BADIOU’S LAW: the waste is the product

Badiou in IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS speaks of the difference between the « déchet » (finite) and the « oeuvre » (infinite).

« Déchet » poses a difficult problem of translation. In the recently published English translation it is rendered as « waste product », which is correct but softens the sense, and so weakens the insight.

An alternative translation for « déchet » would be « crap », in the sense of Sturgeon’s Law:

« 90% of everything is crap ».

According to the legend this was SF author Theodore Sturgeon’s reply to criticisms of science fiction as mostly crap. It first appeared in print in 1957, and so Sturgeon anticipates Badiou’s theory of works and waste.

Note – this law is close in import to Antonin Artaud’s maxim:

« All writing is pig shit ».

This slogan was endorsed by Deleuze and Guattari in ANTI-OEDIPUS, and so we have another passage between their philosophy and Badiou’s system.

For Deleuze and Guattari, the neurotic

makes at least an economic error, an error in tact, and does not spread his values. Artaud puts it well: all writing is so much pig shit—that is to say, any literature that takes itself as an end or sets ends for itself, instead of being a process that « ploughs the crap of being and its language, » transports the weak, the aphasiacs, the illiterate (ANTI-OEDIPUS, 134).

Another « law » of Sturgeon’s was

« nothing is always absolutely so ».

I myself take this to be virtually synonymous with the first law, and also with Badiou’s insistence that V, the Absolute, the Universe of all sets, is a class and not a set. No set is the Absolute, but a set can bear the index of the Absolute, and be a work, or it can contain or be referenced by no such index, and be crap.

To translate « déchet », « waste », « trash », « crap » are all valid options at the level of sense (as are detritus, rubbish, junk, garbage, dross), but there is a difference at the level of syntax. These words are noncount nouns in English, whereas « déchet » is countable in French.

The translators are being overzealous here, as by trying to preserve both aspects (sense and syntax), they introduce a dummy count noun « product », so as to make a countable expression (« waste product »), i.e. one that can be put in the plural. Unfortunately in doing so they are adding connotations not present in the original.

« Déchet » etymologically comes from the same root as the verb « déchoir » (to fall) and is cognate with « décadence ». It designates that which falls from a material that is being worked on to produce a product, and also the degradation of a material (a work, a person, a reputation).

Badiou’s insight is that the waste is the primary product, not a secondary unwanted result, i.e. the waste is the product (and not a waste product).

Cet article a été publié dans Uncategorized. Ajoutez ce permalien à vos favoris.

Un commentaire pour BADIOU’S LAW: the waste is the product

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:


Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Déconnexion /  Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s