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LAWS OF THE 70S: BADIOUS REVOLUTIONARY UNTIMELINESS


Emily Apter* Alain Badiou belongs to a roster of theorists including Antonio Negri, Etienne Balibar, Giorgio Agamben, Fredric Jameson, and Jacques Rancire, credited with continuing to work in the spirit of Marx towards an egalitarian society of free association between polymorphous labourers that implies the dissolution of politics as a consortium of interest groups and lobbies.1 Though significant differences of philosophical position exist among them, they have all, in different registers, offered a critique of sovereign power, imperial economies, state violence, juridical states of exception, and the capitalization of desire and risk. Theorists of the general will, they have also imagined transversal social formationsmultitudes, collectivities, generic and group-subjectsin the name of re-activating revolutionary program. Badiou has distinguished himself from this company as an uncompromising philosopher of truth, with his fidelity to a politics of the subject. Rejecting the well-rehearsed culturalist critique of truth as Eurocentric universalism, and refusing the grammatology of truthclaims as understood by analytic philosophy, Badiou (at least until his most recent book Logics of Worlds), posits truth at the intersection of being, time, and the event. As Peter Hallward summarizes, in Badious theory:
From the beginning, true time is diagonal to the chronological accumulation of time, that is, a time constrained by an already established measure. On the one hand every event constitutes its own time, such that there is no time in general; there are times. Each truth carries with it its own time. . . . Not only does a truth set a new beginning for time, but its validity exceeds chronological time as such. . . . Truth is thus a forgetting of time itself, the moment in

* Emily Apter is Professor of French, English, and Comparative Literature at New York University. She has published numerous books and articles, and edits the book series, Translation/Transnation for Princeton University Press. Projects underway include: What is Yours, Ours and Mine: Essays on Literary Property and the Creative Commons and The Politics of Periodization. 1 ALAIN BADIOU, METAPOLITICS 79-80 (Jason Barker trans., Verso 2005) (1998).

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which we live as if time (this time) had never existed.2

In an era dominated by relativism, pluralism, neo-liberal consensus, rational choice, media simulation, and technologies of the virtual, Badious truth has acquired a new allure for thinkers on the left committed to rescuing Jacobinism from the historical narrative of revolutionary foreclosure and failure.3 Badious communism, no longer summarily dismissed as post-Soviet travesty or relic of an obsolete politics of Party, has gained traction within broader efforts to re-imagine the group-subject, the fraternal performativity of the subject-noun we; and the mobilization of flash mobs for direct action or general strike. Badiou is now being taken seriously, if not as a prophet, then as a poet of the event in a tradition of anti-philosophy that includes Saint Paul, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, early Wittgenstein, and Lacan. Though Badiou himself distinguishes his own ontological axiomatics from the apodictic edicts of moral theology, mysticism, symbolist aesthetics, religious redemption, and ascetic anti-worldliness with which antiphilosophy is associated, his work reveals affinities with these traditions. And his languagein which one still detects the affect of the Maoist activist and founding member of LUnion des Communistes de France (UCF) and LOrganisation Politiqueappropriates theological militance, especially in one of his most compelling books, Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism (1997).4 Here, Badiou reworks the Pauline vocabulary of fidelity, love, truth, faith, and universalism to

PETER HALLWARD, BADIOU: A SUBJECT TO TRUTH 157, 176 (2003). For an expanded version of this argument see Emily Apter, Weaponized Thought: Ethical Militance and the Group-Subject, 14 GREY ROOM 6 (2004). 4 ALAIN BADIOU, SAINT PAUL: THE FOUNDATION OF UNIVERSALISM (Ray Brassier trans., Stanford University Press 2003) (1997) [hereinafter BADIOU, ST. PAUL]. The formal drive of Badious militance can be traced through a suite of major works: ALAIN BADIOU, THORIE DU SUJET (1982) [hereinafter BADIOU, THORIE DU SUJET] (English translation still forthcoming); ALAN BADIOU, BEING AND EVENT (Continuum 2005) (1988) [hereinafter BADIOU, BEING AND EVENT]; and ALAIN BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES (Oliver Feltham trans., 2006) [hereinafter BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES] (whose English edition is in the works). Abstracted from culture, ethnos, and gender, Badious subject is constituted as number; as void of the situation. In Lacanian theory the subject is nothing but the impossibility of its own signifying representation the empty place opened in the big Other by the failure of this representation. For Badiou, the subject is figured through subtractive ontology, an ontology constituted by virtue of the correlation of two (subject/object) voids. As void, the subject gives name to the event, itself defined as something seismic, violent, a bringing into appearance of that which is radically transformative, yet already materially there or co-present. Peter Hallward notes, Badiou adopts Cohens notion of forcing, finally, to describe the process by which such a consistent truth may eventually produce verifiable components of a new knowledge, a new way of understanding the parts of the situation. HALLWARD, supra note 2, at 107-08. Slavoj iek underscores the subterranean violence vested in Badious formalist notion of forcing when he explains: I become universal only through the violent effort of disengaging myself from the particularity of my situation. Id. at 150. In Logics of Worlds the violent forcing of subjectivation is all the more radical for being materialized, even as it remains pulled back from the commodity form (la marchandise). BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES, supra, at 531.

