You are on page 1of 12

Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 1

Badious Affirmation: Emancipatory Politics Today



Daniel Tutt
PhD Candidate, European Graduate School
Published by
Brev Spread
Issue 12 October 2013
http://brevspread.com/Brev_Spread_Issue_12_Final.pdf



Since Alain Badious first great work of philosophy, Theory of the Subject (1981), and on
through his more recent major text, Logics of Worlds (2009), the context of radical
politics has always served as a reference point to his philosophical ideas. As the last great
Platonic thinker, Badious work is compelling in that it maintains fidelity to resurrecting
the names of truth, universality, justice, eternity, courage, and love in the midst of our
postmodern discourses that remain tethered to theoretical jargon. In Badiou, the discourse
of politics always falls under the name of equality, a word that has become almost
meaningless in our times. Liberalism develops a rights-based approach to justice and
equality, under the assumption that justice and equality can be distributed amongst the
diverse and multicultural populations. The false assumption inherent to liberalism for
Badiou, and for perhaps every thinker in allegiance to Marx is that the notion that the
State under capitalism can dispense with such justice remains a hallucination at best.
Indeed, Badiou maintains that equality is always as an exception to the law, a working of
politics in fidelity to an Idea.

In these brief remarks and reflections, I want to create some linkages between Badious
writings on emancipatory politics in the context of the global insurrections from Occupy
Wall Street to Taqsim Square. Ever since the May 68 protests against the then-emerging
global capitalist order, Badiou opened his core notions of politics. May 68 was Badious
Road to Damascusa conversionary point both philosophically and experientially.
Badiou grounds his experiences as a young philosopher caught up in the May 68 protests
as an experience that the revolutionary Left in France had never successfully seen in the
twentieth century: a larger unification of the students and workers under a new figure of
radical equality. While Badiou certainly represents the last of the great philosophes of the
May 68 generation in France, for whose likes we can name Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze
and Sartrewe should also be wary of the fetishizing potential that incurs when even
invoking the name of May 68. The discourse on emancipatory potential on the left in
France and across the world is most certainly in decline, despite the rise of these riots the
world over. We find in Badious recent work on politics that he has taken a new turn in
relation to the Marxist project, and that he identifies the form of these riots with an
epochal opening akin to the early 1848 riots that were brutally repressed by the state, but
that opened up a new epoch of emancipatory potential under the name of equality.

In many ways, we are experiencing an opportune moment for the resurgence of Badious
thought with the rise of the protests from Occupy to Taqsim Square insofar as his work in
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 2
Theory of the Subject details the ways in which fidelity to radical ideas can garner greater
discipline. One argument that I want to make, apropos Adrian Johnstons work on Badiou
and Zizek, is that the question of discipline prior to the event is one way to look at the
future of Occupy Wall Street. We are also discovering each day that identity politics,
both in the halls of academe and in most critical and deconstructive theory, has largely
failed to expose the deeper class conflicts as an underlying antagonism. This failure of
identity politics can be understood for Badiou as given by the state of the situation itself.
For Badiou, the difference between myself and my brother, and the migrant worker next
door is both immeasurable (infinitely other) and insignificant (in-different) for our
inclusion together in the world. Unlike Levinas who took this absolute difference and
formed it as the basis of ontology, Badiou sees it as merely a part of inclusion in a world,
and there is only one world. We perform our inclusion in this one world when we insist
that those excluded from our world are our own brothers and sisters, despite the fact that
we share no metaphysical essence of commonality between them and amongst us
(brothers).

What matters most is that we agree on what makes us human, and here, cultural identity
is left to the multipleto the reign of infinite differences that color our world already.
What matters in this world is simply your existence. Ones belonging to the set (world) is
always implied merely by your existing in it. As Badiou says in Ethics:

"Differences are as obvious between me and my cousin from Lyon as they are
between the Shiite community of Iraq and the fat cowboy of Texas.
1


We dont need to return to any sense of ones appearance or identity to qualify their
belonging to the world, and as such, the entire tradition in philosophy from Hegel onward
that looks to recognition and communication as a moment of the realization of the world
or communitybecomes superfluous. Differences are given as such even though a
human in this world can appear in other worlds. But politics, as a condition of truth, is
about the affirmation of one world, a world that is expressed through the fidelity to an
Event that ruptures the multiples in each world and creates the affirmation of one world.
You affirm your existence when you affirm the set (group that is excluded) this brings
about an Event in a world.

