization of a multiple, that which wrests it away from its simple mathematical absoluteness, inscribing it in the singularity of a worldly place. (410)

What is worthy of note is that every world may be considered as a topological space once it is thought in terms of the points that its transcendental imposes as a test on the appearing of a truth of that world. The expression ‘being-there’ here takes on its full value. Exposed to points, a truth which finds its support in a body veritably appears in a world as though the latter had always been its place. (414)

The transit from being to being-there is validated in a world by the reduction of all the degrees of intensity to the elementary  figure of the  ‘yes’ or  ‘no’, of the  ‘either this or that’, in its exclusive sense. (415)

A point concentrates the degrees of existence, the intensities measured by the transcendental, into only two possibilities. Of these two possibilities, only one is the  ‘good one’ for a truth-procedure that must pass through this point. Only one authorizes the continuation, and therefore the reinforcement of the actions of the subject-body in the world. All of a sudden, the trans-cendental degrees are in fact distributed into two classes by a given point that treats the becoming of a truth: the degrees associated with the ‘good’ value and those associated with the bad one. (416)

In that which puts the power of truth of appearing to the test it is possible to decipher that this appearing is, in its essence, a topos: appearing, considered as the support of a truth tested by the world, is the taking-place of being. (419)

A world is said to be atonic when its transcendental is devoid of points. The existence of atonic worlds is both formally demonstrable and empirically corroborated. We have said enough to make it clear that in such worlds no faithful subjective formalism can serve as the agent of a truth, in the absence of the points that would make it possible for the efficacy of a body to confront such a truth. This explains why democratic materialism is particularly wellsuited to atonic worlds. Without a point there’s no truth, nothing but objects, nothing but bodies and languages. That’s the kind of happiness that the advocates of democratic materialism dream of: nothing happens, but for the death that we do our best to put out of sight. Every-thing is organized and everything is guaranteed. One’s life is managed like a business that would rationally distribute the meagre enjoyments that it’s capable of. (420)

Let us call ‘isolate’ a non-minimal degree of positive intensity such that nothing is subordinated to it, except for the minimum. In other words, there is nothing between it and the nothing. Where everything communicates infinitely, there exists no point. Empirically, an isolate is an object whose intensity of appearance is non-decomposable. To evaluate its pertinence in a construction of truth we do not need to analyse it, to decompose it and to reduce it. It is a halting point in the world. Such a halting point attests that at least in one place the atony of the world is undermined and that one is required to decide to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a truth-procedure. (421)

To the violent promise of atony made by an armed demo-cratic materialism, we can therefore oppose the search, in the nooks and crannies of the world, for some isolate on the basis of which it is possible to maintain that a ‘yes’ authorizes us to become the anonymous heroes of at least one point. To incorporate oneself into the True, it is always necessary to interrupt the banality of exchanges. Like René Char invoking the silence of Saint-Just on the 9 Thermidor, it is necessary to ‘forever close the crystal shutters over communication’. (422)

Though often isolates are rare, we should also keep in mind that it is equally possible for a transcendental to have as many of them as it has degrees. Such is the disposition of tensed worlds, which are thereby opposed to atonic worlds. So many degrees of intensity of appearance, so many possible points; decision, which is nowhere in an atonic world, is everywhere in a tensed world. (422)

A point is a kind of analytic mediation between the transcendental complexity of a world (its often non-classical logic) and the (always classical) imperative of binarity or decision. (439)


Book VII. What is a Body?

Broadly speaking, an event is a site which is capable of making exist in a world the proper inexistent of the object that underlies the site. This tipping-over of the inapparent into appearing singularizes—in the retro-action of its logical implications—the event-site. (452)

Simplifying considerably (we now recapitulate Book I): the static system of consequences of an event is a (generic) truth. The immanent agent of the production of the consequences (of a truth), or the possible agents of their denial, or that which renders their occultation possible (that which aims to erase a truth)—all of these will be called subjects. The singular object that makes up the appearing of a subject is a body. Whatever subject we may be dealing with, a body is what can bear the subjective formalism […] (453)

A multiple-being which bears this subjective formalism and thereby makes it appear in a world receives the name of ‘body’—without ascribing to this body any organic status. (453)

