Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Speculative Left

by Bruno Bosteels, 2005

For Badiou, there emerges a speculative type of leftism whenever communismis disjoined, and nowadays supposedly set free, from the historicity intrinsic to the various stages of Marxism. The critique of speculative leftism in this sense is actually a constant throughout Badiou’s work. At the same time, though, a common objection among readers of this work holds that Badiou himself, by sovereignly divorcing the theoretical fidelity to an event fromany concrete genealogical inscription of the event, over the years increasingly would have painted himself into a similar corner as a dogmatic, absolutist, or even downright mystical thinker. According to this objection, Badiou himself would be yet another example of ‘‘left-wing communism’’ as the ‘‘infantile disorder’’ of Marxism, to use Lenin’s well-known words, even if we might have to turn these words around today, following the example set not so long ago by Gabriel and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in terms of Marxism as the ‘‘senile disorder’’ of an eternally youthful and invariant ‘‘leftism.’’ Once we grasp the logic behind Badiou’s critique of speculative leftism, however, we will also be better equipped to address this objection, according to which he himself, if not earlier then evermore clearly so in recent years, falls prey to precisely such a leftist temptation of wanting to be a communist without also being a Marxist.

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