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New Left Review 53, September-October 2008


Peter Hallward assesses Logiques des mondes, the latest major work by Alain Badiou, within the context of his wider concerns with truth and subjective being. Set theory and ontology brought to bear on abstract questions of appearance, relation, fidelity and historical change.

PETER HALLWARD

ORDER AND EVENT

French philosophy in the twentieth century was marked above all by two projects. [1] I am grateful to Alberto Toscano, Nathan Brown, Alenka Zupancˇicˇ, Oliver Feltham, Quentin Meillassoux and Andrew Gibson for their helpful comments on a first draft of this text. For the sake of simplicity we might distinguish them with the labels of ‘subject’ and ‘science’. On the one hand, thinkers influenced by phenomenology and existentialism—Sartre, Fanon, de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty—embraced more or less radical notions of individual human freedom, and on that basis sought to formulate models of militant collective commitment that might engage with the forms of oppression or domination that constrain the subjects of a given situation. On the other hand, thinkers marked by new approaches in mathematics and logic, and by the emergence of new human sciences such as linguistics or anthropology, attempted to develop more adequate methods to analyse the fundamental ways in which a situation might be ‘structured in dominance’. In the 1960s in particular, many thinkers came to the conclusion that a concern for the subject or for individual freedom was itself one of the main mechanisms serving to obscure the deeper workings of impersonal and ‘inhuman’ structure, be it unconscious, ideological, economic, ontological, or otherwise.

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