We can therefore define the body: the set of elements of a site—in this case the sea—which entertain with the resurrection of the inexistent (consciousness and life) a relationship of maximal proximity. The function of appearing identifies as far as possible these elements (huge air, wind’s reviving, exploding wave. . .) to what has become—as the measure of the event’s force—the site’s central referent: the inexistent suddenly raised to the maximal degree of existence, the metamorphosis of he who is ‘all open to these shining spaces’ into he who says ‘No, no! Arise! The future years unfold’. (466)

Since the inexistent which is made incandescent is the trace of the event, we have a limpid abstract formula: a post-evental body is constituted by all the elements of the site which invest the totality of their existence in their identity to the trace of the event. Or, to employ a militant metaphor; the body is the set of everything that the trace of the event mobilizes. (467)

In our vocabulary, we can say that these elements incorporate themselves into the evental present. A body is nothing other than the set of elements that have this property. […] Subjective movement is the point of existence that names all the others. (467)

[…] a body is the totality of the elements of the site incorporated into the evental present. We can also call these the  ‘contemporary’ elements of the event, meaning those elements which are as identical as possible, within appearing, to the trace of the event: the inexistent projected into existence, the inapparent that shines within appearing. Let me propose another formulation: a body is composed of all the elements of the site (here, all the maritime motifs) that subordinate themselves, with maximal intensity, to that which was nothing and becomes all. (468)

Conceptually, this means that the structure of a transcendental, which might be infinite, is made to appear before the tribunal of the decision (or the pure choice, or the alternative), which comes down to saying ‘yes’ (1) or ‘no’ (0). The subjective metaphor of the point can be expressed as follows: To decide is always to filter the infinite through the Two. (468)

Of course, that which in Book I we marked with the letter ε, the first declaration, is expressed in the logic of a subject of truth as follows: the event has taken place, I say ‘yes’ to it, I meld with the suddenly sublimated inexistent. And it is true that it is ‘my book’ (the poem itself) that the ‘huge air opens and shuts’. Nonetheless, without the efficacious regions of the body, without the organs that locally synthesize these regions, we would be merely left with principles. (470)

A body, in its totality, is what gathers together those terms of the site which are maximally engaged in a kind of ontological alliance with the new appearance of an inexistent, which acts as the trace of the event. A body is what is beckoned and mobilized by the post-evental sublimation of the inexistent. Its coherence is that of the internal compatibility of elements, as guaranteed by their shared ideal subordination to the primordial trace. But the efficacy of a body, which is oriented towards consequences (and therefore towards the subjective formalism, which is the art of consequences as the constitution of a new present), is played out locally, point by point. A body’s test is always that of an alternative. A point is what directs the components of a body to the summons of the Two. In order for this to happen, there must be efficacious regions of bodies, which validate the  ‘yes’ to the new consequences against the inertia of the old world; there must also be, besides the brilliance of the trace, appropriate organs for such a validation. These organs are the immanent synthesis of the regional efficacy of a body. It is only by working out an organization for the subjectivizable body that one can hope to ‘live’, and not merely try to. (470)

These five conditions for the existence of a subjectivizable body can be summed up as follows: the world must not be atonic; there is a site-object and its trace, namely the maximal becoming-existent of an inexistent; elements of the object are maximally correlated to the trace and group themselves in a compatible manner; in the body constituted by all of its elements there are subsets which are its organs with respect to points. (474)

Be that as it may, let’s hold on to the notion, which we have seen at work in both mathematics and poetry, that the sequence world–points–site–body–efficacious part–organ is indeed the generic form of what makes it possible for there to be such things as truths. This authorizes the materialist dialectic to contend that beyond bodies and languages, there is the real life of some subjects. (475)

One will also appreciate the fact that this effect of marking is described as the  ‘shearing effect’ [effet de cisaille], a powerful image which I interpret in the following way: the becoming of a subjec-tivated body establishes the present in the perpetual danger that its ineluctable division—its ‘shearing’, one could not put it better—becomes that of its reactive negation, or even of its obscure occultation. This is the precarious equilibrium of the body under erasure as it resists the obliterated body and the vanished body. The consequence is that, when it comes to the subject-body to which we incorporate our fleeting animality, we are always tempted to say either that it exists (dogmatism, the tempta-tion of the faithful subject) or that it does not exist (scepticism, the temptation of the reactive subject). (479)

But the crucial teaching bequeathed by Lacan remains the following: it is in vain that some, under the impulse of democratic materialism, wish to convince us, after the comedy of the soul, that our body is the proven place of the One. Against this animalistic reduction, let us repeat the Master’s verdict: ‘the presupposition that there is somewhere a place of unity is well suited to suspend our assent’. (482)