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give us Paul: our contemporary, a new Lenin, a new militant, a poet-thinker of the event.5 In what follows, I consider Badious evental politics as a problem of revolutionary untiming; a temporal praxis invoking a Commune-ism to come that references the 70s without succumbing to conventional periodizing logic. For this rethinking of political time, two recent works, Le Sicle [The Century] and Logiques des mondes [Logics of Worlds], are particularly crucial, for in both Badiou challenges the laws of capitalist historicity with the help of a militant poetics of temporality. Comprised of twelve sessions (leons) delivered at the International College of Philosophy between 1998 and 2001, The Century may be read as a critique of the temporal gauges according to which time has been actuarily managed and historicized. Where Logics of Worlds concentrates, following Hegels Logic, on Grand Logics (of site, antidialectical time, ontological closure, multiple worlds, modes of materiality, vitalist immortality, and so on), The Century addresses the coordinates of historical temporality through key-words, big ideas (the animal, gender crisis), theories, ideologies, aesthetic movements, poems, and patronyms. When Badiou asserts: Le sicle a propos sa propre vision de ce que cest le temps historique [The century put forward its own vision of historical time], he is not so much personifying the century as proposing to imagine how it might otherwise be timed outside the hegemonic parameters of History. 6 As early as Theory of the Subject Badiou had posited the inexistence of History and schematized the unraveled logic of periodization with the help of a topological snail diagram.

Figure 1. Snail Topology of Dismantled Periodization, Theory of the Subject7

BADIOU, SAINT PAUL, supra note 4, at 2. ALAIN BADIOU, LE SICLE 150 (2005), translated in THE CENTURY 105 (Alberto Toscano trans., Polity Press 2007) [hereinafter BADIOU, THE CENTURY]. 7 BADIOU, THORIE DU SUJET, supra note 4, at 324 (reproduced with permission).

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A similar anti-historicism is found in Logics of Worlds. In place of history, there are disparate presents that unspool into folds of time, reactivating traces of evental sites.8 It was Deleuze at his most Nietzschean and Bergsonian, who set the stakes for this conception of temporality as an untimeliness that acts on our time. In Diffrence et Rptition [Difference and Repetition], Deleuze aligned being with temporal contraction and discontinuity.9
This was Bergsons splendid hypothesis: the entire past at every moment but at diverse degrees and levels, of which the present is only the most contracted, the most concentrated. . . . Repetition is no longer a repetition of successive elements or external parts, but of totalities which co-exist on different levels or degrees. Difference is no longer drawn from an elementary repetition but is between the levels or degrees of a repetition which is total and totalizing every time; it is displaced and disguised from one level to another, each level including its own singularities or privileged points.10

In the conclusion to Difference and Repetition, Deleuze geometrizes compossible or untimed temporality (qualified as differentiating difference), through the figure of a decentered circle which displaces itself at the end of the straight line.11 For Badiou, Deleuzean temporality reverts to an ontological continuumthe clamor of beingsubsuming the event into everything that happens.12 So where Deleuze situates the unique event in the everyday, Badiou wants to screen temporality for the rarified occurrence; where Deleuze (and Guattari) chart the virtual as becoming or creative time, Badiou endeavors to x-ray the actual for unnamed truths that elude philosophy and knowledge. Truths, as he underscores in Logics of Worlds are exceptions to what is; they are creative appearances produced by experimental bodies that were not possible before, bodies that manifest the devenir-existant (a becomingexistent) by virtue of their corporealization of evental traces in present time, otherwise known as logics of worlds.13 Effective untiming for Badiou depends, it would seem, on an evental singularity that cuts truth from the situation; thereby nominalizing the event without essentializing its name. In The Century, Badiou reveals himself to be something of a
8 9

BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES, supra note 4, at 531. GILLES DELEUZE, DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION, at xxi, 285 (Paul Patton trans., Columbia University Press 1994) (1968). 10 Id. at 286-87 (emphasis in the original). 11 Id. at 299. 12 Alain Badiou, Annuaire philosophique, 1988-1989, at 167 (1990), cited in HALLWARD, supra note 2, at 175 (reviewing Gilles Deleuze, Le Pli: Leibniz et le baroque (1988)). 13 BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES, supra note 4, at 12, 530 (authors translation).

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historicist of temporal nomination, that is to say, a poet of political timing.


It is very striking to see that today we are practically bereft of any thinking of time. For just about everyone, the day after tomorrow is abstract and the day before yesterday is incomprehensible. We have entered a period of a-temporality and instantaneity; this shows the extent to which, far from being a shared individual experience, time is a construction, and even, we might argue, a political construction.14

This notion of constructed political time defers to the incipit of Le Sicle in which Badiou rewrites Jean Genets preface to Les Ngres. Genet wrote: One evening an actor asked me to write a play for an allblack cast. But what exactly is a black? First of all, whats his color?15 Badiou transposes this statement as: A century, how many years is that . . . ? [W]hich is the instant of exception that effaces the twentieth century? The fall of the Berlin Wall? The mapping of the genome? The launch of the Euro?16 In drawing attention to the shifting frame of the centennial bracket as it exceeds, coincides with, or falls short of one hundred years, Badiou prompts reflection on how the name of an eventBerlin Wall, genome, Eurotimes the political. As Bruno Bosteels has noted, there is a shift in Badious work from the politicization of history to a historicization of politics that remits a purely sequential understanding of politics to its own intrinsic history.17 The offsetting or re-nominalization of watershed events of the twentieth century becomes crucial to how temporality is defined prescriptively rather than predictively. Badiou aims for a political time outside the measures of labor, production, and profit established by the society of calculation or what he terms The Restoration in reference to the long twentieth century which commenced with the postCommune Restoration (the bourgeois Third Republic of Thiers), and which has not yet finished. The Century challenges the conventional naming of temporal sequence even as it looks at how these sequences secrete the ways in which periodization is thought. Badiou begins by surveying how short and long centuries have emerged within the twentieth century. The sequence 1890-1914 designates the prologue; a period before the Great War marked by the intensely compressed polymorphic creativity of Mallarm, Einstein, Freud, Schoenberg, Lenin, Conrad, Henry James, Joyce, Proust, Frege, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Picasso,

BADIOU, THE CENTURY, supra note 6, at 105. JEAN GENET, Dedication Page to THE BLACKS: A CLOWN SHOW, dedication page (Bernard Frechtman trans., Grove Press 1960). 16 BADIOU, THE CENTURY, supra note 6, at 1. 17 Bruno Bosteels, Post-Maoism: Badiou and Politics, 13 POSITIONS 586, 586 (2005).

