Originally posted on simongros:
How does this difference between Badiou and Lacan affect Badiou’s delimitation of antiphilosophy? The basic motif of antiphilosophy is the assertion of a pure presence (the Real Life of society for Marx, Existence for Kierkegaard, Will for Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, etc.) irreducible to and excessive with regard to the network of philosophical concepts or representations. The surprise is that Badiou, who coined this critical term, retains a strange solidarity with anti-philosophers on account of his unproblematic reliance on the couple “presence and representation.” The great theme of post-Hegelian antiphilosophy is the excess of the pre-conceptual productivity of Presence over its representation: representation is reduced to the “mirror of representation,” which reflects in a distorted way its productive ground:
Post-Hegelian philosophy (or, if one prefers, antiphilosophy) started off with this fundamental claim: symbolic representations which were traditionally considered as access to the truth and to the real of Being do in fact alienate us from Being and deform it (or our perception of it). And classical philosophy (or “metaphysics”) was suddenly recognised as the queen of this representative misrepresentation.Indeed, if one were to name one central issue that distinguishes the rise of modern thought, it is perhaps none other than precisely the issue of representation (and the question of One and/or Multiple is part of this issue), its profound interrogation, and the whole consequent turn against (the logic of) representation. This is perhaps most perceptible in (modern) art which frontally attacked the notion of art as representation … In politics, this also was a central issue: who represents the people and how they can be properly represented? Why are some represented and some not? And what if the very idea of representation is the source of society’s evils and its alienation? The realm of politics is especially interesting in this respect since the introduction of a “representative” system coincided with the very questioning of its pertinence. Something similar took place in respect to the generic procedure of love: a simultaneous demand that love be properly represented by the institution of marriage (the new imperative that one should marry out of love), and a massive “observation” that this is in fact impossible, i.e. that marriage can never truly represent the real of love.55
In so-called “post-structuralism,” the relation between the two terms is inverted: presence itself is denounced as the illusory result of a dispersed productive process defined as anti-presence, as a process of self-differing, and so on; however, the encompassing framework remains that of production versus representation, of a productive process occluded by/in the false transparency of its representation. With regard to Badiou, the problem is how to relate the couple of presence and representation to the triad of Being/World/Event―more precisely, insofar as Being names the presence of inconsistent multiplicity and World its representation, its organization into a consistent situation regulated by its immanent transcendentals―how to conceive the Event with regard to the couple of presence and representation.
Where, then, does the flaw in Badiou’s account reside? Badiou reacted to the “obscure disaster” of the fall of the socialist regimes―and, more generally, to the exhaustion of the revolutionary event of the twentieth century―by taking a step from history to ontology: it is important to note how it was only after this “obscure disaster” that Badiou started to play with the double meaning of the term “state” (état)―the “state of things” and State as the apparatus of social power. The danger of this move is that, by establishing a direct link, a short-circuit, as it were, between a particular historical form of social organization and a basic ontological feature of the universe, it (implicitly, at least) ontologizes or eternalizes the state as a form of political organization: (the political) state becomes something we should resist, subtract ourselves from, act at a distance from, but simultaneously something which can never be abolished (save in utopian dreams). Is not this step from history to ontology, from the State qua political apparatus to the state qua state of things, this short-circuit wherein State = state, an elementary ideological operation? This overblown notion of the State, which effectively tends to overlap with the state (of things) in the broadest sense, is effectively Badiou’s symptom; along these lines, at a conference on communism in London in March 2009, Judith Balso claimed that opinions themselves are part of the State. The notion of the State has to be over-expanded in this way precisely because the autonomy of “civil society” with regard to the State is ignored, so the “State” has to cover the entire economic sphere, as well as the sphere of “private” opinions.