It is not a world, as given in the logic of its appearing (the infinite of its objects and relations), which induces the possibility of living—at least not if life is something other than existence. The induction of such a possibility depends on that which acts in the world as the trace of the fulgurating disposition that has befallen that world. That is, the trace of a vanished event. Within worldly appearing, such a trace is always a maximally intense existence. (507)

It is not enough to identify a trace. One must incorporate oneself into what the trace authorizes in terms of consequences. This point is crucial. Life is the creation of a present […] It is necessary to enter into its composition, to become an active element of this body. The only real relation to the present is that of incorporation: the incorporation into this immanent cohesion of the world which springs from the becoming-existent of the evental trace, as a new birth beyond all the facts and markers of time. (508)

The unfolding of the consequences linked to the evental trace—consequences that create a present—proceeds through the treatment of the points of the world. It does not take place through the continuous trajectory of a body’s efficacy, but in sequences, point by point. (508)

Life is a subjective category. A body is the materiality that life requires, but the becoming of the present depends on the disposition of this body in a subjective formalism, whether it be produced (the formalism is faithful, the body is directly placed ‘under’ the evental trace), erased (the formalism is reactive, the body is held at a double distance by the negation of the trace), or occulted (the body is denied). […] To live is thus an incorporation into the present under the faithful form of a subject. If the incorporation is dominated by the reactive form, one will not speak of life, but of mere conservation. (508)

If incorporation is dominated by the obscure formalism, one will instead speak of mortification. Ultimately life is the wager, made on a body that has entered into appearing, that one will faithfully entrust this body with a new tem-porality, keeping at a distance the conservative drive (the ill-named ‘life’ instinct) as well as the mortifying drive (the death instinct). Life is what gets the better of the drives. (509)

For democratic materialism, the present is never created. Democratic materialism affirms, in an entirely explicit manner, that it is important to maintain the present within the confines of an atonic reality. That is because it regards any other view of things as submitting the body to

the despotism of an ideology, instead of letting it roam freely among the diversity of languages. Democratic materialism proposes to call ‘thought’ the pure algebra of appearing. This atonic conception of the present results in the fetishization of the past as a separable ’culture’. Democratic material-ism has a passion for history; it is truly the only authentic historical materialism. […] In democratic materialism, the life of language-bodies is the conservative succession of the instants of the atonic world. It follows that the past is charged with the task of endowing these instants with a  fictive horizon, with a cultural density. This also explains why the fetishism of history is accompanied by an unrelenting discourse on novelty, perpetual change and the imperative of modernization. The past of cultural depths is matched by a dispersive present, an agitation which is itself devoid of any depth whatsoever. There are monuments to visit and devastated instants to inhabit. Everything changes at every instant, which is why one is left to contemplate the majestic historical horizon of what does not change. (509-510)

For the materialist dialectic, it is almost the opposite. What strikes one first is the stagnant immobility of the present, its sterile agitation, the vio-lently imposed atonicity of the world. There have been few, very few, cru-cial changes in the nature of the problems of thought since Plato, for instance. But, on the basis of some truth-procedures that unfold subjectivizable bodies, point by point, one reconstitutes a different past, a history of achievements, discoveries, breakthroughs, which is by no means a cultural monumentality but a legible succession of fragments of eternity. That is because a faithful subject creates the present as the being-there of eternity. Accordingly, to incorporate oneself into this present amounts to perceiving the past of eternity itself. To live is therefore also, always, to experience in the past the eternal amplitude of a present. (510)

It is true that, if there is nothing but bodies and languages, to live for an Idea necessarily implies the arbitrary absolutization of one language, which bodies must comply with. Only the material recognition of the ‘except that’ of truths allows us to declare, not that bodies are submitted to the authority of a language, far from it, but that a new body is the organization in the present of an unprecedented subjective life. (510)

Democratic materialism presents as an objective given, as a result of historical experience, what it calls ‘the end of ideologies’. What actually lies behind this is a violent subjective injunction whose real content is: ‘Live without Idea’. But this injunction is incoherent. (511)

I believe in eternal truths and in their fragmented creation in the present of worlds. My position on this point is entirely isomorphic with that of Descartes: truths are eternal because they have been created and not because they have been there forever. […] That it belongs to

the essence of a truth to be eternal does not dispense it in the least from having to appear in a world and to be inexistent prior to this appearance. (512)

