The main purpose of the essay is to claim that Badiou has developed a distinctive understanding of “communism” which is very different from the Marxist one. Several scholars have noticed the differences between Badiou and Marx, sometimes striking ones, but have generally failed to go beyond describing them. Here an attempt is made to trace these differences back to the—largely—Nietzschean footing of Badiou's philosophy. I claim that we are dealing in fact not with different tactics, but with two different projects, envisioning distinct strategic goals. Marxist communism is about a dialectical overcoming of the capitalist present, in a way which transcends capitalism but which is predicated on the social, political and cultural transformation brought about by capitalism. Badiou's project, by contrast, aims at achieving a clean break with history. Nietzsche is useful for Badiou inasmuch as he provides a critique of mass society and aims to create a new man, the Overman. The essay discusses the differences between these two projects, focusing on a number of topics, among them the nature of capitalism, the meaning of revolutionary subjectivity, and the attitude to history and to historical possibilities. Marx's political project is vindicated vis-à-vis the elitism and anti-humanism, which vitiate Badiou's alternative approach. A dialogue with Badiou's position, however, is not foreclosed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for useful comments on a previous draft of this paper, and especially Harrison Fluss for a meticulous reading and highly incisive suggestions. The mistakes that remain are the author's alone.
© 2013 Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
- political theory