Decision

Badiou finds in the fighters of the French Resistance the analog for a contemporary resistant politics. The virtue of the resistance lies in its status as “neither a class phenomenon nor an ethical phenomenon,” which speaks to Badiou because today a political event can only have as its foundation the remains of class-based politics and must avoid an ideology that declares the supremacy of morality. For Badiou, resistance arrives at politics by what I’ll call objective necessity, or situational necessity, which can be seen in an illustration of Badiou’s:

[I]t was very early on that my father introduced me to his own resistance as purely logical. From the moment that the country was invaded and subjugated by the Nazis, he said, there was nothing else for it than to resist. It was no more complicated than that.

Badiou carefully distinguishes this sort of necessity from a sociological necessity that defines a political event by the interaction between predetermined political groupings and from an ethical necessity that assigns ethical imperatives and “doctrinal dispositions” that are “external to the situation concerned.” The necessity of a political sequence can only be determined by the logic of the sequence, and attempts by participants in the event to reckon with the sequence quantitatively or morally amount to an evasion of politics, not a practice of it.

Even though a political sequence, in the French resistance model, is not driven by subjectivity but by objective initiative, decision still plays a central role, albeit one conceived differently than in typical Marxism/leftism:

Grasped through its philosophical figures, the Resistance indicates almost blindly another path. The choice of political allegiance appears as one which is separated from the constraints of collective groups, and which falls within the realm of competent personal decision. But, symmetrically, this choice is no longer subordinate to preexisting ethical maxims, and even less to a spiritual or juridical doctrine of human rights.

An immanent, spontaneous decision, then, one that would seemingly be made independently of the organizational requirements of the party, the axiomatics of the state, and the precepts of democracy. Even more than autonomous, though, Badiou’s concept of decision is a complete break: “All resistance is a rupture with what is.” Practitioners of resistance begin with a rupture from themselves, which “exist[s] in the realm of thought” and sets the stage for them to grasp the reality of new political sequences. Those that fail to resist do “not think according to the Real of the situation at the moment in question.”

And so class consciousness, Badiou’s declared enemy, reappears, not so much sneaked through the back door as openly rebranded for different times.

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2 thoughts on “Decision

  1. That’s right, and why Badiou is annoying – he may well dispense with particular aspects of sovereignty, but the adherence to Leninist/Taylorist precepts of the eminence of Thought remains, if delivered in a more mystical register.

  2. Yes. There’s a lot of this sort of half-disavowal thing with him: he’s antistate but attached to bits of sovereignty; he dismisses the party but clings to the necessity of the professional revolutionary; etc. I have to admit that the mysticism has it’s seductive moments, but then…

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