Human Rights Are the Rights of the Infinite: An Interview with Alain Badiou

in Historical Materialism
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In seeking to found a ‘new political logic’, Badiou argues that we can only retrieve the political sense of concrete negation through its subordination to a prior field of affirmation: i.e. the opening of a new possibility inside a given historical situation, or ‘the event’, that may be politically realised through the creation of a ‘new subjective body’ consisting in the social affirmation of those new possibilities. Revolutionary politics is therefore said to rest on a synthesis of, on the one hand, democracy in the sense of spontaneous mass-political irruption, and, on the other, a prescriptive elaboration of the ramifications of the event. The discussion then turns to the question of strategy – outside and against the politically moribund State-form – and his reconfiguration of political universality vis-à-vis the formulations of classical Marxism.

Badiou counterposes capitalist ideology’s implicit anthropology of self-interested animals to his own of subjects embodied in a generic truth-procedure and its concomitant model of political rights, where what is ultimately at stake is ‘the complete transformation of the form of . . . difference, of the way the difference exists’ rather than a materialist dialectics of antagonistic contradiction. The interview concludes with Badiou clarifying his relationship to Lacanian psychoanalysis as an essential but by no means exhaustive conceptual armoury for understanding the relation between subject and event.

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  • 1.

    Blechman Chari and Hasan 2005.

  • 2.

    Badiou 2003a and 1985.

  • 3.

    Badiou 2006; English translation 2009b.

  • 4.

    Badiou 1998pp. 89–108; Badiou 2005 pp. 78–95.

  • 5.

    Badiou 2003b.

  • 7.

    Bensaïd 2004.

  • 8.

    Badiou 2002p. 28: ‘In every respect Mao is the name of a paradox: a rebel in power a dialectician who made himself subordinate to the needs of “development” the emblem of the party-State apparatus that aimed for its transcendence the military chief who advocated disobedience to all authority.’

  • 9.

    Badiou 1999.

  • 10.

    Badiou 1982; English translation Badiou 2009a.

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