The point is that identity politics fails insofar as it relies on an affirmation of difference
on the basis of culture, and not on the affirmation of those excluded to a world, which is
never exclusion on the basis of their culture. In fact, does not multicultural capitalism do
rather well with providing the full inclusion of others based on culture and identity? Yet
the problem remains what of a world that is devoid of Events, especially in our world,
which is too often a world that lacks any fidelity to those excluded. What in this world
has to be re-created completely anew? Badiou names this figure the unnamable of the
situation. Where might the unnamable be located? Badiou has provided some indication
in a recent lecture on art and politics that in the case of the Tahrir uprising of 2011 that
the unnamable occurred in the unification of Christians and Muslimsa unity he
compared to that experienced in May 68 between workers and students.

1
Bauiou, Alain, "#$%&', 2S
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 3

The protests over the last three years also constitute a shift in how we must think models
of resistance that came out of the anti-globalization movement that started in the early
1990s. Badious thought on our current moment, and its potential for emancipatory
political discourse recognizes a shift in capitalist relations at a macro level. Capitalism
has regressed to a stage that resembles its early 1848 period, what Badiou calls
gangster capitalism.
2
Instead of deploying resistance along the model of what Badiou
refers to as NegriismBadious conception of emancipatory politics insists that the
site of revolutionary activity occur as a critique and a challenge to democracy, and not as
a critique of political economy. What are we to make of this seemingly strange
proposition? Does it resemble a Nietzschean anti-democratic spirit? Does Badious
critique of democracy actually maintain democracy as a viable mode of governance
following the revolution, as it were?

Badiou identifies the problem at the level of ideology, what he refers to as the prevailing
ideology today, democratic materialism. Democratic materialism is the capitalist logic
that situates our symbolic life coordinates in if you like an ultra-transcendental manner.
As we will examine, Badious democratic materialism is thought along the oldest
philosophical line of difference available: that between Plato and Aristotle. Badious
prescriptive approach to politics seeks to apply "the direct and divisive application of a
universal principle or axiom
3
by removing political activity from the space of the state
entirely.

Most critics of Badiou, including many of his own disciples such as Peter Hallward, have
raised important concerns over his subtractive approach to politics and its potential of
being utterly apolitical or stoical in its insistence on working outside of the state. With the
rise of protests, riots, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street, to name but a few
emancipatory political movements over the last two years, many have turned to Badious
system and asked if these events constitute events in the Badiouian sense of the term?
This question is flawed from the perspective of Badiouian philosophy insofar as an event
is measured in the future anterior, and is not empirically identifiable as such. More
practically, todays problem is not so much the problem of determining the event; it is in
following the consequences of the potential event. In order to activate a form of
resistance that beyond the occasional outbursts of revolutionary enthusiasm and begins to
harness and discipline time, as Badiou would say, we should begin by understanding
Badious dialectical framework of affirmation.


Democracy and Affirmative Negation

After the failure of the state form of socialism of the twentieth century, Badiou claims
that todays problem is one of understanding the role of negativitythat is, of negating
the existing order. More precisely, the theoretical problem is built around whether our
trust in the power of negativity is still possible. In the classical form of Marxist and

2
Alain Badiou. The Rebirth of History (London: Verso, 2012), 24
3
Hallward, Peter The Politics of Prescription South Atlantic Quarterly, Fall 2005. Pg. 238
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 4
Hegelian dialectics, negation presents emancipatory politics with an immediate negation
in the form of "revolt against" and protest i.e. it revolves around a direct negation, of
action to bring down the existing order. The Hegelian notion here is that the subsequent
negation coming after the original negation results in the creation of something new out
of the second negation.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, we witnessed a wholesale turning against this
classical form of negation of negation. For example, in Adorno's project of negative
dialectics, we find a system that sought to reform this classical Hegelian dialectical
framework away from the totality and the one. A second attempt to reform this
framework is found in Negri's Spinozist invention of a philosophy that is completely
without negation. The problem with both of these reformist attempts, according to
Badiou, is that in both models, capitalism has engulfed the effort to overcome negation.
In Adorno's negative dialectics, we are left with nothing but a subjectivist version of
dialectics where the hero agent of revolutionary activity remains merely the suffering
human victim, which aligns almost unintentionally so with the matrices of the liberal
human rights morality that fully subsumes the suffering victim into the liberal capitalist
order. Negri's dialectics fails for Badiou because in it we lose all basis for clear revolt
against capitalism or the state, and revolutionary activity becomes subsumed in the flow
of capital itself.

