Matthew S. Translated by Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, A man sets himself on fire in Tunisia. His self-immolation sparks a wildfire that transforms the Middle East and the world.
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The introduction poses the fundamental questions right away: What is going on? Of what are we the half-fascinated, half-devastated witnesses? The continuation, at all costs, of a weary world?
A salutary crisis of that world, racked by its victorious expansion? The end of that world? The advent of a different world? What is happening to us in the early years of the century — something that would appear not to have any clear name in any accepted language? The ultimate goal appears to be a philosophico-political intervention, an effort to canalize the disparate and somewhat incongruous events in such a direction as to fuse them into an Event. Riots of all kinds are deemed vital, yet insufficient, unless supplemented by a great, ground-breaking Idea.
Such revolts are uplifting in their unprecedented reach, zeal and determination, yet they too are limited and do not of necessity facilitate a breakthrough to a new order. The aspiration in question is the desire to join the West, attain its way of life, its diverse freedoms, enjoy its affluence and so on and so forth. This fills him with apprehension. And the assertion and then […] the organization of this new political possibility is presented in an explicitly authoritarian form: the authority of truth, the authority of reason.
Truths of what is actually the collective presentation of humanity as such the communal of communism. Or: the truth of the fact that, over and above their vital interests, human animals are capable of bringing into being justice, equality and universality. Let us, therefore, not be so quick in dismissing the silent majority, or in assuming its automatic support for reaction or the status quo.
In defense of his position, Badiou emphasizes that he is in fact completely rooted in marxism. Most significant among them, in our context, is the way that Marx envisioned communism not as the simple abolition of the present, but rather as its dialectical sublation. Communism was conceived as the product of history giving birth.
For Marx, on the contrary, defending the weavers, political understanding is not a pre-condition of revolution but a luxury: It is entirely false that social need produces political understanding. Indeed, it is rather the truth to say that political understanding is produced by social well-being. Political understanding is something spiritual, that is given to him that hath, to the man who is already sitting on velvet.
Badiou dismisses with contempt the notion that modern technology has played any significant role in inciting the revolts. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. In short, not to westernize the Arab world, but to keep it under the Western thumb?
While we are entitled to question the workings of parliamentary democracy and envision improvements, nay alternatives, it would be hazardous to forget the popular struggles which alone enabled that model to materialize, and to ignore the numerous democracies throughout the world which the West has helped undermine. It keeps alive an inspiring utopian belief in absolute beginnings, in a realm of freedom which transcends the systemic catastrophic logic of capitalism. And the book has many brilliant and sometimes even moving passages.
The Rebirth of History
Historical riots as events that reopen History. The three traits of a Historical Riot - intensification, compaction, localization The importance of organization for sustaining the Idea An Event as that which dissolves the average identity, destroys separating names An Event as that which presents not represents! One likes Theoretical contributions Classification of riots Historical riots as events that reopen History. One likes the book for the beauty and clarity of its ideas, but is unsure if they encapsulate the entire dynamic. Can the conditions and necessities of a political truth not aid us in making one. I grew interested, while reading the latter part of the book, on applying his concepts to the Maoist movement in India. And then on the general possibility of a political truth in the country.
Alain Badiou; The Rebirth of History | Times of Riots and Uprisings
The introduction poses the fundamental questions right away: What is going on? Of what are we the half-fascinated, half-devastated witnesses? The continuation, at all costs, of a weary world? A salutary crisis of that world, racked by its victorious expansion?
The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings
The book proved to be an unexpected hit and confirmed that Badiou has a rare talent among philosophers for making accessible political interventions in wider society. The Rebirth of History surveys the Arab revolutions, the riots in England last August, the Spanish indignados movement and much more. Badiou sees a common theme connecting all of them - a long overdue return of the masses onto the stage of history, and the stirrings of a global revolt against a criminal and murderous ruling class. Badiou also attributes a philosophical significance to these uprisings.