Badiou Dictionary (Form & Formalism)

For those interested in the work of Alain Badiou, I think it’s worth pointing out the recent activity at the Form and Fomalism blog:

…The Form & Formalism Working Group began in November, 2009, in the wake the first annual “Form & Formalism” conference, held at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, and orchestrated by Tzuchien Tho of the Versus Laboratory research project. A second conference followed in 2010, and Versus is in the process of planning a third for the coming Fall. (Programmes for both FF conferences can be found here: and here: From the conferences formed the group, and from the group now comes the blog. Nothing else needs to be said about this just yet.

To get the ball rolling, I’ve decided to make available here a few short texts that I’ve been working on, still in a somewhat rough state, for the Badiou Dictionary that Steve Corcoran is in the process of pulling together for Edinburgh University Press. Your comments, corrections, criticism, etc. are of course welcome.

I’ll try to post an entry every day or so over the next week. Today, FORCING. Stay tuned for GENERIC, MODEL, SUTURE, IDEOLOGY, ONE, and VOID.

Read the definition drafts by Concept of the Model translator, Zachary Fraser, here

Wagner Forgotten? Not Anymore!

Glory to the all-knowing Alain Badiou! Who would have thought that Wagner could make a come back? I mean, sure, there’s a new production of Das Rheingold at the Met that everyone’s raving about and, yes, yes, Wagner’s operas have been performed all over the world in an almost non-stop manner in the last 100 years or so, but that is clearly not enough to “rehabilitate” the old man – we must have a book from Alain Badiou!

A leading radical intellectual tackles the many controversial interpretations of Wagner’s work. For over a century, Richard Wagner’s music has been the subject of intense debate among philosophers, many of whom have attacked its ideological—some say racist and reactionary—underpinnings. In this major new work, Alain Badiou, radical philosopher and keen Wagner enthusiast, offers a detailed reading of the critical responses to the composer’s work, which include Adorno’s writings on the composer and Wagner’s recuperation by Nazism as well as more recent readings by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and others. Slavoj Zizek provides an afterword, and both philosophers make a passionate case for re-examining the relevance of Wagner to the contemporary world.

Can’t wait to read it and re-examine Wagner’s works… Continue reading

Affirmative Philosophical Interventions

I think it’s unreasonable to think that the whiny tone of the Humanities will ever change, and while Badiou’s attempt to reverse critique may be a bit of an overstatement, it is worth repeating.   Moses Boudourides, discussing the need to prevent ideas and people from being knotted together, quotes Alain Badiou from the “Philosophy in the Present: Badiou & Zizek” (Polity, 2009, pp. 80-84):

It seems to me that the problem with philosophical commitment is that it is often thought to be primarily critical. Very often, one equates philosophy with critique. So that philosophical commitment would ultimately amount to saying what is evil, what is suffering, of saying what’s not acceptable, or what is false. The task of philosophy would be primarily negative: to entertain doubt, the critical spirit , and so on and so forth. I THINK THIS THEME MUST BE ABSOLUTELY OVERTURNED. THE ESSENCE OF PHILOSOPHICAL INTERVENTION IS REALLY AFFIRMATION. … a point on which I agree with Deleuze. When Deleuze says that philosophy is in its essence the construction of concepts, he is right to put forward this creative and affirmative dimension, and to mistrust any critical or negative reduction of philosophy. … Glucksmann’s fundamental thesis … is that it is not possible to unify consciences around a positive vision of the Good. One can only unify consciences in the critique of Evil: this is the pivotal thesis of his entire intellectual itinerary. This negative position defines a philosophical intervention of an entirely specific sort: THE PHILOSOPHER IS A KIND OF A PHYSICIAN. He diagnoses evil, suffering, and, if need be, he suggests remedies in order to return to the normal state of affairs. … For my part, I think it is important to defend a wholly other conception of philosophical intervention. It is not for nothing that the first great philosophical idea was Plato’s idea of the Good. Plato had understood perfectly well that at a given moment it is the element of inhuman affirmation which is decisive, that it is this element which carries a radical choice. (The previous letter capitalization was mine, not in the book.)

Communism Conference: Ideas meet Reality?

