chapter  4
12 Pages

Alain Badiou


Alain Badiou became known to the English-speaking world particularly after the translation of his book on ethics. Following the publication of Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, an upsurge in translations and exegetical work has ensued. Many of his books from the eighties and nineties have been rapidly translated into English, including the magnum opus, Being and Event, which sets out Badiou’s theoretical framework. The sequel to Being and Event, Logiques des mondes [The Logic of Worlds], has been almost immediately translated into English. While translations and sophisticated analyses of his philosophical concepts have become abundant, Badiou’s work has been much less interrogated for current political issues. ‘Think[ing] through our actuality in the terms provided by Badiou’ (Bosteels 2004: 164) is the task that international relations would need to take up too. Given the relatively recent discovery of Badiou’s work in the English-speaking world, his theoretical ideas have only minimally informed questions of international politics. Nonetheless, Badiou’s theory and political engagement have always been

intimately entwined. His speculative work has led to the formation of the militant organisation, Organisation politique, which works for direct political interventions in contemporary issues (migration, labour, ‘new’ wars, antiterrorism), while the political events of May 1968 and the Chinese Cultural Revolution have left their imprint upon Badiou’s theoretical development. His interventions have also attempted to dismantle the taken-for-granted opinions regarding current political events and rethink the current conjuncture from the struggle of sans papiers and the intervention in Kosovo to the war in Iraq or the election of Nikolas Sarkozy in France. Badiou has defined his philosophical and political endeavour as a recon-

struction of concepts and of the field of philosophy. His aim is to reconstruct concepts for a politics of radical innovation. In an interview with Bruno Bosteels, ‘Can Change be Thought?’ Badiou declared that his work is concerned with understanding how the new happens in particular situations:

My unique philosophical question, I would say, is the following: can we think that there is something new in the situation, not outside the situation nor the new somewhere else, but can we really think through novelty

and treat it in the situation? The system of philosophical answers that I elaborate, whatever its complexity may be, is subordinated to that question and to no other (Badiou and Bosteels 2005: 252).