Eternal necessity pertains to a truth in itself […] But its process of creation does not – since it depends on the contingency of worlds, the aleatory character of a site, the efficacy of the organs of a body and the constancy of a subject. (512-513)

I too affirm that all truths without exception are ‘established’ through a subject, the form of a body whose efficacy creates point by point. But, like Descartes, I argue that their creation is but the appearing of their eternity. (513)

Levi Bryant “The Ethics of the Event”

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Bryant, Levi R. 2011. The Ethics of the Event: Deleuze and Ethics without Arché. – Jun, N.; Smith, D. W. (eds). Deleuze and Ethics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press: 21-43

„Our“ action is a network composed of human and nonhuman actors, rather than two ontologically heterogeneous domains composed of human action on one side, and objects functioning as mere means and possessing only behaviors on the other. For this reason, I include nonhuman entities among the list of actors in collectives and situations. Ethical theory has suffered tremendously as a result of treating ethics exclusively as the domain of human divorced from all relations to the nonhuman. (28)

It is here that the work of ethics begins. And here the question of the work of ethics concerns not the application of a pre-existing rule to an existing situation, but rather how a collective is to be assembled or composed in light of the appearance of these strange new actors, these strangers, or how a new collective is to be formed. In this regard, rather than thinking ethics on the model of judgment, it would be more accurate to think the ethical as a sort of construction or building. (29)

[…] where traditional ethics places emphasis on the autonomy and ontological priority of the agent or subject making choices, emphasizing the duties, responsibility, and obligations of this agent, Deleuze treats both subjects and objects as the result of a development or genetic process of actualization, not as something given at the outset of a process. (31)

Where morality is concerned with judgment or assigning praise and blame, responsibility and obligation, ethics is concerned with affective relations among bodies in a composite or collective, and those assemblages that fit together in such a way so as to enhance the power of acting among the elements of the collective and those that are unable to fit together. (33)

[…] the event is simultaneously general and particular, personal and collective. (34)

Yet it is crucial here to recall that the event is not to be confused with spatio-temporal actualization in states of affairs or bodies. When Deleuze speaks of a universality and eternity specific to the event, he is referring to its curious capacity to exceed and overflow all limits of the situation in which it takes place. (35)

[…] the event itself becomes an actor within the collective, living beyond its spatio-temporal actualization in a a state of affairs and taking on a life of its own. Not only is the event something that takes place, but it is as if being registers and records the event, such that the event becomes an actor in subsequent states of the collective. (35)

To be worthy if the event, to affirm the event, to be equal to the event, is to engage in the work of tracing the true problems. This consists in tracing the differential relations, intensities, and singularities that haunt a collective in a moment of perplexity proper to a situation and assisting in the birth of new solutions. The evaluation of true and false problems will be the ethical work that, in Deleuze, replaces the logic of judgment in our decision-making process. […] Rather than judging acts, the question will be one of exploring the generative field in which acts are produced. (40-41)

Alain Badiou “The Rebirth of History”

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Badiou, Alain 2012. The Rebirth of History. London; New York: Verso.


[…] the  rebirth of History must  also be a  rebirth of the Idea. The sole Idea capable of challenging the corrupt, lifeless version of ‘democracy’ , which has become the banner of the legionaries of Capital, as well  as the racial and national prophecies of a petty fascism given its  opportunity locally by the crisis,  is  the  idea  of Communism,  revisited  and nourished by what the spirited diversity of these riots, however fragile, teaches us. (6)

Capitalism Today

Marxism: […] the  organized knowledge of the political means required to undo  existing society and the finally realize an egalitarian, rational figure  of collective organization for which the name is ‘communism’. (8-9)

Immediate Riot

To  believe that the intolerable crime is to burn  a few cars and rob some shops, whereas to kill a young man is trivial, is typically in keeping with what Marx regarded as the  principal alienation of capitalism:  the  primacy of things over existence,1 of commodities over life and machines over workers, which he encapsulated in the formula: ‘Le mort saisit Ie vif’. (20)

[…] if riots are indeed to signal a reawakening of History, they must indeed accord with an Idea. (21)

An immediate  riot  is  unrest  among  a  section  of the population, nearly always in the wake of a violent episode  of state  coercion.  Even  the  famous Tunisian riot, which triggered the series of ‘Arab revolutions’ in early 2011, was initially an immediate riot (in response to the suicide of a street vendor prevented from selling and struck by a policewoman). Some  of  the  defining  characteristics  of  such  a riot possess a general  significance,  and  consequently an  immediate  riot  is  often  the  initial  form  of  an historical riot. (22)

