There are two main philosophical targets of Badiou as he puts in The Subject of Art: Those who identify the body and the subject, in which case creativity can only take the form of experimentation with the limits of the body, an experience of the finitude and complete unity of the body. Death being the limit … Continue reading Badiou on Kant and Hegel
To celebrate National Poetry Day in the UK, we present an extract from Alain Badiou‘s illuminating work revisiting the age-old problem of the relation between literature and philosophy, The Age of the Poets, looking at literature’s unique position between science and ideology. Badiou proposes the essential link between poetry and communism in the twentieth century, through the common good of language, and gives reason to both the writing and reading of poetry in a time of revolution.
Poetry and Communism
In the last century, some truly great poets, in almost all languages on earth, have been communists. In an explicit or formal way, for example, the following poets were committed to communism: in Turkey, Nâzim Hikmet; in Chile, Pablo Neruda; in Spain, Rafael Alberti; in Italy, Edoardo Sanguineti; in Greece, Yannis Ritsos; in China, Ai Qing; in Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish; in Peru, César Vallejo; and in Germany, the shining example is above all Bertolt Brecht. But we could cite a very large number of other names in other languages, throughout the world.
Can we understand this link between poetic commitment and communist commitment as a simple illusion? An error, or an errancy? An ignorance of the ferocity of states ruled by communist parties? I do not believe so. I wish to argue, on the contrary, that there exists an essential link between poetry and communism, if we understand ‘communism’ closely in its primary sense: the concern for what is common to all. A tense, paradoxical, violent love of life in common; the desire that what ought to be common and accessible to all should not be appropriated by the servants of Capital. The poetic desire that the things of life would be like the sky and the earth, like the water of the oceans and the brush res on a summer night – that is to say, would belong by right to the whole world.
Poets are communist for a primary reason, which is absolutely essential: their domain is language, most often their native tongue. Now, language is what is given to all from birth as an absolutely common good. Poets are those who try to make a language say what it seems incapable of saying. Poets are those who seek to create in language new names to name that which, before the poem, has no name. And it is essential for poetry that these inventions, these creations, which are internal to language, have the same destiny as the mother tongue itself: for them to be given to all without exception. The poem is a gift of the poet to language. But this gift, like language itself, is destined to the common – that is, to this anonymous point where what matters is not one person in particular but all, in the singular.
Thus, the great poets of the twentieth century recognized in the grandiose revolutionary project of communism something that was familiar to them – namely that, as the poem gives its inventions to language and as language is given to all, the material world and the world of thought must be given integrally to all, becoming no longer the property of a few but the common good of humanity as a whole.
That is why one moment – a singular historic moment – has been sung by all the communist poets who wrote between the 1920s and 1940s: the moment of the civil war in Spain, which as you know ran from 1936 to 1939.
By PICASSO, la exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid. Source
Let us observe that the Spanish civil war is certainly the historic event that has most intensely mobilized all the artists and intellectuals of the world. On one hand, the personal commitment of writers from all ideological tendencies on the side of the republicans, including therefore the communists, is remarkable: whether we are dealing with organized communists, social democrats, mere liberals, or even fervent Catholics, such as the French writer Georges Bernanos, the list is extraordinary if we gather all those who publicly spoke out, who went to Spain in the midst of the war, or even entered into combat on the side of the republican forces. On the other hand, the number of masterpieces produced on this occasion is no less astonishing. I have already noted as much for poetry. But let us also think of the splendid painting by Pablo Picasso that is titled Guernica; let us think of two of the greatest novels in their genre: Man’s Hope by André Malraux and For Whom the Bell Tolls by the American Ernest Hemingway. The frightening and bloody civil war in Spain has illuminated the art of the world for several years.
Finish the chapter, and read more, in The Age of the Poets
César Vallejo’s ‘Hymn to the Volunteers of the Republic’
Pablo Neruda’s ‘Arrival in Madrid of the International Brigade’
Works by Nâzim Hikmet and Bertolt Brecht
“If the factory oscillates between pre-inscription and the unsayable, this is because it is caught in the trappings of its function as a machine and subtracted from its true essence, which is to be a political place, a production of truths.” – Alain Badiou
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Abstract In this essay I attempt to explicate the sense in which Michel Henry’s reductive phenomenology rendering Life as affectivity resonates with Alain Badiou’s subtractive ontology rendering the subject as eternity in time. I claim that these two modes of subjectivity are the two modalities of the Real manifesting itself as quality (Henry’s patheme) and … Continue reading Three Modalities of the Immanent Infinity: Life, Matter and Thought in Henry, Deleuze and Badiou
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To begin at the beginning we shall say that philosophy is the dialectical process of truth in time, it is an infinite questioning of that which is known, a continuity in change of the unknown, a practice of situating eternity in time. Without a relation to the requirements of one's own time philosophy may … Continue reading Hermetico-Promethean Postnihilism
Situating Neuroscience in the Context of Transcendental Realism/Materialism and Non-Reductive Naturalism Inferential Rationality The question I had in mind as I was in search of funding for a research project that would enable me to write “a book comparing the ontological and the epistemological modes of being and thinking in and through which the subject … Continue reading The Future History of a Non-Reductive Philosophical Agenda
It is urgently necessary to internationalise the Greek people’s cause. Only the total elimination of the debt would bring an "ideological blow" to the current European system. 1. The Greek people’s massive "No" does not mean a rejection of Europe. It means a rejection of the bankers’ Europe, of infinite debt and of globalised capitalism. … Continue reading Alain Badiou delivers the 11 points inspired by the situation in Greece