Badiou's Communist Hypothesis

program date: 
Mon, 01/04/2010

 Alain Badiou enunciates the communist hypothesis:  The subordination of labor to a dominant class, (whether it be a class of capitalists or a class of party bureaucrats)  is not inevitable.  If so, then the existence of a coercive state, with the violent policing we heard about at the beginning of this show, is not inevitable either.  Here is the Old Mole’s Frann Michel making the case for this hypothesis, and for the courage to weather the hard times of struggle.  You can read the text and find her sources here.  


omissions in the quoted-material

I compared the passage quoted during the segment with the text I found in the New Left Review, and I was wondering why it was edited the way it was. Initially, it seemed to be for the sake of remaining intellectually palpable to a probably non-scholarly audience, but I decided that didn't seem satisfactory.

On the one hand, I can see dropping the Kant reference, but why the underscore Badiou places on the regulative function of "what Kant called an Idea"? The next couple sentence expands on this regulative-sense (as opposed to the more commonsensical sense in which an idea is inert and unengaged with the dynamics of the real-world), but without at least minmally introducing that distinction it's not so clear how communism-as-idea is useful in contrast to communism-as-programme, which is largely Badiou's point with the hypothesis.

On the other hand, why omit how the communist hypothesis implies the elimination of the division of labour? Is it because that part of Badiou's remark is so speculative as to be inessential - "and /even/ the division of labour" - or because eliminating the inequality of wealth is safe revolutionary rhetoric (American liberalism, especially after Rawls, has a long tradition of what it considers the inequality of wealth and how to address it)?

I hope my questions don't come across as inflammatory. I am immensely pleased to hear Badiou talked about at all in such a popular venue at all. I don't think asking these questions subtracts from that effort, but carries on the critical attitude they're supposed to incite.

Thank You,

Joe Clement


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