Frames /sing


Hearing Alain Badiou on Hardtalk: The Bashful Maoist

I’m sorry, I had never had the pleasureof hearing Badiou speak on contemporary politics, or even speak on anything. A funny thing happens when you see the person. Ideas, tones, the very specular sense of a person invades the writing, filling it out. Here in Hardtalk, originally posted by Infinite Thought, Badiou attempts to make himself clear. I can’t say that in presence this is a man bristling with intellectual acuity. Perhaps it is that he is speaking in English, but my sense of him as a thinker is diminished even from the sense that I already had that his ideas were somewhat inflated. Here Badiou’s ideas filtered down to everyday language and deprived of their technical, interlocking workmanship, appear pale and disorganized thought-themes.

Infinite Thought regretfully admits that this is not the most “successful” interview, something she chalks up to the interviewer’s “pure crystallised Anglo intello-Franco-phobia” (my goodness, PURE?). I have to say as someone who is rather intello-Franco-philic, I found Badiou alternately filled with sopping facializations or staid retreats into ambiguities and prevarication. Perhaps one feels that it was the interviewer’s job to try to draw out what is unique and gemlike in Badiou, a showcase…only though if one is a cheerleader, a true believer, it would seem. Badiou brings almost nothing on his own. We must believe that Communism is the “right hypothesis” despite (brutal) 20th century failures, why…because “faith” is sometimes a good thing.  If you have read Badiou you understand why he says this, but without all the terminology, concept-architecture and whatnot, this is pretty much how it all boils down. If intellectuals can’t do better than this, they are to remain essentially what they are, text-producers for a highly selective, and privileged readership.

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6 responses to “Hearing Alain Badiou on Hardtalk: The Bashful Maoist

  1. anodynelite March 27, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    I’m thinking the language barrier figures large here…but still–eek. If I’m going have my revolutionary politics boil down to “faith”, I’d much rather follow MLK Jr’s lead than I would a Maoist’s. I don’t know whether to think it’s appalling or unsurprising that a Christian (in the Pauline tradition) doesn’t take the “turn the other cheek” Jesus-like strategy of instigation then civil disobedience over “kill a bunch of people then send the rest to re-education camps”…

    (This is neither here nor there, but that persistent dry cough of Badiou’s is a typical symptom of prostate trouble. I hope he’s getting that checked out.)

  2. kvond March 28, 2009 at 7:01 pm


    Eeeek is right. Jeez. Pretty bad. I’ve seen Derrida speak in broken English but at least there is the sparkle of mind and a sense of the wish to be clear, communicate and care for his audience. As far as Badiou and Paul, as an avowed atheist he certainly wasn’t interested in Jesus, but rather with Paul’s militant invention of universalized Christianity. But I think you are correct, there is in Martin Luther King Jr’s non-violence every bit of the pursuit of “the generic” and “truth procedure” as there would be in a Maoist dream-world (minus the latter’s meager problem of tending toward the brutal regime).

  3. Pingback: Playing Cat and Mauss: The Historical Crisis of Socialism « Frames /sing

  4. brendan April 23, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Well, its not brilliant, but it’s not terrible either. At least he never took the interviewer’s bait to ridiculously overstate the. It seems to me that alot of british intellectuals on the right are looking at this situation as potentially revolutionary, but because their point of reference for an opportunity of reconstruction is Margaret Thatcher. They would love to inflate the revolutionary dimensions of the crisis so to be able to sell reaction as invetion. Badiou is right to say that we do not have ideas and convictions yet to replace those destroyed in the disaster of the old socialist adventure. We anti-capitalism, we have the negative term, but we do not have a communism, a socialism or an anarchism that would be the positive term for a popular revolution. At the same time, Badiou does look uncomfortable and rather uninspired and he comes close to handing to the interviewer the idea that revolution is currently impossible. I quite agree with his caution though, and I like the emphasis that crisis is insufficient, it seems many leftists are, conciously or not, economist Marxists who believe that the crisis IS enough. I’ve fallen into that position over a glass of beer not a few times myself these past months.

  5. brendan April 23, 2009 at 12:21 am

    By the way, I hope you all read Badiou’s Le Monde article on the crisis @ infinite thought:

    which is (again not world stopping) but quite solid, intelligent, and hopefully able to speak to quite a broad audience.

    Much better than this interview!

  6. totolino September 21, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I wonder what a “metaphorical gauloise” is… Rather than plunge deeper into the French/English silly contest (I’ve lived in both countries and as a fond reader of Badiou’s I can safely say “only class matters”) I’d like to read more about the irresistible attraction of revolution on one hand and the philosophical dead-end based on “safety”, making it impossible to look beyond things as they are undergone by a vast majority of people today…

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