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the communist hypothesis

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Badiou in the new issue of the New Left Review:

At this point, during an interval dominated by the enemy, when new experiments are tightly circumscribed, it is not possible to say with certainty what the character of the third sequence will be. But the general direction seems discernible: it will involve a new relation between the political movement and the level of the ideological—one that was prefigured in the expression ‘cultural revolution’ or in the May 68 notion of a ‘revolution of the mind’. We will still retain the theoretical and historical lessons that issued from the first sequence, and the centrality of victory that issued from the second. But the solution will be neither the formless, or multi-form, popular movement inspired by the intelligence of the multitude—as Negri and the alter-globalists believe—nor the renewed and democratized mass communist party, as some of the Trotskyists and Maoists hope. The (19th-century) movement and the (20th-century) party were specific modes of the communist hypothesis; it is no longer possible to return to them. Instead, after the negative experiences of the ‘socialist’ states and the ambiguous lessons of the Cultural Revolution and May 68, our task is to bring the communist hypothesis into existence in another mode, to help it emerge within new forms of political experience. This is why our work is so complicated, so experimental. We must focus on its conditions of existence, rather than just improving its methods. We need to re-install the communist hypothesis—the proposition that the subordination of labour to the dominant class is not inevitable—within the ideological sphere.

We do – I do – suffer from a certain amount of confusion when it comes to the question of the right way to work as a left intellectual. By “right way to work,” I don’t so much mean the specific frame of engagement, whether to work in the academy or in the papers or on the streets or make art etc. Rather, I am confused about the bearing of the work that I should be doing within the practical framework that I have chosen (or which has chosen me). I mean, would it be best to plan, to advertise, or to design? Are the most useful answers at this point practical or conceptual or ethical? Should one be a hauntologist, a pragmatic engineer, or a philosopher of the question itself?

Badiou, as we might expect, decides in this piece. And while there is something unsettling about the fact that the sort of work that he decides in favor of is exactly the sort of work for which intellectuals are best suited by aptitude, inclination, and situation, I find this piece very encouraging (en-couraging?)

(xposted to Long Sunday)

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 5, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Posted in socialism

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