Alain Badiou on the COVID-19 Pandemic

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From the start, I thought that the current situation, characterised by a viral pandemic, was not particularly exceptional. From the (viral) pandemic of AIDS, and passing through the avian flu, the Ebola virus, and the SARS 1 virus – not to mention several flus, the appearance of strains of tuberculosis that antibiotics can no longer cure, or even the return of measles – we know that the world market, combined with the existence of vast under-medicalised zones and the lack of global discipline when it comes to the necessary vaccinations, inevitably produces serious and devastating epidemics (in the case of AIDS, several million deaths). Besides the fact that the current pandemic situation is having a huge impact on the rather comfortable so-called Western world – a fact in itself devoid of any novel significance, eliciting instead dubious laments and revolting idiocies on social media – I didn’t see why, beyond…

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The Coronavirus Challenge of Pandemic Capitalism and the Failure of Medical Industrial Complex

02.04.2020 LEIGH PHILLIPS The Free Market Isn’t Up to the Coronavirus Challenge If it’s not profitable for pharmaceutical companies to produce a cure, they won't produce a cure. We cannot win the fight against coronaviruses and future infectious diseases unless we properly fund a public sector that values public health over profit.   03.13.2020 LUKE... Continue Reading →

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Alain Badiou: Capitalism is the Sole Culprit of the Destructive Exploitation of Nature

alain-badiou

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It has become common today to announce, for various reasons, the end of the human species as we know it. In the typically messianic direction that a certain ecology proceeds, the predatory excesses of this bad animal that is the human will soon lead to the end of the living world. In the direction of the technological surge, we are promised, pell-mell, the robotization of all work, sumptuous digitization, automatic art, the plasticized killer, and the perils of superhuman intelligence.

As a result, threatening categories, such as transhumanism and the posthuman, rise to the surface; or, symmetrically, a return to animalism – depending on whether one prophesies on the basis of technical creation or laments on the basis of the attacks on Mother Nature. I hold all these prophecies as so many ideological rattles intended to obscure the real danger to which humanity is exposed today, namely the impasse into…

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Alain Badiou: The Age of the Poets

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

Alain Badiou / 06 October 2016 / Verso

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

Further reading:
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

Full book as PDF here

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The full book here.

“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

via A Requiem for the Factory — New Poetics of Labor

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Ontological Catastrophes and Transcendental Time Machines: Dialectics of Time and Event from Kant and Hegel, across Deleuze and Badiou, towards New Futures

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