...... On Alain Badiou and Logiques des mondes

...........Slavoj Zizek

[space] nav gif nav gif nav gif nav gif nav jpg nav gif nav jpg nav gif nav gif

Badiou is right: anti-capitalism cannot be directly the goal of political action - in politics, one opposes concrete political agents and their actions, not an anonymous "system." However, if one may apply here the distinction between goal and aim, if not goal, it should be its ultimate aim, the horizon of all its activity.

One of the Gothic DVD games starts with the wisdom: "Each Event is preceded by Prophecy. But without the Hero, there is no Event." One can easily translate this obscure wisdom in Marxist terms: "The general outlines of each revolutionary event can be foretold by social theorists; however, this event can effectively take place only if there is a revolutionary subject." Or, as Badiou would have put it: "Only if there is a subject, an Event can occur within an evental site."

Is the minimal difference in politics not the one between Nazism and Stalinism? In a letter to Herbert Marcuse from 20 January 1948, Heidegger wrote: "To the serious legitimate charges that you express 'about a regime that murdered millions of Jews...' I can merely add that if instead of 'Jews' you had written 'East Germans,' then the same holds true for one of the allies, with the difference that everything that has occurred since 1945 has become public knowledge, while the bloody terror of the Nazis in point of fact had been kept a secret from the German people." [1] Marcuse was fully justified in replying that the thin difference between brutally ex-patriating people and burning them in a concentration camp is the line that, at that moment, separated civilization from barbarism. One should not shirk from going even a step further: the thin difference between the Stalinist gulag and the Nazi annihilation camp also was, at that historical moment, the difference between civilization and barbarism.

Perhaps, Badiou's matrix of four basic responses to an Event (the faithful subject; the reactive subject; the obscure subject; resurrection) should be complicated a little bit, so that there are six responses:

1. The responses to the Freud-Event were: (1) fidelity (Lacan); (2) reactive normalization, re-integration into the predominant field (ego-psychology, "dynamic psychotherapy"); (3) outright denial (cognitivism); (4) obscurantist mystification in a pseudo-Event (Jung); (5) total enforcing (Reich, Freudo-Marxism); (6) resurrection of the "eternal" Freud's message in "returns to Freud."

2. The responses to a love-Event are: (1) fidelity; (2) normalization, re-integration (marriage); (3) outright rejection of the evental status (libertinage, the transformation of the Event into sexual adventure); (3) thorough rejection of sexual love (abstinence); (5) obscurantist suicidal mortal passion a la Tristan; (6) resurrected love (re-encounter).

3. The responses to the Marxism-Event are: (1) fidelity (Communism, Leninism); (2) reactive re-integration (Social Democracy); (3) outright denial of the evental status (liberalism, Furet); (4) catastrophic total counter-attack in the guise of a pseudo-Event (Fascism); (5) total enforcing of the Event, which ends up in an "obscure disaster" (Stalinism, Khmer Rouge); (6) renewal of Marxism (Lenin, Mao...).

So how do (1) and (2) co-exist (in figures like Lenin or Lacan)? This brings us to a further hypothesis: an Event is necessarily missed the first time, that true fidelity is only possibly in the form of resurrection, as a defence against "revisionism": Freud didn't know the true dimension of his discovery, it was only Lacan's "return to Freud" that allowed us to discern the core of the Freudian discovery; or, as Stanley Cavell put it apropos the Hollywood comedies of re-marriage, the only true marriage is the second marriage (to the same person).

Badiou develops the notion of "atonal" worlds (monde atone), [2] worlds lacking a "point," in Lacanese: the "quilting point" (point de capiton), the intervention of a Master-Signifier that imposes a principle of "ordering" onto the world, the point of a simple decision ("yes or no") in which the confused multiplicity is violently reduced to a "minimal difference." That is to say, what is a Master-Signifier? In the very last pages of his monumental Second World War, Winston Churchill ponders on the enigma of a political decision: after the specialists (economic and military analysts, psychologists, meteorologists...) propose their multiple, elaborated and refined analysis, somebody must assume the simple and for that very reason most difficult act of transposing this complex multitude, where for every reason for there are two reasons against, and vice versa, into a simple "Yes" or "No" - we shall attack, we continue to wait... None other John F. Kennedy provided a concise description of this point:

The essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer - often, indeed, to the decider himself.

This gesture which can never be fully grounded in reasons, is that of a Master. There is thus no reason to be dismissive of the discourse of the Master, to identify it too hastily with "authoritarian repression": the Master's gesture is the founding gesture of every social link. Let us imagine a confused situation of social disintegration, in which the cohesive power of ideology loses its efficiency: in such a situation, the Master is the one who invents a new signifier, the famous "quilting point," which again stabilizes the situation and makes it readable; the university discourse which then elaborates the network of Knowledge which sustains this readability by definition presupposes and relies on the initial gesture of the Master. The Master adds no new positive content - he merely adds a signifier which all of a sudden turns disorder into order, into "new harmony," as Rimbaud would have put it. Think about anti-Semitism in Germany of the 1920s: people experienced themselves as disoriented, thrown into undeserved military defeat, economic crisis which melted away their life-savings, political inefficiency, moral degeneration... and the Nazis provided a single agent which accounted for it all - the Jew, the Jewish plot. Therein resides the magic of a Master: although there is nothing new at the level of positive content, "nothing is quite the same" after he pronounces his Word... The basic feature of our "postmodern" world is that it tries to dispense with this agency of the Master-Signifier: the "complexity" of the world should be asserted unconditionally, every Master-Signifier meant to impose some order on it should be "deconstructed," dispersed, "disseminated": "The modern apology of the "complexity" of the world /.../ is really nothing but a generalized desire of atony."(443) Badiou's excellent example of such an "atonal" world is the Politically Correct vision of sexuality, as promoted by gender studies, with its obsessive rejection of "binary logic": this world is a nuanced, ramified world of multiple sexual practices which tolerates no decision, no instance of the Two, no evaluation (in the strong Nietzschean sense). This suspension of the Master-Signifier leaves as the only agency of ideological interpellation the "unnameable" abyss of jouissance: the ultimate injunction that regulates our lives in "postmodernity" is "Enjoy!" - realize your potentials, enjoy in all its forms, from intense sexual pleasures through social success to spiritual self-fulfilment. What we have today is not so much the POLITICS of jouissance but, more precisely, the REGULATION (administration) of jouissance which is stricto sensu post-political. Jouissance is in itself limitless, the obscure excess of the unnameable, and the task is to regulate this excess. The clearest sign of the reign of biopolitics is the obsession with the topic of "stress": how to avoid stressful situations, how to "cope" with them. "Stress" is our name for the excessive dimension of life, for the "too-muchness" to be kept under control. (For this reason, today, more than ever, the gap that separates psychoanalysis from therapy imposes itself in all its brutality: if one wants therapeutic improvement, one will effectively get a much faster and efficient help from a combination of behavioral-cognitivist therapies and chemical treatment (pills).

