BADIOU ON DELEUZE’S POLITICS (8): the politics of becoming is a Christo-fiction

Perhaps we should see the talk of Badiou’s that I have been commenting (“Existe-t-il quelque chose comme une politique deleuzienne?“, Does something like a “politics of Deleuze” exist?, delivered in september 2001) as conjunctural. Badiou published his book DELEUZE THE CLAMOUR OF BEING in 1997. He published an article, “One, multiple, multiplicity/ies“, summarising his views and replying to objections, in 2000. In both of these texts he draws the lines of demarcation between his philosophy and Deleuze’s in very sharp terms. Yet in this slightly later text he goes out of his way to be just with Deleuze’s ideas and to highlight the points of convergence.

At the end of the talk three questions are published, with Badiou’s replies. The first question asks if September 11 constitutes an “event” in Deleuze’s sense. Badiou’s reply is no, it is not an event, but merely a “fact”, because an event is a creation of life, not of death: “I do not think that the term “event” is appropriate for death”. This leads him to discuss the relation between death and becoming in Deleuze:

Chez Deleuze, il y a deux formes de mort, et pas une. Il y a une mort sur la ligne de l’histoire, et une mort sur la ligne du devenir. Ce n’est pas la même mort. La mort sur la ligne de l’histoire est une mort du devenir lui-même. C’est l’impossibilité du devenir. Mais la mort sur la ligne du devenir est la mort immanente à la vie, la mort « de » la vie, sans doute, mais au sens où la mort fait partie de la vie.

(“In Deleuze, there are two forms of death, not one. There is a death on the line of history, and a death on the line of becoming. It is not the same death. Death on the line of history is a death of becoming itself. It’s the impossibility of becoming. But the death on the line of becoming is the death immanent in life, the death “of” life, no doubt, but in the sense that death is a part of life”).

So there is a sharp distinction, but Badiou says that there is a difficulty with the criterion of the demarcation: “the identification of pure becoming poses a problem”. September 11 is merely a fact, but May 68 is an event, because it is an “interruption”, “the irruption of becoming…[of] a fragment of eternity”. Badiou tells us that this idea is part of Deleuze’s Spinozism: life has its own eternity, which is becoming; and so it has its own, immanent, death.

Having mentioned Spinoza, who Deleuze and Guattari called “the Christ of philosophy”, Badiou mentions Bartleby and also Beckett’s heroes, as examples of the second form of death, as models of “pure becoming”. He associates these figures with a form of mystical “redemption”:

Le devenir pur est la vie pure. Et la vie pure est la totalité, l’Un. Et nous sommes l’Un quand nous sommes devenir pur. C’est une sorte de rédemption.

(“Pure becoming is pure life. And pure life is the totality, the One. And we are the One when we are pure becoming. It is a sort of redemption”).

This analysis rejoins the remarks in Badiou’s “Letter to Gilles“, where he comments on the few mentions of Christ in Deleuze’s texts as indicative of his underlying logic of fluxes (and of becoming):

De là que la figure du Christ peut te servir de métaphore, aussi bien pour Spinoza que pour Bartleby l’écrivain. De même qu’elle est constamment sous-jacente à la façon dont Heidegger décrit le «nostos», ou l’endurance de Hölderlin. C’est que ta logique générale des flux est comme une version sans pathos de ce que Heidegger décrit comme la liberté de l’Ouvert. (“Lettre à Gilles“, Libération, 7 November 1995)

(“This is why the figure of Christ can serve you as a metaphor, as much for Spinoza as for Bartleby the scrivener. Just as it is constantly sub-jacent to the way in which Heidegger describes the “nostos”, or the endurance of Hölderlin. It’s that your general logic of fluxes is like a version without pathos of what Heidegger describes as the liberty of the Open”).

thesis 14: the politics of becoming is a politics of redemption

thesis 15: Christ is a metaphor for the politics of becoming

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