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Braque, Poincar, Cantor, Riemann, Hilbert, Pessoa, Mlis, Griffith, and Chaplin.18 Another sequence is the Soviet century, (1917-1990) that begins with the October Revolution and ends with the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.19 Inside the Soviet century, there is the smaller Totalitarian century, timed according to the perpetration of crimes against humanity; the state-sponsored mass extermination of humans orchestrated at the Nazi and Stalinist camps. The Totalitarian century overlaps with, but remains distinct from, the Communist century, measured from the time of Lenins ascension in 1917 to the death of Mao in 1976. In challenging historical frames Badiou has no intention of denying the place of certain events in historical memory; he is interested, rather, in amending epochal categories to allow the ideas (and ideal truths) that got away to be captured or re-entered into the denominations of temporality. For Badiou, Commune is a privileged political predicate of revolutionary time. Logics of Worlds devotes a section to the Communeand the date March 18, 1871as exemplary of an evental site, or the world as a multiple, whose elements belong to its own set.20 On March 18, the left is mobilized in its political capacity as it actively resists the governments order to re-possess arms. March 18 marks the apparition of the tre-ouvrierthe worker-subject. Stormed by the people, the Htel de Ville is placed under the red flag. Thiers escapes by a back stair, Jules Favre climbs out a window. The Government retreats to Versailles, and Paris is delivered to the insurrection. As Badiou reads it (in a Rouge-Gorge lecture abridged in Logics of Worlds), March 18, captures
the force of being which effects an immanent overturning of the laws of appearance. Surmounting their political containment, the working class of Paris prevents an actual government from seizing the canons, revealing what up until then had been an unknown capacity, a power without precedent. . . . Under the injunction of being, March 18 becomes the key element of the situation such as it is.21

The advent of ontology can thus be timed to the Communards proclamation of victory in the face of their imminent massacre. For Badiou, the Commune provides a preeminent case in which the situation is weak but the power of the evental site is strong.22 It also gives rise to a neo-vitalist life-time that owes its articulation to the Paris Communes foundational document, Hyppolite-Prosper-Olivier

BADIOU, THE CENTURY, supra note 6, at 17-18 (authors translation). Id. at 10 (authors translation). BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES, supra note 4, at 383-86 (authors translation). ALAIN BADIOU, La Commune de Paris: Une dclaration politique sur la politique, in BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES, supra note 4, at 386 (authors translation). 22 BADIOU, LOGIQUES DES MONDES, supra note 4, at 395-97.

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Lissagarays Histoire de la Commune. A committed Communard, Lissagaray participated in the storming of the Palais-Bourbon in August 1870 and defended the Belleville barricade in 1871. Published in 1876, a mere five years after the event itself, and palpably testifying to the authors eyewitness experience, Lissagaray focuses on the Commune as a municipal cellular organism:
Paris broke the thousand fetters which bound France down to the ground, like Gulliver a prey to ants; restored the circulation to her paralysed limbs; . . . The life of the whole nation exists in each of her smallest organisms; the unity of the hive, and not that of the barracks. The organic cell of the French Republic is the municipality, the commune. 23

Lissagarays emphasis on the vitalist, cellular structure of the Commune allows it to be thought as an immanent life-force, a singular group subjectivity of the worker-revolutionary class. Echoes of this vitalism (and another rich source for Badiou), are found in Bertolt Brechts 1948 play Tage der Commune [Days of the Commune], particularly the scene that describes the Communards posting of their Principles on the walls of the Htel de Ville during the opening session of the Commune government on March 28, 1871. The first principle enumerated is the workers Right to Live.24 In her preface to her English translation of Lissagarays text, Eleanor Marx fixed on the untimed quality of the Commune as pivotal in the re-launching of revolutionary socialism in the name of Marx. She refuses to translate an updated version of Lissagarays French original because she wants to preserve the version that had been retouched, and in this sense directly signed by her father. Karl Marxs Commune, grafted onto Lissagarays, offers in her eyes an honest and truthful account of the greatest Socialist movementthus farof the century.25 The Commune, in Eleanor Marxs ascription marks the century as the time-signature of world Socialism. In Marxs inner circle, the Commune also names the utopian time of the abolition of private property and the obsolescence of propertied individualism. Frederick Engels gives us this definition in his preface to Marxs 1871 The Civil War in France.26 Engels distinguishes the Commune within the history of communitarian movements as the cooperative ownership of factories, a form of government based on worker representation, the

23 PROSPER-OLIVIER LISSAGARAY, HISTORY OF THE COMMUNE OF 1871, at 126 (Eleanor Marx Aveling trans. 1886) (New Mark Publications 1976). 24 BERTOLT BRECHT, THE DAYS OF THE COMMUNE 43, 80 (Clive Barker trans., 1978). 25 Eleanor Marx Aveling, Introduction to LISSAGARAY, supra note 23, at viii. 26 Fredrick Engels, Introduction to KARL MARX & V.I. LENIN, THE CIVIL WAR IN FRANCE: THE PARIS COMMUNE (International Publishers Co. 1993) (1871), available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm.

