Alain Badiou on Victim Identity and Universality

Posted: November 2, 2010 in 2010

*I recently discovered Badiou. Both Badiou and Zizek are interested in the Universalism the Paulian Christianity injected into the into the early christian church which conceived of itself as a form of Judaism, and therefore not open to Gentiles. We take Christian and Muslim universalism for granted, but it was a human accomplishment. – Jasper*

What, in effect, does our contemporary situation consist of? … ends up in a cultural and historical relativism that today constitutes at once a topic of public opinion, a “political” motivation, and a framework for research in the human sciences. The extreme forms of this relativism, already at work, claim to relegate mathematics itself to an “Occidental” setup, to which any number of obscurantist or symbolically trivial apparatuses could be rendered equivalent, provided one is able to name the subset of humanity that supports this apparatus, and, better still, that one has reasons for believing this subset to be made up of victims. All access to the universal, which neither tolerates assignation to the particular, nor maintains any direct relation with the status­ whether it be that of dominator or victim-of the sites from which its proposition emerges, collapses when confronted with this intersection between culturalist ideology and the “victimise” [victimaire] conception of man.

What is the real unifying factor behind this attempt to promote the cultural virtue of oppressed subsets, this invocation of language in order to extol communitarian particularisms (which, besides language, always ultimately refer back to race, religion, or gender)? It is, evidently, monetary abstraction, whose false universality has absolutely no difficulty accommodating the kaleidoscope of communitarianisms. The lengthy years of communist dictatorship will have had the merit of showing that financial globalization, the absolute sovereignty of capital’s empty universality, had as its only genuine enemy another universal project, albeit a corrupt and bloodstained one: that only Lenin and Mao truly frightened those who proposed to boast unreservedly about the merits of liberalism and the general equivalent, or the democratic virtues of commercial communication. The senescent collapse of the USSR, the paradigm of socialist States, provisionally suspended fear, unleashed empty abstraction, debased thought in general. And it is certainly not by renouncing the concrete universality of truths in order to affirm the rights of “minorities,” be they racial, religious, national, or sexual, that the devastation will be slowed down. No, we will not allow the rights of true-thought to have as their only instance monetarist free exchange and its mediocre political appendage, capitalist-parliamentarianism, whose squalor is ever more poorly dissimulated behind the fine word “democracy.”


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