Here’s an  interesting article about the Communism Conference in London this weekend from The Socialist Worker by Alex Callinicos, “Slavoj Zizek’s Ideas need to link with reality.”  I’ve pasted the full text below.  Callinicos raises some interesting questions about some contradictions revolving around the relationship between theory and practice and the 100 pound entrance fee, ahem.

Nearly a thousand people will be attending a conference this weekend on “The Idea of Communism” in central London.  In itself, this isn’t a big deal. Left wing conferences take place regularly in central London. The Socialist Workers Party’s annual Marxism event attracts several thousand participants every summer.

There are two things that are different about this particular conference. The first is that it isn’t being organised by a political organisation or journal, but by Birkbeck College’s Institute for the Humanities. Secondly, the conference is attracting an unusual amount of media attention. The Financial Times devoted a full page of its weekend edition to an interview with the director of the Institute for the Humanities, Slavoj Zizek, headlined “The modest Marxist”.

It is presumably Zizek, one of the most dazzling figures on the intellectual left, who has succeeded in attracting as speakers at the conference some of the best known continental philosophers – notably Alain Badiou, Toni Negri and Giorgio Agamben, along with, among others, Terry Eagleton and Peter Hallward. The emphasis indeed seems to be on philosophy. “From Plato onwards, Communism is the only political Idea worthy of a philosopher,” the conference publicity declares. Continue reading

Badiou, Rosenzweig and the word “Jew”

Mostly a thinking out loud post based on some visceral reactions, really. I have heard the charge of antisemitism directed at both Badiou and Zizek for sometime now, and while I’m not completely unsympathetic to such claims, they do tend to misinterpret and simplify both thinkers, which of course, have the effect of missing the mark completely. Now, in particular, with regards to Badiou and the term “Jew,” this seems to me to be an old problem of particularism vs universalism rather than the typical knee jerk reactions towards the state of Israel (see here and here). In this sense, it’s hard not to think of Isaac Deutscher, who remarked in a speech he gave to the World Jewish Congress in 1958:

Religion? I am an atheist. Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I therefore a Jew. I am, however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews.

Now because I’m without shame, here’s my original comment pertaining to the above passage. This is a very interesting response, and really, a very Jewish one. This begs a number of questions: Is it ever possible to reconcile ethnic fidelities with a commitment to “universal human emancipation? ” Is the only option to simply choose sides, that is, either a nationalist (particularism) or a “non-Jewish Jew” (universalism/cosmpolitanism)? But here’s the thing, if Judaism is a particular community/ethnicity/religion with a universal aims/goals/ramifications (e.g. a light unto the nations) to begin with then there is no choice to be made, the “Jew” as such would not have to choose either/or, but then again, perhaps I’m just not very dogmatic.

I still have the same response, but I often find myself feeling somewhat uncomfortable when I hear Badiou discussing these issues. In an article I dug up on, “The Uses of the Word “Jew,”” Badiou writes this: Continue reading

Badiou Lecture

Here’s a recording of a recent lecture by Alain Badiou (it’s not the greatest of quality, however).

Via Humanities Podcasts:

Title and Date Description
Alain Badiou: “Can the Word ‘Jew’ Be a Philosophical Concept?”
The Department of English, the Program in Religious Studies, the Political Theology Group, and the UCI Chancellor’s Fellows Program present a lecture by

Alain Badiou: “Can the Word ‘Jew’ Be a Philosophical Concept?”

Saturday, February 7
3:00-5:00 pm
Humanities Instructional Building 135
The University of California, Irvine
This event is free and open to the public.

Click on a file name to play:

  1. “Can the Word ‘Jew’ Be a Philosophical Concept?” – Badiou_Feb09.mp3

(Newish) Badiou on Financial Crisis

From Le Monde, via Infinite Thought (translated into English), to us: 

Telle qu’on nous la présente, la crise planétaire de la finance ressemble à un de ces mauvais films concoctés par l’usine à succès préformés qu’on appelle aujourd’hui le “cinéma”. Continue in French.

As it is presented to us, the planetary financial crisis resembles one of those bad films concocted by that factory for the production of pre-packaged blockbusters that today we call the “cinema”. Continue in English.