However, far from liberating us from the guilt-pressure, such dispensing with the Master-Signifier comes at a price, the price signalled by Lacan's qualification of the superego-command: "Nothing forces anyone to enjoy except the superego. The superego is the imperative of jouissance - Enjoy!" [3] In short, the decline of the Master-Signifier exposes the subject to all the traps and double-talk of the superego: the very injunction to enjoy, i.e., the (often imperceptible) shift from the permission to enjoy to the injunction (obligation) to enjoy sabotages enjoyment, so that, paradoxically, the more one obeys the superego command, the more one is guilty. This same ambiguity affects the very base of a "permissive" and "tolerant" society: "we see from day to day how this tolerance is nothing else than a fanaticism, since it tolerates only its own vacuity."(LdM-533) And, effectively, every decision, every determinate engagement, is potentially "intolerant" towards all others... There are only a couple of qualifications to be added to this Badiou's thesis. First, insofar as world as such is sustained by a "point," is a point-less, atonal, world not a name for worldlessness? Badiou himself recently claimed that our time is devoid of world, referring to Marx's well-known passage from The Communist Manifesto about the "de-territorializing" force of capitalism which dissolves all fixed social forms

The passage where Marx speaks of the desacralisation of all sacred bonds in the icy waters of capitalism has an enthusiastic tone; it is Marx's enthusiasm for the dissolving power of Capital. The fact that Capital revealed itself to be the material power capable of disencumbering us of the "superego" figures of the One and the sacred bonds that accompany it effectively represents its positively progressive character, and it is something that continues to unfold to the present day. Having said that, the generalized atomism, the recurrent individualism and, finally, the abasement of thought into mere practices of administration, of the government of things or of technical manipulation, could never satisfy me as a philosopher. I simply think that it is in the very element of desacralisation that we must reconnect to the vocation of thinking. [4]

Badiou thus recognizes the exceptional ontological status of capitalism whose dynamics undermines every stable frame of re-presentation: what is usually the task to be performed by the critico-political activity (namely, the task of undermining the re-presentational frame of the State), is already performed by capitalism itself - and, this poses a problem for Badiou's notion of "evental" politics. In pre-capitalist formations, every State, every re-presentational totalization, implies a founding exclusion, a point of "symptomal torsion," a "part of no-part," an element which, although part of the system, did not have a proper place within it - and the emancipatory politics had to intervene from this excessive ("surnumerary") element which, although part of the situation, cannot be accounted for in its terms. However, what happens when the system no longer excludes the excess, but directly posits it as its driving force - as is the case in capitalism which can only reproduce itself through its constant self-revolutionizing, through the constant overcoming of its own limit? To put it in a simplified way: if a political event, a revolutionary emancipatory intervention into a determinate historical world, is always linked to the excessive point of its "symptomal torsion," if it by definition undermines the contours of this world, how, then, are we to define the emancipatory political intervention into a universe which is already in itself world-less, which, for its reproduction, no longer needs to be contained by the constraints of a "world"? How are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing? Within the Deleuzian field, it was Brian Massumi who formulated clearly this deadlock, which is based on the fact that today's capitalism already overcame the logic of totalizing normality and adopted the logic of the erratic excess:

the more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normalcy starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening of normalcy is part of capitalism's dynamic. It's not a simple liberation. It's capitalism's own form of power. It's no longer disciplinary institutional power that defines everything, it's capitalism's power to produce variety - because markets get saturated. Produce variety and you produce a niche market. The oddest of affective tendencies are okay - as long as they pay. Capitalism starts intensifying or diversifying affect, but only in order to extract surplus-value. It hijacks affect in order to intensify profit potential. It literally valorises affect. The capitalist logic of surplus-value production starts to take over the relational field that is also the domain of political ecology, the ethical field of resistance to identity and predictable paths. It's very troubling and confusing, because it seems to me that there's been a certain kind of convergence between the dynamic of capitalist power and the dynamic of resistance. [5]

There IS thus, beyond all cheap jibes and superficial analogies, a profound structural homology between the Maoist permanent self-revolutionizing, the permanent struggle against the ossification of State structures, and the inherent dynamics of capitalism. One is tempted to paraphrase here Brecht, his "What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a new bank?", yet again: what are the violent and destructive outbursts of a Red Guardist caught in the Cultural Revolution compared to the true Cultural Revolution, the permanent dissolution of all life-forms necessitated by the capitalist reproduction? This capitalist reappropriation of the revolutionary dynamics is not without its comic side-effects. It was recently made public that, in order to conceptualize the IDF urban warfare against the Palestinians, the IDF military academies systematically refer to Deleuze and Guattari, especially to Thousand Plateaux, using it as "operational theory" - the catchwords used are "Formless Rival Entities", "Fractal Manoeuvre", "Velocity vs. Rhythms", "The Wahabi War Machine", "Postmodern Anarchists", "Nomadic Terrorists". One of the key distinctions they rely on is the one between "smooth" and "striated" space, which reflect the organizational concepts of the "war machine" and the "state apparatus". The IDF now often uses the term "to smooth out space" when they want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. Palestinian areas are thought of as "striated" in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, road blocks and so on:

The attack conducted by units of the IDF on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as "inverse geometry", which he explained as "the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions". During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of overground tunnels carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so "saturated" into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city's streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as "infestation", seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF's strategy of "walking through walls" involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare "a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux". [6]

So what does it follow from all this? Not, of course, the nonsensical accusation of Deleuze and Guattari as theorists of militaristic colonization - but the conclusion that the conceptual machine articulated by Deleuze and Guattari, far from being simply "subversive," also fits the (military, economic, and ideologico-political) operational mode of today's capitalism. And, back to Badiou, as Alberto Toscano noted in his perspicuous analysis, he also gets caught here in an inconsistency: he draws the "logical" conclusion that, in a "worldless" universe (which is today's universe of global capitalism), the aim of emancipatory politics should be the precise opposite of its "traditional" modus operandi - the task today is to form a new world, to propose new Master-Signifiers that would provide "cognitive mapping":