In Badiou's dialectical project, which is not a return to Marx, nor a return to the
affirmative construction of Negri, the dialectic is reversed inside itself. Subjectivity
comes first in the form of an affirmation, not in the form of a negation. In this new
dialectic, a primitive affirmation in the form of a subjective body starts before the
negative creativity of classical negation. So we still find a negation of negation, but the
only way by which we can truly experience concrete negation, or a negation that
undermines the current state is by beginning with affirmation. It is St. Paul that presents
this logic of primitive affirmation in the way that he linked Christ's resurrection as an
event to a new subjective body. This framework of affirmative negation can be applied to
todays emancipatory democracy movements, in four stages of democracy
4
.

1. Democracy as the state. In this mode, democracy exists through liberal
parliamentary and representative processes.
2. Democracy as a revolutionary event, for which we experience the birth of
something new. It is in this category that we can provisionally place the Arab
Spring. This form of democracy is most akin to Jacques Rancieres idea of
democracy as the internal law of a collective event.
3. Democracy as politics. Badiou's third sense of democracy is one that goes beyond
the first two by remaining in fidelity to the "consequences" of the event and not
only in the event as such.
4. The return to the state. This return represents a return to the state in its communist
version, which is really a vanishing of the state as such.


4
The foui stages of uemociacy weie uevelopeu in a iecent lectuie at the Euiopean uiauuate School, entitleu
"Fiom Logic to Anthiopology" August, 2u12.
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 5
What is crucial in this framework is that Badious affirmative revision is made by adding
a third term after the second one that is tied not to the event but to the subjective body
and to the consequences of the event. For all that we make of Badious evental politics, it
is the subject that in many ways serves as the privileged position, but the subject is what
remains difficult to discern. The second observation to make in this model of the four
types of democracy is that direct democracy is rendered impossible based on todays
stage of capitalist development and the failure of theoretical modes of resistance to late
capitalism, mainly Deleuze, Foucault and Negri. The state has emerged as a totality
whereby no event or positive affirmation is at all possible, which is why Badiou brings
affirmation at the beginning of his new dialectic. Badious proposal for an affirmative
negation that goes beyond the conservative negation of the twentieth century seeks a
different type of break with repetition, what Badiou refers to as an ecstatic break rather
than the twentieth centurys effort to overcome a contradiction in the creation of the new,
or the event.
5
Hegel's immanent negation is no longer functional in this world, argues
Badiou, precisely because the state does not produce a reality that can produce any
affirmation. This is why real becoming starts with the revolt, and is not immanent to the
group (revolutionaries, workers, students, etc.).

Why does Badiou privilege the subject in the context of politics? To answer this question,
it helps to revisit a debate that Badiou had with Jacques Alain-Miller over suture in 1967,
a year before the event that would forever modify Badious life and philosophy. If as
Bergson claims, each philosopher builds his or her entire system of thought around a
great moment or insight, then what is Badious great moment, or more precisely, what is
Badious great wager? One way to view Badiou's wager is in his development of the
subject in his first great work of philosophy, Theory of the Subject. Badious wager in
Theory of the Subject is significant for the topic of emancipatory politics precisely
because his entire project is still sutured onto politics in the text and because in this work
the subject is given a certain level of prominence, a viability that was never fully
articulated adequately in the text. Through the wager laid down in Theory of the Subject,
Badiou has gone backward, as it were, in developing his most comprehensive ontology of
being qua being and the event that alters the situation in Being and Event, to the logic of
appearing of truth in a world, along with clearly defined subject positions in Logics of
Worlds.