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abolition of night work, the interdiction of pawn shops. In addition, the Commune names a metalepsis, a figure conflating the end of Empire with the dawning of worker revolution. This metalepsis governs the narrative structure of Zolas novel La Dbcle27 which telescopes, by blood, battlefield scenes from the Franco-Prussian war into scenes of fratricidal killing on the Parisian barricades. The same soldiers who formerly fought side by side now face off as mortal combatants; the enemy other becomes the enemy within. A similar pairing, or metaleptic figure of Debacle-Revolution, had already surfaced in Karl Marxs Third Address of May 1871, later incorporated into his The Civil War in France.28 (Now, one might say, a comparable metalepsis characterizes the post-9/11 world as the conflation of war all around and civil disorder). Finally, the Commune is a name for redeemable revolutionary failure. As Badiou specifies, the Commune never took Versailles, failed to procure stocks of gold from the banks, lacked a central military command structure, remained too urban, thereby encouraging the rural base to ally with the conservatives, and was unable to control the schism between Proudhonians (who favored small worker associations) and Blanquistes (who favored extreme centralization and control of the state by a small group of armed partisans). And yet, despite the impasse between an anti-state and statist party politics, the Commune gave a body to the idea of Communism. In this respect, it operates not so much like a political predicate, but more like what Giorgio Agamben characterizes as the Pauline word of faith, expressed by the nominal syntagma Jesus Messiah (as opposed to Jesus is the Messiah).29 Messiah, Agamben observes, is not a predicate tacked onto the subject Jesus, but something inseparable from him, without, however, constituting a proper name.30 Jesus Messiah qualified as faith in a world of indivisible events, is arguably the equivalent of Commune in Badious political lexicon, that is to say, a nominal syntagma that exceeds historical predication.31 A preeminent term of belief, Commune is in Badious ascription re-activated by Maoism: first, with reference to the Shanghai Commune of 1927 (when workers overthrew warlords); second, to the Shanghai Commune of 1967, which diverted state power from the Stalinist model of party, and third, in 1971, to Chinas centennial celebration of the Paris Commune during

EMILE ZOLA, LA DBCLE (1892), in OEUVRES COMPLTES D'EMILE ZOLA (1967). MARX, supra note 26, available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/ 1871/civil-war-france/ch03.htm. 29 GIORGIO AGAMBEN, THE TIME THAT REMAINS: A COMMENTARY ON THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS 127 (Patricia Dailey trans., Stanford University Press 2005) (2000). 30 Id. at 128. 31 Id. at 129.

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which Mao paid homage to revolutionary principles that would last even in the face of the Cultural Revolutions failure.32 *** It is only possible to think the singularity of a thought by evacuating time, Badiou advances, in a paraphrase of Sylvain Lazaruss argument, in his 1996 book The Anthropology of Names.33 Why must time be evacuated? In order, it would seem, for the singularity of the possible to be inserted as a caesura into the sequence of political time. This is not a caesura featured as open-ness, but as actualization of the generic multiple; as subtraction of event from situation, or as escape from the regime of the one. In an essay on Heidegger (The Question of Being Today), Badiou queries:
[W]hat name can thinking give to its own immemorial attempt to subtract being from the grip of the one? . . . Can we learn to mobilize those figures who so obviously exempt themselves from Heideggers destinal apparatus? Figures such as the magnificent Lucretius, in whom the power of the poem, far from maintaining the recourse to the Open in the midst of epochal distress, tries instead to subtract thinking from every return of the gods and firmly establish it within the certitude of the multiple?34

In a similarly subtractive way, the thinkability of thought will be distributed through the namebut without naming it.35 Badiou writes in Metapolitics:
. . . [a] name . . . bearing a possible that will have been established by a prescription . . . the Convention, . . . the sansculottes, . . . the army of Year II. . . . By citing these factual data, doesnt one cause the name to lapse into a multiple system of objective referents? Not at all. For these places, named but indefinable, are rigorously coextensive with the singularity of the name. They are themselves prescriptions, which localises [sic] the name within a multiplicity, a multiplicity that has the essential property of remaining homogenous to the subjectivity that it localises.36

The naming of the possible prescription, if one extrapolates here, has everything to do with the possibility of bringing a truth or prescription into existence, of making it happen in political time. This
Badiou, La Commune de Paris, supra note 21, at 11-12. BADIOU, supra note 1, at 35 (emphasis in original); see SYLVAIN LAZARUS, LANTHROPOLOGIE DU NOM (1996). 34 ALAIN BADIOU, The Question of Being Today, in THEORETICAL WRITINGS 43 (Ray Brassier & Albert Toscano trans. & eds., Continuum 2006). 35 BADIOU, supra note 1, at 31. 36 Id. at 33 (emphasis in original).
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idea of the name of the event as a subtracted possible or thinkability is what allows, if one adopts the Badiou-Lazarus paradigm, political time to be re-sequenced. The Century actively enlists poetry to re-time the political. Badiou tries to imagine how the century would articulate its movement in its own language, subjectivizing itself as century-think. Two poems allow us to hear the century speak, so to speak. The first poem is by St. John Perse (1887-1975), a privileged, turn-of-the-century Francophone diplomat from Guadeloupe; the second is by Paul Celan, a Rumanianborn, polyglot, Heideggerian Jewish translator who survived a labor camp during World War II and committed suicide in 1967. Anabasis is their common title, a trope signifying errant path, an unedited return or garement. For Badiou, anabasis is the name for a small century interrupted on the eve of 68; a poetic span leading from Perses fraternal axiom (the I which becomes we in the voyage out, the sacrifice of identitarian security), to Celans ensemble (the set of we that escapes I, the specter haunting the 1970s in the form of a group subject, or set or category excluded from its own terms). This timing of anabasis is a suspended revolutionary temporality; a minicentury in need of subtraction from the Restoration, which is itself timed according to competitive individualism and the regime of profit. Taking my cue from Badiou, I want now to name another fractional time-signature that I will call the Badiou century; a temporality that is of the 1970s insofar as it coincides with Badious Maoist turn, and his rejection, from then on, of all systems of capitaloparliamentarianism that represent themselves through the subjective law of democracy.37 The Badiou century re-opens the revolutionary sequence of the Commune or group subject and is identifiable with a heightened sense of time itself. Chronotopesthe spaces and sensations of time that collect around iconic datesare compressed, accelerated, and rendered transhistorical/ As Dominique Lecourt put it (writing about 68): In our theoretical rear-view mirror we saw 1936, 1871, 1848 and 1793 march past in speeded-up motion. We rediscovered France, classical country of the class struggle, as the old Marx had written. Some doctrinaires were predicting the Commune for the end of June!38 Badious century, shaped by the writers with whom he shared literary and activist trajectories (Natacha Michel, Pierre Guytotat, Ollivier Rolin, the Red Hawks Guy Lardreau, and Christian Jambet), is marked by Althusserianism, Les Maos, antiimperialism, anti-Oedipus, worker strikes, new social movements,

