University of Hertfordshire

'Other 68s'

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

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Kerry Purcell - Participant

‘Structures do not take to the streets’: Badiou, May 68, and theorising the historical.
SynopsisFor Alain Badiou, in the 1960s and 70s, China ‘was a space of [the] singular and irreducible existence of the communist hypothesis...’ (Badiou, 2011: 92). Frustrated with the static models of state communism represented by the Soviet Union (and the moribund Parti Communiste Français), it was the authenticity of Mao’s struggle for new ways of thinking about communism (and specifically the dialectic), that held such a fascination for many French intellectuals during the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). For Badiou, this decade became his années rouges. It was a spell in which his efforts were largely directed towards political action with the L'Union des communistes de France marxiste- léniniste (UCFML). In my proposed paper ‘Structures do not take to the streets’: Badiou, May 68, & the Cultural Revolution’ I will explore how Badiou’s turn towards political action shaped his conceptions of the historical, and how this period of intense activity contributed to his subsequent theorization of the subject as key to historical change (as eventually explored in his Théorie du sujet (1982)). More specifically, as I will investigate, it was in Badiou’s own exploration of Mao’s theorization of contradiction (Badiou, 1976), that we start to see the emergence of a ‘materiality’ of the Real, that is, a structural impasse that offers the possibility of (or call for) a new formalization of the historical. Clearly, as with his publication Le Concept de Modèle, Badiou is at this point moving away from the Idealism of Althusser’s ‘structural materialism’, a decision which was only fortified by his master’s response (or lack of) to the activities of May ’68 and Badiou’s own transformation by this event. As will be discussed, like many of the micro groups that emerged from this time, (Gauche prolétarienne, Union des jeunesses communistes marxistes-léninistes, etc.), Badiou’s reading of Mao translated itself into the practical activity of exploring the points of contradiction in political situations. Clearly diverging from Lacan’s conception of the Real as the impossible point of representation, for Badiou, these contradictions served to ‘reveal’ the infinite at the heart of the dialectic, an impasse in the Real that called for a new axiom/formalisation.
BibliographyBadiou, A. (1976; 2011 tran.) Théorie de la contradiction (Paris: François Maspero) Badiou, A. (1982; 2013 tran.), Théorie du sujet (Paris: Seuil)Badiou, A. (2011) The Communist Hypothesis (London: Verso)
11 May 2018

'Other 68s': Lineages and Legacies of May '68

Duration11 May 201812 May 2018
Location of eventUniversity of Nottingham
CountryUnited Kingdom
Web address (URL)
Degree of recognitionInternational event

Event: Conference

ID: 13119456