While the intricate and complex debate is beyond the scope of this particular paper, its
outcomes are important for understanding the way in which Badiou conceives of a
subject, and by extension the event that is so bold and original. The concept of suture is
central in Badiou's work; for example, it is the bases of how generic truth conditions
suture philosophy under the four generic procedures, (love, art, science, and politics).
Zizek, in his latest tome, Less Than Nothing, captures Badious early debate with Miller
and points out how the debate was seminal to the direction Badiou took in his theory of
the subject. Badious debate with Miller resulted in a theory of the subject that was not a
universal figure, coextensive with structure, but the subject became rather an exceptional

S
Bosteels, Biuno ()*%+, )-* .+/%#%&' "The Speculative Left" Buke 0niveisity Piess Buiham anu Lonuon, 2u11 Pg.
287
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 6
emergence that is spurned on by a truth event
6
. One way to understand what Badiou
would later develop as the truth event, in Lacanese, is by saying that the big Other
requires the fidelity of the subject who recognizes itself in it. Another way of thinking the
truth event is as the point de capiton that leads to a naming, whereby the signifier falls
into the signified. The signifier has to intervene into the signified in order to enact its
meaning because when one abandons the name, one flushes out the meaning of it. This
point is also helpful in understanding why Badiou has insisted upon remaining true to the
name communism.


The Split in Emancipatory Politics

When Badiou claims that emancipatory politics must be fought at the site of democracy,
he means that we are resisting at the site of a void. The void of democracy exists
precisely because the state, and its handmaiden democracy, is both tied to todays
predominant ideology, what Badiou calls democratic materialism in Logics of Worlds.
In an interview with Peter Hallward and Bruno Bosteels
7
, Badiou identifies this logic of
the Two that constitutes democratic materialism in the heart of emancipatory politics
itself. On one end there are the Aristotelian democratic materialists who provide the
theoretical fodder for identity politics, the multitude approach to emancipatory politics,
i.e. Negriism in their insistence that there are only bodies and language and that we
can persist without an idea. This is the camp of Aristotle, where conceptual approaches
envelop revolutionary momentum into a flat ontology of descriptions devoid of any
axioms. In an interview with Bruno Bosteels and Peter Hallward, Badiou refers to these
Aristotelians as third generation Foucauldians and movementists that are obsessed
with continually adapting to the ruptures that the state-capitalist system produces, and in
their revolts against capitalism, they remain trapped to a capitalist system that has entered
a new dialectical position. This is why in part the direct democracy model is no longer
possible for Badiou.

The other split in emancipatory politics is the one that Badiou himself has identified and
marks the territory of thinking, that is, the one that stakes out an Idea. This is the camp of
Plato. In this camp, there is a desire to localize the break of the topology of situations
around a single point, that is, around statements that usher in a new metapolitical
sequence. The challenge that seems to arise in adopting Badious subtractive position is
one of purity to the point of being apolitical and a certain type of messianism, of waiting
for the big Evental moment for emancipatory action. Another way we can look at this
break in emancipatory politics is via Badious conception of presentation over
representation, a split that Badious now former protg, Mehdi Belhaj Kacem has
identified as the age-old Marxist struggle. Kacem writes:


6
Zizek, Slavoj, 01'' 2$)- 3+#$%-4 veiso Books, Lonuon 2u12. Pg. 621 - 622
7
Bosteels, Biuno anu Ballwaiu, Petei in "Beyonu Foimalism" in ()*%+,5' .+/%#%&'.
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 7
Starting from the French Revolution and running through [Karl] Marx up to
Badiou, all revolutionary imagination defends presentation against
representation.
8


Indeed, Kacem is correct, since Being and Event, it is the regime of representation that
falls under atonalism. Our atonal world lacks a point by which a master signifier can
situate it, which is why the very rules of the situation must be changed to get out of
atonality. The question for Badiou, whose very axiomatic choice is one that is grounded
in the modern epoch, how do we historically locate the event? While the question elicits a
type of evental hysteria, many commentators, including Kacem have been puzzled by
Badious relatively conservative reaction to the Arab Spring and other emancipatory
protests against capitalism over the last three years, rendering these riots and protests as
"weak singularities" in his philosophical taxonomy of evental politics. Despite Badious
conservative reading of the Arab Spring, he would identify in their movements a
preparing the ground and the development of a node of precarity. Badiou has commented
about our time:

We are in a period of the constitution of a possible evental site. There are not yet
events in the philosophical sense of the word, but it is at least the constitution of
zones of precariousness, of partial movement that one can interpret as announcing
that something will happen.
9



Is Badious Subtractive Politics Apolitical?