Interview by Peter Hallward with Alain Badiou (1998), in HALLWARD, supra note 2, at 45. DOMINIQUE LECOURT, THE MEDIOCRACY: FRENCH PHILOSOPHY SINCE 1968, at 28 (Gregory Elliott trans., Verso 2001) (1999).

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sexual liberation, and the initial organizing of les sans-papiers and les sans-abris. This century continues in the refusal to surrender to postwall ideologies of capitalist triumphalism and neo-liberal consensus, and in what Bruno Bosteels, in a trenchant essay on Badious politics, refers to as post-Maoism, an uncompleted political sequence that exceeds the period normally assigned to French Maoism, 1966-1976. Bosteels argues that 1976, rather than serving as a historical grace note to May 68 or as a watershed dividing early and late Badiou, should be treated instead as a caesura in a theory/philosophy/politics timeline of uneven intervals:
. . .the commonly accepted wisdom among Badious readers now holds that, by the mid-to late eighties, we are witness to a clean break away from all dialectical forms of thinkingincluding a break away, therefore, from the thoughts of Mao Zedong. At least Peter Hallward has the virtue of outlining the possibility of a much more painstaking investigation into the continuing legacy of Badious Maoism. This legacy involves not just an unflinching fidelity to forms of political commitment but also a whole series of theoretical and philosophical invariants.39

Bosteels insists that Badious theory of truth procedures (qualified as enqutes, or investigations of evental sites) defaults to Maos notion of critique, as exemplified in Maos 1927 Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan.40 He sees Badious activism, (manifest in his early co-foundation in 1969 with Emmanuel Terray, Natacha Michel, Sylvain Lazarus, and Jacques Rancire of a Marxist-Leninist Socialist Party), as of a piece with the early Maoist writingsThorie de la contradiction (1975), De lidologie (1976), Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hglienne (1978), Thorie du sujet (1982)as well as with more recent work like The Century, including its chapter One Divides into Two. Bosteels casts Badious transverse of dualisms as so many deviations leading away from statist fixities and gauchiste fixations on a utopian plus one of the historical situation. The Maoist alternative, between Deleuze and Althusser, or between Sartre and Althusser is posed against Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffes enhanced politics of antagonism, or Zizeks Lacanian manipulations of the void in the real. For Bosteels, Badious Maoism fuses uncompromising formalism and the most radical subjectivism41 in mathematical ontology, and apprehends the political melodrama that was the Cultural Revolution: What, he asks, if the Cultural Revolution contained the scenario for a melodrama of gigantic

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Bosteels, supra note 17, at 578. Id. at 578-79. Id. at 611.

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proportions?42 The spiritualist Maoists Guy Lardrau and Christian Jambet, provide one answer to this question. They fashion an angel who personifies the beautiful soul of the Cultural Revolution, unshackled by ideology. This construct of a purist subject realizes Badious principle of ontological subtraction. Subtraction, as a constant re-radicalizing of the militant, as resistance to narrow economist strategizing, promises a Marxist Risorgimento or post-Maoist return to Marx. The failures of the Cultural Revolution, the shorted revolutionary experiments in Poland and Chiapas, the anachronistic utopias of the radical seventies, (with their baggage of contemporary nostalgia)are re-purposed as attempts to un-time the metrics of capitalized time.43 Maoism, and the Cultural Revolution in particular, are thus positioned as the 1970s version of the 1871 Commune, that is to say, as the grand political melodrama of le sicle. *** Taking full measure of the melodrama of Badious Maoism, Bosteels draws on Badious polemics, philosophical manifestos, and Rouge-Gorge lectures. But I think he could have strengthened his case for melodrama still further by attending to Badious literary oeuvre. Here one finds what may be the most radical instances of experiments in revolutionary untiming. This is the political enunciated through an operatic militance that gives performative force to Badious vision of politics without party. Documented in real time, in all their messiness and ill-synchronized procession, the politics of class struggle, sectarian infighting, colliding epistemes, and violent disagreements over strategy and tactics find expression in a declamatory mode that often comes dangerously close to casuistry (as Peter Goodrich reminds us), in its slide among the registers of theology, law, and politics.44 LEcharpe rouge [The Red Scarf], a romanopra or operatic novel, is perhaps the most relevant work from this point of view. Published in 1979 and staged in 1984 by Badious close friend Antoine Vitez, with music by Georges Aperghis, and Badious libretto, it captures the 70s, insofar as it involves an experiment in turning Maos credo of one divides into two into theatrical praxis. LEcharpe rouge sits mid-point in a literary career that spans Badious first novel, Almagestes, published in 1964 and the Ahmed trilogy of the 1990s: Ahmed le subtil ou Scapin 84 (a collaboration with Christian Schiaretti and the

42 43 44

Id. at 612. Id. at 619-24. Peter Goodrich, The New Casuistry, 33 CRITICAL INQUIRY 673 (2007).

