Panel discussion at the 3rd annual Platypus Affiliated Society international convention, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, April 30, 2011.
How does the prominence of Alain Badiou's approach to communism today speak to the present historical moment and its emancipatory possibilities? Badiou has prioritized May 1968 in France and the contemporaneous Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China for his conception of communism and its potential future. As a former student of Louis Althusser and follower of Jacques Lacan, as well as a philosopher of mathematics, Badiou's work has emphasized a radical ontology of the "event" to describe revolutionary transformation. In describing the politics of communism, Badiou has traced its modern history to the Jacobin phase of the French Revolution, periodizing modern communism's two great "sequences" from 1792-1871 and 1917-76. How does Badiou's conception of communism relate to the history of Marxism in the 20th century, with its roots in the 19th century? How does Badiou's work address the problem of capital, in Marx's terms, or not, and what are the implications of Badiou's communism for anticapitalist politics, moving forward? What does Badiou's work say about the relation of Marxism and communism today?
Please note: The recording for this panel was started mid-way through Chris Cutrone's talk. The full text of Cutrone's is available online here.
Panel held as part of the third annual Platypus International Convention, on Saturday, April 30th, 2011, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
After its apparent exhaustion as a project of social transformation, Marxism seems to remain alive as a cultural and hermeneutic endeavor. Self-avowedly Marxist theorists -- Zizek, Badiou, Ranciere -- exert a heavy, if opaque, influence on the self-understanding and practice of contemporary art and inspire research programs in the humanities. Despite its radical appeal, "Marxist" theory may ultimately flatter the political and aesthetic claims of the present. Could investigation of of the now obscure historical Marxist cultural critique of Leon Trotsky, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin bring to recognition, and therein challenge the inadaquecies of the present? What opaque historical transformations does the difficulty of such work indicate? How might the long-abused concepts of autonomy, medium specificity, kitsch, avant garde -- form part of what Marx called the "ruthless critique of the present." What might the problems of aesthetics and culture have to do with the political project of the self-education of the Left?
A teach-in by Platypus member Chris Cutrone held on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Alain Badiou’s recent book (2010) is titled with the phrase promoted by his and Slavoj Zizek’s work for the last few years, “the communist hypothesis.” Zizek has spoken of “the Badiou event” as opening new horizons for both philosophy and communism. Badiou and Zizek share a background in Lacanian and Althusserian “post-structuralist” French thought, in common with other prominent post-New Left thinkers — and former students of Louis Althusser — such as Etienne Balibar and Jacques Rancière. Althusser found, in the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, a salutary challenge to the notion of the Hegelian “logic of history,” that revolutionary change could and indeed did happen as a matter of contingency. For Badiou, this means that emancipation must be conceived of as an “event,” which involves a fundamental reconsideration of ontology.
Badiou, “The Communist Hypothesis” (2008)
Cutrone, “Chinoiserie: A Critique of the RCP, USA on Badiou” (2010)
Badiou, “Tunisia, Egypt: The Universal Reach of Popular Uprisings” (2011)
Wal Suchting, “Althusser’s Late Thinking about Materialism” (2004)
A panel discussion organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society, held on March 19, 2011, at Left Forum, Pace University.
Alain Badiou's writings promoting what he calls the "communist hypothesis" have sparked growing interest and debate. In 2009, the journal Demarcations published a polemic against Badiou's political philosophy, arguing that this was a politics locked within the confines of the existing social order. In 2010, Chris Cutrone of Platypus authored a critique of the Demarcations polemic and of Badiou, raising the issue of the relationship between Marxism and communism. Bruno Bosteels, author of the forthcoming Badiou and Politics, brings yet another critical perspective to bear on key elements of Badiouâs âcommunist hypothesis. This panel will carry forward the debate: *Are communism's horizons defined by the struggle for equality? *Does Badiou's reading of the Cultural Revolution square with its actual aims and legacy? *Does Badiou's "politics at a distance from the state" provide compass points for the challenges of making revolution in a highly globalized capitalist world?