In the first instance,  a riot is  a  tumultuous  assembly  of the young, virtually always in response to a misdemeanour, actual or alleged, by a despotic state. (But riots show us that in a sense the state is always despotic; that is why communism organizes its withering away.) (23)

N ext,  an immediate riot is located in the  territory of those who take part in it. The  issue of the  localization  of riots is,  as we  shall  see, quite  fundamental. […] An immediate riot, stagnating in its own social space, is not a powerful  subjective trajectory.  It rages  on itself;  it destroys  what  it is  used to. (23)

For our part, we  shall  say that all this achieves a weak localization , an inability of the riot to displace itself. That is not to say that an immediate riot stops at one particular  site. On the contrary,  we  observe  a  phenomenon dubbed contagion:  an  immediate riot  spreads not by displacement,  but  by imitation . (24)

Finally, an immediate riot is always indistinct when it comes to the subjective type it summons and creates. Because this  subjectivity is composed solely of rebellion, and dominated by  negation  and  destruction,  it does not make it possible dearly to distinguish between what pertains  to  a  partially  universalizable  intention and what remains confined to a rage with no purpose other than the  satisfaction of being able to crystallize and find hateful objects to destroy or consume. (25)

The  subject  of immediate  riots  is  always impure. That is why they are neither political nor even pre-political. In the best of cases – and this is already a good deal – they make do with paving the way for an historical riot; in the worst, they merely indicate that the existing society, which is always a state organization of Capital,  does not possess the  means altogether to prevent the advent of an historical sign of rebellion in the desolate spaces for which it is responsible. (26)

Historical Riot

[…] a simple definition  of an historical riot: it is the result of the transformation of an immediate riot, more  nihilistic than political,  into  a pre-political riot. (33)

1) A  transition  from  limited  localization  (assemblies’ attacks and destructive acts on the very site of the rebels) to the construction of an enduring central  site,  where  the  rioters install themselves in  an  essentially  peaceful  fashion,  asserting  that they  will  stay  put  until  they receive  satisfaction. (33)

2) For that to happen there must be a transition from extension  by  imitation  to  qualitative  extension. This means that all the components of the people are  progressively  unified on the  site  thus  constructed […] And  a  multiplicity  of voices,  absent  or  virtually absent  from  the  clamour  of an  immediate  riot, asserts  itself;  placards  describe  and  demand; banners  incite  the  crowd. […] At  this  point  the  threshold  of historical riot  is  crossed:  established  localization,  possible longue duree, intensity of compact presence, multi-faceted  crowd counting as the  whole people. (34-35)

3) It was also necessary to make a transition from the nihilistic din of riotous attacks to the invention of a single slogan that envelops all the disparate voices: ‘Mubarak, clear off!’ Thus is created the possibility of a victory, since what is immediately at stake in the  riot  has been  decided. (35)

From  everything we have witnessed over the last few months let us remember the following: a riot becomes historical when its localization ceases to be limited, but grounds  in the  occupied  space  the  promise of a new, long-term  temporality;  when  its  composition  stops being uniform, but gradually outlines a unified representation in mosaic form of all the people; when, finally, the negative growling of pure rebellion is succeeded by the  assertion  of a  shared  demand,  whose  satisfaction confers an initial meaning on the word ‘victory’ . (35)

What  is  an  intervallic  period?  It is  what  comes cifter  a  period  in  which the revolutionary  conception of political action has been  sufficiently  clarified that, notwithstanding the ferocious internal struggles punctuating its development, it is explicitly presented as an alternative  to the  dominant world,  and  on this basis has secured massive,  disciplined support.  In an intervallic  period,  by  contrast,  the  revolutionary  idea  of the  preceding  period,  which  naturally  encountered formidable obstacles – relentless enemies without and a provisional  inability to resolve  important problems within –  is dormant. It has not yet been taken up by a new sequence in its development. An open,  shared and  universally  practicable  figure  of emancipation  is wanting. The historical time is defined, at least for all those unamenable to  selling  out to  domination,  by  a sort of uncertain interval of the Idea. (38-39)