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Comdie de Reims, staged at the Avignon Festival), Ahmed philosophe, and Ahmed se fche. Most recently, in 1997 Calme bloc ici-bas appeared (a novel whose title reprises the famous line from Mallarms poem Le Tombeau dEdgar Poe). Ahmed le subtil invites being read through the lens of Cyrano de Bergerac insofar as it arguably rewrites the tradition of French national theater from an Algerian immigrants point of view. Badiou takes on the full repertory of Edmond de Rostands stock pyrotechnical devices: the tirade, the rapid-fire verbal duel, wordplay that breaks syntax down into a defamiliarizing array of spaces and abstracted particles of diction. Ahmed le subtil is radical comedy, with Ahmed playing communists, reactionaries, syndicalists and extreme-left militants off against each. He is a protean figure, with no fixed position of his own, but in the end he rights the situation there is a grand resolution where all sides come together to form an ironically harmonious celebration of a new political compact. In contrast to the Ahmed plays, Badious early novel, Almagestes, is more genuinely utopian. The title refers to the Latin translation of the Arabic title of Ptolemys famous astronomical treatise, and is lifted from a verse of Saint-John Perses poem Exile (almagestes, portulans et bestiaires) that Badiou uses as an epigraph. Almagestes sits in apposition to nautical maps and bestiaries, suggesting new taxonomies and new worlds. It is probably no exaggeration to say that the ambition of this precocious work stretches as far as the redesign of the universe; from the paths of stars to planetary alignments. Sporting a photo on the back cover of a young, flute-playing Alain Badiou, Almagestes reads like a documentary of the revolutionary carnival that fomented the conditions of May 1968.

Figure 2. Picture of Alain Badiou on back-cover of Almagestes45

45

ALAIN BADIOU, Back-Cover to ALMAGESTES (1964) (reprinted with permission).

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It is a babelian threnody of marxism, existentialism, and structuralism that doubles as a diagram of the evental site, or void of the situation. The book comes equipped with a map resembling a situationist plan of Paris plotted on the drive (streets commemorating heroes of the left Danton, Fabre, Hugo, Guesde offer escape from the larger avenues named after military figures and colonies).

Figure 3. Map from Almagestes46 A set of instructions at the back provides the key to computing the actions of the characters. The cast is drawn from the student milieu, with each personage symbolizing a mathematical ontology. FD = C is the equation signifying how much Frvilles affection for Dastaing disturbs Chantal. B (Brard) is the integer of subjective neutrality, an X-factor of transferential alterity.

Figure 4. Algorithm of Characters, from Almagestes47

46

Id. (reprinted with permission).

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Throughout the book, the coda tells us, self-properties and thingproperties will be exchanged. Characters will shift status as subject and object, and engage in word-sharing thereby precluding all claims to exclusionary, proprietary identity. This de-totalized ontology is complemented by a non-linear diegesis loosely structured around the quest for a new Babel, an explosive and prophetic cipher of truth.
First Truth The general purpose of this recit is the attainment of an equilibrium point between the theme of the Epoque (of action) and the books rhetorical esthetic. It is an exercise in innumerable, more or less arbitrary rules, dissolved by practical fusion. Having reached this point, Almagestes liquidates its subject (the expressive baroque) by submitting it to the test of human violence.48

An obscure program, to be sure, but one that becomes more accessible through dialogue. The characters expend great energy on parsing revolutionary slogans (We must mobilizes the masses, and right now! . . .Well never do anything with these radico-bigoted chickens.),49 and fighting over terms. The choice of salaried class over ensemble of the salaried, or proletariat over victims of neocapitalism is no mere exercise in theoretical hair-splitting, but a matter of political truth or death. The reflection on language, [says Badiou in his prolegomena], is substantial, not just theoretical.50 Almagestes serves as a prelude to Badious The Red Scarf which I stumbled across by chance in a bookstore on West 4th Street. The flyleaf boasted a personal dedication to Frederick Castle, a member of Warhols circle, and author in 1986 of a cult book titled Gilbert Green: The Real Right Way to Dress For Spring: a Novel of 1968.51 Castle, in a transatlantic fraternal gesture, had once visited Badiou in Paris to discuss his interest in translating and staging a segment of Almagestes in New York. The linkthrough this dedicationbetween the 1964 novel and the 1979 narrative opera struck me as significant; it bracketed the 70sits laws of the collective, recourse to the Commune, and great melodrama of cultural revolutiontherefore, I have designated that period the Badious century. The Red Scarf is above all an experiment in political retiming that involves imagining a post-revolutionary possible world. Hypotheticals are arraigned and subjected to critical reflection in the spirit of a key
Id. at 308 (reprinted with permission). Id at 310 (authors translation). Id. at 146-47 (authors translation). Id. at 9 (authors translation). FREDERICK TED CASTLE, GILBERT GREEN: THE REAL RIGHT WAY TO DRESS FOR SPRING: A NOVEL OF 1968 (1986). Though the novel was written in 1968 it was not published until eighteen years later.
47 48 49 50 51

