On Marxism’s Field of Operation: Badiou and the Critique of Political Economy*

In: Historical Materialism
Gavin Walker McGill University

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Alain Badiou’s theoretical work maintains an ambiguous relation to Marx’s critique of political economy. In seemingly refusing the Marxian analytical strategy of displacement and referral across the fields of politics and economy, Badiou is frequently seen to be lacking a rigorous theoretical grasp of capitalism itself. In turn, this is often seen as a consequence of his understanding of political subjectivity. But the origins of this ‘lack’ of analysis of the social relation called ‘capital’ in his work can also be investigated by means of a detour into the economic writings of the Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste, the political organisation in which Badiou played a leading rôle throughout the 1970s in particular. By excavating this theoretical work of the 1970s, we can identify more precisely the historical and political reasons behind Badiou’s ambiguous relation to Marx and specifically to Marx’s systematic grasp of the logic of capital. This excavation will consequently lead us to a reflection on the limits and openings in Badiou’s thought for the Marxian critique of political economy.

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