BADIOU’S CROSSINGS: language and the world as commons

In the first class of his seminar for this year, we have seen that Badiou establishes a parallel between the place of language in poetry and the place of the world in politics. He tells us that this parallel exists because language is the poet’s “exclusive domain”, and language is originarily given to all. This rejoins the communist project and its conviction that the world belongs to all.

Yet this parallel relies on what is perhaps an overly reductive account of poetry. In Badiou’s own terms, poetry is also a matter of projects and orientations, of gifts and visions, of subjectivation and singularity.

Badiou talks of the “common”, but this is not the same as homogeneity, the common is not the enemy of individuality. Communism according to him contains a

sort of love, a tense, paradoxical love of common life, of that which in the common life permits us to dilate and to express differently the individual life.

Concern for the common includes a concern for subjectivation, understood as a process of individuation taking place on a backdrop of what is common. This is an important point in Badiou’s discussion of the crossings of truth procédures. His emphasis on subjectivation, individuation, and singularity provides a useful corrective to Bruno Latour’s system, which lacks this dimension.

Another interesting point is that Badiou is already including another truth procedure, “love”, in the crossing of poetry and politics, the love of the common, the love of equality, the love of the world, and the love of the “individual life”. This love of the world is not possible without knowledge of the world – it is not just blind love. Thus the fourth truth procedure is present as well. So the crossing of poetry and politics also includes an implied crossing of both with love and knowledge.

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