During  these  intervallic  periods,  however,  discontent, rebellion and the conviction that the world should not be as it is, that capitalo-parliamentarianism is in no wise ‘natural’ , but utterly sinister – all this exists. At the same time, it cannot fmd its political form, in the first  instance because it cannot draw strength from the sharing of an Idea . The force of rebellions, even when they assume an  historical  significance,  remains  essentially  negative (,let them  go’, ‘Ben Ali  out’ ,  ‘Mubarak clear  off’). It does not deploy a slogan in the affirmativeelement of the Idea. That is why collective mass action can only take the form of a riot, at best directed towards its historical form, which is also called a ‘mass movement’ . (40)

[…] the riot is the guardian of the history of emancipation in intervallic periods. (41)

However brilliant and memorable the historical riots in the Arab world, they  finally  come  up  against  universal  problems  of politics  that  remained  unresolved  in  the  previous period. At the  centre  of these is to be found the problem of politics par  excellence – namely,  organization. (42)

Riots and the West

What is going to happen in the state is in no wise prefigured by a riot. (44)

For now it suffices for us to note that a historical riot does not by itself offer any alternative  to  the power it  intends  to  overthrow.  There  is  a  very  important difference  between  ‘historical  riot’  and  ‘revolution’: the second, at least since Lenin, has been regarded as possessing within itself the resources required for an immediate seizure of power. (46)

When  the  figure  of riot becomes a political figure – in other words,  when it possesses within itself the political personnel it requires and resort to the state’s professional nags becomes unnecessary – we  can say that what has arrived is the end if the intervallic period, because a new politics has been able to seize on the rebirth if History symbolized by a historical riot. (47)

Basically,  our  rulers and  our dominant media have suggested  a  simple  interpretation  of the  riots  in  the Arab world: what is  expressed in them is what might be called a desire for the West. (48)

What would  be  a  genuine  change would be  an  exit from  the West, a ‘de-Westernization’, and it would take the form of an exclusion . (52)

Riot, Event, Truth

Let us call these people, who are present in the world but  absent  from  its  meaning  and  decisions  about  its future, the inexistent of the world. We shall then say that a change if world is real when an inexistent of the world starts to exist in this same world with maximum intensity. […] This subjective fact is endowed with an extraordinary power.  The inexistent  has arisen. That  is  why  we  refer  to  uprising:  people  were  lying down,  submissive; they are getting up, picking themselves up, rising up. This rising is the rising of existence itself: the poor have not become rich; people who were unarmed are  not now armed,  and  so  forth. Basically, nothing has changed. What has occurred is restitution of the  existence  of the  inexistent,  conditional  upon what I call an event. In the knowledge that, unlike the restitution of the inexistent, the  event itself is  invariably elusive. (56)

Definition  of  the  event  as  what  makes  possible  the restitution  if the inexistent […] (56)

For however big a demonstration is, it is always a tiny minority. Its power consists in an intensification of subjective energy (people know they are needed night and day; enthusiasm and passion are everywhere), and in the localization of its presence (people rally in sites that have become impregnable – squares, universities, boulevards, factories, and so on). (58)

This proves that  such  a  scenario – historical riots which  open up new possibilities – contains  an  element of prescriptive universality. The complex of localization, which constitutes a symbol for the whole world, and intensification, which creates new subjects, entails massive adherence, to which anyone who  is an exception is immediately suspect – suspected of being hand-in-glove with the old despots. (59)

It is then much more appropriate to speak of popular dictatorship than democracy. […] By ‘popular dictatorship’ we mean  an  authority  that  is legitimate precisely  because  its truth derives from  the fact that it legitimizes itself.  No one is the delegate of anybody else (as in a representative authority); for what they  say to become what  everyone says, nobody needs propaganda or police  (as  in a dictatorial state), for what they say is what is true in the situation ; there are only the people who are there; and those who are there, and who are obviously a minority, possess  an  accepted  authority  to  proclaim  that  the historical destiny  of the  country  (including  the  overwhelming majority comprising the people who are not there) is  them.  ‘Mass  democracy’  imposes  on  everything outside it the dictatorship of its decisions as if they were those of a general will. (59-60)

[…] it is only during historical riots, which are minoritarian but localized, unified and intense, that it makes any sense to refer to an expression of the general will. (60)

Event and Political Organization

This localized rallying in a square, on avenues or in factories, this quantitative contraction or compaction – all this acts as reality, because what informs it is a super­existence, intensive and subjectivized, of pre-political truth,  or the  violent restitution of an inexistent,  correlated, in the  form  of  an  historical  riot,  with  a ‘disengagement’ from symbols of the state. It emerges from nothing; it has the dictatorial power of a creation ex  nihilo . (62)