/.../ whilst in Badiou's theoretical writings on the appearance of worlds he cogently argues that events engender the dysfunction of worlds and their transcendental regimes, in his 'ontology of the present' Badiou advocates the necessity, in our 'intervallic' or world-less times, of constructing a world, such that those now excluded can come to invent new names, names capable of sustaining new truth procedures. As he writes, 'I hold that we are at a very special moment, a moment at which there is not any world' /.../ As a result: 'Philosophy has no other legitimate aim except to help find the new names that will bring into existence the unknown world that is only waiting for us because we are waiting for it.' In a peculiar inversion of some of the key traits of his doctrine, it seems that Badiou is here advocating, to some extent, an 'ordering' task, one that will inevitably, if perhaps mistakenly, resonate for some with the now ubiquitous slogan 'Another World is Possible'. [7]

In order to throw some light on this impasse, one should bear in mind that Badiou's triad Being-World-Event functions in the same way as Kierkegaard's triad of the Aesthetic-Ethical-Religious: the choice is always between two terms, and either/or, i.e., the three terms do not operate at the same ontological level. It is like with Lacans Imaginary/Symbolic/Real or with Freud's ego/superego/id: when we focus on one term, the other two get condensed into one (under the hegemony of one of them). If we focus on the Imaginary, the Real and the Symbolic get contracted into Imaginary's opposite under the domination of the Symbolic; if we focus on R, I and S get contracted under the domination of S. (Therein resides the shift in Lacan's work announced by his Seminar VII on the ethics of psychoanalysis: the shift from the axis I-S to the axis S-R.) Or, in Freud's case, if we focus on the Ego, its opposite is the Id (which encompasses the Superego); etc. (The irony is thus that the title of Badiou's first great book to which Logiques des mondes is Part II, Being and Event, should be read in the same way as Freud's The Ego and the Id: as an implicit reference to the missing third term, World, or, in Freud's case, superego.)

In Badiou's Logiques des mondes, the shift is from the axis Being-Event to the axis World-Event. What this means is that, in Logiques des mondes, Being, World and Event do not form a triad: we have either the opposition of Being and World (appearance), or the opposition of World and Event. There is an unexpected conclusion to be drawn from this: insofar as (Badiou emphasizes this point again and again) a true Event is not merely a negative gesture, but opens up a positive dimension of the New, an Event IS the imposition of a new world, of a new Master-Signifier (a new Naming, as Badiou puts it, or, what Lacan calls vers un nouveau significant). The true evental change is the passage from the old to the new world. One should even make a step further and introduce the dimension of dialectics here: an Event CAN be accounted for by the tension between the multiplicity of Being and the World, its site is the symptomal torsion of a World, it is generated by the excess of Being over World (of presence over re-presentation). The properly Hegelian enigma is here not "how is an Event, the rise of something truly New, possible?", but, rather, how do we pass from Being to World, to (finite) appearance, i.e., how can Being, its flat infinite multiplicity, APPEAR (to itself)? Is it not that this presupposes a kind of "negativity" that has to be somehow operative in the midst of Being itself, some force of (not infinity, but, on the contrary) finitization, what Hegel called the "absolute power" of tearing apart what in reality belongs together, of giving autonomy to appearance. Prior to any "synthesis," Spirit is what Kant called "transcendental imagination," the power to abstract, to simplify/mortify, to reduce a thing to its "unary feature," to erase its empirical wealth. Spirit is the power to say, when it is confronted with the confusing wealth of empirical features: "All this doesn't really matter! Just tell me if the feature X is there or not!" Maybe, a FOURTH term is thus needed, which sustains the triad of Being/World/Event, a negativity ("death drive") reducible to none of the three.

When Badiou talks about "eternal truths," trans-historical truths whose universality cuts across specific historical worlds, horizons of sense, this universality is not a mythic universality of a Jungian archetype (even if his description of the Idea of the horse from pre-historic cave paintings to Picasso sometimes comes dangerously close to it), but the sense-less universality of the Real, of what Lacan calls "matheme."

What, then, was the historical result (lesson) of the Cultural Revolution? It is difficult to miss the irony of the fact that Badiou, who adamantly opposes the notion of act as negative, locates the historical significance of the Maoist Cultural Revolution precisely in signaling "the end of the party-State as the central production of revolutionary political activity. More generally, the Cultural Revolution showed that it was no longer possible to assign either the revolutionary mass actions or the organizational phenomena to the strict logic of class representation. That is why it remains a political episode of the highest importance." These lines are from Badiou's "The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?" [8], which, at its conclusion, emphatically reiterates the same point:

In the end, the Cultural Revolution, even in its very impasse, bears witness to the impossibility truly and globally to free politics from the framework of the party-State that imprisons it. It marks an irreplaceable experience of saturation, because a violent will to find a new political path, to re-launch the revolution, and to find new forms of the workers' struggle under the formal conditions of socialism, ended up in failure when confronted with the necessary maintenance, for reasons of public order and the refusal of civil war, of the general frame of the party-State.

The key importance of the last truly great revolutionary explosion of the XXth century is thus NEGATIVE, it resides in its very failure which signals the exhaustion of the party/Statist logic of the revolutionary process. However, what if one should make here a step further and conceive both poles, presentation ("direct" extra-Statist self-organization of the revolutionary masses) and re-presentation as the two interdependent poles, so that, in a truly Hegelian paradox, the end of the party-State form of revolutionary activity guided by the telos of "taking over the state power," is simultaneously also the end of all forms of "direct" (non-representational) self-organization (councils and other forms of "direct democracy")? - When, in his more recent Logiques des mondes, Badiou makes the same point about the Cultural Revolution, his accent changes almost imperceptibly: the Cultural Revolution

tested, for all revolutionaries of the world, the limits of Leninism. It taught us that the politics of emancipation can no longer go on under the paradigm of revolution, or as captivated by the party-form. Symmetrically, it cannot be inscribed into the parliamentary and electoral dispositif. Therein resides the dark genius of the Cultural Revolution: it all began when, between 1966 and 1968, saturating in the real the previous hypotheses, the Red Guardist high-school pupils and students, and then the workers of Shanghai, prescribed for the decades to come the affirmative realization of this beginning, of which they themselves, since their fury remained caught into what they were raising against, explored only the face of pure negation. [9]

