In defense of Alain Badiou: A riposte

The lengthy article by Eric Conan: ‘Is Alain Badiou, the star philosopher, a bastard?’ published in the French weekly ‘Marianne’ (27 February 2010) is a political symptom par excellence of our sad times. It is a remarkable one for that too – as archetypes go – and a most representative product of today’s prevailing ideologies.

The article is an inquisitorial process to present the most widely read and translated French philosopher in the world as a sadistic guru of criminal politics and a lewd, thirsty vampire.


Eric Conan’s article seeks to discredit the name of Alain Badiou and the thoughts he represents today (and beyond), particularly among young intellectuals. It masquerades in the guise of an investigation, when what it aims to do is criminalize the man.
Indeed, Eric Conan’s article is devoid of any understanding of Badiou’s philosophy, his politics and the substance of his work. In other words, the article is an absolute vacuity. It reveals the workings of a creepy strategy favoured by some journalism, one that is lost in the inessential: when the ‘ad hominem’ replaces the question of ‘Ideas’ and when unfounded personal allegations become the art of trash thoughts.

Eric Doran’s article is a model of our ‘non-thinking’ times. It is the quintessential, more or less unconscious, of the tamed and opiated ideology propagated by this type of journalism: one that understands a book without reading it, thus reducing it to a witch-hunt; one that sees Communism as the reverse of Nazism and treats those citizens who lay claim to it or indeed, who are won over by it, in whatever form, as basically sick individuals. In effect, the aberrant equation of our times is this: Communism = Nazism. Period.
Against this, we assert the following:

1. That the work of Alain Badiou is that of a great philosopher. Those who wish to contest this statement must first go through the complexities of ‘ l’Etre et l’Evenement and ‘Logiques des mondes’. It will then remain to be seen whether this statement can still be denied, notwithstanding the resentment at having understood nothing of his work.

2. That the political positions of Alain Badiou, namely, on the one hand,  his criticism of ‘capital-parliamentarism’; the confusion between democracy’s empty form and its lifeblood; the circus  that is parliamentary representation; and on the other hand, his assertion for a ‘generic communism’, supported by the ‘Idea’ of equality, from Spartacus to our present day. These are indeed the only positions that now deserve the name of authentic politics.

The rest is well established and is given the blessing by both institutions  and humans. Those who dare criticize are immediately classed as werewolves and diabolical anti-democrats; this attitude sums up the contemporary version of a ‘skunk’ ideology: one that is only half-conscious of its own scent. In other words, when 9 million men and women worldwide are dying every year of hunger and disease, we prefer debating the ‘lucky hand’ or, for that matter, the ‘cheater hand’ of Henry the footballer. Or when we assign an asylum-seeker, an Arab or a black to a delinquency status; or when we make the world believe that its central problem lies in defeating Al Qaeda’s terror; or when we slide into a confusion that is so utterly stupid that we lump together 1.5 billion Muslims – who are so different from one another -in one category, that of a purely sectarian phenomenon. We make an exception for the burka – which, incidentally, is no more disgusting than the right to dye one’s hair red – and make it society’s major debate…

The rest, or the non-authentic politics, is when we endorse the ghost of democracy whose roots lie in our old institutions and their variable geometrical parameters, thus making obsolete the vote of the people on Europe by a hocus-pocus in the House of Deputies. It is when everyday citizens are presented with ludicrous categories: bad communists and good democrats, good America and bad Saddam … It is when we glamorize the French Revolution and demonize the Russian Revolution; It is when we divide to rule better as we watch incredulously the financial flows being virtually created and lost; It is when we are finally satisfied with the way the world is, and continues to be…It is when we are made to believe that the possible is impossible.

3) It is, therefore, difficult to pass Alain Badiou for a crazy loner. The reality is that we have had enough of these lies, of complaisance to this system, and that we will never renounce the ‘Idea of Communism’.  This ‘Idea’, as problematic as it is and so new its embodiment does not prevent us from being as critical as we want to be of the history of 20th century’s communism. We are and can be as different from one another in our proposals but we all know and agree on one thing: that a communism to reinvent, of a new and undefined kind, is the only future for humanity. This is because we think this is the one and only eternal political truth and the only justice that the rational mind can ever conceive.
The times no longer belong, whether one likes it or not, to the spineless, self-styled and unscrupulous ‘new philosophers’ – but to the philosophers of renewal.

Slavoj Zizek, Fabien Tarby

English Translation : Nada Cabani

Eric Conan’s article in French is reproduced here (link)

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