View Full Version : Badiou at Birkbeck

11-06-2005, 09:18 AM
Badiou gave a very accessible talk last night as part of the Derrida memorial lecture series, lamenting the state of politics at the moment and lambasting 'Texan' attacks on Derrida after his death. I didn't take any notes, and am not an expert so don't take this as, erm, gospel. There will be a certain amount of qualification and prevarication in what follows: any clarifications most welcome.

He started off by alluding to what he later called the 'red' period between 1968 and 1976 in France and speaking very generally of the generation of philosophers that emerged in the 60s, giving a short account of his relations with Sartre, Lacan and Althusser. As you might expect, however, he stipulated that he was never close to Derrida, and there was more of this distancing to come.

There followed a clear if necessarily schematic zoom through the relations betweem multiplicity and appearance (specified as a transcendental relation), and of the the role of the 'inexistent' in his thought. At one point there was, i believe, the suggestion that existence manifests in several 'worlds' at once with various degrees of intensity, and it is in this plurality that the possibility of change consists: 'if there was only one world, that would be very bad'.

In every such world there is also a constitutive point of inexistance, of the weakest manifestation of the multiplicity. In the political world Badious named this point as the proletariat.

Next a cursory account of deconstruction, which involved the fairly tired metaphor of Derrida as hunter, stalking through the thickets of the text in search of the shy beast of the 'vanishing point' of differance. Badiou was here sharply critical of Derrida's constant refusal to specify, locate, identify the vanishing point (or the inexistant). Derrida has his reasons for this, of course, holding such a naming to be a metaphyscial gesture, a process which, by bringing the constitutive aporia of the text wholly within the confines of thought merely displaces it.

For Badiou, however, this is an evasion which marks Derrida as an apolitical quietist. Such a refusal is a refusal of the decision, of the act, the seizure of the 'vanishing point' which is necessary precondition of political action ( I may be oversimplifying here but this seemed to me to be what he was suggesting). At this point, and in the questions afterwards, Badiou gave the example of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: where Derrida is content to enlessly deconstruct the opposition between the two, interminably unravelling the binary, Badiou presumably takes sides.

At this point, to be honest, my thoughts turned momentarily to nicotine and alcohol, and this, coupled with Badiou's occasionally impenetrable accent and the shite acoustics meant I missed the next bit. Badiou referred glowingly to Derrida and Luc-Nancy's book on 'the touch' ( I don't know this text) and appeared to be using it to finesse his own position vis-a-vis deconstruction, or at least to head off deconstructionst critiques of the metaphysical tendencies in his own work. If any one can elucidate this for me I'd be grateful.

Anyway, he finished off by cheekily saying that he was going to spell the inexistent with an 'a' instead of an 'e' in homage to Derrida's differance from now on. And then disappeared, cackling, in a puff of smoke like the dangerous French subversive he is.

infinite thought
11-06-2005, 06:58 PM
Another report of the same lecture here:


14-06-2005, 10:11 AM
And then disappeared, cackling, in a puff of smoke like the dangerous French subversive he is.

Actually, I think he went to go and get a pizza. Here's another report of the talk (http://froggywentacourting.blogspot.com/2005/06/alain-badiou-passion-for-inexistance.html) .

infinite thought
14-06-2005, 10:31 AM
Who writes that rosbifblog? There's something uncanny about it. I'm sure I know who it is but can't quite remember.