There is a tension between these two interpretations. According to "The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?", the failure of the Cultural Revolution "bears witness to the impossibility truly and globally to free politics from the framework of the party-State that imprisons it," with the cause of this failure is specified at a rather common sense level ("the necessary maintenance, for reasons of public order and the refusal of civil war, of the general frame of the party-State" - in short, the exigencies of the "servicing the goods": whatever the revolutionary perturbations, life must go on, people have to work, to consume, etc., and the only agency to do this was the party-State...). Contrary to this claim about the impossibility to free politics from the framework of the party-State, the passage from Logiques des mondes perceives as the lesson of the Cultural Revolution the impossibility to pursue radical political activity within the framework of the party-State, i.e., "the end of the party-State as the central production of revolutionary political activity." So neither can we practice revolutionary politics OUTSIDE the party-State frame, nor can we do it WITHIN this frame? No wonder that, when, in Logiques des mondes, Badiou confronts the key question (is the "eternal Idea" of the egalitarian-revolutionary politics with its four components - equality, terror, voluntarism, trust in the people - rooted in the statist-party model, relying on a revolutionary State, which exhausted its potential by the Cultural Revolution, so that we have to abandon it, or is it truly "eternal" and, as such, waiting to be re-invented in our post-revolutionary epoch?), he offers an answer which does not appear too convincing:

What effectively constitutes the trans-worldly subjectivity of the State revolutionary is that it tries to impose the separation between State and revolutionary politics, with the particular twist that it tries to do it within State power. Consequently, the figure we are dealing with only exists under the presupposition of this separation. This is why, incidentally, one can construct it philosophically only today, after a thought of the politics made thinkable and practicable the way one can, in order to think the action, locate oneself within a politics for which the State power is neither its goal nor its norm. [10]

The true question here is: how is this externality with regard to the State to be operationalized? Since the Cultural Revolution signals the failure of the attempt to destroy the State from within, to abolish the State, is then the alternative to simply accept the State as a fact, as the apparatus that takes care of "servicing the goods," and to operate at a distance towards it (bombarding it with prescriptive proclamations and demands)? But does such a position not come closely to, say, Simon Critchley, who recently argued that the emancipatory politics is

enacted or even simply acted - practically, locally, situationally - at a distance from the state. /.../ It calls the state into question, it calls the established order to account, not in order to do away with the state, desirable though that might well be in some utopian sense, but in order to better it or attenuate its malicious effects.

The main ambiguity of this position resides in a strange non sequitur: if the state is here to stay, if it is impossible to abolish the state (and capitalism), why act with a DISTANCE towards state? Why not with(in) the state? Why not accept the basic premise of the New Left's Third Way? Perhaps, it is time to take seriously Stalin's obsessive critique of "bureaucracy," and to appreciate in a new (Hegelian) way the necessary work done by the State bureaucracy. In other words, is Critchley's (and Badiou's) position not that of relying on the fact that someone else will assume the task of running the state machinery, enabling us to engage in the critical distance towards the state? Furthermore, if the space of emancipatory politics is defined by a distance towards the state, are we not abandoning the field (of the state) all too easily to the enemy? Is it not crucial WHAT form the state power has? Does this position not lead to the reduction of this crucial question to a secondary place: ultimately, it doesn't really matter what kind of state we have? So when Badiou claims that the Red Guardists "prescribed for the decades to come the affirmative realization of this beginning, of which they themselves, since their fury remained caught into what they were raising against, explored only the face of pure negation," will this "affirmative realization" be the one of inventing a new way of dispensing with the State, of "abolishing" it, or a mere distance towards the State, or - much more radically - a new APPROPRIATION of State apparatuses?

In his Logiques des mondes, Badiou provides a succinct definition of "democratic materialism" and its opposite, "materialist dialectics": the axiom which condenses the first one is "There is nothing but bodies and languages ...," to which materialist dialectics adds "... with the exception of truths." This opposition is not so much the opposition of two ideologies or philosophies as the opposition between non-reflected presuppositions/beliefs into which we are "thrown" insofar as we are immersed into our life-world, and the reflective attitude of thought proper which enables us to subtract ourselves from this immersion, to "unplug" ourselves, as Morpheus would have put it in The Matrix, a film much appreciated by Badiou, the film in which one also finds a precise account of the need, evoked by Badiou, to control oneself (when Morpheus explains to Neo the lot of ordinary people totally caught ("plugged") in the Matrix, he says: "Everyone who is not unplugged is a potential agent."). This is why Badiou's axiom of "democratic materialism" is his answer to the question of our spontaneous (non-reflexive) ideological beliefs: "What do I think when I am outside my own control? Or, rather, which is our (my) spontaneous belief?" Furthermore, this opposition is immediately linked to what (once) one called "class struggle in philosophy," the orientation most identified by the names of Lenin, Mao Zedong and Althusser - here is Mao's succinct formulation: "It is only when there is class struggle that there can be philosophy." The ruling class (whose ideas are the ruling ideas) is represented by the spontaneous ideology, while the dominated class has to fight its way through intense conceptual work, which is why, for Badiou, the key reference is here Plato - not the caricaturized Plato, the anti-democratic philosopher of the aristocratic reaction to Athenian democracy, but the Plato who was the first to clearly assert the field of rationality freed from inherited beliefs. After all the bad words about the "phono-logocentric" character of Plato's criticism of writing, it is perhaps time to assert its positive, egalitarian-democratic, aspect: in pre-democratic despotic state, writing was the monopoly of the ruling elite, its character was sacred, "so it is written" was the ultimate seal of authority, the presupposed mysterious meaning of the written text was the object of belief par excellence. The aim of Plato's critique of writing is thus double: to deprive writing of its sacred character, and to assert the field of rationality freed from beliefs, i.e., to distinguish logos (the domain of dialectics, of rational reasoning which admits no external authority) from mythos (traditional beliefs):

The significance of Plato's criticism thus appears: to remove from writing its sacred character. The way to truth is not writing but dialectics, i.e. the spoken word with its implication of two or rather three parties: the speaker, the listener and the language they share. With his criticism, Plato, for the first time in man's history, distilled the notion of rationality as such, free from all mixture with belief. [11]