There have been as many criticisms of Badious approach to politics as there has been
praises. Most common amongst these is that his approach to politics consists of an
apolitical distancing from the state that weakens revolutionary potential and leaves
programs directionless. This has led thinkers such as John Caputo to declare Badious
politics a form of messianism, whereby the method of subtraction is made into a
metaphor for the waiting for the messiah of the event to arrive. A different and more
constructive argument is presented in Peter Hallwards essay The Politics of
Prescription, a work that has both re-defined Badious method of subtraction from his
political activist colleague Sylvian Lazarus and one that has given Badious method
greater coherence for political organization and mobilization.

Although his distilling of Badious politics is constructive, Hallward points out important
weak points to Badious politics. He claims that Badious subtractive method, forever
risks its restriction to the empty realm of prescription pure and simple.
10
The risk for
emancipatory politics in Badious model pays a price at the political level out of the
purity and distance it takes from the state, which by state, Badiou refers both to the state
as the nation-state and to the state as the given situation / regime of representation. The
question apropos the subtractive method is whether it remains so removed from the state

8
Belhaj Kacem, Pop Philosophie, 299.
9
Bauiou, Alain 6)-*7++8 +9 :-)1'#$1#%&' Tianslateu by Albeito Toscano. Stanfoiu 0niveisity Piess, 2uuS. Pg. 12u
1u
Ballwaiu, Petei ()*%+,; < =,7>1&# 2+ 2?,#$ The Regents of the 0niveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uuS. Pg. XXXi
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 8
to the point of being a politics-without-politics. Badiou has declared: progressive
politics must operate at a level that can rival that of capitalism and ensure that this rivalry
unfolds on a plane other than that dominated by capital.
11
This is perhaps the main
reason that Badiou claims, there can be no economic battle against the economy, it can
only be political.
12


Because emancipatory politics must wage its evental politics at the site of politics and
democracy, the central objective of emancipatory politics today is to resurrect the dignity
of the name of equality from both the class politics that controls it as well as the
economism that surrounds it. Badious model of thinking politics consists then in an
effort to think politics intrinsic relation to truth and in order to do so, he has had to
forego economic and social critiques in favor of subjective conceptions of egalitarianism,
leading Peter Hallward to suggest that Badious political thought is reminiscent of
Hegels unhappy consciousness, which Hallward comments is the stoical affirmation
of a worthy ideal or subjective principle, but divorced from any substantial relation to the
material organization of the situation.
13
Despite these criticisms, Hallward presents a
helpful argument for how we might go beyond what appears at the surface to be an
apolitical system of philosophy.


Emancipatory Politics in the Atonal Key

While Badious prescriptive politics relies on a clear-sighted and ultimately simple
calculation, one obvious question remains: How might we engage in a Badiouian form of
prescriptive politics in the context of our atonal world? In other words, the democratic
materialism of today clouds the scene of potential emancipatory political action, by
enveloping the social with a latent violence. But the violence is actually a mask for the
prevention of any singularity in the field of the social, or the domain of politics writ large.
The effect of this atonality is that true political change must operate in a political climate
that is caught in a deadlock where one side must strike blindly merely to demonstrate
one's strike capacity. Badiou says, What is at stake are bloody and nihilistic games of
power without purpose and without truth."
14
Zizek expresses this sense of the ubiquity of
atonality nicely in a comment in his short text Violence:

a basic feature of our postmodern world is that it tries to dispense with this agency
of the ordering Master-Signifier: the complexity of the world needs to be asserted
unconditionally. Every Master-Signifier meant to impose some order on it must
be deconstructed, dispersed: the modern apology for the complexity of the
worldis really nothing but a generalized desire for atonality.
15



