We know that communism is the right hypothesis. All those who abandon this hypothesis immediately resign themselves to the market economy. The Communist Hypothesis has ratings and 42 reviews. Jonfaith said: The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicab. ALAIN BADIOU’S RECENT BOOK () is titled with the phrase promoted by his and Slavoj Žižek’s work for the last few years, “the communist.
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It is often said that unexpected blows are the worst, but expected ones sometimes prove debilitating in a different way. It can be oddly dispiriting when an election is won by the candidate who has led in the opinion polls from the start, just as when the favourite horse wins the race; anyone with the slightest feeling for a wager, a risk, an exception or a rupture would rather see an outsider upset the odds.
Yet it could hardly have been the bare fact of Nicolas Sarkozy as President that seemed to come as such a disorientating blow to the French left in the aftermath of May How should it be understood? An initial factor was the way in which the outcome affirmed the manifest powerlessness of any genuinely emancipatory programme within the electoral system: Vivent les richesand to hell with the poor.
Sarkozy has now finally finished off the cadaverous form of Gaullism over which Chirac presided. The present decomposition of the Socialist Party, however, is not just a matter of its political poverty, apparent now for many years, nor of the actual size of the vote—47 per cent is not much worse than its other recent scores. Rather, the election of Sarkozy appears to have struck a blow to the entire symbolic structuring of French political life: An important symptom of the resulting disorientation is the number of former Socialist placemen rushing to take up appointments under Sarkozy, the centre-left opinion-makers singing his praises; the rats have fled the sinking ship in impressive numbers.
The underlying rationale is, of course, that of the single party: A third component of the contemporary disorientation arose from the outcome of the electoral conflict itself. I have characterized the presidential elections—pitting Sarkozy against Royal—as the clash of two types of fear.
The first is the fear felt by the privileged, alarmed that their position may be assailable. In France this manifests itself as fear of foreigners, workers, youth from the banlieueMuslims, black Africans. Essentially conservative, it creates a longing for a protective master, even one who oppresses and impoverishes you further.
The current embodiment of this figure is, of course, the over-stimulated police chief: In electoral terms, this is contested not by a resounding affirmation of self-determining heterogeneity, but by the fear of this fear: This can be seen in the gulf between the massive formal imperative to vote and the free-floating, if not non-existent nature of political or ideological convictions.
It is good to vote, to give a form to my fears; but it is hard to believe that what I am voting for is a good thing in itself. This is not to say that the electoral-democratic system is repressive per se ; rather, that the electoral process is incorporated into a state form, that of capitalo-parliamentarianism, appropriate for the maintenance of the established order, and consequently serves a conservative function.
This creates a further feeling of powerlessness: If the electoral mechanism is not a political but a state procedure, what does it achieve? For the world horizon of democracy is increasingly defined by war.
The West is engaged on an expanding number of fronts: This creates a particular dialectic of war and fear. Our governments explain that they are waging war abroad in order to protect us from it at home.
If Western troops do not hunt down the terrorists in Afghanistan or Chechnya, they will come over here to organize the resentful rabble outcasts. The vast majority of the French accepted the relative tranquillity of a consensual defeat and most got off fairly lightly during the War, compared to the Russians or even the English. The analogous project today is based on the belief that the French need simply to accept the laws of the us -led world model and all will be well: France will be protected from the disastrous effects of war and global disparity.
The point is a more formal one: This matrix has been a recurring pattern in French history. Inmilitary defeat once again served as the context for the disorientating reversal of the real content of state action: Typically, capitulation and servility are presented as invention and regeneration. The real content, of course, is a politics of continuous obedience to the demands of high finance, in the name of national renewal.
Morality is invoked, as so often, in place of politics and against any popular mobilization. Appeal is made instead to the virtues of hard work, discipline, the family: The object is in reality political: The example of correction always comes from abroad, from countries that have long overcome their moral crises.
THE COMMUNIST HYPOTHESIS
The political aesthetic is that of imitation: A fourth characteristic is the notion that the source of the current crisis lies in a disastrous past event. The possessing classes far preferred the German Occupation to the fear which these disorders had provoked.
The arc between and can thus be offered as a bqdiou of legitimacy for the Sarkozy government, as the historic actor that will finally embark on the correction needed in the wake of the inaugural damaging event.