As a reopening of history, the event is heralded by three signs, all of them immanent in massive popular demonstrations:  intensification,  contraction  and localization. (63)

An  organization  lies  at  the  intersection  between an Idea and an event.  However, this intersection only exists as process, whose immediate subject is the political militant. (63)

Appropriate for the military conquest of power, the communist parties proved incapable of performing  on  a  large  scale  what,  ultimately,  is  the sole  task  of a  state  in the  process of withering away: creatively  resolving  contradictions  within  the  people, without  following,  when  it  comes  to  the  least  difficulty, the terrorist model of resolving contradictions with the enemy. (65-66)

‘Organization is the same process as the event’ , I base myself on the mediation of a formalization. But in Lacan too – and I take this profound view from him – formalization refers  to  a mediation between desire and law whose name is: the Subject. A political organization is the Subject of a discipline of the event,  an  order in the service of disorder,  the constant  guardianship  of an  exception.  It is  a mediation  between  the  world  and  changing  the  world;  it is,  in  a  sense,  the  worldly  element  of changing  the world, because organization deals with the subjective question:  ‘How  are we to be faithful to changing the world within the world itself?’ This becomes: How are we to weave in the world the political truth whose historical condition of possibility was the event, without it being able to be the  realization of this  possibility? (66-67)

1) We can also say that the concept of being is extensive (everyone presents themselves in the equality of being a human living thing),  whereas the category of existence is an intensive predicate (existence is hierarchically ordered). An historical riot creates a moment when an increase in equal-being, which is always of the order of the event, makes it  possible  to judge  the judgement made about one’s intensity of existence. (67)

2) Basically, what counts in any genuine creation,  whatever its domain,  is not so much what exists  as  what  in-exists.  It  is  necessary  to  learn from the inexistent, for that is where the existential injuries done to  these beings,  and hence the resource of equal-being against these injuries, are manifested. (68)

3) An  event is  signalled by the  fact that  an  inexistent is going to attain genuine existence, an intense existence, relative to a world. (68)

4) If we consider political action, the initial forms of a  change  of world  or rebirth of History – those visible in the event, but whose future is not as yet determined – are  as follows:  intensification ,  since the mainspring of things is the distribution of different  intensities  of  existence;  contraction  – the situation  contracts  in  a  sort of representation  of itself, a metonymy of the overall situation; and localization – the necessity of constructing symbolically significant sites where people’s capacity to dictate their own destiny is visible. (68)

5) […] it is necessary for the  being of the  inexistent  to  appear  as  existent  – something  that  initiates  a  transformation  in  the  rules of visibility themselves. Localization is the idea of asserting  in  the  world  the  visibility  of universal justice in the form of the restitution of the inexistent. And to do this requires not so much showing your muscles, or even that you are several thousand (even million) strong, as demonstrating that you have become the symbolic master of the site. (69)

6) A  pre-political  event,  an  historical  riot,  occurs when  an  intensive  super-existence,  articulated with an extensive contraction, defines a site where the  entire  situation  is refracted  in  a  universally addressed  visibility. (69)

7) What I call the question of organization , or the discipline if the event, is the possibility of an efficacious fragmentation of the Idea into actions, proclamations and inventions attesting to  a fidelity  to  the event. (69)

8) The  process  I  call  ‘organization’  is  therefore  an attempt  to  preserve  the  characteristics  of  the event  (intensification,  contraction  and  localization), when the event as such no longer possesses its initial potency. In this sense organization is, in the subjective latency where the Idea holds itself, the transformation of evental power into temporality. It is the invention if a  time whose particular characteristics  are  taken from  the  event, a time that in a sense unfolds its beginning. This time can then be regarded as outside time, in the sense that organization is not amenable to being inscribed in the order of time dictated by the previous world. We have here what might be called the outside-time of the Subject, as Subject of the exception. (70)

State and Politics: Identity and Genericity

The inordinate  importance  of opinion polls for the state derives exclusively from the fact that, as the science of average statistics, opinion polls make the virtual French person exist numerically. Commenting on a poll indicating that 51 per cent of those questioned prefer to vote for Franc;:ois Hollande than Martine Aubry as Socialist Party presidential  candidate,  propaganda  will have  no hesitation in making statements  of the  kind:  ‘The  French think that Hollande is a better candidate than Aubry.’ Thus,  our  non-existent  F  ends  up  thinking,  deciding and choosing. F wants Hollande; F supports the French attack on Libya; F thinks that pension reform is inevitable; F prefers Camembert to Roquefort; and so on.