(The qualification I am tempted to add here is that, perhaps, one should nonetheless suspend Badiou's understandable reticence apropos "dialectical materialism" and turn around the subject-predicate relationship between the two opposites: "materialist democracy" versus "dialectical materialism.") There is a more constrained anthropological version of this axiom: for democratic materialism, "there is nothing but individuals and communities," to which materialist dialectics adds: "Insofar as there is a truth, a subject subtracts itself to all community and destroys all individuation." [12]The passage from the Two to Three is crucial here, and one should bear in mind all its Platonic, properly meta-physical, thrust in the direction of what, prima facie, cannot but appear as a proto-idealist gesture of asserting that material reality is not all that there is, that there is also another level of incorporeal truths. Along these lines, one is tempted to supplement Badiou in two ways. First, are bodies and languages not synonymous with being, its multiplicity, and worlds? The Three we are dealing with is thus the Three of being, worlds and truths: for democratic materialism, there are only the multiplicity of being (the endlessly differentiated reality) and different worlds - linguistic universes - within which individuals and communities experience this reality. (One should then, against Badiou, insist on the strict equality between world and language: every world sustained by language, and every "spoken" language sustains a world - this is what Heidegger aimed at in his thesis on language as a "house of being.") Is this effectively not our spontaneous ideology? There is an endlessly differentiated, complex, reality, which we, individuals and communities embedded in it, always experience from a particular, finite, perspective of our historical world. What democratic materialism furiously rejects is the notion that there can be an infinite universal Truth which cuts across this multitude of worlds - in politics, this means "totalitarianism" which imposes its truth as universal. This is why one should reject, say, Jacobins, who imposed onto the plurality of the French society their universal notions of equality and other truths, and thus necessarily ended in terror... This brings us to the second supplement: there is an even more narrow political version of the democratic-materialist axiom: "All that takes place in today's society is the dynamics of post-modern globalization, and the (conservative-nostalgic, fundamentalist, Old Leftist, nationalist, religious...) reactions and resistances to it" - to which, of course, materialist dialectics adds its proviso: "...with the exception of the radical-emancipatory (Communist) politics of truth."

It is here that the materialist-dialectic passage from the Two to Three gains all its weight: the axiom of Communist politics is not simply the dualist "class struggle," but, more precisely, the Third moment as the subtraction from the Two of the hegemonic politics. That is to say, the hegemonic ideological field imposes on us a field of (ideological) visibility with its own "principal contradiction" (today, it is the opposition of market-freedom-democracy and fundamentalist-terrorist-totalitarianism - "Islamofascism" etc.), and the first thing to do is to reject (to subtract from) this opposition, to perceive it as a false opposition destined to obfuscate the true line of division. Lacan's formula for this redoubling is 1+1+a: the "official" antagonism (the Two) is always supplemented by an "indivisible remainder" which indicates its foreclosed dimension. In other terms, the TRUE antagonism is always reflective, it is the antagonism between the "official" antagonism and that what is foreclosed by it (this is why, in Lacan's mathematics, 1+1=3). Today, for example, the true antagonism is not the one between liberal multiculturalism and fundamentalism, but between the very field of their opposition and the exclude Third (radical emancipatory politics). - One is even tempted to link this Threesome to three different mechanisms of keeping a social body together:

- the traditional matrix of authority in which a community is established through sacrifice or is grounded in some primordial crime, so that it is the guilt which keeps the members together and subordinates them to a leader;

- the "invisible hand" of the market, i.e., a social field in which, by means of a Cunning of Reason, the very competition among individuals, each following his or her egotistic concerns, results in a mysterious balance which works for the best of all;

- the open political process of social cooperation in which decisions are neither made by the supreme authority, nor are they the outcome of a blind mechanism, but are reached through conscious interaction of individuals.

And, furthermore, do these three modes not form a kind of Levi-Straussian triangle? Both market liberalism and the properly democratic space of civil public action and planned social cooperation. (One can argue, of course, that the triangle should be extended to a Greimasian semiotic square, since the third mode is itself split between democratic self-organization proper and the State Power imposed from above onto society - "self-management versus bureaucracy.")

This allows us also to approach in a new way Badiou's concept of "point" as the point of decision, as the moment at which the complexity of a situation is "filtered" through a binary disposition and thus reduced to a simple choice: all things considered, are we AGAINST or FOR (should we attack or retreat? support that proclamation or oppose it?) With regard to the Third moment as the subtraction from the Two of the hegemonic politics, one should always bar in mind that one of the basic operations of the hegemonic ideology is to enforce a false point, to impose on us a false choice - like, in today's "war on terror," when anyone who draws attention to the complexity and ambiguity of the situation, is sooner or later interrupted by a brutal voice telling him: "OK, enough of this muddle - we are in the middle of a difficult struggle in which the fate of our free world is at stake, so please, make it clear, where do you really stand: do you support freedom and democracy or not?" (One can also imagine a humanitarian version of such a pseudo-ethical blackmail: "OK, enough of this muddle about the neocolonialism, the responsibility of the West, and so on - do you want to do something to really help the millions suffering in Africa, or do you just want to use them to score points in your ideologico-political struggle?") The obverse of this imposition of a false choice is, of course, the blurring of the true line of division - here, Nazism is still unsurpassed with his designation of the Jewish enemy as the agent of the "plutocratic-bolshevik plot." In this designation, the mechanism is almost laid bare: the true opposition ("plutocrats" versus "Bolsheviks," i.e., capitalists versus proletariat) is literally obliterated, blurred into One, and therein resides the function of the name "Jew" - to serve as the operator of this obliteration. The first task of the emancipatory politics is therefore to distinguish between "false" and "true" points, "false" and "true" choices, i.e., to bring back the third element whose obliteration sustains the false choice - like, today, the false choice "liberal democracy or Islamofascism" is sustained by the obliteration of the radical secular emancipatory politics. So one should be clear here in rejecting the dangerous motto "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," which leads us to discover "progressive" anti-imperialist potential in fundamentalist Islamist movements. The ideological universe of movements like Hezbollah is based on the blurring of distinctions between capitalist neoimperialism and secular progressive emancipation: within the Hezbollah ideological space, women's emancipation, gay rights, etc., are NOTHING BUT the "decadent" moral aspect of Western imperialism...

This, then, is where we stand today: the antagonism imposed on us by the space of dominant ideology is the secondary antagonism between (what Badiou calls) "reactive" and "obscure" subjects, leading their struggle against the background of the obliterated Event.

In his reading of Badiou, Adrian Johnston[13] discerned the ideologico-critical potential of the Badiouian topic of evental breaks: when the balance of an ideological situation is disturbed by arising "symptomal knots," elements which, while formally part of the situation, do not fit into it, the ideological defense can adopt two main strategies, the false "eventalization" of the dynamics which is thoroughly part of the existing situation, and the disavowal of the signs which delineate true evental possibilities, their reading as minor accidents or external disturbances:

one, making mere modifications appear to promise evental newness (a tactic that comes to the fore in the ideology of late-capitalism, whose noisily marketed "perpetual revolution" is really just an instance of the cliché "the more things change, the more they stay the same"-or, as Badiou puts it, "capitalism itself is the obsession of novelty and the perpetual renovation of forms"); two, making the sites sheltering potentially explosive evental upheavals appear to be, at a minimum, unremarkable features of the banal, everyday landscape, and, at most, nothing more than temporary, correctable glitches in the functioning of the established system.