11
Ballwaiu, Petei 2$1 .+/%#%&' +9 .?1'&?%@#%+- South Atlantic Quaiteily Fall 2uuS. Pg. 2S7
12
Ibiu Pg. 2S7
1S
Ibiu Pg. 242
14
}ohnston, Auiian ()*%+,A B%C18A )-* .+/%#%&)/ 2?)-'9+?D)#%+-'; 2$1 E)*1-&1 +9 E$)-41 Noithwestein 0niveisity
Piess 2uu9. Pg. S
1S
Zizek, Slavoj F%+/1-&1 veiso Books, 2uu8. Pg. 98.
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 9
The task for pre-evental subjects is thus to establish axioms that are removed from the
realm of the atonal social world entirely. Subjects must develop a certain distance from
the atonal environment to ultimately undo social relationships and to de-socialize thought
before a prescription is laid down.
16


We find this same confrontation with the difficulty of political action in the face of
atonality (albeit in a different name) in the work of Tiqqun, the anonymous political
collective out of France in their text, Introduction to Civil War. Atonality is that which
exerts an invisible violence onto subjects that occurs in the domain of life, what they refer
to as Empire, a sort of Deleuzian machine that is designed to maintain the free flow of
forms-of-life. The civil war present in Empire is defined as the free play of forms-of-
life; it is the principle of their coexistence. Forms-of-life is what gives Empire its
plasticity, its whatever being, and it is why the archetype they choose to encompass this
free flow is Bloom from James Joyces Ulysses, an apathetic nihilist who relies on a
shape shifting existence to thrive in the anonymous capitalist order.

A close reading of Tiqquns Introduction to Civil War will find that their entire theory of
the body and its strategy for escape of the control that forms-of-life holds over it is
grounded in a Badiouian political orientation. For Badiou, a body is an agent in a world
operating on behalf of an event. A body is that which concretely materializes within the
world the post-evental subject-truth trajectory bisecting this same world. This is quite
similar to Tiqquns suggestion that a body can be freed from the shackles of forms-of-life
only by following a line of flight to the source of power that overwhelms the body. This
makes all thought orient towards the event and towards the affects. Tiqqun frequently
refers to Empires ability to de-intensify all social relations, to pacify bodies, which
renders politics completely impotent. This pacification of the social is homologous to
Badious atonal environment of pure representation, hovering over a void of pure
multiplicity and nothingness putting emancipatory change in the impossible third
category we saw above in relation to the state and democracy.

In the second part of their text, entitled What is to be Done we find a call for the
participation in the Imaginary Party, the vessel of resistance that is left today. Much of
this section is informed by Badious evental politics. The Imaginary Party is the other
side of the movement of Empire, where the outside has moved inside. The Outside is
gone precisely because there is exteriority at every point of the biopolitical tissue. After
all, biopower governs possibilities, not men. Tiqqun claims the way in which the
Imaginary Party can change Empire is through an event. As Tiqqun states, the enemy of
Empire is the event that might disturb its norms and apparatuses.
17


A less radical although equally creative reading of how we might operate emancipatory
politics in the context of atonalism can be found in Adrian Johnstons excellent book on
Badiou and Zizek, The Cadence of Change. Johnston reads Badious approach as akin to
Zizek approach to emancipatory politics, which is something akin to the Rosa
Luxembourg statement that argued that radical struggles have an internal split within

16
Ballwaiu, Petei "The Politics of Piesciiption" South Atlantic Quaiteily Fall 2uuS. Pg. 77S
17
Tiqqun, :-#?+*,&#%+- #+ E%G%/ H)?. Semiotexte, 2uu9 Los Angeles, CA. Pg. S9.
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 10
themselves, and that there will never occur a perfect moment for one single struggle to
serve as a totalizing option to all other struggles. Johnston reads Badious subtractive
model as promoting not an apoliticism, but a constant and more coordinated series of
random and experimental actions against the state. He argues that political action should
be encouraged and to wait for the mature moment is to misread Badiou, although it is
unclear if Johnstons reading of Badiou remains too informed by Zizek.
18
Here is what
Zizek says in response to Johnstons text:

