Monday, 1 November 2010

You must choose...

‘There are two ways of rescuing the Idea of communism in philosophy today: either by abandoning Hegel, not without regret, incidentally, and only after repeated considerations of his writings (which is what I do), or by putting forward a different Hegel, an unknown Hegel, and that is what Zizek does, based on Lacan (who was a magnificent Hegelian - or so Zizek would claim at first explicitly and later secretly, all along the way).
Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, trans. David Macey and Steve Corcoran (London and New York: Verso, 2010).
Note 6 pp.237-8

I've been listening to Alexander Galloway's lectures on contemporary French thought, although still waiting for the one on Laruelle, and he offers an interesting mapping of the current 'moment'. He distinguishes between those in search of the absolute versus a re-articulation of historical materialism. Broadly, I'd say, he follows Peter Hallward's articulation of contemporary French philosophy as dominated by 'singular' orientations, although Galloway splits this into quasi-Hegelian/Idealists of the absolute (roughly Malabou/Zizek) and realists of the absolute (Meillassoux and the speculative realists). Badiou's probably falls slightly uncomfortably here, and it would be interesting to hear Alexander's reflections on the 'broker' of many of these currents.

Also, I'd say that these figurations of the 'absolute', although often opposed to the Derridean/post-structuralist disenchantment with metaphysics, are definitely post-Derridean in quite a strong sense. Explicitly so in the case of Malabou, but also implicitly in Zizek (Zizek's Hegel is post-Derridean, whether Zizek likes that or not), and we could also say in terms of Badiou's ontology of sets, or Meillassoux as well. These 'absolutes' are not the usual forms/substances of so-called 'trad metaphysics'.

Galloway's own alternative 'historical materialism' is articulated through a Deleuzian/Marxian mix, with a little Stiegler, to reformulate the confluence of thought and control as the condition of thinking liberation. In terms of 'camps' I find myself in his, in that I'm more concerned with the immanent political forms of resistance, rather than some metaphysical or post-metaphysical absolute. It was interesting to hear the quote from Heidegger (presumably the 'Letter on Humanism'), in which Heidegger opposes his own engagement with the truth of Being to Sartre's engagement on behalf of beings. I'm for the ontic in this case...and so, I guess is Alexander (also interesting to think Badiou's project, especially in Being and Event (his most Heideggerean book) as the squaring of this circle).


bat020 said...

I've always felt Badiou's ontology of presentation could only come after Derrida's deconstruction of ontologies of presence. Badiou himself alludes in that direction in one of the endnotes to Being & Event (p428).

Benjamin said...

He certainly does, and even the ontological idea that differences are everywhere, mere 'stuff', still seems to me to owe much to Derrida/Deleuze.
BE, as I remark, is surprisingly Heideggerean, and hence in dialogue with Derrida (although I think Badiou's literal dialogue at the time was with Lacoue-Labarthe/Nancy

bat020 said...

But what's startling about his version of "differences everywhere" is that he insists this is banal, that we should be "indifferent towards difference". I remember the first time I read this it was like a light went on in my head.

As regards his relationship to Heidegger, I think he's pretty transparent and explicit about this in, eg, Manifesto for Philosophy or the intro to B&E. It's a "diagonal" relationship - he endorses Heidegger at precisely specified points, and negates the rest. I'm not sure I'd say this ammounts to a Heideggereanism tho (unless you think concern with ontology is necessarily Heideggerean, an arguable position but not one Badiou would agree with).

Ben said...

I can't say I find much to agree with in Galloway's Stiegler lecture, particularly framing everything in terms of Deleuze's 'Postscript on the Societies of Control'. I guess I just don't see that disciplinary society /control society distinction as anywhere near as productive as Galloway (+ many others) seem to.

Benjamin said...

well I tend to agree, although the society of control essay is useful for what it critiques in Deleuze (shame I don't think he really turned these insights fully on his own work). I just enjoyed the general mapping of the field, although I have yet to finish the last lecture. I also thought I'd like to be giving lectures like this...

brunopeixe said...

Hi Benjamin,

I find that note on Badiou's text intriguing since I first read it. First because it seems to bear little relation to the rest of the text - the written version of the 2009 Birkbeck talk on the Communist Hypothesis conference. And this is all the more enigmatic since it carries a strong assertion on the subject which is the focus of that text: communism. And that assertion seems to be that communism bears some unavoidable relation to the interpretation of Hegel.

Why is the destiny of communism in philosophy necessarily involved with the interpretation of Hegel - and I say necessarily because the relation implied in Badiou's quote is one of necessity. This seems all the more odd to me, since in Badiou's last writings, from Sarkozy on, communism receives a Platonic treatment, as an "Idea" (with a capitalized I), even a "regulative idea", with a set of invariants (resurrected from an old work, De L'idéologie), very far from its classical referents in the Marxist tradition, even in the most hegelians moments of that tradition.

Probably the reference to the secret current linking Hegel to communism isn't on the marxist tradition, not even on the question of the dialectic, but then where is it to be found? I think I understand why Badiou defends the need to depart from Hegel, namely the need to be done with totality and to avoid historicism.

What I don't get in that quote is the necessity of a relation - Hegel to communism - that, at least in the latest formulation of communism in Badiou, is less than clear. At least to me.


Benjamin said...

sorry for the delay. I guess why Hegel is the dialectic and something about the inscription of communism in reality/actuality. I think, and only think, Badiou is trying to grasp an historicisation that is not a historicism. But, as you say, the necessity of Hegel seems thin - why not the necessity of Marx?