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question posed by Badiou at the Cardozo Law and Event conference: What becomes of the poor worker after the Revolution? The Red Scarf, one might say, responds to this question proleptically by plotting a sequence in which the Paris Commune of 1871 is elided with that brief moment in 1968 when the fragile coalition between auto-workers and students gave rise to the hope of a life-changing general strike. The sequence also splices episodes from the Cultural Revolution: sessions of auto-critique, endless arguments over revisionism, stagings of one divides into two, and the meting out of justice (as when Antoine takes out Gaston as he savors a gourmet meal, to the background chant: Its the final struggle/Lets group, and tomorrow, the International/will be the generic form of the human.)52 Badious aim here seems to be the revival of the historical novel in the genealogy of Hugo, Stendhal, and Zola. It shares with Hugos Quatre-vingt Trieze a taste for the political freize, big panoramic scenes, larger-than-life characters who retain traits of real historical figures, polyphonic voices, giant blocks of prose, the mlange of styles (classical, romantic, and modern), and a plot highlighting the singularity of the egalitarian revolution. And just as Hugo un-times 1793, treating the date as a baptismal fount for a futural event, so Badiou a-synchronizes the Commune of 1871 with his chorus of workers from every period and nation; some in nineteenth-century smocks, others in caps worn during the October Revolution, still others in the twentieth-century uniform of worker blue. Badious political functioning of the outmoded and the anachronistic, like his efforts to represent the psychic disarray of epistemological rupture, owes much to his former master Louis Althusser, specifically Althussers mandate of a belated return to Marx. As Dominique Lecourt reports, Althussers renewal of Marxist theory as an antihumanism involved playing off late Marx against early Marx, thereby creating a space for the expression of delayed materialism, or non-Hegelian dialectics:
Althussers stroke of genius consisted in endeavoring to collect the payout in aid of a renovated Marxism. He baptized historical materialism the science of history and, basing himself on Gaston Bachelard, revealed to our astounded eyes the famous epistemological break that definitively separated Marx from his own youth from 1845 onwards! Exploiting the word structure, referring to Lvi-Strauss and Lacan, he conveyed the impression that Marxism could benefit from this effervescence and confer a revolutionary political meaning on the new disciplineswithout any liability of course. . . . . Althusser considered that Marxs philosophy was, in reality, to

52

ALAIN BADIOU, LCHARPE ROUGE 69 (1979) (authors translation).

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be found in the practical state of his mature works, but that he had not articulated it explicitly. Through a symptomatic reading of texts, Althusser applied himself to bringing it to light . . . . The pen of our master quivered with the turbulent alliance he sought to forge between Spinoza and Pascal through the intermediary of Machiavelli. . . . He advanced a non-Hegelian conception of the social totality, which repudiated the reigning economism; he invited reconsideration of the type of causality governing social phenomena, and opened up original lines of investigation in anthropology and sociology, as well as linguistic theory.53

The stakes of alternative models of causality and dialectics are especially apparent in The Red Scarf. As in Almagestes, the jumble of scenes and mix of forms (airs, ariosos, and recitatives), exaggerates the sense that time is out of joint.54 The action is loosely organized around factional struggles among capitalists, Maoists, Communists, and gauchistes of varying stripes. The genre is epic, in the mold of Brechtian epic theater; and constructed around impassioned speeches, ideological disputations, tirades, and tribunals. The effect here resembles what Roland Barthes ascribed to Brechts verbal realism; his art of the secousse or shake-up; his revelation of the political in the

LECOURT, supra note 38, at 17-19. Despite their many antipodal positions, Badiou shares with Derrida a fascination with time out of joint. In Specters of Marx, Derrida explores how the name Marx haunts the postWall world in the form of a desire for a communism-to-come, a new New International. JACQUES DERRIDA, SPECTERS OF MARX: THE STATE OF THE DEBT, THE WORK OF MOURNING, AND THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (Peggy Kamuf trans., Routledge 1994) (1993). In its more convincing passages, Specters of Marx names Marx as temporal diffrance: the time is out of joint, the age is off its hinges. Id. at 49, 77, 85. Derrida locates a symptom of this differential timing in post Cold War forms of the civil-international war . . . whose dividing line cannot even be distinguished any longer. Id. at 80. If one puts Derridas deconstructive Marxism into dialogue with his life-long preoccupation with signature, trace, and the de-ownership of what is proper to proper names, we arrive at a notion of the event as a site of potential de-predication, an aporia or interruption in the capitalist program. For Derrida, the dispropriation of what is proper to proper names breaks the ontotheological program of historical teleology, halting the march of spirit (Geist). Derrida writes in Specters of Marx: If since Marx names a future-to-come as much as a past, the past of a proper name, it is because the proper of a proper name will always remain to come. And secret. It will remain to come not like the future now [maintenant] of that which holds together . . . : it remains to be thought how a disparate could still, itself, hold together, and if one can ever speak of the disparate itself, selfsame, of a sameness without property. Id. at 17. A dense passage, but Derrida seems here to be articulating a de-propertied name of the event; a nominative stripped of its genitive or possessive case, such that the properties of nouns are disseminated, de-privatized, re-opened to the communis. This return of the Commune is not incompatible with Badious politics. And like Derrida, Badiou inscribes advental onto evental political time. Though Derrida, following Walter Benjamin, endorses weak messianism, id. at 181, and Badiou, in line with Saint Paul, subscribes to a resurrectional temporality (modeled after Pauls Christ is resurrected), both philosophers, it would seem, assign to philosophy the task of re-jiggering temporal measure, thus opening up the possibility of re-sequencing and reprogramming political time.