One cannot ever be sure in advance if what appears (within the register and the
space of visibility of the ruling ideology) as minor measures will not set in
motion a process that will lead to the radical (evental) transformation of the whole
field.
19


In Johnstons reading of Badiou, the state, in our current historical moment is a delicate
organization, and the more highly organized the state is, the more fragile it is. The states
fragility indicates ipso facto that actions waged against it are rendered at the level of the
imaginary and the network of significations that loosely holds the state together become
so tenuous that a series of small acts might unleash the event that is able to fundamentally
alter the situation. This pragmatic approach to Badiouian metapolitics relies upon both an
axiomatic position as well as a gamble that the act/event (Johnston seems to conflate the
terms), based merely on the fact that the big Other is weak, will provide a potentially
seismic change in the state of the situation. Johnston points out that

In situations and worlds (i.e. contexts seemingly devoid of passages), certain pre-
evental human beings might nonetheless be brave enough to wager investing their
faith in an incredibly uncertain prospect for potential change that have yet actually
to transpire. Sometimes this is the only source of hope that sustains those who are
neither pre-evental persons wholly entangled in the relational matrices of the
status quo situation / world nor post-evental subjects fully subtracted from such
relational matrices.
20


This very interesting application of Badious politics, while it risks being co-opted to the
states subsumption, might actually appeal to the more practical activists in movements
such as Occupy. One must remain hesitant in this regard, however. The fact that Badiou
has not deemed the Arab Spring and Occupy as events presents a sort of proof that such a
pragmatic approach requires patience and that it must involve a certain ethics lest it fall
into what Badiou calls logical arrogance. As Zizek declared to Occupy Wall Streets
Liberty Plaza gathering in October 2011, after the carnival, much work remains.
21

Breaking free of this anti-globalization form of resistance to capitalism and the dialectic

18
Bosteels, Biuno ()*%+, )-* .+/%#%&' "Beyonu Foimalization" Buke 0niveisity Piess Buiham anu Lonuon, 2u11
Pg. S29
19
}ohnston, Auiian "Zizek, Bauiou: Notes on an ongoing pioject," fiom the Inteinational }ouinal foi Zizek Stuuies
Pg. S
2u
}ohnston, Auiian "Zizek, Bauiou: Notes on an ongoing pioject," fiom the Inteinational }ouinal foi Zizek Stuuies
Pg. 78
21
Shin, Saiah =/)G+> I%J18 )# K&&,@L H)// =#?11#; MH1 )?1 -+# *?1)D1?'A N1 )?1 #$1 )N)81-%-4 9?+D ) *?1)D N$%&$
%' #,?-%-4 %-#+ ) -%4$#D)?1O veiso Books Blog (http:www.veisobooks.comblogs7S6) 0ctobei 2u11.
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 11
that binds the carnival of constant displays of resistance to capitalism and the inevitable
put-down by the state on the day after remains the crisis of the left for Badiou. It may
sound quasi-religious, but there is a truth to the fact that for events to truly emerge, they
must emerge mysteriously. As Badiou comments,

What corrupts a subject is the process of treating as a possible consequence of an
event what in fact is not a consequence. In brief, its a matter of logical arrogance.
For theres no reason why the intensity of existence should be identical to the
totality of the world.
22


It is this corruption of the pre-evental subject that is perhaps even more pronounced in the
context of our atonal world, precisely because the subject is faced with a world of
constant change, it hovers on a void for which it has no bearing.


Occupy Wall Street and the Problem of Naming

While its media heyday under the sun has come and gone and its encampments are
broken down, Occupy Wall Street nonetheless resembles many Badiouian tendencies in
its initial movement. Occupy opened up a zone of precarity situated around the lack of
the system (the dejected middle classes), yet it falls short, for Badiou, in the realm of
naming. Failing to declare an axiom other than We are the 99%, Occupy remains
caught in Lacans hysteric discourse, refusing to be determined by the Master, and is thus
unable to think interiority. Why? The phrase We are the 99% is itself problematic for
any Badiouian metapolitics on several levels. For starters, while it seeks to name the
masses, to render them visible, the slogan itself remains limited by its faulty
socioeconomic grounding of the name.

