Hallward ‘2, (Peter, Middlesex University Philosophy Department, Badiou’s Politics: Equality and Justice, http://culturemachine.tees.ac.uk/Cmach/Backissues/j004/Articles/hallward.htm)
All genuine politics seeks to change the situation as a whole, in the interest of the universal interest. But this change is always sparked by a particular event, one located in a particular site and carried by a particular interest (the sans culottes, the soviets, the workers, the sans-papiers...). 1792 in France, 1917 in Russia, 1959 in Cuba, 1988 in Burma: each time, the event opposes those with a vested interest in the established state of the situation to those who support a revolutionary movement or perspective from which the situation is seen as for all. Other, more narrowprinciples and demands, however worthy their beneficiaries might be, are merely a matter of ‘syndicalism’ or trade union style negotiation, i.e. negotiation for an improved, more integrated place within the established situation. Clearly, what goes under the label of ‘politics’ in the ordinary day to day sense amounts only to ‘revindication and resentment ..., electoral nihilism and the blind confrontation of communities’ (AM: 110). The very notion of identity-politics is thus an explicit contradiction in terms.The OP regularly condemns the articulation of a ‘"French" identitywhich authorises discrimination or persecution’ of any kind; the only legitimate national unit is one which counts all of its elements as one, regardless of ethno-cultural particularity (‘Le pays comme principe’, 1992: 135). The left-liberal insistence on the vacuous ‘right to remain "the same as ourselves" has no chance against the abstract universality’ of contemporary capital, and does nothing more than ‘organise an inclusion in what it pretends to oppose’ (Badiou, letter to the author, 11.06.96). Of course, it has often been argued that if we are oppressed as Arab, as women, as black, as homosexual, and so on, then this oppression will not end until these particular categories have been revalued.13 Badiou’s response to this line of attack is worth quoting at length: When I hear people say ‘we are oppressed as blacks, as women’, I have only one problem: what exactly is meant by ‘black’ or ‘women’? ... Can this identity, in itself, function in a progressive fashion, that is, other than as a property invented by the oppressors themselves? ... I understand very well what ‘black’ means for those who use that predicate in a logic of differenciation, oppression, and separation, just as I understand very well what ‘French’ means when Le Pen uses the word, when he champions national preference, France for the French, exclusion of Arabs, etc. ... Negritude, for example, as incarnated by Césaire and Senghor, consisted essentially of reworking exactly those traditional predicates once used to designate black people: as intuitive, as natural, as primitive, as living by rhythm rather than by concepts, etc. ... I understand why this kind of movement took place, why it was necessary. It was a very strong, very beautiful, and very necessary movement. But having said that, it is not something that can be inscribed as such in politics. I think it is a matter of poetics, of culture, of turning the subjective situation upside down. It doesn’t provide a possible framework for political initiative. The progressive formulation of a cause which engages culturalor communal predicates, linked to incontestable situations of oppression and humiliation, presumes that we propose these predicates, these particularities, these singularities, these communal qualities, in such a way that they be situated in another space and become heterogeneous to their ordinary oppressive operation. I never know in advance what quality, what particularity, is capable of becoming political or not; I have no preconceptions on that score. What I do know is that there must be a progressive meaning to these particularities, a meaning that is intelligible to all.Otherwise, we have something which has its raison d’être, but which is necessarily of the order of a demand for integration, that is, of a demand that one’s particularity be valued in the existing state of things .... That there is a remnant or a support of irreducible particularity, is something I would acknowledge for any kind of reality… . But in the end, between this particularity present in the practical, concrete support of any political process, and the statements in the name of which the political process unfolds, I think there is only a relation of support, but not a relation of transitivity.You can’t go from the one to the other, even if one seems to be ‘carried’ by the other… . It is not because a term is a communal predicate, nor even because there is a victim in a particular situation, that it is automatically, or even easily, transformed into a political category (‘Politics and Philosophy’: 1998: 118-19).14 In a situation like that of the former Yugoslavia, for instance, Badiou maintains that a lasting peace will come not through external intervention and still less through a carving up of territory according to ethnic states, but instead through a concerted, popular movement against all ethnic, linguistic, and religious essentialisms, in a common state that counts all people as one (LDP, 6.05.93: 8). Likewise, there can be peace in the Middle East only with the end of an Israel specified as a Jewish state, and the establishment, in keeping with the original demands of the PLO, of a single, ecumenical Palestine, open to all without discrimination (LDP, 4.10.92: 6, ‘Le pays comme principe’, 1992: 135). In short, an egalitarian state can only exist when its universality is prescribed by those who make up the ‘country [pays]’ itself. And any such country, Badiou goes on to argue, can only exist when its workers exist, as empowered political subjects confronting and prescribing the objective inertia of capital. ‘Without its workers, there can be no country’ (LDP, 4.10.92: 7). At this point, the abstract principle of equality becomes insistently concrete.