Monday, November 26, 2007
"Democracy and Disappointment: Alain Badiou and Simon Critchley on the Politics of Resistance," Conversations in Theory, November 15, 2007.
A public conversation took place between Alain Badiou and Simon Critchley at the Slought Foundation on November 15 as part of the Conversations in Theory series. "In disoriented times, we cannot accept the return of the old, deadly figure of religious sacrifice; but neither can we accept the complete lack of any figure, and the complete disappearance of any idea of heroism. In both cases, the consequences will be the end of any dialectical relationship between humanity and its element of inhumanity, in a creative mode. So the result will be the sad success of what Nietzsche named 'the last man.' 'The last man' is the exhausted figure of a man devoid of any figure. It is the nihilistic image of the fixed nature of the human animal, devoid of all creative possibility. Our task is: How can we find a new heroic figure, which is neither the return of the old figure of religious or national sacrifice, nor the nihilistic figure of the last man? Is there a place, in a disoriented world, for a new style of heroism?" - Alain Badiou, "The Contemporary Figure of the Soldier in Politics and Poetry" (UCLA, 2007) "The sense of something lacking or failing arises from the realization that we inhabit a violently unjust world, a world defined by the horror of war, a world where, as Dostoevsky says, blood is being spilt in the merriest way, as if it were champagne. Such an experience of disappointment is acutely tangible at the present time, with the corrosion of established political structures and an unending war on terror where the moods of Western populations are controlled through a politics of fear managed by the constant threat of external attack. This situation is far from novel and might be said to be definitional of politics from antiquity to early and considerably later modernity. My point is that if the present time is defined by a state of war, then this experience of political disappointment provokes the question of justice: what might justice be in a violently unjust world? It is this question that provokes the need for an ethics or what others might call normative principles that might enable us to face and face down the present political situation. Our main task is to respond to that need by offering a theory of ethical experience and subjectivity that will lead to an infinitely demanding ethics of commitment and politics of resistance." - Simon Critchley, Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance (Verso, 2007) More information here: http://slought.org/content/11385/.