We are the 99% strikes one as a frustrated middle-class rallying cry for a higher modicum
of distributionist economics, not as a radical emancipatory metapolitical procedure. The
naming of Occupy as the 99% is an inherently Western-centric designation of the masses
that does not bode well in the context of a global economic system that is facing more
extreme disparities between the global North and South. Occupy faces a contradiction of
attempting to operate on a global critique of capitalism, while not recognizing the
inherently local point or break in its own system, and it is this break that we will at least
provisionally refer to as the unnamable.

Prescriptive politics must be formed around the name of the worker, liberty, or what
Badiou prefers, the term equality. Prescriptive politics proceeds through engagement
with strategic constraints that cannot be justified in terms of unconditional duty or respect
for the law. An axiom never refers to something external to itself, yet the prescription that
it demands is not reducible to an axiom. The axiom merely governs the terms (points,
sets, citizens, etc.) it implies without exception. This prescriptive approach depends on a
certain metapolitical sequencing that is formed around political naming.


22
Bauiou, Alain 0+4%&' +9 H+?/*', Continuum, New Yoik, 2uu6. Pg. SSu
Brev Spread Issue 12 October 2013 12
While its hysterical moment of refusal to identify its demands in the media spotlight
has come and gone, Occupy Wall Street presents a metapolitical sequencing that is
important to examine under a Badiouian lens. Since metapolitics is concerned with the
consequences that can be drawn from real instances of politics as thought, any
metapolitical sequence will arise as an authoritarian sequence by its very nature because
it entails a naming of a right that does not exist within the current state of the situation.
Any declaration of a state that is not possible in the current situation also entails bringing
into existence something formerly inexistent, which leads us to examine the core politics
of naming that Occupy is formed around, mainly, We Are the 99%. At the most critical
end, we might argue that it presents a petit bourgeoisie, undisciplined hallucination in
the same form as the anti-globalization movement, which Badiou has remained highly
critical of, and yet again, We Are the 99% might offer a more promising potential for
pre-evental naming, i.e. of the naming of something inexistent, and the potential
emergence of a new class. Hardt and Negri have sought to identify Occupys unnamable
in the failure of democratic representation, of corporations outstripping citizen power.
23

This demand for visibility and recognition, this taking to the streets, winds up short
because it lacks a name to rally around other than its own self-referentiality. Another way
of looking at the phrase, We are the 99% however, is that it presents what Badiou
would refer to as a pre-evental figure.

Badiou often points out how militant subjects generate nominations posed in a future
anterior, towards a situation to come. It is the ill said words of the subjects in fidelity to
an event that forms the basis of courage that forces the truth to a new situation.
24
We
might look at the American civil rights movement of led by Dr. Martin Luther King as
still providing a certain axiom of equality that was formed in the ill said words of the
protest banner Aint I a man? In his 1998 text, Handbook of Inaesthetics Badiou
remarks, "We can say that every event admits of a figural preparation, that it always
possesses a pre-evental figure.
25
Yet, the naming of the 99% as the western middle class
is not localizing the break in as radical a manner as required because is lacks a certain
universal appeal. As Badiou remarks in Metapolitics, the first condition of metapolitics is
that it is collective and able to serve as a universal receptacle for all, which means that
for every X, there is thought.
26


2S
Baiut, Nichael anu Negii, Antonio "The Fight foi Real Bemociacy at the Beait of 0ccupy Wall Stieet" P+?1%4-
<99)%?', 0ctobei 2u11.
24
Bauiou, Alain 6)-*7++8 +9 :-)1'#$1#%&' Tianslateu by Albeito Toscano. Stanfoiu 0niveisity Piess, 2uuS. Pg. 64
2S
Bauiou, Alain 6)-*7++8 +9 :-)1'#$1#%&' Tianslateu by Albeito Toscano. Stanfoiu 0niveisity Piess, 2uuS. Pg.
12u
26
Bauiou, Alain Q1#)@+/%#%&' Tianslateu by }ason Baikei veiso Piess, 2uuS. Pg. 141