Alain Badiou, the Maoist Investigation, and the Party-Form

in Historical Materialism
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As scholarly interest in the experience of French Maoism has been undergoing something of a renaissance, it is unsurprising that the Maoist practice of investigations has elicited varying degrees of attention in recent years. But this attention has tended to be subsumed within, if not overshadowed by, much broader historical and exegetical undertakings. This paper seeks to redress this limitation in the literature by focusing on the lengthiest and most detailed summary of Maoist investigations among peasants in the French countryside, The Book of Poor Peasants, published by Alain Badiou’s Group for the Foundation of the Union of Communists of France Marxist-Leninist (ucfml) in 1976. This book vividly demonstrates the difficulties and limitations associated with the practice of investigations. It thus affords a more critical appreciation of this practice. The book also casts Badiou’s shift toward a ‘politics without party’ in a new light.

Alain Badiou, the Maoist Investigation, and the Party-Form

in Historical Materialism



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Bosteels 2005pp. 580–1; Ross 2002 pp. 109–13; Wolin 2010 pp. 18 131–2 138 159 303 305–7 323 330 338. Ross offers a synopsis of crucial aspects of the investigation in her analysis of social amnesia about May 1968 in France. Bosteels dwells briefly on the investigation in his dialectical interpretation of the later Badiou. Wolin devotes a few pages of his lengthy book to the popularity of investigations among organisations concerned with the struggles of traditionally marginalised groups such as prisoners gays and women.


Badiou 2010pp. 52–4.


Bosteels 2005pp. 629–30 n. 50.


Fields 1988p. 98.


Bosteels 2005p. 585.


Bosteels 2005p. 579.


Mao 1971pp. 23–39.


Marx 1997.


Rigaudias-Weiss 1975pp. 158–70.


Wright 2002pp. 24–5.


Wolin 2010pp. 330–1.


Hoffman 2015.


Smith 2013. For the recollections of a ujcml militant who conducted investigations among peasants in the Vosges region of northeastern France only to then take up a position in a factory see Manceaux 1972 pp. 54–7.


Artières 2011pp. 53–4.


Badiou 2001bpp. 95–6.


Toscano 2008p. 535.


Hallward 2003p. 41.


Hallward 2003p. 43.


Badiou 2008pp. 85–6.


Badiou 2008p. 15.


Badiou 2008p. 12.


Badiou 2008p. 87.


Badiou 2008p. 67.


Badiou 2008p. 108.


Badiou 2008p. 109.


Badiou 2010pp. 181–2.


Badiou 2010pp. 179–80. Marx criticised the Communards for failing to attack the government of Adolphe Thiers in Versailles at its moment of greatest vulnerability (Marx 1996 p. 178). V.I. Lenin echoed a more general variation of this criticism in Lenin 2002 p. 37.


Badiou 2010p. 182.


Badiou 2010pp. 113–4 155–6.


Badiou 2001ap. 67; my italics.


Hallward 2003p. 126.


Badiou 1975p. 110.


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