53 54

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noise emitted by signs when their naturalized word order is broken up and they fall out of the logosphere.55 Staccato Brechtian inflections are fully present in Badious text. A vast cast of characters enters and exits; some are identified by proper name, others by generic status and occupation: Worker, Immigrant, Youth, Comrade, Soldier, Cop, Peasant, Teacher. The opera-novel is written in argotinflected French seasoned with immigr dialect and a local patois of Badious own invention. Like Almagestes, The Red Scarf maps a world of post-historical revolutionary time that, in the tradition of Atlantis or Mores utopia, is both here and nowhere. Shaded according to liberated and nonliberated zones, this is a cartography in which the French hexagon merges with the land-masses of its former colonial territories. There is a capital city more or less where Paris might be, a tropical south-west, an orientalized interior corridor, a Midi of port towns, and a Massif Central dominated by mining and steel production.

Figure 5. Map from LEcharpe rouge

55

ROLAND BARTHES, Brecht et le discourse, in LE BRUISSEMENT DE LA LANGUE 243 (1984).

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In this hypothetical France, history is as unhinged as geography.56 A revolutionary event has occurred, but its name and outcome remain uncertain. In the early scenes we are introduced to Antoine, a pur et dur, and Claire, the radicalized daughter of a corporate magnate. Antoine professes love for Claire, but she refuses his invitation to conduct political education campaigns for the people on the island: What would I do in this tunnel of principles next to you who needs nothing else?57 They argue about politics; she aligns herself with the ordinary worker, he exhorts her to transcend the ordinary by becoming an exceptional citizen. Their exchange sets the program insofar as it takes up Badious conviction that the worker is the fulcrum of the ongoing rvolution galitaire. From the 80s on, Badiou and his comrades in LOrganisation Politique would insist that the term worker was being unduly displaced by immigr and clandestine. In 2005, Organisation Politique launched the rallying cry: immigr, no, worker yes. Peter Hallward reminds us that for Badiou, workers means something almost as broad as people, insofar as they cannot be reduced to units of capital.58 He cites Badious article of 1991 from La Distance Politique: The word workers, is a

56 Badiou, the fiction writer and playwright may be read alongside the novelist Natacha Michel, a co-founder of Organisation Politique, and long-standing comrade in arms. Michels mise-en-scnes, like those of Badiou, capture the out-of-sync chronotope that registers the event. As in Badious literary work, we find a mix of political passion, Eros, and violent recrimination characteristic of gauchiste culture in the late sixties and seventies. From her La Chine Europnne (1975), to the more recent Circulaire toute ma vie humaine (2005), Michel chronicles the destinies of brilliant 68 theorist-philosophers, some of whom retain fidelity to the engagements of militant times, others of whom have joined the ranks of what Dominique Lecourt calls the pitres penseurs; mediocrats such as Andr Glucksmann, Bernard-Henry Lvy, Luc Ferry, and Alain Renaut, who march to the rhythm of technocratic neo-liberalism or, like the new moralist Andr Comte-Sponville, embrace new spiritualisms and privatized credos of love. Circulaire chronicles these post-68 political transvaluations. Her protagonists include Thomas Fro, a new-age spiritualist with a cult following, Simon Jude, a Marxist philosopher whose courses once inspired fear in his disciples but who, over the years, has given in to the Americanstyle academic temptations of soft politics and high lecture fees, and Sebastien Lechevalier, a militant who refuses to renounce his principles, but who recognizes with anguish that he is out of step with the times. Into this mix is thrown a young woman called Nour who discovers a cache of radical tracts spanning the years 1966 to 1972 and suddenly realizes that: Life hadnt always been what she had known . . . . Apparently life could be changed, and human beings, it seemed, devoted their whole existence to it. Where were they? What had they become? Why didnt she see them anymore? Or were they somewhere still, disguised or visible, and she hadnt recognized them? NATACHA MICHEL, CIRCULAIRE TOUTE MA VIE HUMAINE 147 (2005) (authors translation). When Nours pursuer, an ancient Mao turned famous biologist, comes across the same memorabilia he too experiences the shock of anachronism on seeing terms like factory struggle, revisionism, exploitative boss, GRCP (the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution). This re-timed anachronism opens up the possibility of a non-foreclosed revolutionary sequence, sprung from reactionary periodicity into an inter-generational, futural duration. Id. at 147. 57 BADIOU, supra note 52, at 11 (authors translation). 58 HALLWARD, supra note 2, at 231.

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condition of freedom of thought.59 The melodrama of The Red Scarf grows precisely out of this crisis of who lays legitimate claim to the worker. Claires brother Simon represents Marxist-Leninist-Maoism and the objectives of the Cultural Revolution, while Vestral, an insurgent modeled after Che who has been captured by Simon, represents autonomia, an alliance of worker-campasinos wedded to a rigorist refusal of party. Similar scissions shape the civil war on the Island as Communist Islanders face off against nativist autogestionnaires who categorically reject the influence of superstates and the jurisdiction of central committees. These conditions of political impasse and civil disorder prompt Claire to long for a time before when a transparent world existed that fused discipline with revolt.60 What Claire desires is a new dispensation of justice that will effect an evental break, even at the risk of her own purge. The Red Scarf culminates in a trial, with Antoine and Claire pronounced guilty of counter-revolution. At this point, one could say, Brechtian operatic militancy takes all: the stage is turned over to feminist militants who issue statutes, authorize executions, enact revolutionary subjectivation (justice, courage), and proclaim a new century, christened an poque of forests, a kind of grassed commons.61 The situation is far from utopianrival models of party less politics are not reconciled, the circle of the Commune without party is not squaredbut it renders thinkable the terms of a new nomos, a world of new names, laws, and axioms. The Red Scarfs ceaseless replay of scission and revisionism is the form of the nomos in its embryonic state: non-dialectical, intervallic, historically compressed, futural, and out of step with the times.

59 60 61

Id. at 232. BADIOU, supra note 52, at 209 (authors translation). Id. at 245 (authors translation).