Perhaps, this line of thought needs just one qualification: Johnston writes that "the ideology of the worldly state, through a sort of bluff or masquerade, disguises its non-integrated weakest points, its Achilles' heels, as fully integrated cogs and components of its allegedly harmonious functioning-rather than as loci containing the potential to throw monkey wrenches in its gears and thereby generate evental dysfunctions of this regime, a regime that is never so deeply entrenched as it would like to appear to be in the eyes of its subjects." Would it not rather be that one of the ideological strategies is to fully admit the threatening character of a disfunction, and to treat it as an external intrusion, not as the necessary result of the system's inner dynamics? The model is here, of course, the Fascist notion of social antagonisms as the result of a foreign intruder - Jews - disturbing the organic totality of the social edifice.

Recall the difference between the standard capitalist and the Marxist notion of economic crisis: for the standard capitalist view, crises are "temporary, correctable glitches" in the functioning of the system, while from the Marxist point, they are its moment of truth, the "exception" which only allows us to grasp the functioning of the system (in the same way that, for Freud, dreams and symptoms are not secondary malfunctionings of our psychic apparatus, but moments through while one can discern the repressed basic functioning of the psychic apparatus). No wonder Johnston uses here the Deleuzian term "minimal difference" - "a minimal/miniscule difference (here construed as the difference between the change-category statuses simultaneously assigned to a single intra-situational multiple both by the ideology of the state and, in opposition, by another, non-statist framework)": when we pass from the notion of crisis as occasional contingent malfunctioning of the system to the notion of crisis as the symptomal point at which the "truth" of the system becomes visible, we are talking about one and the same actual event - the difference is purely virtual, it does not concern any of its actual properties, but only the way this event is supplemented by the virtual tapestry of its ideological and notional background (like Schumann's melody for piano first played with and then without the third line of notes written only for the eyes). Johnston is right here in critically taking note of

Badiou's quick dismissal of apparently gradualist measures of seemingly minor political adjustments and reforms (i.e., not-quite-evental gestures) in the spheres of legislation and socio-economics while awaiting the quasi-divine intervention of the system-shattering evental rupture ushering in an uncompromisingly "perfect" revolution. But, the preceding analyses call into question whether he can be entirely confident and sure that what appears to be gradual or minor really is so, or, rather, simply seems this way solely under the shadow of statist ideology's assignation of change-category statuses.

One cannot ever be sure in advance if what appears (within the register and the space of visibility of the ruling ideology) as "minor" measures will not set in motion a process that will lead to the radical (evental) transformation of the whole field. There are situations in which a minimal measure of social reform can have much stronger large-scale consequences than self-professed "radical" changes, and this "inherent incalculability to the factors involved in setting the pace of the cadence of socio-political change" points towards the dimension of what Badiou tried to capture under the title of the "materialist notion of grace." So when Johnston raises the question of

what if the pre-evental actors "don't really know exactly what they're doing or quite where they're going? What if, under the influence of statist ideology, they anticipate that a particular gesture will effectuate a system-preserving modification only to find out, after-the-fact of this gesture, that their intervention unexpectedly hastened (rather than delayed) the demise of this very system?

- is not the first association that comes to mind here that of Mikhail Gorbachov's perestroika which, while aiming at minor improvements that would make the system more efficient, triggered the process of its total disintegration? These, then, are the two extremes between which political interventions has to find their way: the Scylla of "minor" reforms which eventually lead to total collapse (recall also the - justified, we can say today - Mao Ze Dong's fear that even a minimal compromise with market economy will open up the path that ends in total surrender to capitalism), and the Karybda of "radical" changes which in the long run merely fortify the system (Roosevelt's New Deal, etc.). Among other things, this also opens up the question of how "radical" different forms of resistance are: what may appears as "radical critical stance" or as subversive activity can effectively function as the system's "inherent transgression," so that, often, a minor legal reform which merely aims at bringing the system in accordance with its professed ideological goals can be more subversive than the open questioning of the system's basic presuppositions. These considerations enable us to define the art of a "politics of minimal difference": to be able to identify and then do focus on a minimal (ideological, legislative, etc.) measure which, prima facie, not only does not question the system's premises, but even seem to merely apply to its actual functioning its own principles and thus render it more self-consistent; however, a critico-ideological "parallax view" leads us to surmise that this minimal measure, while in no way disturbing the system's explicit mode of functioning, effectively "move its underground," introduces a crack in its foundations. Today, more than ever, we effectively need what Johnston calls a "pre-evental discipline of time":

This other sort of temporal discipline would be neither the undisciplined impatience of hurriedly doing anything and everything to enact some ill-defined, poorly conceived notion of making things different nor the quietist patience of either resigning oneself to the current state of affairs drifting along interminably and/or awaiting the unpredictable arrival of a not-to-be-actively-precipitated "x" sparking genuine change (Badiou's philosophy sometimes seems to be in danger of licensing a version of this latter mode of quietism). Those subjected to today's frenetic socio-economic forms of late-capitalism are constantly at risk of succumbing to various forms of what one could refer to loosely as "attention deficit disorder," that is, a frantic, thoughtless jumping from present to ever-new present. At the political level, such capitalist impatience must be countered with the discipline of what could be designated as a specifically communist patience (designated thus in line with Badiou's assertion that all authentic forms of politics are "communist" in the broad sense of being both emancipatory as well as "generic" qua radically egalitarian and non-identitarian) - not the quietist patience condemned above, but, instead, the calm contemplation of the details of situations, states, and worlds with an eye to the discerning of ideologically veiled weak points in the structural architecture of the statist system. Given the theoretical validity of assuming that these camouflaged Achilles' heels (as hidden evental sites) can and do exist in one's worldly context, one should be patiently hopeful that one's apparently minor gestures, carried out under the guidance of a pre-evental surveillance of the situation in search of its concealed kernels of real transformation, might come to entail major repercussions for the state-of-the-situation and/or transcendental regime of the world.