But the most important thing, once the existence of F  in  accordance  with  artificial predicates  is  ensured, and thus once the actual identity of the French person is  guaranteed,  is  that  the  state  and  those who obey it  possess  a  means  of assessing  what  is  normal and what is not. (74)

The  fictional  F,  measure  of normality  and  matrix of suspicion,  or its  stand-in  in any  state  structure,  is always identitarian. It must be understood that it represents the most primitive, most fundamental product of  state  oppression. (76)

I shall call these names, which are applied to collectivities of suspects, separating names. […] So  let  us  say  it:  by  ‘justice’  today  is  also,  or  even primarily,  to  be  understood  the  eradication  of separating  words. We  must affirm the  generic, universal  and never identitarian character of any political truth. This involves dispelling, through the real consequences of a choice of truth, the fiction of the identitarian object, the ‘average’  state  object,  F  and the like.  In a power­ful  confrontation  with  state  oppression,  this  point validates a  politics intent on remaining faithful  to  an historical riot. When  an  emancipatory  event  is  in  fact  rooted  in an historical riot, we  straightaway  observe the disappearance  of,  or  at  least  a  considerable  reduction  in, separating names. (77)

I shall therefore say that organization, and hence politics, exists when the power if the generic is preserved outside the movement, outside the riot. This means that an organization acts in such a way that, in the name of the generic, it succeeds  in demolishing  the  power  of the  identitarian  fiction  over  some  particular  point  in  people’s existence. (78)

In  the  absence  of the  outside-time incorporated by  the  organization,  a  statist  return  of identitarian  fictions  is  inevitable. What  is  therefore needed is an organized politics, which will take responsibility for guarding genericity. (79)

At all events, we can propose a definition of a political truth : a political truth is the organized product of an event – an historical riot – which preserves intensification, contraction and localization to the extent that it can replace an identitarian object and separating names with a real presentation of generic power such as its significance has been disclosed to us by the event. (81)

Doctrinal Summary

A political truth is a series of consequences, organized on the condition of an Idea, a massive popular event, in which intensification, contraction and localization replace an identitarian object, and the separating names bound up with it, with a real presentation of the generic power of the multitude. (85)

A truth is something that exists in its active process, which manifests itself,  as truth,  in  different circumstances marked by this process. Truths are not prior to political processes; there  is no question of confirming or applying them. Truths are reality itself, as a process of production of political novelties, political sequences, political revolutions, and so forth. (87)

Intensification :  During  a  massive  popular  uprising,  a general subjective intensification, a violent passion for the True occurs, which Kant had already identified at the time  of the French Revolution under the name of enthusiasm .

Contraction : The historical situation contracts around an active, thinking minority whose provenance is multifaceted. It produces  a  sort of presentation  of itself, which  is  simultaneously  pure,  complete  and  very limited, a sample of the generic being of a people.

Localization: Let us simply recall this: in times of historical riot the masses create sites of unity and presence.  In  such  a  site  the  massive  event  is  exhibited, exists, in a universal address. A political event occurring everywhere is something that does not exist. The site is the thing whereby the Idea, still fluid, encounters popular genericity. A  non-localized  Idea is impotent; a  site  without  an Idea is  merely an immediate riot, a nihilistic spurt. (90-92)

Finally,  it will  be  said  of all  these people,  who  are nameless for the state, that they represent the whole of humanity, for what drives them in their intense localized rallying possesses a universal significance. And that is something everyone realizes. Why? Because they have constructed a site where, the fictive identitarian object being inoperative, even abolished, it is no longer identity that counts, but non-identity: the universal value of the Idea, its generic virtue – that is, what concerns, what enthuses, humanity in general. The enthusiasm created by  an  historical  riot  is  precisely  bound  up  with this passion for the universal with which one can – must -credit seemingly the most ordinary people. (93-94)

A massive popular event creates a de-statification of the issue of what is possible. (94)

Already  on the  original  site,  in  the  great  rallies  of an  historical riot,  there  occurs  what might  be  called a subjective de-localization if the site. What is said in the new site always claims that its value extends beyond it, in the direction of universality. (95)