Monthly Archives: October 2013

Alain Badiou and Patience

As a follow up to my last post on Badiou, I figured I should comment on his recent essay, “The Communist Idea and the Question of Terror” in The Idea of Communism 2 (2013). While Badiou may be the philosopher of communist miracles, he apparently also seems to be an advocate for patience concerning the arrival of these “Events.” In the essay, Badiou addresses the controversy of whether or not there necessarily exists a relationship between communism and terror. Badiou attributes at least some of the historical appearances of terror during revolutionary efforts to impatience. As a counter example, the Chinese revolution is explained in terms of military strategy and timing: “The Chinese revolution, on the contrary, was bound up with the concept of ‘protracted war’. It was all about process, not sudden armed takeover” (8). I agree with Badiou that terror need not be associated with revolution, but I don’t know enough about the Chinese revolution to judge its success.

Alain Badiou and Miracles

At the Hegel conference in London this May, Costas Douzinas made a great point about Badiou. Basically, in a moment where the left seems entirely dead, it seems appropriate that the major communist philosopher to rise to fame would be one whose emancipatory politics are based on hoping for a miracle of a historical change.

Badiou’s “Events” are unpredictable occurrences in a “Truth procedure,” in which the truth of an event comes about when an Idea enters “The Real.” This is influenced by both Louis Althusser and Jacques Lacan. The Althusserian influence happens specifically in the miraculous idea. Althusser was interested in aleatory materialism, a pre-socratic philosophy based on Epicures and Lucretius, who believe that the world is determined by the unexplainable accumulation of “atoms.” I recommend listening to, and reading Chris Cutrone’s responses to Badiou’s own “Communist Hypothesis” for a more in-depth examination of Badiou’s communism.

Anger towards Art

One need only search out a layman’s internet forum discussing art made after the nineteenth century to find the vitriol of contemporary society for anything that does not make itself known through agreed-upon terms and functions. Just as those works of art may be considered useless, their strangeness still offers glimpses into something unknown or undocumented by meticulous categorization. Concerning this receding shelters of imaginative thought, Horkheimer & Adorno explain in Dialectic of Enlightenment the ideological causes for this philosophical witchhunt within the culture industry: “But the hiding places of mindless artistry, which represents what is human against the social mechanism, are being relentlessly ferreted out by organizational reason, which forces everything to justify itself in terms of meaning and effect. It is causing meaninglessness to disappear at the lowest level of art just as radically as meaning is disappearing at the highest” (114).

When art presents a reflection of reality that upsets the masses due to its seeming irrationality, does this not point to the irrationality of reality itself as it exists now? This is not an apology for bad art, but an apology for imagination in a world where the first thing said to an artist during an introduction is, “What kind of job can you do with art?”

Imagery in Dune

Detail of cover of Dune

Detail of cover of Dune

Here are just a few moments in Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune (1965), whose imagery is striking:

“Paul stepped past her, lifting his binoculars. He adjusted their internal pressure with a quick twist, focused the oil lenses on the other cliff, lifting golden tan in morning light across open sand” (408).

The night is a tunnel, she thought, a hole into tomorrow . . . if we’re to have a tomorrow” (425).

“Paul continued to stare across the basin. He inhaled, sensed the softly cutting contralto smell of sage climbing the night. The predatory bird—he thought of it as the way of this desert. It had brought a stillness to the basin so unuttered that the blue-milk moonlight could almost be heard flowing across sentinel saguaro and spiked paintbush. There was a low humming of light here more basic in its harmony than any other music in his universe” (434).