Finally, there is the element of racism. Today it is voiced in a more insinuating fashion: In the light of these criteria, we can therefore point: Most of us were under the impression that it was long gone anyway. Hyplthesis is haunting the regime, under the name of May 68? He would say to give a Sarkozian prosopopoeia: It is not enough that empirical communism has disappeared. We want all possible forms of it banished.
Even the hypothesis of communism—generic name of our defeat—must become unmentionable. What is the communist hypothesis? The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of massive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: It is what Kant called an Idea, with a regulatory function, rather than a programme.
It is foolish to call such communist principles utopian; in the sense that I have defined them here they are intellectual patterns, always actualized in a different fashion.
The Communist Hypothesis by Alain Badiou
As a commuist Idea of equality, the communist hypothesis has no doubt existed since the beginnings of the state. As soon as mass action opposes state coercion in the name of egalitarian justice, rudiments hypothhesis fragments of the hypothesis start to appear. With the French Revolution, the communist hypothesis then inaugurates the epoch of political modernity.
What remains is to determine the point at which we now find ourselves in the history of the communist hypothesis. A fresco of the modern period would show two great sequences in its development, with a forty-year gap between them.
The first thd that of the setting in place of the communist hypothesis; the second, of preliminary attempts at its realization. The first sequence runs from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune; let us say, to In the course of the century, the formless popular movement made up of townsfolk, artisans and students came increasingly under the leadership of the working class. The sequence culminated in the striking novelty—and radical defeat—of the Paris Commune.
For the Commune demonstrated both the extraordinary energy of this combination of popular movement, working-class leadership and armed insurrection, and its limits: The second sequence of the communist hypothesis runs from to It was dominated by the question: How to hold out—unlike the Paris Commune—against the armed reaction of the possessing classes; how to organize the new power so as to protect it against the onslaught of its enemies?
It was no longer a question of formulating and testing the communist hypothesis, but of realizing it: The party effectively solved the question inherited from the first sequence: But hypohtesis second sequence in turn created a further problem, which it could not solve using the methods it had developed in response to the problems of the first.
Instead, hypotheesis party-state developed into a new form of authoritarianism. Some of these regimes made real strides in education, public health, the valorization of labour, and so on; and they provided an international constraint on the arrogance of the imperialist powers.
However, the statist principle in itself proved corrupt and, in the long run, ineffective. The badjou great convulsions of the second sequence—the Cultural Revolution and May 68, in communisr broadest sense—can be understood as attempts to deal with hypotbesis inadequacy of the party.
Between the end of the first sequence and the beginning of the second there was a forty-year interval during which the communist hypothesis was declared to be untenable: Since the second sequence came to an end in the s we have been in another such interval, with the adversary in the ascendant once more.
What is at stake in these circumstances is the eventual opening of a new sequence of the communist hypothesis. But it is clear that this will not be—cannot be—the continuation of the second one.
At the theoretical level they certainly deserve further study and consideration; but at the level of practical politics they have become unworkable.
The second sequence is over and it is pointless to try to restore it. At this point, during an interval dominated by the enemy, when new experiments are tightly circumscribed, it is not possible to say with certainty what the character of the third sequence will be.
But the general direction seems discernible: We will still retain the theoretical and historical lessons that issued from the first sequence, and the centrality of victory that issued from the second.
But the solution will be neither the formless, or multi-form, popular movement inspired by the intelligence of the multitude—as Negri and the alter-globalists believe—nor the renewed and democratized mass communist party, as some of the Trotskyists and Maoists hope.
The 19th-century movement and the 20th-century party were specific modes of the communist hypothesis; it is no longer possible to return to them.
This is why our work is so complicated, so experimental. We must focus on its conditions of existence, rather than just improving its methods. We need to re-install the communist hypothesis—the proposition that the subordination of labour to the dominant class is not inevitable—within the ideological sphere.
The Communist Hypothesis
What might this involve? Any point, so long as it is in formal opposition to such service, and offers the discipline of a universal truth. One such might be the declaration: What would this imply? Essentially, they propose a definition of politics as a practical means of moving from the world as it is to the world as we would wish it to be. But does a single alaln of human subjects exist?