The communist hypothesis

I’m enthused. When there seems to be such a very widespread consensus that neo-liberalism, the entrepreneurial self, competitiveness, anti-immigration, securitisation, etc. are inevitable and unavoidable, it can seem that there is no way to dislodge this set of beliefs; no way to push an alternative hegemonic project into the mainstream; or to shift the discursive field.

Badiou to the rescue. To get out of the depressive malaise, he says, drawing on Lacan, we have to move from impotence to impossibility. Yes, of course getting rid of inequality or the desire for wealth is impossible, but we can still hold onto those points and ‘endure in the impossible’. Beyond Sarkozy, my favourite section in this book is Badiou’s resignification of ‘communism’. ‘Communism’ denotes a ‘very general set of intellectual representations’:

This set is the horizon of any initiative, however local and limited in time it may be, that breaks with the order of established opinions – the necessity of inequalities and the state instrument for protecting these – and composes a fragment of a politics of emancipation. In other words, communism is what Kant calls an ‘Idea’, with a regulatory function, rather than a programme. It is absurd to characterize communist principles in the sense I have defined them as utopian, as is so often done. They are intellectual patterns, always actualized in a different fashion, that serve to produce likes of demarcation between different forms of politics. By and large, a particular political sequence if ether compatible with these principles or opposed to them, in which case it is reactionary. ‘Communism’ in this sense, is a heuristic hypothesis that is very frequently used in political argument, even if the word itself does not appear. (Alain Badiou, 2008, The Meaning of Sarkozy, p. 99)

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