Thursday, March 8, 2012

Badiou & Zizek: Letter to an Indian comrade

Written in response to an inquiry I received via Facebook:
Thanks for the note.
Badiou and Zizek are a thorny question.  They have reintroduced communism as a point of discussion of some importance on the left.  But at the same time they are not Marxist-Leninists or communists as I understand the word.
Badiou came out of Maoism, but is primarily a philosopher.  Here is something I wrote about him:
Zizek is influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis and Hegel.  He enjoys being controversial, and has written many books.  I sometimes think he can contradict his own opinions within the same sentence where he sets them out.
Here are a few notes about him that I wrote in response to a very backward article he did about the UK riots in August:
Both Badiou and Zizek do not propose building Marxist or Marxist-Leninist parties.  They do not propose independent political action by labor and its oppressed allies.
Badiou has taken a clear stand against imperialist intervention in Libya, Syria, and Iran.  But at the same time he proposes a return to the swampy politics of the First International.
They are contradictory figures.  Like many petty bourgeois intellectuals, they are a sensitive barometer of deep changes in class politics.  The fact that they talk about the "idea of communism" is significant and shows they are looking forward.  But they also, in their own separate ways, express many backward political traits common to so many middle class radical leftists of the last 40 years.
Please feel free to share these notes.  I hope they help.


  1. I recently read a Badious book "Ethics," along with an interview by him in the after-forward, followed by 2 hours of him lecturing with Cornel West on youtube. I couldn't find a single instance of "Marxism" in his entire philosophical outlook.

  2. I often get very excited when I read Zizek, feel like he is bringing insight in a "Marxist" way when so often Marxist critiques can sound like the most prattling jargon-laden rants. Of course I always agree wholeheartedly when Alan Woods writes something, but it just feels tired. I feel like I've made a truce with reading Zizek, I will accept his academic-primadonna cynicism in exchange for really interesting takes on what's happening exactly now. He did a piece on the concept of "surplus wages" a few months ago that I thought was fantastic. I think that Marxist analysis can be playful and inclusive of things like Lacan and Deleuze and still have something traditionally radical to say. As long as in the last resort he isn't dismissive of the un-ironic scrappy long-term work of building a Marxist-Leninist Cadre. As a young person, I can say from experience, the work of someone like Ivor Southwood is who I want to be discussing at Marxist reading groups, not Trotsky. There is an importance in responding to and addressing the angst and issues of the moment, and leading those frustrations and emotions to their Marxist conclusions, not just repeating how the vanguard party is the final part of the puzzle.

  3. Thank you Chris and ماثيو