There is, however, a limit to this strategy: if followed thoroughly, it ends up in a kind of "active quietism": while forever postponing the Big Act, all one does is to engage in small interventions with the secret hope that somehow, inexplicably, by means of a magic "jump from quantity to quality," they will lead to global radical change. This strategy has to be supplemented by the readiness and ability to discern the moment when the possibility of the Big Change is approaching, and, at that point, to quickly change the strategy, take the risk and engage in total struggle. In other words, one should not forget that, in politics, "major repercussions" do not come by themselves: true, one has to lay the ground for them by means of the patient work, but one should also know to seize the moment when it arrives. Even more, the lesson of Rosa Luxemburg's critique of reformism is pertinent here: it is not enough to patiently wait for the "right moment" of the revolution; if one merely waits for it, it will never come, i.e., one has to start with "premature" attempts which - therein resides the "pedagogy of the revolution" - in their very failure to achieve their professed goal create the (subjective) conditions for the "right" moment. The "specifically communist patience" is not just the patient waiting for the moment when radical change will explode like what the system theory calls "emergent property"; it is also the patience of losing the battles in order to gain the final fight (recall Mao's slogan: "from defeat to defeat, to the final victory"). Or, to put it in more Badiouian time: the fact that the evental irruption functions as a break in time, as introducing a totally different order of temporality (the temporality of the "work of love," the fidelity to the event), means that, from the perspective of non-evental time of historical evolution, there is NEVER a "proper moment" for the revolutionary event, the situation is never "mature" for the revolutionary act - the act is always, by definition, "premature." Recall what truly deserves the title of the repetition of the French Revolution: the Haiti revolution led by Toussaint l'Ouverture - it was clearly "ahead of his time," "premature," and as such doomed to fail, yet, precisely as such, it was perhaps even more of an Event than the French Revolution itself. These past defeats accumulate the utopian energy which will explode in the final battle: "maturation" is not waiting for "objective" circumstances to reach maturity, but the accumulation of defeats.

Progressive liberals today often complain that they would like to join a "revolution" (a more radical emancipatory political movement), but no matter how desperately they search for it, they just "don't see it" (they don't see anywhere in the social space a political agent with a will and strength to seriously engage in such activity). While there is a moment of truth in it, one should nonetheless also add that the very attitude of these liberals is in itself part of a problem: if one just waits to "see" a revolutionary movement, it will, of course, never arise, and one will never see it. What Hegel says about the curtain that separates appearances from true reality (behind the veil of appearance there is nothing, only what the subject who looks there put it there), holds also for a revolutionary process: "seeing" and "desire" are here inextricably linked, i.e., the revolutionary potential is not there to discover as an objective social fact, one "sees it" only insofar as one "desires" it (engages oneself in the movement). No wonder Mensheviks and those who opposed Lenin's call for a revolutionary takeover in the summer of 1917 "didn't see" the conditions for it as "ripe" and opposed it as "premature" - they simply did not WANT the revolution. (Another version of this skeptical argument about "seeing" is that liberals claim how capitalism is today so global and all-encompassing that they cannot "see" any serious alternative to it, that they cannot imagine a feasible "outside" to it. The reply to this is that, insofar as this is true, they do not see at all, tout court: the task is not to see the outside, but to see in the first place (to grasp the nature of today's capitalism) - the Marxist wager is that, when we "see" this, we see enough, inclusive of how to get out...) So our reply to the worried progressive liberals, eager to join the revolution, and just not seeing its chances anywhere around, should be like the answer to the proverbial ecologist worried about the prospect of catastrophy: don't worry, the catastrophy will arrive...

To complicate the image further, we often have an event which succeeds through the self-erasure of its evental dimension, as it was the case with the Jacobins in the French Revolution: once their (necessary) job was done, they were not only overthrown and liquidated, they were even retroactively deprived of their evental status, reduced to a historical accident, to a freakish abomination, to an (avoidable) excess of the historical development. (It was none other than Hegel who, in his very "critique" of the Jacobine "abstract freedom", perceived the necessity of this moment, dispelling the liberal dream of by-passing 1794, i.e., of passing directly from 1789 to the established bourgeois daily life. The dream denounced by Robespierre as the dream of those who want "revolution without revolution" is the dream of having 1789 without 1793, of eating the cake and keeping it...) This theme was often varied by Marx and Engels - how, once the "normal" pragmatic-utilitarian bourgeois daily life was established, its own violent heroic origins were disavowed. This possibility - not only the (obvious) possibility of an evental sequence reaching its end, but a much more unsettling possibility of an event disavowing itself, erasing its own traces, as the ultimate indication of its triumph, is not taken into account by Badiou: "the possibility and ramifications of there being radical breaks and discontinuities that might, in part due to their own reverberations unfolding off into the future, become invisible to those living in realities founded on such eclipsed points of origin."

Such a self-erasure of the event opens up the space for what, in the Benjaminian mode, one is tempted to call the Leftist politics of melancholy. In a first approach, this term cannot but appear as an oxymoron: is not a revolutionary orientation towards future the very opposite of the melancholic attachment to the past? What if, however, the future one should be faithful to is the future of the past itself, i.e., the emancipatory potential that was not realized due to the failure of the past emancipatory attempts and for this reason continues to haunt us? In his ironic comments on the French Revolution, Marx opposes the revolutionary enthusiasm to the sobering effect of the "morning after": the actual result of the sublime revolutionary explosion, of the Event of freedom, equality, and brotherhood, is the miserable utilitarian/egotistic universe of market calculations. (And, incidentally, is not this gap even wider in the case of the October Revolution?) However, one should not simplify Marx: his point is not the rather commonsensical insight into how the vulgar reality of commerce is the "truth" of the theater of revolutionary enthusiasm, "what all the fuss really was about". In the revolutionary explosion as an Event, another utopian dimension shines through, the dimension of universal emancipation which, precisely, is the excess betrayed by the market reality which takes over "the day after" - as such, this excess is not simply abolished, dismissed as irrelevant, but, as it were, transposed into the virtual state, continuing to haunt the emancipatory imaginary as a dream waiting to be realized. The excess of revolutionary enthusiasm over its own "actual social base" or substance is thus literally that the future of/in the past, a ghost-like Event waiting for its proper embodiment.

Most of the Romantic liberal enthusiasts who first welcomed the French Revolution were appalled by the Terror, the "monstrosity" unleashed by the revolution, and started to doubt its very rationale. The notable exception is here Percy B. Shelley who remained faithful to the Revolution to the end, without idealizing it, without washing away its terror; in his poem The Revolt of Islam, he formulated a rejection of the reactionary claim that the tragic and violent outcome is in some way the "truth" of the bright revolutionary hopes and ideals of universal freedom. For Shelley, history is a series of possible outcomes, possibility has priority over actuality, there is a surplus in it over its actualization, the spark that persists underground, so that the very immediate failure of emancipatory attempts signals to those who harbor future revolutionary aspirations that they should be repeated more radically, more comprehensively.

Perhaps, the reason Badiou neglects this dimension is his all too crude opposition between repetition and the cut of the Event, his dismissal of repetition as an obstacle to the rise of the New, ultimately as the death drive itself, the morbid attachment to some obscure jouissance which entraps the subject in the self-destructive vicious cycle. In this sense, "life" as the subjective category of the fidelity to an Event "keeps at a distance the conservation drive (the instinct misnamed 'of life'), as well as the mortifying drive (the death instinct). Life is what breaks up with drives." [14] What Badiou misses here is the fact that "death drive" is, paradoxically, the Freudian name for its very opposite, for the way immortality appears within psychoanalysis: for an uncanny excess of life, for an 'undead' urge which persists beyond the (biological) cycle of life and death, of generation and corruption. As such, death drive stands for the very opposite of the obscure tendency to self-annihilation or self-destruction - as is rendered clear in the work of Wagner whom Badiou admires so much. It is precisely the reference to Wagner which enables us to see how the Freudian death drive has nothing whatsoever to do with the craving for self-annihilation, for the return to the inorganic absence of any life-tension. Death drive does NOT reside in Wagner's heroes' longing to die, to find peace in death: it is, on the contrary, the very opposite of dying - a name for the "undead" eternal life itself, for the horrible fate of being caught in the endless repetitive cycle of wandering around in guilt and pain. The final passing-away of the Wagnerian hero (the death of the Dutchman, Wotan, Tristan, Amfortas) is therefore the moment of their liberation from the clutches of the death drive. Tristan in Act III is not desperate because of his fear of dying: what makes him desperate is that, without Isolde, he cannot die and is condemned to eternal longing - he anxiously awaits her arrival so as to be able to die. The prospect he dreads is not that of dying without Isolde (the standard complaint of a lover), but rather that of the endless life without her. The ultimate lesson of psychoanalysis is that human life is never "just life": humans are not simply alive, they are possessed by the strange drive to enjoy life in excess, passionately attached to a surplus which sticks out and derails the ordinary run of things. This excess inscribes itself into the human body in the guise of a wound which makes the subject "undead," depriving him of the capacity to die (apart from Tristan's and Amfortas' wound, there is, of course, THE wound, the one from Kafka's "A Country Doctor"): when this wound is healed, the hero can die in peace.

It is at this point that one should turn to Deleuze against Badiou, to Deleuze's precise elaborations on repetition as the very form of the emergence of the New. (Of course, Badiou is too refined a thinker not to perceive the evental dimension of repetition: when, in Logiques des mondes, he deploys the three "subjective destinations" of an event (faithful, reactive, obscure), he adds a forth one, that of "resurrection," the subjective re-activation of an event whose traces were obliterated, "repressed" into the historico-ideological unconscious: "every faithful subject can thus reincorporate into its evental present a truth fragment which in the old present was pushed beneath the bar of occultation. This reincorporation is what we call resurrection." [15] His beautifully developed example is that of Spartacus: erased from official history, his name was resurrected first by the black slaves' rebellion in Haiti (the progressive governor Laveaux called Toussaint l'Ouverture "black Spartacus"), and, a century later, by the two German "Spartakists," Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht. What matters here, however, is that Badiou shirks from calling this resurrection repetition...)

The proper Deleuzian paradox is that something truly New can ONLY emerge through repetition. What repetition repeats is not the way the past "effectively was", but the virtuality inherent to the past and betrayed by its past actualization. In this precise sense, the emergence of the New changes the past itself, that is, it retroactively changes (not the actual past - we are not in science fiction - but) the balance between actuality and virtuality in the past. Recall the old example provided by Walter Benjamin: the October Revolution repeated the French Revolution, redeeming its failure, unearthing and repeating the same impulse. Already for Kierkegaard, repetition is "inverted memory", a movement forward, the production of the New, and not the reproduction of the Old. "There is nothing new under the sun" is the strongest contrast to the movement of repetition. So, it is not only that repetition is (one of the modes of) the emergence of the New - the New can ONLY emerge through repetition. The key to this paradox is, of course, what Deleuze designates as the difference between the Virtual and the Actual (and which - why not? - one can also determine as the difference between Spirit and Letter). Let us take a great philosopher like Kant - there are two modes to repeat him: either one sticks to his letter and further elaborates or changes his system, as neo-Kantians (up to Habermas and Luc Ferry) are doing; or, one tries to regain the creative impulse that Kant himself betrayed in the actualization of his system (i.e., to connect to what was already "in Kant more than Kant himself", more than his explicit system, its excessive core). There are, accordingly, two modes of betraying the past. The true betrayal is an ethico-theoretical act of the highest fidelity: one has to betray the letter of Kant in order to remain faithful to (and repeat) the "spirit" of his thought. It is precisely when one remains faithful to the letter of Kant that one really betrays the core of his thought, the creative impulse underlying it. One should bring this paradox to its conclusion: it is not only that one can remain really faithful to an author by way of betraying him (the actual letter of his thought); at a more radical level, the inverse statement holds even more - one can only truly betray an author by way of repeating him, by way of remaining faithful to the core of his thought. If one does not repeat an author (in the authentic Kierkegaardian sense of the term), but merely "criticizes" him, moves elsewhere, turns him around, etc., this effectively means that one unknowingly remains within his horizon, his conceptual field. When G.K. Chesterton describes his conversion to Christianity, he claims that he "tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen years behind it." Does the same not hold even more for those who, today, desperately try to catch up with the New by way of following the latest "post-" fashion, and are thus condemned to remain forever eighteen years behind the truly New?


[1] Berel Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide, Syracuse Univ. Press, 2003.

[2] Alain Badiou, Logiques des mondes, Paris: Seuil, 2006, p. 442-445.

[3] Jacques Lacan, On Feminine Sexuality (The Seminar, Book XX), New York: Norton 1998, p. 3.

[4] Alain Badiou, "L'entretien de Bruxelles," in Les Temps Modernes 526 (1990), p. 6.

[5] Brian Massumi, "Navigating Movements," in Hope, ed. Mary Zournazi, New York: Routledge 2002, p. 224.

[6] Eyal Weizman, "Israeli Military Using Post-Structuralism as 'Operational Theory'," available online at www.frieze.com.

[7] Alberto Toscano, "From the State to the World? Badiou and Anti-Capitalism," Communication & Cognition, Vol. 36 (2003), 1-2.

[8] A conference from 2002 translated by Boostels himself.

[9] Logiques des mondes, p. 543-544.

[10] Logiques des mondes, p. 547.

[11] Moustapha Safouan, "Why Are the Arabs Not Free: the Politics of Writing" (unpublished manuscript).

[12] Logiques des mondes, p. 9-17.

[13] Adrian Johnston, "The Quick and the Dead: Alain Badiou and the Split Speeds of Transformation" (unpublished manuscript).

[14] Logiques des mondes, p. 531.

[15] Logique des mondes, p. 75.

Slavoj Zizek's Bibliography

Slavoj Zizek's Chronology

© lacan.com 1997/2007
Copyright Notice. Please respect the fact that this material in LACAN.COM is copyright.
It is made available here without charge for personal use only. Available only through EBSCO Publishng, Inc.
It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.